Jennifer Mullett is emerging as one of Northern Virginia's more capable and effective young divorce lawyers, whose stature in many respects has only recently taken hold. That's because Mullett and her three partners, Laura C. Dove, Augusta L. Meacham and Jennifer A. Bradley, for many years were the productive, quiet core of Betty A. Thompson, Ltd., of Arlington. It was only after the legendary divorce lawyer Thompson passed away in September 2012 that Mullett and her colleagues assumed a true professional mantel for themselves; indeed, their personal re-branding and coming out has only begun. Mullett, who at 35 is poised, comfortable with her professional role and already well experienced, says "Betty used to tell us, in no uncertain terms that after she was gone she expected us to stay together and practice family law." Their decision to remain together and assume their firm's many cases, and preserve their unique culture, was relatively easy, she adds.
The eldest of three daughters of Washington transportation-policy executive Randy Mullett, Jennifer received a degree in psychology from Hollins College in Roanoke; her early years were spent in Berryville, Clarke County, Va, the heart of the rolling-hill horse country west of Washington. (She is a lifelong equestrian.) Mullett, who enrolled in college at 16, majored in psychology, preparation not uncommon in divorce law. In fact, "understanding behavioral, emotional and personal issues is really a large part of my work today."
While in college she interned at the Clarke County Commonwealth Attorney's Office, gaining a solid understanding of the legal process. She then went straight to George Mason University's School of Law in Fairfax, well known for its real-world adjuncts and older, more serious-minded students. Even then her path wasn't altogether clear; "All I knew was that I wanted no part of the 'big-firm' track" so well known to most young Washington-area lawyers. She adds, "At the time I didn't know what Betty Thompson was all about." She at first shrugged off an opportunity to interview with Thompson; six months later she walked into Thompson's Rosslyn office, made the rounds of the firm, and "kicked myself for not doing it all sooner." Mullett then started her career with Thompson and stayed with her for the next 11 years. Mullett is first to attest that Thompson herself - tough, uncompromising, irascible - has been her greatest mentor, imbuing her and her partners today with a unique confidence and skill-set. This background and her personal success has led to Mullett attracting her own clients for many years.
Today the firm of Mullett Dove Meacham & Bradley of Arlington, in new offices near Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive, appears ready for new growth; the all-woman firm - with all partners under age 45, entering their career primes - is at the vanguard of change in the law, and in family law more specifically. "We're not so far removed from the days when the rest of the bar tended to look down at divorce law," says Mullett. "But those days are long gone." A capable divorce lawyer has to be a skilled litigator and negotiator. She says the firm's approach is "based on a commitment to practical, intelligent solutions that don't leave people scarred for the rest their lives." Out-of-court solutions remain the preferred approach. "We were taught that it is 'Our job to pick our clients up, dust them off and help get them back into the traffic of life, healthy and sane.' There's a lot of truth to it. The role of a family law attorney is more than giving legal advice." She and her husband Corey Donovan live in Old Town Alexandria with their two English bulldogs, Sarah Jane and Otis.