SPOTLIGHT: Donna DiMaggio Berger, Community Association Law

SPOTLIGHT: Donna DiMaggio Berger, Community Association Law

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Becker showcases the inspiration, philosophies, and expertise of the women attorneys and lobbyists who help elevate our firm and client service. 

Donna DiMaggio Berger is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, founder and executive director of Becker’s Community Association Leadership Lobby, and member of the Board of Directors for the American Lung Association in Florida. She leads a variety of community association advocacy initiatives, working with legislators and other public policymakers on behalf of those who live, serve, and work in common interest ownership communities. Donna has testified before the Florida Legislature regarding community association law and frequently appears on radio talk shows and in print media discussing these issues.

What woman inspires you and why?
My daughter, Lauren, is a woman who inspires me tremendously. To see her making her way in the world in a smart, engaged, and compassionate manner gives me so much comfort that there will be continued forward progress on so many critical issues today. She’s doing it all so much better and faster than I did which is inspiring.

If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to have dinner with Coco Chanel. In an industry that had historically been dominated by men, she built a fashion house which remains vibrant today. Her introduction of the little black dress freed women up to present themselves in a chic way that had not previously been socially acceptable. I would love to hear from her personally how she went from growing up in an orphanage to building one of the most iconic brands on the planet.

What advice (professional or personal) would you give your younger self?
Talk less and pay attention more. Clients, friends, family members all want one thing: to be heard. There will be a time to speak, but, first, let the person you’re with know that you’ve truly heard them. When I was younger, I was always so busy trying to write my own story that listening was not my strong suit. As I’ve gotten older, I really enjoy listening to other people’s stories. Active listening is a skill you have to practice every day, and I’m still working on it.

What led you to the practice of law and/or to your specific area of law?
I knew at an early age that I wanted to be an attorney, but I never considered condominium law. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware that this niche practice existed! But when my son, Ryan, was born, I did not want to continue commuting to downtown Miami where I was an associate in a small real estate and banking law firm. I interviewed at a firm in Aventura, and they offered me a full-time position. I turned it down. The managing partner of that firm sent my resume to Becker & Poliakoff, since they were offering a flex-time schedule for some of their attorneys. I remember interviewing with Gary Poliakoff who asked me if I was familiar with condominium law. I figured I’d read the statute and that would be it – how hard could it be? Famous last words. I often tell my son that he is the reason I’m a condo and HOA attorney today.

What has living through a global pandemic taught you?
Living through this pandemic has taught me that there will always be heroes and role models in any difficult situation. Covid-19 has really driven that lesson home.  We had nurses, doctors, and other front-line workers risk their lives to continue providing essential community services. Both of my siblings work in the food retail industry and went to work every day – often dealing with some less-than-gracious customers – to ensure people had food to cook at home. We saw our association board members step up and undertake the difficult work of keeping their residents safe even in the face of tremendous criticism and pressure to open recreational amenities when it was not safe to do so. We all need to hang on to the lessons we’ve learned from this pandemic and aspire to be the heroes and role models for the next crisis.

To learn more about Donna, please click here.