Attorney at Winn & Winn in Gold River, Calif.
Area of Practice: Family Law
Year Graduated: 1981
After spending several years working odd jobs following college, Judith Winn decided to transform her interest in the law into a law degree. She hoped that attending law school would increase her earning capacity and provide her with the resources to take care of herself; she never imagined that she would meet her future husband there and that years after her graduation from McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, the two of them would partner to form their own family law office in Gold River, Calif.
During law school, Ms. Winn worked as a law clerk in the offices of Edward Freidberg, a plaintiffs' attorney well-known for his landmark medical and legal malpractice verdicts. When she graduated from McGeorge, she joined Mr. Freidberg's practice as an associate. After eventually leaving the firm to try insurance defense work, she returned to plaintiffs' work in time. Yet even after her return to plaintiffs' work, she did not feel completely satisfied by her job, so when her husband, Joseph Winn, asked her to help him with his growing family law practice, she readily agreed.
Although Ms. Winn had never practiced family law before she joined her husband in practice, she has now become well-versed in this area, and they have worked alongside each other for more than twenty years. Together, they have over sixty years of legal experience. Their firm, Winn and Winn, exclusively handles divorce and child custody cases, which may involve child support, spousal support, parenting arrangements, and property division. Every day is different. Some days, Ms. Winn makes court appearances, while other days are spent drafting pleadings or counseling clients. Most—but not all—of her cases settle before trial, and clients appreciate that she takes steps to avoid spending unnecessary time preparing for trial in cases that seem likely to end in settlement.
Ms. Winn enjoys the freedom that comes from being her own boss and the flexibility it allows in her day. "I've maintained what is essentially a part-time schedule for a while. There are always occasions where a case may demand more time, but I can work from home," she explains. "It's really case-by-case." For Ms. Winn, working out a satisfactory custody plan is an especially gratifying aspect of her family law practice, as is the feeling that her work helps her clients move on with their lives in spite of the stresses they faced as a result of their divorce or child custody cases. "It's rewarding when you feel you've gotten the kids what they need," she says, "and sometimes you have a situation where your client has been in a difficult relationship for a long time, so seeing that person succeed or blossom when the process is over is also rewarding." In her free time, Ms. Winn volunteers as a judge pro tempore for Sacramento County. As such, she assists parties in resolving their disputes before going to trial. She is also a member of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of California and Chairperson of the Sacramento County Bar Association Family Law Executive Committee.
Ms. Winn recommends that students who are interested in family law become involved in the Sacramento County Bar Association Family Law Section and keep an eye out for family law-specific continuing legal education classes. She notes that the California Family Law Report has a "Nuts and Bolts of Family Law" class that would provide a good overview of the area for students. Furthermore, she observes that "(l)aw school doesn't prepare you for practice. The best bet is to get your experience by interning or volunteering. Shadowing a family law attorney is also a good way to learn."