By Zarif Taufiq
From the fictional Harvey Specter of USA’s “Suits” to the radical but very real William Kunstler, New York City is home to many high profile attorneys. These powerful titans of the legal field cultivate a certain courtroom culture we have come to expect when we think of legal matters. Dramatic objections, harrowing cross examinations, and surprise witnesses all build to a level of drama that although entertains, doesn’t really benefit either party. But a new player is quickly rising in New York’s legal world and her methods just might change the way we think about divorce proceedings, lawyers, and women in general. Her name is Vikki Ziegler and she’s on a mission to make the world a better place. And she’s looking pretty good doing it.
A testament to the casualties of divorce, Vikki experienced the ravages of her own parents’ split at the age of 12. Suddenly placed in the crossfire of people who once loved one another wholeheartedly, Vikki found her childhood crumbling down around her. “It’s not that my childhood ended exactly, but I found myself hanging around with the adults more.”
Though she spent less time with children her own age, she never forgot their plight. Using the emotions she felt to drive her as she rocketed through law school, focusing her efforts on domestic violence and even volunteering at a battered women’s shelter.
Vikki realized that there were no clear winners in divorce proceedings. While each party fought each other viciously, the children always suffered. She sought a way to change this and developed a philosophy of mediation over massacre. Rejecting the industry standard of pitting couples against each other she urged her clients to push past their emotions and work with each other. “I tell my clients they have to treat it like a business transaction. They have to shelf their emotions and figure out what they really want.”
And Vikki is determined her clients do this in a calm and reasonable manner. She enlists the aid of therapists, fitness trainers, spas, and hairdressers to make sure her clients feel their best and are in a positive state to make good decisions. “There’s so many things my clients don’t consider when they’re going through divorce. What happens to all the stuff they get that they don’t want?”
To this end Vikki is in the process of developing a service she refers to as “Divorce Ebay” to help the newly divorced catalogue, appraise, and sell any unwanted items so that they can get on with their lives. But in keeping with this idea Vikki developed a service no other divorce attorney offered: matchmaking services.
She had found that she had so many newly single clients who were still afraid to get back into the dating scene. Her affable nature forged close relationships with the clients and her inability to sit on the sidelines when she could help made her reach out and start mixer events to introduce some of her clients. They had difficulty connecting with other people after going through divorce and this event became a way for people who understood each other’s plight to meet and talk and express themselves. It was a chance at finding emotional support or a deeper friendship forged through mutual pain. It was a second chance at love.
“Sometimes divorce is a good thing. You need to get out of that toxic relationship that just didn’t work so that your real life can actually start.” Over 377,000 people have since had their real lives start on Vikki’s website, “Divorce Dating.”
Vikki’s expertise was quickly growing and people took notice. She soon found herself courted by television hosts for her take on legal matters. “I wasn’t sure at first but Brittany Spears had just shaved her head and Bill O’Riley needed a guest.” From that moment she knew television was a place for her. “As scared as I was, I fell in love with media. There’s a high that you get when you’re up there.” She’s since been called on dozens of shows bringing her expertise to light on major news networks, reality shows, and even on Anderson Cooper’s talk show. She’s also been featured prominently on ESPN’s 30 for 30 series “Broke” where she delves into the specifics of divorce amongst highly paid athletes, many of whom are her clients. She even has her own television show in the works set to air in Fall of 2013 entitled “Untying The Knot” where she helps couples going through divorce the Vikki Ziegler way. She has authored two books, contributed to numerous widely circulated publications such as People Magazine and The Huffington Post, and even has a movie entitled “Love, Lies, and Litigation” coming to theaters soon.
Despite the vast knowledge she’s already accumulated over her life and career, Vikki is always eager to keep learning and share all she knows with others. She even teaches a class at the Fordham University School of Law where she imparts her wisdom about currently evolving legal matters. In particular, she has been very excited about the recent strides in the laws governing same sex marriage. “I get to teach what’s happening right now, not just from some textbook or history book.”
Vikki draws strength from everything she’s involved in and all the people that she’s helped. She’s been using that energy to drive her to greater and greater things.
Charity work is one of her obsessions that fills her time when she’s not involved with legal or media events. She has been heavily involved with charities such as “Knock out Obesity,” which sends inner city wards of the state to weight loss camp; the Make a Wish Foundation; Toys for Tots; Partners for Women and Justice; and WIN, an organization devoted to helping empower battered women. She frequently volunteers at soup kitchens as well where she finds the act of chopping vegetables particularly satisfying.
Vikki takes her support of the victims of domestic abuse and battered women one step further as she is in the process of developing a line of cosmetics designed solely for the empowerment of women in such situations. Dubbed “V-Luxe,” it is a lipstick that comes in red or pink that represents the unbreakable spirit women who have endured and moved on from domestic violence possess.
“I feel more aware how precious life is, how many people need you to help them. You can’t be selfish, you have to give back.”
Vikki often tells her clients that life is only going to get better. The same can easily be said of her. She feels just at home in a courtroom, behind a camera, on the radio, or even in a soup kitchen chopping vegetables. But mostly she feels at home in New York. And that’s a good thing, because she’s here to stay.