ReeseLaw Turns 20: A Conversation with Kate Reese

How did ReeseLaw come to be?

It was quite a journey to get to the founding. I started my professional life in very different spaces. I worked in IT and as an accountant. In the mid-90s, I went to Catholic University to earn my law degree, graduating in 1998. I spent a few years learning the ropes at other firms but wanted to start my own practice. In 2004, I opened the office. I intended it to be a solo practice, but that changed pretty quickly.

Why is that?

A few months after I opened my doors, I met a remarkable young attorney who showed such promise that I asked them to join me. My practice was already busy, and it presented an opportunity for both of us – I could improve the service to my clients, and they could get training and experience working with me. It was a win-win that I have continued to use. Instead of a solo practice, ReeseLaw has had between 2 and 4 attorneys ever since. I think our team approach is a real benefit to the clients in terms of costs and responsiveness.

How does the team approach work?

Every client has two lawyers assigned to the case. As much as possible, both of us are at all initial client meetings. I tend to handle the big picture strategy, while my associate focuses on the critical details that come up in family law cases. Together, we bring focus, creativity, experience, and decades of knowledge. Not to mention, there is always one of us available to respond as soon as possible. The team offers important balance and a diversity of thought that benefits our clients.

What kind of diversity do you offer your clients?

I have always hired for excellence, regardless of the age, race, sex, religious practice, or other cultural identity. This has applied to both attorneys and staff. This has meant that our team has always had unique and valuable backgrounds that help us stay open to our clients' needs and perspectives. Over the years, I have learned so much from my clients and the team about unique issues that may be critical to a particular case, and the diversity of our team helps us identify and adapt our strategy to address them. But one aspect of the team has remained consistent: the high caliber of every person who comes to work at the firm.

Has the practice of family law changed in the last 20 years?

ReeseLaw provides representation throughout Virginia, Maryland, and DC, and I have seen major shifts over time. One of the most significant has been the move to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as the preferred way to resolve a case. In the early days, mediation and collaborative law were much less popular, and people thought they had to go through a trial to deal with custody, divorce, or some other family law dispute. It’s been great to see some of the judges I admired on the bench moving into mediation. Their expertise and experience are helping resolve cases more compassionately and effectively.

In what way is ADR better for family law cases?

We always tell our clients that, whether you’ve been married for 5 years or 25, you get 4-5 hours a day of judge time in trial to introduce evidence about your entire relationship, and the other side gets half of that time to present their side. The average number of days for a contested custody matter is three, and a contested property and support trial averages four days. This means the judge is a stranger who has to grasp all this information in a short amount of time. Not only that, but the judge is limited to making decisions and issuing orders according to laws and rules that don’t take the full picture of a family into account. For example, a judge can’t order parents to pay for college, provide that a mental health professional will act as the tiebreaker for some disagreements, or provide guidelines for extra-curricular activities. All of these issues are incredibly important to co-parenting children, but the judge’s hands are tied. ADR is much more flexible and humane. Working with the other parent lays essential groundwork for future parenting.

Speaking of mental health professionals, aren’t you a counselor?

Changes in relationships can be traumatic for the adults and the children, and the well-being of my clients is always a priority. I got a master's in counseling a few years ago, and I am a National Certified Counselor, but I don’t play that role with my clients. Like my background in accounting – my counseling degree provides a valuable set of insights and perspectives that help me spot issues and make appropriate referrals when I see the need.

Who do you refer your clients to?

That requires such a “lawyer” answer: it depends. I accumulate so many professionals in related fields over the years – finance, mental health, parenting, education, and other people I’ve had a chance to vet for their skill and value to a case. There’s no one-size-fits-all for families, so I am so glad to be able to make better matches between my clients and other professionals according to their needs and personalities. I think being able to treat each client’s situation holistically has been a key to our success.

Can you say more about holistic representation?

A family law matter isn’t just about the law. These are people dealing with complex changes in their most intimate relationships. The law is not equipped to handle all the ways that people are impacted. We want our clients to do more than survive the ordeal. We want them to thrive. I look at their entire situation and advise and refer accordingly. In the ADR context, these referrals may be part of the team, and we all work together to achieve a positive outcome.

I tell my clients, “It’s our case, but it’s your life,” and the team approach to cases means that the client is an integral part of the team. When we empower clients to consider realistic options that work, we can avoid the bloodshed of trial that can impact co-parenting. The team is always focused on moving forward instead of carrying on the fight.

You have another exciting milestone this year, right?

Yes. We have outgrown our offices, and we have moved to a new space where we can better serve our clients. We are doubling our square footage in a dedicated suite.

How can people reach you for a consultation?

Our website has a contact page that gives us some information and gets you started scheduling a consultation. I usually return the call within 24 hours.

12150 Monument Dr, Suite 225 | Fairfax VA 22033 | Directions
☎ 703.279.5140 | 703.279.5141 (fax)

Evening and weekend appointments are available under certain circumstances.


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