Striving for Excellence

Schweitzer Law Partners specializes in  all areas of family law and estate planning
By Kamala Kirk

Chris Mortenson/Staff photographer

Over the past 20 years, Schweitzer Law Partners in Pasadena has continued to strive for excellence and make a difference in the lives of countless clients and their families. The firm was founded in 2003 by Donald Schweitzer, a certified family law specialist with more than two decades of trial experience.

Prior to pursuing a career in law, Schweitzer worked as a police officer for more than 10 years in the Santa Ana Police Department, where he served as a gang homicide detective and member of Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT), in addition to working on various narcotics assignments.  

“I loved being in the courtroom with the deputy district attorneys, and I really looked up to the young prosecutors I was working with,” Schweitzer says. “I loved being a cop, but I decided to take the leap and went to law school.”

After graduating from Southwestern University Law School and passing the bar, Schweitzer spent eight years working for the Orange County district attorney’s office, eventually becoming a senior trial attorney. During his time at the district attorney’s office, Schweitzer worked in numerous units, including family support, municipal court and felony filing, and has handled every type of case ranging from child support and DUIs to homicides, among others. He also successfully tried over 70 cases with a 95% conviction rate.

“When I left the DA’s office, I decided that I wanted to start my own law practice, but not as a solo practitioner,” Schweitzer says. “I dreamt of building an excellent law firm with excellent people. I tried to bring in the best of all my experiences with the organizations I’ve worked for. Along with my wife, Maria, who is the firm’s business manager, we created a culture with the help of partners, and we are dedicated and committed to helping people with difficult problems. We make meaningful differences in their lives while striving for excellence in all aspects of our work. Our culture is one where we work as a team, and we put a lot of emphasis on making our clients happy. Our team members are like family: Everyone supports each other.”

Schweitzer has dedicated the better part of the last two decades to building an excellent work culture and team, which consists of paralegals, staff and attorneys who are strong litigators with extensive courtroom experience. Two key members of the team are Casey Marticorena, a certified family law specialist, and Alexandra Smyser, a certified probate and estate planning specialist.

“When I was 30, I lost both of my parents suddenly,” says Smyser, who prior to her legal career worked in the entertainment industry for 10 years. “I decided to attend law school in order to help other people going through an experience similar to what I went through. I love working with generations of families and helping people carry out their legacies. Every family is different, and it’s exciting to be able to help them problem-solve the various issues that come up in each situation, as well as helping them to evolve and understand things like the distribution of digital assets and cryptocurrency. There are lots of exciting changes, and each generation has new things they need to plan for.”

During law school, Smyser interned for the Honorable Dean D. Pregerson of the U.S. District Court. After graduating magna cum laude from Southwestern Law School, she joined Schweitzer Law Partners, where she specializes in trusts, wills, probates, general and limited conservatorships, and special needs trusts. Her areas of expertise also include same-sex couples estate planning and planning for the elderly, as well as those with special needs.

“We have a strong emphasis on trial advocacy and courtroom presentation,” Smyser says. “We like to hire attorneys who are comfortable in the courtroom and comfortable being mentored by partners as they move up on their own. We place great importance on improving those skills, mentoring others and being proactive in their development so that we can always be a strong and powerful firm in the courtroom.”

After completing Southwestern Law School, Marticorena went into family law at Schweitzer Law Partners. She represents clients facing complex legal issues including division of property, child custody and support, domestic violence and civil harassment restraining orders, among others.  

“My background is in psychology, which is extremely beneficial in the practice of law because it involves understanding people and family dynamics,” Marticorena says. “It also requires understanding how to approach a family or an individual versus how to present in front of a judge.”

Schweitzer Law Partners specializes in all aspects of family law and estate planning, as well as trust and probate law. 

“There are many different types of issues that the family court has jurisdiction over, ranging from child support and custody to parentage and domestic violence cases,” Marticorena says. “We handle all of those types of cases under the umbrella of family law. What I love about working as a family law attorney is that every single day is different. I like that it requires knowledge in so many different areas. The practice is never boring. It’s always very challenging, and I have to constantly wear different hats and use different skills. You can’t be a good family law attorney and stagnant in your career; you have to continue to learn and grow.” 

Ten years ago, Schweitzer Law Partners also brought in its estate planning practice.

“There is a strong need for our clients to have immediate access to somebody who can help them with their estate planning before, during and after their divorces,” Schweitzer says. “I’m proud of the fact that clients are well taken care of and we give them the very best. We also play an extremely big part in helping with domestic violence cases. When I was a cop, I responded to hundreds of those cases, and we possess the trial skills to be able to deal with these very complex matters. It requires a great deal of preparation and advanced skills in order to properly represent these people.”

Smyser adds, “For a lot of clients, we’re their family’s law firm. A lot of people don’t have a reason to talk to an attorney unless they’re going through a death or divorce, and it can be intimidating. We offer our clients a well-rounded experience.”

 One thing that sets Schweitzer Law Partners apart is its strong value system and commitment to ethics with a heavy emphasis on teamwork. 

“We handle our cases in a professional manner, and we don’t violate our duties as officers of the court,” Schweitzer says. “Sometimes there are opposing counsels out there that play the game a little differently than we do, but we maintain our reputation as a very straightforward and highly ethical law firm. Now that we’ve spent over 20 years bringing in the right people who are extremely talented, I can say without a doubt that our culture is one where we strive for excellence while maintaining a warm and collegial atmosphere. We’re not afraid to innovate and also recognize that we’re always getting better. We are really committed to being the best law firm that we can be.”

Mentoring employees and supporting team members during the various stages of their careers also plays a big role in the firm’s overall success.

“Our firm expects our associate attorneys to advance their careers. They’re not people who sit behind lead attorneys and take orders,” Schweitzer points out. “We help them develop into real family law attorneys to the extent that they’re expected to become certified specialists within a certain timeframe. Casey, Alexandra and I are all certified specialists, and that’s a mark of commitment to high performance and excellent representation of our clients. We have made more specialists in this law firm than most law firms that exist in our area’s practice.”

“A lot of our employees start out as interns or law students,” Marticorena says. “I started out as a law clerk, became an associate attorney and am now a partner. The strong emphasis on that level of mentorship is part of the reason why we have people that have been here for more than a decade. We also value education, and we have a continuing legal education department and train our attorneys so they can stay up to date on the most recent cases and changes in the law. We meet on a weekly basis to discuss new things that we’ve learned and to provide different thoughts on various legal issues, which is very beneficial for our clients.” 

Community service is also very important at the firm, which is involved with numerous organizations. Every team member is provided with the support and resources needed to become ambassadors in the community. 

“We want to be a responsible company that contributes to the community,” Schweitzer says. “We support many different organizations including the Foothill Unity Center, chamber of commerce, Pasadena City College and Pasadena Bar Association. Currently, Alexandra sits on that as a trustee, Casey was on it for three years, and I’m the former bar president. I’m also the incoming president of the Pasadena City College Foundation and will be leading the Pasadena Chamber as chair. Another one of our associates is part of the LA County Bar Association Barristers Group. We want to have a purpose and stand for something. We encourage our team to get out there and contribute to the community and the city of Pasadena. It’s such a vibrant community, and it’s one of the best places to work and live.”

Smyser adds, “We also encourage and support all of our associates to be members of the community, too. Each person participates in bar associations and numerous community boards, and we give them the space to be able to do that so they can go out there and be great ambassadors in the community.”

Currently, the firm is busy planning for the upcoming celebration of its 20-year anniversary next March.

“We’re extremely excited to be celebrating this huge milestone,” Schweitzer says. “We count each year as a milestone. We had a big celebration for our 10-year anniversary and are looking forward to our 20th. What I really enjoy about private family law is that we’re dedicated and committed to helping people with the most difficult problems in their lives. There’s no better feeling than running into a client in the community after they’re done with a difficult life experience that we’ve helped them get through and seeing how happy they are. I don’t know of any other area of law that challenges attorneys as much as family law does. We empathize with our clients, and we work really hard to make their lives better. It’s a big responsibility, but we love to challenge ourselves, and it’s a special type of person that is dedicated to this type of law.”

Schweitzer Law Partners

201 S. Lake Avenue, Suite 800, Pasadena


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