When Donald Schiller and Joe DuCanto started what today is known as Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP, the practice of family law looked nearly unrecognizable compared to today. Decades ahead of their time, Schiller and DuCanto believed that there could and should be more to divorce litigation than simply determining if there were grounds for divorce and allocating child support.
“Schiller DuCanto & Fleck is the original boutique family law firm that operates with a team approach to handling cases and providing unique personal attention,” says Anita Ventrelli, senior partner and member of the firm’s Executive Committee.
Schiller and DuCanto brought a financial lens to divorce law, litigating and dealing with challenges as to what could be considered marital property as well as its worth—a groundbreaking feat in a time when family law was practiced simply by following the common law standard. Schiller recalls that cases at the beginning of his law career lacked real depth.
“We were on the ground floor of the evolution that began when the statute changed,” says Schiller.
Schiller and DuCanto built their firm as if it was a business litigation firm, which was unheard of at the time. Not long after they were established, Charles Fleck, Chief Judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, resigned and joined Schiller and DuCanto.
Fleck brought a wealth of knowledge to Schiller and DuCanto’s already cutting-edge approach to family law. They gained the critical standpoint of learning how judges view how lawyers present their cases.
Today, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck has a broad base of sophisticated family law practitioners with vast experience. The firm is comprised of 46 lawyers who may litigate before judges in the courts of domestic relations day in and day out, working on cases with extremely complex issues.
“The collective font of knowledge at this firm is really unmatched,” says Meighan Harmon, managing partner and member of the firm’s Executive Committee.
The firm has an amazing retention rate as well. Many of the firm’s brightest shining stars have been with the firm since their days of clerking and worked their way up through the ranks.
Ventrelli notes that the mentoring she received with Schiller DuCanto & Fleck led her to recognize innovative opportunities in her cases and think outside the box. Now, having risen through the ranks herself, Ventrelli loves having the chance to mentor young lawyers in the same way.
Schiller DuCanto & Fleck works with affluent clients on cases which often deal with complex financial issues like generational wealth, complex investments, and trusts. As the largest law firm in the country that handles exclusively high net-worth family and matrimonial law cases, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck attorneys have the depth and breadth to take on the most complex and unprecedented cases—sometimes even creating new law to find the right solution for their clients.
Harmon finds that her colleagues are often what can help her get through some of the most difficult and trying cases. She appreciates knowing that her colleagues always have her back, noting that the members of the firm support one another both personally and professionally.
“We really are a family who is deeply connected and supportive of one another,” says Harmon.
Schiller DuCanto & Fleck’s support extends beyond their own lawyers. To give back to the community, the firm worked with DePaul Law School to develop the Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center. The center is the largest family law center in the country and aims to help students develop in areas not typically associated with family law. The goal is to create more well-rounded family law candidates who can serve the Chicago area in the complex arena of family law.
The firm today has grown beyond Schiller’s wildest dreams, and he takes real pride in seeing the many accomplishments his colleagues and the firm have achieved. One change Schiller is particularly fond of is how the physical makeup of the firm has evolved. When the firm started, it had one female attorney on staff. Today, three of the four members of the firm’s Executive Committee are women: women are at the very heart of running the firm.
For young lawyers, working at a meritocracy like Schiller DuCanto & Fleck really does mean the chance to start a fulfilling career path that could lead to leadership positions at the firm. It’s a very real and plausible dream, and Schiller DuCanto & Fleck is filled with attorneys who are living proof of it.
Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, LLP has offices in Chicago, Lake Forest, and Wheaton. For more information, visit sdflaw.com.