'There's No Better Way to Learn Something Than to Teach It' - An Interview with Donald P. Schweitzer


Being greeted by Donald P. Schweitzer is its own experience; the impeccably dressed, successful yet humble man shakes your hand while giving a warm, welcoming smile. We met in his office in Downtown Pasadena on South Lake Avenue. Don is the managing partner for his family law firm that has four other attorneys strictly focused on family and estate planning law and eleven support staff members that make up Schweitzer Law Partners.

I met with Don to discuss his work with the Los Angeles Family Law Review, where over the past six years, he has spoken and lectured to thousands of attorneys and law students in the state of California regarding new court decisions and changes in the family law code as modified in the legislature. I asked Don, with his practice being so expansive and he himself being so sought-after, why he felt it was so important to continue to go out and speak at these events. "The reason why this is significant to family law attorneys is, like in every other profession, the shelf life of knowledge is only good for a year or two, things are always changing and what family law attorneys thought was applicable fifteen years ago is not the same as today, it's always changing and it's what any good, competent attorney has to keep up with."

"On a personal level, it really helps me know the law because as the old adage goes; 'There's no better way to learn something than to teach it' and so, I have been teaching it to numerous Bar associations and study groups."

"Numerous" is a humble adjective. Aside from his countless speaking and teaching engagements around the state, Don also holds monthly workshops at his own firm to make sure that his team is equipped to the most informed legal team in the county.

On February 3, 2017, Don spoke at the Annual San Gabriel Bar Association meeting discussing new updates in the law, while also tackling some bigger recent changes that have affected California.

"I believe there are certain events that take place that are even more 'change-makers' than the various nuances in the law that changed per these appellate court decisions. For example, Donald Trump's election could have a huge effect on our economy. Are we headed for another gilded age or are we going down into another recession? Are his policies on immigration going to impact our clients? Health care, affordable care act? His viewpoints and his direction could impact not only our clients’ lives but it could impact the businesses that they run.”

Don also commented on the recent legalization of marijuana in the state of California and its possible implications. “On a very local level, with the legalization of marijuana, we are going to now have to start looking at the use of marijuana in family situations differently. It's going to be more akin to alcohol than it is to illegal substance abuse, and maybe actually more difficult [to deal with] than alcohol because marijuana is not as detectable as [far as] what level causes you to be under the influence, and [furthermore] how you are going to be able to control that? When people in custody situations are dealing with allegations of abusing marijuana, we're no longer going to be able to say it's an illegal substance, but [now] how are you able to define abuse when you can't measure it? It's going to have a very interesting impact on our cases and our clients’ lives."

Donald Schweitzer definitely knows what he is talking about. Being a licensed attorney for more than 23 years and a former Assistant District Attorney can certainly guarantee that, but everyone has their faults. For those who are trying to find a reason to doubt this man's sincerity, his fault is one of his greatest strengths; Don is getting as much from these lectures as the people that are there to listen.

"It puts me in a position of influence of the law, for one thing. As I'm giving the presentations, I will frequently give commentary about the direction of things within the law based on recent cases and codes. It also gives me the opportunity to handle cases a lot better, because I can spot issues that other people wouldn’t know exist because they're not familiar with [the up to date] law. So I do spend a lot of time not only learning [about] these cases, but understanding the implications of the appellate court decisions."

Don's words and ideas are beginning to receive traction. Civility in the practice of law has been major area that Don has been very vocal about through the writing of articles and blogs, speaking events, and lecturing about its importance. Many law professionals are listening, many are now teaching civility as a core basis for family law and judges are paying closer attention and encouraging other legal professionals to focus on the civility of the law.

But Don does not find his reward in judges and professionals simply listening to his words but rather the fact it is influencing these individuals to put his words into practice. "Personally, I get the satisfaction that I'm contributing to the professionalism of the Family Law Bar. My existence is not to shine glory on myself but is to make meaningful contributions and I think when I do this I'm helping other professionals. There are many professionals that won't help out other people in their field because they're afraid. I believe we should all be advancing our fields and the best way to do that is working together."

Don is regularly invited to speak at events on changing legal practices and how he adjusts with the changing times. You can find his next speaking engagements and you can follow his weekly blog posts and media updates by clicking here.

This interview took place on 2/27/2017