Attorney at Law Magazine Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Christine A. Schafer to discuss opening up her own law firm and the mentors that inspired her.
AALM: When did you decide to become a lawyer and why? What drove you to this career?
Christine A. Schafer: I always wanted to work with animals in some capacity and was on track to do just that until my junior year of college at the University of Florida. I started to rethink my career path and figured a fun elective may help me figure it out. The following semester I found myself in a prelaw class where we had a debate on the first day. I ended up having a blast and with the encouragement of my professor I made the switch to law. The rest is history!
AALM: Did you have any mentors or professors who helped you develop your career? What is the best lesson they taught you?
Schafer: Judge Robert F. Diaz has been a great mentor to me since law school. He has always been encouraging and has put things into perspective. The best lesson he taught me is to continue to take chances in my career. I remember speaking to him before launching my firm and sharing my fears – I was too focused on fear at the time. He just looked at me and said, “What’s the worst that could happen? You have to go back to work one day? OK, so you go back to work. You know how to do that.” It was an eye opener, made me laugh and was the push I needed.
AALM: How supportive are fellow women practitioners? How do you personally try to help women following in your career path?
Schafer: I must admit that almost every woman I have encountered has been supportive, full of positivity and incredibly inspiring in some way. Sure, there have been a few that were unkind but that happens anywhere – not everyone will want you to succeed. However, the few women who were less than supportive have motivated me to be even that much more uplifling to my fellow female attorneys. I am currently on the board for Ms. Esquire, a nonprofit that has three missions, one of which is to empower women. The group has over 6,000 female attorneys as members. I try to make myself accessible to the women in that group as a mentor, friend, cheerleader – whatever they need me to be, I try to be it.
AALM: Tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.
Schafer: I absolutely love wildlife. In high school, my senior project was on endangered species and I spent that year working with the great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. I wanted to spend my life in Africa working with mountain gorillas and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund but ultimately, the idea of leaving my family behind was too much. Hence the change of career I mentioned earlier. I’m happy to be a lawyer and love helping my local community but still want to visit Africa one day before the mountain gorilla goes extinct.
AALM: What compelled you to start your own practice.
Schafer: Advances in technology with respect to law really fascinates me. Before starting my firm, I found myself researching the latest applications and programs used to streamline and automate processes, marketing and more. I love the business side of law as much as I love being a lawyer and I wanted full control over it. I finally have the ability to test out different programs and see which will provide my clients with a superior experience while saving me time – it’s a lot of fun.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Schafer: I really enjoy just being outdoors. It’s tough when you get older to find time for the things you once loved but in a perfect world (and in a cooler climate) I would find time every week to go for hikes, swim, bike ride or even read a book at the park. My goal this year is to get back into yoga and try beach yoga on the weekend.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What’s the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one?
Schafer: An exceptional attorney is truly focused on the client. They chose their industry because they are passionate about it, are constantly learning and working toward becoming an expert in their field. A good attorney gets the job done but an outstanding attorney gets the job done, makes you feel like a priority and is with you every step of the way.