Originally an English major at Saint Louis University with a penchant for 19th century literature, Susan Hais remembers being drawn toward the field of law because she wanted to make a difference. “There was a book called The Women’s Room about women doing things and getting involved in fields they weren’t into at the time,” Hais says. “That’s when I decided I wanted to go to law school.”
Hais originally opted for criminal law, finding that her background and personality made her ideally suited for court. “I loved the drama of the courtroom, of litigation, and of creating a story based on the facts of the case,” she says. A turning point came after she’d started to make her way in the field, when a case she was defending ended with a hung jury. She remembers coming home and telling her husband (and now business partner) Sam, about the trial. “He said, Susan, he probably did it. I was somewhat devastated that I had helped someone who I really felt like I shouldn’t have helped. I wasn’t that kind of lawyer. Sam said to me, I think you really have to believe in the people you represent and like them, and that’s going to be important to you.”
Shortly thereafter, Hais made the switch to family law, which she practices at the firm she founded, Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Lambson. The most rewarding part, she says, is the relationships she builds with clients as she helps them through one of the most tumultuous times of their lives. “There have been times when you’ll have someone who is not currently employed, and they’ll say, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. I tell them, now is the time you can go back and do this. I’ve had several occasions where clients call me later and say, Thank you for encouraging me to do that because it really made a difference.”
Sam Hais, who also practices at the firm and previously served as a judge, considers Susan’s empathy for her clients her greatest asset as an attorney. “Clients will come in scared or angry and filled with negative emotion; and after they go out, they have taken new heart and confidence from her ability to cut right to the issues and offer sensible solutions,” he says.
Going through a divorce can be particularly difficult for male clients, Susan Hais notes. “Nobody thinks they’re really upset or troubled and concerned because they won’t necessarily be crying in your office, so no one realizes how difficult it really is for them when they can’t see their children,” she says. “People become desperate when it relates to children—money, you can work with, but custody is devastating to people.”
Having practiced for more than 30 years, Hais says a mix of experience and creativity is essential to successfully achieving a client’s goals. “Not every case is cookie-cutter,” she says. “Every case comes to me with a clean slate. That’s not to say that you don’t use the experience of a lifetime that you’ve built on—I have a sense of what I can and can’t do. Based on the set of circumstances, you have a good idea of what’s going to happen in court. I tell them exactly what I think I can do.”
In a field where most business comes through referrals, setting realistic expectations and following through is key, Hais notes. “I’ve even gotten referrals from the other side of cases. It’s amusing but it’s a wonderful feeling when they say, She was tough but fair. I wish I was represented by her. I represent my clients to the best extent that I can by doing the right thing.”
On the Cover:
Susan Hais is a founding partner of the family law practice Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Lambson. Pictured on the cover: Susan Hais. For more information, call 862-1300 or visit hhgc-law.com.