Debra Powers is one of the key young attorneys of The Susan Hicks Group in Fairfax, long one of the region's best known and successful Family Law boutique firms. Now in her 40's, Powers has helped strengthen the firm over the last eleven years by bringing exceptionally strong writing and research skills to her work. Working initially with Susan Hicks on complex and contested divorce cases, she has grown into an experienced courtroom litigator in her own right, colleagues say. By her own estimation, Powers says her career had a "crazy start," and she had no designs on becoming a divorce lawyer. "If someone told me in law school I'd be doing what I do today, I wouldn't have believed them." Powers grew up in the Wilton Woods section of Alexandria and is the first member of her family to graduate from college. She graduated magna cum laude in three years from The University of Richmond and went on to University of Virginia School of Law (Competing loyalties aside, "I'm a Spider through and through"). Entering law school she considered criminal defense work ("The idea of being a champion for the unjustly accused appeals to any young lawyer"), but she soon realized criminal defense was not her "true calling." Upon graduating and completing a contract position in the Attorney General's office in Richmond, Powers returned to Charlottesville ("I wore out a lot of tires on I-64") and started work with a data company later acquired by Lexis Nexis; that firm, The Michie Company, was at the forefront of digitizing legal information, and she was a project manager in its CD-Rom division for more than three years. Though not formally practicing law, Powers focused on the technical integration of legal documents, working with state bar organizations nationally on digital standards and distribution. "I loved it - it combined my legal brain with my interest in new computer technologies."
Ultimately, eager to practice law, she returned to Northern Virginia to see if she could make it as a litigator. ("I was concerned about the young lawyers' 'Catch-22' - you needed litigation experience to get hired, but you had to get hired to try cases.") Within 18 months, in early 2001, after a short stint with another Fairfax firm, she joined Hicks, whom she met at bar functions and knew by reputation. To a large degree Powers' career and reputation have been bolstered through active involvement in the growth of the Hicks firm and in professional organizations. She is a dedicated member of the Virginia Trial Lawyers and Virginia Women Attorneys Associations, and she received the Fairfax Bar's President's Award in both 2003 and 2008. The Susan Hicks Group, led by the widely respected Susan Hicks, herself an original member of Ten Leaders, has earned a solid reputation in the important area of crafting pre-nuptial and marital agreements, as well as highly contested litigation. "Susan has been the best possible boss and mentor a lawyer could ever have," Powers says.
A Virginian through and through, she plans to practice the rest of her career in the state, "and in Northern Virginia, it will only be with Susan." She and her husband Paul Kleinhample live in Manassas in Prince William County; they have two dogs and two cats.