Get to Know John F. Schaefer


From its inception, Best Lawyers in America has listed John F. Schaefer, founder of The Law Firm of John F. Schaefer, as one of the premier matrimonial lawyers in America, and named him Lawyer of the Year, Detroit Area, in 2013.  Worth magazine named him one of the top 100 lawyers in America, in any practice area. His firm has offices in Birmingham, Grosse Pointe, and Harbor Springs.

Schaefer, who attended Cranbrook School, the University of Notre Dame, Michigan State University, and the Detroit College of Law, has been practicing matrimonial law for more than 40 years. Clients from Michigan, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, Nevada, California, and elsewhere in the United States have regularly sought him out for representation in divorce actions where millions of dollars have been contested.

Some of his notable cases include Dart v. Dart, a case involving the laws and courts of a foreign jurisdiction and assets in excess of $1 billion; Nasser v. Nasser, representing the 36 year wife of Jacques Nasser, the CEO of Ford Motor Company; and two cases of Iacocca v. Iacocca, representing two wives of Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler Corporation. He has also represented members of the Ford family and the distinguished former president of the Chrysler Corporation and Vice Chairman of General Motors Robert A. Lutz.

Schaefer has been associated with numerous organizations, including: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Past President (Michigan Chapter); Detroit College of Law, Trustee; Michigan State Bar Foundation Fellows; Oakland County Bar Association, Past President; and State Bar of Michigan: Family Law Section, Past Chairman; Attorney Grievance Commission, Arbitrator; and Committee on Character and Fitness.

Involved in numerous professional, civic, and philanthropic organizations, he was an instructor in the Michigan Judicial Institute; and has served on the board of trustees of William Beaumont Hospital, and the Detroit Police Athletic League.

Schaefer, who regularly appears on radio and television programs discussing legal topics, including matrimonial law, has served on the Board of Trustees and as an adjunct professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law. In 2010, MSU Law dedicated and named the law library ‘The John F. Schaefer Law Library’; and dedicated The John F. Schaefer Chair in Matrimonial Law. In 2012, Schaefer was honored with the law school’s Hon. George N. Bashara, Jr., Distinguished Alumni Award.

Although a renowned expert on matrimonial law, Schaefer also negotiates contracts for media personalities, and buyouts and golden parachutes for leading business executives.

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Residence: Birmingham.

What would surprise people about your job?
Probably the urgency that often attends it.

Why did you become a lawyer? I was always fascinated with the legal process and wanted to become part of an honorable profession.

What’s your favorite law-related TV show, movie, and/or book?
“To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Who are your law role models – real and/or fictional?
Justice Scalia.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school?
Be sure you are committed—it is an expensive undertaking.

What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer?
In general, being able to contribute security and peace in clients’ lives during difficult times.

What do you do to relax? Play golf and read.

What other career path might you have chosen? Perhaps being a full time law professor.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self? Read the classics.

Favorite music: Piano music.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
My entire childhood was fabulous.

What is your most treasured material possession?
The airplane in which our firm has an interest.

What has been your favorite year so far and why?
With the exception of 2016 they have all been great.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been?
The Sistine Chapel.

What’s one thing you would like to learn to do? Play the piano well.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
All deceased – my parents and my brother.

What’s the best advice you ever received? “Carpe Diem.”

What is your motto? Treat others as you would like to be treated.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
My achievements as an attorney representing extraordinary people.