Still in her late 30s and already well known and respected by her peers, Maureen Danker has emerged as one of Northern Virginia's top young divorce lawyers. Danker - sophisticated, personable and with a natural charisma - today is a partner at the fast-growing Fairfax-based family law firm of Kelly Byrnes & Danker, which she co-founded almost three years ago. She is already involved in state bar organizations; over the last decade she has worked with some of the leading lawyers in the region. Her alliance now with John Byrnes and Sean Kelly - also inductees to Ten Leaders in recent years - has bolstered her stature still; all are part of a new generation of talented and pragmatic lawyers in a field handling our avalanche of social change. Clients will notice that Danker brings an executive's discipline and steadiness to her work, a style not far removed from her father's career as a senior executive with Mobil Oil Corp.
She was born in Nyack, NY, and later spent early years in Malvern, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, before moving again to Oak Hill, Va. At Oakton High School she was the classic well-adjusted extrovert: She played violin in the orchestra and even suited up as the Cougar mascot as a cheerleader. Later at Virginia Tech she majored in sociology with a minor in political science - "Law school was definitely in the picture at that point" - and, remarkably, graduated in three years.
Wilmington-based Widener Law School, one of the Philadelphia region's better known schools, attracted her in part because of her childhood ties to the area. "My earliest ideas about the law centered on courtroom advocacy, litigation - Now it's easy to say that most people going into law school don't appreciate the range of skills, analytical and practical problem-solving skills, our profession uses every day. Part of law school was learning to grasp all of that." She in fact handled her first domestic-relations cases while in law school, as an intern for the Delaware Civil Law Clinic; the work included heading to court to secure Protection From Abuse Orders. She also clerked for Judge Anne Osborne in Media, PA.
Returning to Washington but working "nowhere near the courtroom," Danker started her career by practicing with her future law partners John Byrnes and Sean Kelly in 2002. As the years progressed her peers came to depend on Danker - first for her assistance, then her input, and finally her leadership. For years she was the firm's only female associate, and increasingly she took cases "from start to finish," she says. "It was a process - gaining the confidence and trust of colleagues. But that's how all good lawyers build their practices, I think."
In late 2011 Danker took the big step of launching a new practice with her colleagues: Kelly Byrnes & Danker, based just off Route 50 in Fairfax, with a second office in Leesburg. From the start their practice has been truly regional: The firm's five lawyers handle cases in the courthouses of Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Loudoun, and Prince William counties. For a relatively young firm, Danker and her colleagues have strong relationships with key parts of the divorce process: The judges and their respective county courts, as well as the network of retired judges who handle much of the state's mediations.
Danker's husband Leonard is a counsel to Geico; they have a two year old son, Liam. They are inveterate travelers, and Danker, a one-time coxswain on the Virginia Tech crew team, still gets her family out on the water.