Vicki Hogue-Davies 2014-05-06 23:29:19
Passionate About Righting Wrongs When she was a child, family and juvenile law attorney Deborah Varney dreamed of one day being a judge. “I always wanted to be involved in making things right, and judges did that,” she says. “They evaluated all the facts to make decisions and were effective at helping people.” Varney achieved her goal by sitting as a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County from 2004-2007. However, prior to entering the law, her passion for righting wrongs led her to a career in social work. Varney earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from University of Iowa and Florida State University, respectively. She worked for a variety of organizations that seek to help families and young people. She ran a youth center on New York’s Long Island that focused on delinquency prevention, coordinated a human services degree program for Adelphi University’s School of Social Work and administered a family counseling agency and respite care program for developmentally disabled children for Volunteers of America in Los Angeles. She also served as a VISTA volunteer doing community organizing and development in a rural and poverty-stricken Florida community Varney believes that these experiences have helped her develop compassion for people’s unique situations and a strong understanding of family dynamics, which in turn has been beneficial to her family law practice. She founded Varney Family Law in late 1993 after graduating from Arizona State University’s law school. Becoming a Lawyer “As I went through my career in social work, I found myself being frequently drawn into legal situations or the legal aspects of social work,” Varney says. “I was suited as a social worker, but I knew I could be more effective as a lawyer. That’s when I went to law school.” During law school, she clerked for Irwin Harris, a now retired family law attorney who she credits with teaching her the legal ropes. “Irwin was an excellent family lawyer who was well-respected in the legal community,” Varney says. “He mentored me and taught me the practice of law. Because of him, I had the support I needed to be a solo practitioner. I went to work for myself right out of law school and he worked down the hall, so I could walk over and ask him questions. He is a good friend and basically taught me how to be a lawyer.” Today, after more than 20 years in her own practice, Varney is also a respected family law trial attorney. “Protect your rights, your family and yourself ” is the motto that inspires her work. She handles everything related to family and juvenile law including divorce, paternity, grandparent rights, child support, adoptions and more. What she believes she brings to her clients, in addition to her background as a social worker and therapist, is a never give up attitude. “I am very prepared, detail-oriented and I never give up,” she says. “And I make sure my clients know that they are important and their cases count. I am very direct with clients and don’t pull any punches, but I am also compassionate.” Probably her biggest challenge, she notes, is helping clients to understand the process when they are under emotional stress and helping them to set aside those emotions to look at the best possible results for their families. Her most emotionally charged cases are relocation cases. “That is where one parent takes the kids and leaves the state and the other parent comes home to find the kids gone,” she says. “I think this kind of case requires an immediate response so you can get the children back. These cases really get your blood going, and one of the things I like about the law is you can really make an impact with the legal process to right what is wrong.” Away from Work As a parent herself, Varney understands the importance of spending time with her children, so she strives to keep her work and home life in balance. She has two daughters and a son. The family likes to camp, go white water rafting and hike. Varney also enjoys golfing, but admits to not being very good at it. “I kind of hack away at it,” she says. Other interests include playing bridge and reading spy novels and spiritual books. To unwind, Varney turns to working out. What is most rewarding for Varney about being a family and juvenile law attorney? “The most rewarding thing for me is I feel like I can make a difference,” she says. “In social work, I often had to wade through peoples’ stuff and I would feel like I couldn’t get any changes to occur. In the law, I can go to court and see if I can get a court order to get something to happen, so I feel like I can make a difference by using my skills and abilities to effect change.”
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