ALUMNI PROFILE: Michelle Suskauer ’91
PRACTICING WITH COMPASSION
Sixteen years ago, criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer ’91 toured a state-run institution for violent female juvenile offenders in West Palm Beach, Florida—and where others might have seen hopelessness among its residents, she saw potential.
Suskauer responded by designing a program that matched local female attorneys with teens at the facility to bond over shared meals and reading and writing activities. Over time, “Breakfast and Books” evolved, and today the mentoring initiative lives on at alternative schools for girls across the state of Florida.
Suskauer’s concern for vulnerable populations influences every aspect of her work. Nearly three decades into her legal career, she remains passionate about serving both her clients and their families with kindness and compassion.
“When someone is arrested, it affects everyone who loves them. The criminal justice system is terrifying, and I advocate for a client’s entire family and hold their hands through a very scary time,” says Suskauer, who is president of the board of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County and recently joined boutique litigation firm Dimon, Kaplan and Rothstein PA after 20 years with her own firm, Suskauer Feuer LLC.
Sworn in as president of the Florida Bar in June, Suskauer also serves her peers across the state. One of her top goals is to improve lawyers’ mental health and stress management skills. Lack of work-life balance has led to an increase in depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and professional dissatisfaction among the legal community, she says, and lawyers are operating at an unsustainable pace.
Suskauer says she derives great satisfaction from her work and wants to see all attorneys achieve the same gratification. “We have a lot of challenges facing this profession, but as long as we prioritize personal health and wellness, we can positively change other people’s lives as well as our own.”
“We have a lot of challenges facing this profession, but as long as we prioritize personal health and wellness, we can positively change other people’s lives as well as our own.”