Family Matters

Barbara K. Roman is all about minimizing the trauma of breakups

Published in 2015 Ohio Super Lawyers — January 2015

Divorce doesn’t have to be all bad, if you ask Barbara K. Roman. Despite the angst, some good can come out of it.

The partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis went through her own divorce, then remarried 22 years ago. That experience has helped her guide others through the stressful process.

“As domestic relations lawyers, we see the immediate results of what we do, but we don’t necessarily get to see the positive outcome,” she says. “But children and families have come back to me and said ‘thank you’ a long time later.”

A few years ago, the son of a long-ago client brightened her day when she needed it most.

Roman was at her Cleveland office, reading condolence cards after the passing of both her parents. 

She opened an envelope, expecting another expression of sympathy, and instead, glittery little graduation caps spilled out on the table. Along with a picture, there was a note “thanking me for having the insight to recognize that his father, who was my client, was going to be the better parent, and that his extended family was going to be the one to shape his life.”

The young man’s gratitude served as another reminder of why she focuses on family matters. “It brought chills to me to think that I just did my job, and I had no idea of the long-term impact,” she says. “Fourteen years later, this child was mature enough to even recognize that, and to find me and thank me. That was really cool. I still kind of tear up about it.”

After graduating from Ohio State University, Roman worked as a medical secretary for a couple of years. She was inspired to pursue law when she and several other women met with an attorney to set up a community service group. In 1977, Roman graduated from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

She had no particular affinity for family law when she started her legal career. “There were so many things that I thought I wanted to do—business, real estate, sports law,” she says. Her first six years as a lawyer were spent in the consumer protection division of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, followed by six years with the UAW Legal Service Plan. At her first private firm, most of her referrals happened to involve domestic relations. In 1996, she teamed up with Anne Meyers, her former roommate at Ohio State, who had started her own firm. As undergraduates, the two had never talked about law school. “Neither one of us knew we were going to be lawyers,” Roman says.

As it turned out, practicing divorce and family law suited Roman. “My natural inclination always is to be a problem-solver and to bring people together,” she says. “I had an aunt who said that I was the one who was always trying to solve the problems in the family.”

The propensity for peacemaking may explain why Roman is a founding member of the Cleveland Academy of Collaborative Professionals. She also belongs to The Center for Principled Family Advocacy. “Collaborative lawyers have lots of training on how to work with high-conflict or emotional issues,” she says. “What I like is it’s just another tool in my tool basket to help people. I can mediate, I can litigate or I can collaborate.”

No matter the approach, her goal is the same: “to get people to achieve the highest and best that they can achieve. That’s the goal, instead of fighting for every small issue.”

Roman’s negotiating skills have come in handy elsewhere in her life, from helping to unite the Cuyahoga County Bar Association and the Cleveland Bar Association in 2008 to tackling the delicate art of being a stepmom.

Roman has a stepchild from her first marriage. When she married Dick Dorman, a marketing consultant, his children were 10 and 13.

“I see the stepparent’s perspective in divorce,” she says. “It can be disastrous, or in my view, I was sort of a facilitator. I knew what to do and what not to do. You shouldn’t interfere with the parent’s parenting of the children. You can’t overstep your role.”

Roman served as president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association in 2012, and she continues to participate in its pro bono projects, particularly the 3Rs+ program, which helps disadvantaged high school juniors and seniors get ready for college.

“As lawyers, we have a role in trying to make the community better,” she says. “Lawyers want to do so much, but I think if we help just one person at a time, we’re doing our job.”

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