Anita Savage puts a premium on emotional intelligence. Her work as a name partner at the Texas-based family law firm, Wilson Lake & Savage, involves counseling spouses and parents in some of the hardest moments of their lives, as they separate their lives and sort out custody issues.
As a mother who has gone through a divorce of her own, Savage has deep empathy for this process in a person’s life — along with a fierce determination to protect the best interests of the children.
Lawdragon: What area of family law do you focus on?
Anita Savage: My practice consists of three primary functions: attorney, mediator, and parenting facilitator.
Most of my work is done as an attorney representing a husband or wife, or a mother or father, in their divorce or custody matter. About 20 percent of my work is done as a family law mediator, assisting other attorneys and their clients reach agreements in their divorce or custody matter.
Lastly, I provide services as a parenting facilitator. That is the hardest work I do. Because of that, I limit that practice to one case at a time.
LD: I imagine this type of work could be quite challenging, emotionally. What keeps you motivated with it?
AS: The greatest reward I get is when I’m able to assist a parent by alleviating the heartbreak of being kept out of their child’s life or when I can assist a resisting parent to understand the importance of the other parent in their child’s life. In truth, just because someone is a bad spouse doesn’t mean they can’t also be a loving and effective parent.
LD: Very true. Backing up, did you have any jobs between undergrad and law school, that perhaps influenced your decision to go into family law?
AS: After undergrad, I took a year off and it was the best decision in my life. It motivated me to work hard in law school, because within a couple of months of working full time, I realize my bachelor’s degree wasn’t going to get me very far.
During that year, I worked as a private investigator for two agencies. While that may sound intriguing, the work was boring and tedious and mostly consisted of driving and then sitting and waiting (in the car I drove to get to that place). The first agency was a small local firm that provided surveillance, mostly for insurance companies and worried spouses. The second agency was a national firm that was hired to ensure merchants receiving government funds through the WIC [The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children] program were complying with the program’s purchase restrictions. I’m happy to say that not a single merchant I canvassed allowed me to purchase beer, wine, or cigarettes in exchange for the WIC coupons I gave them.
LD: How would you describe your style as a lawyer now?
AS: I pride myself in providing prompt responses and support to my clients, with explanations of the “why” behind my advice or explanation. The stress that accompanies a divorce is second only to the death of a child. That means I have clients who are worried, unable to sleep, and riding on an ongoing rollercoaster of emotions from high to low in the span of only several minutes. I am conscious of the fact that my clients almost never have a line item in their budget set aside for “attorney fees in my divorce/custody matter.”
When needed, I provide “tough love” to those clients who need it. When that happens, the wheat separates from the chaff fairly quickly. For the ones willing to take the heat and stay the course, I am also their biggest cheerleaders and supporters. I have developed friendships with many of my clients as I’ve taken this journey with them. One such client, Michele, has seen me through my own marriage and divorce, having known each other for more than 20 years.
LD: That’s incredible, and speaks to your ability to really connect with your clients on a personal level. How do you think others in the industry see you?
AS: I hope others see me as someone who takes her oath to the tribunal and to the Texas Lawyer’s Creed seriously, and as a professional who knows the law and puts her clients’ needs ahead of her own.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
AS: Honestly, there’s nothing like a good game night with friends or family.
LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?
AS: I’d be a full-time homemaker and mom. I took a year off from practicing when my daughter was born and it was the best year of my life. I took bike rides to the park and then the grocery store, with my helmeted kid sitting in the bike seat. Whenever I could, I only bought enough food to make one meal, so I’d get to do the same thing the next day. It was glorious, and I was really good at it.