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49 Grandchildren and a female innovator in the legal space: How she does it all

Meet Barbara Rothenberg, Esq. who began her career with The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP in 1978. Barbara has been the Managing Attorney of the law firm’s Philadelphia office since 1985. In addition to her career as an attorney, Barbara is married to Allen L. Rothenberg, Esq. and is the proud mother of 8 children and grandmother of […]

Meet Barbara Rothenberg, Esq. who began her career with The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP in 1978. Barbara has been the Managing Attorney of the law firm’s Philadelphia office since 1985. In addition to her career as an attorney, Barbara is married to Allen L. Rothenberg, Esq. and is the proud mother of 8 children and grandmother of many grandchildren – 49 to be exact.

As you may know, The Rothenberg Law Firm is committed to helping people in every possible way, which is why a sizable portion of their revenue is distributed to a variety of philanthropic organizations that are dedicated to treating and preventing injuries, providing physical and mental health services, and to helping children. 

In addition to their practice, Barbara and the entire Rothenberg Law Firm LLP is also a proud sponsor of the Philadelphia 76ers, The SIXERS Strong Kid program that celebrates kids who demonstrate remarkable strength in dealing with tough life challenges, and also is proud to co-host Children’s Safety Clinics throughout Philadelphia area.

We were lucky enough to chat with Barbara about her thriving practice, family time and most importantly: “Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do something because you are a woman!”

What do you do?
BR: I’m currently the managing attorney of The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP Philadelphia office. I monitor and decide on all of the cases that enter the office. I also make sure to keep track of all office expenditures and help assist attorneys and support staff with any questions or help they may need. I am also the proud mother to 8 children and grandmother to 49 grandchildren. 

What was your background prior to joining Rothenberg in 1978?
BR: I married young and wanted to have a large family. So, between 1963-1967, I worked as a lab technician to help support my family while my husband was in school. I started college after my first child was born and completed college while caring for 3 young children. After finishing college, my husband implored me to join his growing one-attorney firm which was getting more cases than he could handle without my help.  So I started at the firm as a paralegal although I really wanted to become a medical doctor. I had done so well in my organic chemistry class in college, I broke the curve in the class.

After a few years of working as a paralegal and 5 kids later, I realized that I could become a lawyer myself. After all, I had worked on a brief that succeeded in federal court which would never have won without my help. So I went to law school to become an attorney. A couple of law schools competed over me and a few of them created a seven year curriculum to accommodate my schedule as a student and mother. However, I didn’t want to wait that long and ended up taking on a full course-load and graduated in the traditional 3 years time. In 1978, the year I graduated and passed the bar exam I was pregnant with my sixth child. After the bar, I joined The Rothenberg Law Firm as its second attorney.

What has your role as a managing attorney entailed?
BR: My role as managing attorney entails being not only a resource for junior attorneys to turn to for legal guidance but also a source of knowledge on office operations and people. My responsibility is to ensure our firm gives the same level of expertise and care to clients as a 16 attorney firm as when it was just Allen and I. That requires a commitment to taking care of our attorneys, paralegals, and office personnel so they know they are taken care of and therefore, they can have the peace of mind to focus on taking care of clients.

How do you manage it “all” – being a mother and grandmother?
BR: In order to do both well, it requires me to bring my work home sometimes, or bring my children into work. I used this as an opportunity to spend time with my children and give them simple office tasks to complete to teach them about responsibility and demonstrate to them what it looks like to be dedicated to a craft.

Often at the dinner table, conversations with my husband involved the work we did to help people. That certainly played a part in showing the children the amount of lives we helped and helped them decide that becoming an attorney was meaningful and fulfilling line of work.

As for managing that many children, and grandchildren, organization is key. I keep a chart of all birthday,  anniversary- send cards, and presents for all kids and grandkids. I make it a point to attend every family event and speak to every child and grandchild as much as possible.

What are your favorite ways to help with stress?
BR:I read. A lot. I carry a book with me everywhere I go, so that whenever I find the spare time I sit in a corner and read. I won’t specify what books I read. I’ll let your imagination run on that one.

What were some of your most meaningful cases/results?
BR: All my cases – we treat every client like family- from smallest to largest case.

Anything else to add?
BR: Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do something because you are a woman. That is the most important lesson I imparted for my daughters and granddaughters. I started my career in an era where people criticized my husband for allowing me to go to law school to become an attorney, because I was taking a seat from a man.

My daughter, Melissa, was told by her law school dean that because she had two small children at the time of her first year – she could only attend part time because she was a mother. Her response makes me so proud. She rejected that notion, and told the person that she wouldn’t be her mother’s daughter if she accepted lower expectations for herself simply because she had children to take care of. In her words, “My mother taught me that we can do anything we put our minds to accomplish.  My mother attended law school full-time with 5 children, so it can be done!”

In fact, two of my daughters attended law while taking care of young children, and now two of my grand-daughters are currently in law school taking care of their own children as well.

Photos: c/o The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP

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