In a field full of staid backgrounds, Curtis Exum - straight-shooting, fearless and truly pugnacious - stands out as perhaps the most distinctive young attorney practicing divorce law on Long Island today. More important, some of Exum's elder peers say that he has the tools and energy to become one of the region's leading practitioners in the years ahead. He already maintains a thriving practice today in Hauppauge.
It all fits after reviewing the tale of his tape: Exum was a boxer in his youth, and he grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, the youngest of five brothers. With a boxing career that began by duking it out with his siblings, the sport defined the stocky Exum early on. As a youth, Exum says "I wasn't the class valedictorian," and a high-school counselor recommended he "stay on the farm" rather than pursue college - a piece of advice Exum took as a challenge. "I told a friend of mine in the 8th grade I was going to be a lawyer," says Exum today. "Maybe I just didn't look like lawyer material when I was in high school." He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and went on to graduate with a degree in political science and international relations.
And he boxed - a welterweight amateur who, by his own estimation, could "take a punch. Everyone I fought against had longer reaches than me, so I had to." He had great success in the amateur ranks, as a three-time State and Golden Gloves Champion, compiling an impressive record of 20 wins to 4 losses. He journeyed to New York City ("without even a job or a place to live") to begin a professional boxing career, appearing on a card at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum ("I was also scheduled to fight Roy Jones, Jr., but it was canceled"). But a system he began to view as corrupt held no future for him.
By his mid-20s, Exum was paying his way through law school and he met his future wife, Marie, a Long Islander to whom he credits much of his success today ("She doesn't take any guff," he says). Notably, Exum for more than seven years worked for two well-known female attorneys, first in Manhattan and later Nassau County. Exum thrived under their tutelage. "It was baptism by fire," he says of the early trial work he handled. However, he had finally found his niche, the practice of matrimonial law.
In 2000 Exum, already the veteran of hundreds of contested divorces at both the trial and appellate level, went out on his own. The referrals came quickly, and his Suffolk County-based practice grew right away. Today Exum, a sole practitioner, maintains a significant and diverse caseload predominately consisting of complex matrimonial and family law matters. While Exum has received multiple offers from large firms, he prefers to remain on his own where he can continue to personally oversee his clients' matters, which he believes best serves their individual needs and interests.
With three children, Exum is busy coaching baseball and basketball on weekends. He and his family live in Oyster Bay, Long Island.