Laura Wasser, divorce lawyer to Angelina Jolie, talks to us about her career.
When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?
I’m not certain that I even had a choice! I was conceived celebratorily the night my parents found out that my father had passed the California Bar exam. They decided to name me Laura Allison Wasser in order that my initials spell LAW. I fought the law for a while but eventually succumbed.
Starting out, what did you expect from a career in the law?
It was a financial decision. I was working for a nonprofit waiting for my own Bar results and my very new marriage was coming to an end. Needing money, I asked my father whether I could work for his firm if I passed. He said yes. I passed (thank goodness!) and my first dissolution case was my own.
Has it lived up to your expectations?
Very much so and more. In addition to providing the financial security I so desperately needed at 25, I now am a partner in a firm which helps families move through some very difficult times. My job is interesting and quite rewarding.
How did you get into the areas of law you are known for today? By design? Chance? Both?
Because my father has been a Family Law attorney, I guess you could say I got into the family business.
What do you consider to have been your big break?
Having grown up in Southern California, I knew many kids whose families were in the entertainment industry and went into it themselves. Through word of mouth, I had a few clients in the music industry and at one point someone referred Britney Spears to me as she needed a Prenuptial Agreement drafted for her upcoming marriage to Kevin Federline. The rest is history.
What differences do you see in today's legal market compared to when you started?
I think that the market is rather saturated as people are living longer and retiring later – or not at all. People are not as friendly or trusting as they were when I started out. Back then you could do things with a handshake. Not so much anymore. Our courts are overcrowded yet for some reason it seems that attorneys are more driven than ever to get in front of a judge rather than resolving the issues out of court.
"At one point someone referred Britney Spears to me as she needed a Prenuptial Agreement drafted for her upcoming marriage to Kevin Federline."
What achievement are you most proud of?
I wrote a book last year to assist regular families get through the separation and dissolution process. It Doesn’t Have to be That Way embodies the spirit of my practice and is accessible to folks who might not otherwise be able to afford our services.
What do you consider your greatest failure or regret?
I have very few regrets. Life is so very short. I try to make good decisions and move forward.
What have you enjoyed most during your career in the legal profession?
The feeling of resolution when a case has settled or been tried and won. I am a problem solver (with a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder). I don’t like cases that linger and very much enjoy the close.
What law would you change, abolish or create?
I would insist that marrying couples take some kind of a course or seminar to educate them on the family laws in the state where they marry or live. Marriage is a contract governed by the state. Too many couples do not have any idea what the terms of the contract are until they are endeavoring to get out of it.
Who is your legal hero?
My father, Dennis Wasser.
What slogan would you like to be remembered by?
What advice would you give to students trying to enter the legal profession today?
Maintain your integrity. You will be working with your colleagues far longer than any single client and it is important that your reputation be for honesty and reason.
What, in your opinion, are the highs and lows of practice as a divorce lawyer?
The lows are more evident; we represent people going through what is often the worst time of their personal life. They are scared and angry and heartbroken. It is devastating and it is really all we see day in and day out. The highs are the feeling of accomplishment when we have gotten them through the darkness and helped them begin the next phase of their lives. Making sure that the clients and their children can move forward in a healthy way is very gratifying.