Bari Weinberger wanted to be a sports and entertainment attorney when she graduated from Suffolk University Law School.
She wanted to work at ESPN.
Weinberger even got an interview with the sports media giant, for a position that would have been her dream job.
"I'm literally driving there thinking that I'm going to be pulling into the parking lot, and during the interview, Dick Vitale is going to be passing by, giving me the thumbs up," she recalled. "This was it. This was going to pave the way for me for life."
Funny how things work out.
The ESPN job fell through — lack of funding, she remembers them telling her — so she decided, begrudgingly, to take a clerkship in New Jersey in the family law division.
Turns out, it was a perfect fit.
"Best thing that ever happened to me," she said. "If ESPN called me tomorrow, I wouldn't leave for a million years.
"It changed the entire course of my life. I never felt so valuable, as if something we did every single moment of every single day had tremendous impact on people's lives."
Weinberger, who was named to NJBIZ's 2013 list of the Best 50 Women in Business, spent several years working with other firms before branching out on her own in October 2008.
The Weinberger Law Group is now the largest family law firm in the state. Last month, she opened two new offices, in Hackensack and Basking Ridge. With its headquarters in Parsippany and another office in Freehold, the firm now has 20 attorneys in four different offices.
Weinberger said much of that growth has come from an increase in the demand for mediation, in the interest of keeping divorce cases out of the courtroom.
In addition, many clients who come to her firm for a divorce end up returning to renegotiate their settlements after a settlement after losing a job.
Her client base also increased dramatically in 2013, with the legalization of gay marriage in the state. And then there are the client referrals that keep business coming in.
To serve those clients effectively meant the firm needed to expand. Weinberger said she intends to continue that growth while making her company a welcome place for its employees. The firm was just named to the 2014 NJBIZ list of Best Places to Work, and Weinberger said she plans to keep it that way.
"I wanted to create a place where the employees had a better work-family balance, where people weren't driving home cursing their day," she said. "If you enjoy what you do and you are excited about what you do … it shows in the quality of your work."
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