For more than two decades Alan Plevy has been one of Northern Virginia's leading divorce lawyers, with a real-world understanding of the courtroom process and, peers say, a record to reflect it. He's widely regarded by clients as an excellent, empathetic listener, as well as a strategic problem-solver who coaches and guides clients through the thicket of divorce. Moreover, Plevy rose to the top of the profession with a steadiness, determination and independence rare in the law today: he and his partner, trust and estates lawyer Jason Smolen, have worked together their entire careers, launching their practice just days after passing the Virginia Bar exam. All along Plevy has been at the center of some of the state's major case law, and he's also led the profession at the regional bar level. Today Plevy preserves all of the confidence and worldliness he developed growing up in Livingston, N.J. As a teen he worked in the family roofing business in Newark, where his father and grandfather "doted on our customers, sacrificed their weekends to make sure every job got done properly." He carries those business practices with him to this day. Plevy says, "Many in the legal profession call it 'ethics' - they just called it 'doing right.'" Even then he had an eye on the law - "I saw that lawyers could influence and change things," he says. He went on to the University of Miami, majoring in political science. At the George Mason University School of Law he met Smolen, a New York native who shared Plevy's self-confidence and work ethic. They established SmolenPlevy in the fall of 1977 in Fairfax City, buying an IBM Selectric II typewriter and some used office furniture; they were among the first office tenants in the Mosby Building in Fairfax. They met their first client in the check-out line of the local hardware store.
In fact, their early years involved work typical of the generalist law firm, from representing murder and major felony defendants to workaday civil cases. Over time, Plevy found he enjoyed and excelled at family law. "For starters, I was a good listener, and I could identify issues quickly - an important skill in our work." Further, Plevy was practical from the start: he honed his trial skills by observing judges and lawyers in court. And going to court, he says, is often necessary. "That's where experience comes in, because you have to know which cases should settle and which require litigation. I've never been afraid of being in court; in fact I enjoy it." Plevy educates clients on the process: what to expect in and out of the courtroom and letting them know what's coming. He often walks people through the courtroom experience so they know where to sit, how to address the judge and how to handle questions. Throughout, Plevy has been at the center of some of the state's major case law. Of the five most-cited cases in Virginia divorce law over the last 25 years, two are Plevy's: one was a major ruling affirming support for educated spouses long out of the workforce.
Plevy and Smolen are close to their alma mater, for years endowing a scholarship for out-of-state students at GMU School of Law. The Law School recognized SmolenPlevy for being the largest combined alumni contributor during the 2011-2012 Law Firm Challenge.
Plevy remains an inveterate traveler. Three destinations he recommends: Tibet's capital of Lhasa, Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro (summited twice), and Fez in Morocco. Plevy often appears on TV as an expert commentator on divorce law. He's been featured in an array of national and regional media outlets, including The New York Times, ABC 7 TV, News Channel 8's Let's Talk Live, Fox 5 News and its "Ask Allison" show, the Kojo Nnamdi Show, WTOP News Radio, SmartCEO Magazine and Financial Advisor. He lives with his wife in Montgomery County, Maryland. His IBM Selectric II typewriter "still works and isn't going anywhere," he says; even today it still gets put to use on occasion. "As my father taught me years ago, it's important to know and use the best tool for the job."