Lawyer Limelight: Diana Santa Maria

A member of the Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers, Diana Santa Maria has spent over three decades representing individuals and families who’ve been injured or lost a loved one due to the negligence of others.

Her tenacious advocacy following accidents, medical mistakes, and violent crimes has led to recoveries often in the seven figures in all areas of negligence law. She and her associates at her eponymous law firm secured $8.2M for a young aspiring basketball player who lost a toe in a workplace injury. It was reported by the National Law Journal as the largest verdict recorded for a foot injury at that time.

In the medical malpractice arena, she has recovered millions for medical errors and unnecessary deaths. She recently recovered $2.5M for a young mother due to a delayed breast cancer diagnosis and a $1.5M award for a woman who suffered an otherwise preventable stroke due to her physician’s failure to return her phone calls over a two week period of time.   

She and her firm have recovered millions of dollars for assaults in shopping malls and similar venues causing injuries and deaths due to inadequate or negligent security and for injuries and deaths due to bus and trucking accidents. 

With a passion for taking on cases where there is a wrong to be righted or a loss to be redressed, Santa Maria is fueled by a desire to set things right for clients whose lives have been abruptly and often irreversibly changed.

Lawdragon: How did you first become interested in developing a personal injury practice?

Diana Santa Maria: After law school I began my practice working with the late pre-eminent injury and malpractice trial lawyer, Sheldon J. Schlesinger. I soon realized this would be my life’s passion and work and after five years, opened my own practice.

LD: Three decades later, do you still have that passion?

DSM: Absolutely. Getting to know our clients and how their lives were suddenly changed because of someone’s negligence inspires me to become their voice for justice, seeking restitution for their loss and where possible, triggering corrective actions to improve public safety.

Every client is different and all cases present new and different opportunities to be a catalyst for change in the areas of safety and to change someone’s life for the better.   

LD: Out of all the work you’ve done in your career, is there a case that stands out as particularly interesting?

DSM: We’ve had many dozens of interesting cases over the past three decades, so choosing one would be difficult. I love the intellectual challenge of complex cases as thinking outside the box and finding innovative ways to deal with challenging issues while paving the way to justice and compensation is gratifying.

LD: Has your practice changed or shifted since the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdowns?

DSM: Out of the chaos nationwide from the Covid outbreak has come the opportunity to reexamine many aspects of how we practice law. One example is that wherever possible we use videoconferencing with other attorneys, clients, staff, witnesses, experts, and judges. We as a legal profession have quickly adapted and found a way forward, in some ways even improved our efficiency out of the need to provide continued legal services to our clients. The progress is still evolving and courts, including in our own circuit and state, are working on innovative means to bring remote technology to jury trials, which we may see soon.    

LD: Backing up a bit, did you have any mentors early in your career?

DSM: My early mentor was Sheldon J. Schlesinger who I worked with for the first five years of my practice.

LD: You’ve been practicing law for over three decades now. How has your practice changed since the early part of your career?

DSM: One word, technology. Smart phones, laptops, iPads and using video has transformed the practice of law with many changes taking place just over the past 10 years.

LD: What are some of the challenges you face as the managing attorney of your eponymous law firm?

DSM: Finding balance between practicing law and running the business aspects of a law firm is a continuing challenge. It requires being able to multi-task and be a leader while attending to the legal demands of the profession.

LD: For young associates who might be interested in joining your mission, what would you say makes your firm unique or otherwise an attractive place to practice law?

DSM: We offer a hands-on and close personal approach to our clients, getting to know them and their story on a personal level, to best optimize our representation of them and their case.

LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?

DSM: Enjoying nature and the outdoors is important to maintain balance. Communing with nature while rollerblading, biking, swimming, boating or taking long walks brings enjoyment and respite. Aside from this I enjoy traveling and seeing different parts of the world, visiting far off destinations. I also enjoy simply being in the comfort of home with family.

LD: Do you have a favorite book or movie about the justice system?

DSM: I recently saw the movie “Dark Waters” about the environmental case taken on by attorney, Robert Bilott, who risks his career and family to uncover a dark secret hidden by one of the world's largest corporations and to bring justice to a community dangerously exposed for decades to deadly chemicals. I am also reading the book.

LD: Any advice for current law school students?

DSM: Yes. Law students should understand thatthe law is not a job; it is a profession. As a profession it is all-absorbing and all-encompassing. If you choose this career, make sure it is for the right reason. It requires a commitment beyond most careers with long hours, tedious review of mountains of information, and laws/rules that frequently change. Quoting from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, “The law is a jealous mistress and requires long and constant courtship. It is not to be won by trifling favors, but by lavish homage.” But I would also add that the practice of law is enormously gratifying on many levels and one of the highest callings of any profession.