Laurel Stein didn’t grow up thinking she wanted to be a divorce lawyer. Probably no one does. In fact, she didn’t grow up thinking she wanted to be a lawyer of any kind. But, in high school, Laurel discovered she had a knack for research and writing, and when a teacher told her that someday she would write excellent legal briefs, that suggestion sort of stuck in her mind.
Born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Laurel decided to spread her wings a bit after high school. She went to college in St. Louis, Missouri, at Washington University. Her dad had gone to graduate school there, and her parents had lived in St. Louis for a while, so it was a good fit for her. “It was a beautiful campus, and St. Louis felt a little like Cleveland.”
By her junior year, Laurel, having concluded that she wasn’t going to make a career from pursuing her chosen major – political science – decided on law school. She was accepted to all the Ohio schools that she applied to, but there was a catch. In her sophomore year she had met Richard Stein, a junior headed to medical school at the University of Tennessee in his hometown of Memphis. Not wanting to be parted from Richard, the self-described risk-averse young lady took a rather big risk: instead of returning to Cleveland as planned, she left Ohio and all the schools that had accepted her, and journeyed south to law school in Memphis.
The decision had a happy ending. Laurel and Richard got engaged, and the day after he finished medical school and she finished law school, they moved back to Cleveland. She didn’t want to settle in Memphis, where the two seasons are “hot and not as hot, and they’re wearing shorts on Thanksgiving.” Not to worry – all these years later, Richard has gotten used to the Cleveland winters.
Moving back was tough though, because Laurel hadn’t made any connections in the Cleveland legal community during law school. So when an opportunity arose to be a staff attorney in the Domestic Relations Legal Department for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Laurel took it. Her plan was to work for a year in that office, make some contacts, and then apply to private practice firms. But life has a way of taking you in directions you hadn’t planned.
After a year of working in the court, she got to know the judges, the magistrates, and other attorneys. Consequently, all the firms she interviewed with were domestic relations firms. So even though it was never her intention to become a divorce attorney, the winds of fate sort of swept her in that direction. She ultimately took a job with the most reputable domestic relations firm in Cleveland – Morganstern, MacAdams & DeVito.
She was with that firm for six years, until she made a decision to stay at home with her two kids, Lindsay and Zachary. But she didn’t leave the law behind entirely. Working from home Laurel still did some legal research, and she was an associate editor of the Domestic Relations Journal of Ohio.
Eight years after she left Morganstern, and with her kids older and in school, another opportunity came knocking. A friend told her about a law firm that was looking for a domestic relations lawyer to work part time. Laurel jumped at the chance, and began working with Matt Nee, who was a partner in that firm. After the firm reorganized as Nee Law Firm, she rejoined Matt to continue her work.
And so, after nearly a decade away from it, Laurel is back working in the never-a-dull-moment world of domestic relations.
by Kevin Diehl