Ebel Family Law

Life Changing And Educational Experiences
Deborah S. Ebel (known to clients and friends as Debby), grew up in the Bronx, New York, with her sister, and was raised by a father who came to the United States in 1922 as a 15 year old from Bielitz, Austria (now Biala-Bielsko, Poland) and by a mother who was first generation born in the United States from a family that emigrated from Russia.

Debby's father came to the United States speaking only German, but by working primarily as an errand boy for businesses located in lower Manhattan, while at the same time attending school full time, he ultimately became a physician. He treated thousands of victims of spinal cord injuries especially from World War II.

During Debby's childhood, her family lived in special quarters on the grounds of the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital, where her father was Chief of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There, she saw first-hand, both the accomplishments, and the disappointments, of this group of patients, learning to cope with their life changing disabilities. Debby's father became a Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, with a dream that his two daughters would also become doctors.

Debby was a straight A student at one of New York's special high schools which, although public, admitted only a fraction of applicants. She adored biology and placed second in New York City's Science Fair during high school. She wanted to be an anesthesiologist (according to her father, "this was an excellent field for a woman doctor with a family"). Unfortunately, in college, Debby received a "D" in organic chemistry, forcing her to see the writing on the wall. Perhaps influenced by the culture of the 1960's, she switched her major to American Intellectual History. She began what ended up as a life path in the social sciences, no longer in the physical sciences.

Debby's sister (her only sibling) came closer to their father's dream, going on to receive a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Genetics at M.I.T. and a Post-Doctorate Fellowship at Harvard in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. At least both daughters adhered to their father's mantra of "education, education, and even more education."

Debby's father was more successful in instilling in both daughters his avocations - such as opera, classical music, and Viennese baking. Debby's sister was a flutist as a young adult; recently, she took up the saxophone, in addition to having become a gourmet cook and baker extraordinaire using some of their father's actual handwritten Austrian recipes. Debby became a cellist sitting first chair in her high school orchestra and in a string quartet in the summers at a science and arts camp. With a background in ballet, Debby continued her love of dance in college at the University of Rochester, studying modern dance under the likes of Merce Cunningham and Alvin Ailey. She became a lover of chamber music, the harpsichord, and Italian tragic Operas, mostly by Puccini and Verdi.

Debby's mother was an even greater influence on Debby. She earned a Phi Betta Kappa at Hunter College, coming out of a household of Yiddish-speaking, socialist-leaning emigrants to the United States. Debby's mother was a teacher of Math and German in a public junior high school in the Bronx, and was active in the NYC Teacher's Union, becoming a quiet advocate of social justice in the Ebel household. Long before there was a Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinham, and the feminist movement, Debby's mother taught her to be able always to support herself in whatever profession she chose. Debby's mother's mantra was financial independence for women, and a belief that women could have it all - a career, a husband, children, and if lucky, grandchildren galore.

After graduating in 1970 from the University of Rochester, Debby obtained a Master's Degree in Social Work (M.S.W.) from the University of Michigan Graduate School of Social Work in 1972. She then came South to attend law school in Atlanta, to obtain a whole new skill set with a view toward changing the world. She was a member of the second class at Emory University School of Law that had more than a mere handful of women law students. Debby was a member of the Honor Court, a teaching assistant for the class below her, teaching research, writing and advocacy. She graduated first in her class after first semester, and was offered a position on the Emory Law Review. She declined, needing to spend her "extra time" (a phantom concept, actually, in law school) working 20 hours a week outside of school. Debby graduated with High Distinction, Order of the Coif (ranking in the top 5% of her class). Unbeknownst to Debby at the time, one of the biggest, most prestigious law firms in Atlanta traditionally offered the Emory law student first in the class after the first semester, a paid summer internship, with a strong promise of employment upon graduation. Although first in her class, Debby was not offered that position. It went to a male student who was number 2 in the class.

Debby started fulfilling her true dream of changing the world by working at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society right after graduating Law School in 1975. She worked there for 10 years representing people who could not afford a lawyer, trying to right wrongs – both economic and social injustices – on a myriad of subjects. Her most important work at Legal Aid from 1981 – 1985 was in a nationally reported and followed case representing, only 6 years out of law school, a class of thousands of Cubans who fled Castro's Cuba only to be locked up indefinitely, without any due process rights, by the U.S. Justice Department simply on an allegation they were dangerous.

When Debby passed the State Bar of Georgia, 1975, practicing female attorneys in Georgia were rare, and indeed were virtually non-existent in Atlanta's premier "downtown" law firms. In the Courts, women as litigators, which is the field within the law that Debby chose, was even rarer still. In hindsight, Debby realizes she was a pioneer in her own right for women lawyers and specifically women litigators, taking the blows and discrimination from this previously male dominated profession, so that women law school graduates for the past several decades thereafter would suffer less and less discrimination from their male colleagues in the Bar or on the Bench.

The world in which Debby was raised taught her about men and women overcoming adversity whether in the form of physical, or other types of limitations and hardships; taught her to be compassionate; and taught her to also be as aggressive "as they come" if and when approproiate. The world of Debby's youth and young adulthood also taught her to be passionate not only about her work and career, but also about the "stuff" that rounds out one's life, such as music, art and politics.

Debby married the same week she graduated Emory Law School. She and her then husband had two beautiful children, inside and out, a daughter Jessica, now 34 and a son David, now 30. After 20 years of marriage however, Debby and her husband divorced. Since Debby's husband insisted on a jury trial, she had the firsthand experience of being a party, rather than the attorney, in what turned out to be a six day jury trial. Debby can truly identify with, and provide a treasure trove of real knowledge, as opposed to just cold hard law, regarding what her clients go through from the beginning to the end of a divorce case.

Although Debby's work is obviously a passion, even greater still is her passion for family: her daughter is an elementary school teacher in Atlanta with a Master's Degree in Education, and her son, living on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., obtained a Master's Degree in International Conflict Resolution. He currently is an Analyst and Fellow at a Washington, D.C. think tank, as well as an author on various war zones and on political hot spots around the world, such as the Caucusus, the Middle East and South Asia. Debby's daughter-in-law fled with her then one year-old daughter from Afghanistan in 2000 after her first husband was killed by the Taliban; she now works in a top security position within the Department of Defense. Debby's son adopted (represented by his mother, Debby) his wife's daughter, now 15, and together they had a baby boy in December 2012. Debby's daughter has two children, a daughter born in 2008 and a little boy born in 2011. Debby's four grandchildren are, as anyone who has seen the massive photo gallery in her office and on her iPhone can attest, the very light of her life.

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Atlanta, GA 30307-1748
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