Joseph Condo of McLean is in many respects Virginia's best example of the modern, independent - and successful -- divorce lawyer. For starters, reputable surveys of recent years put him comfortably in the top five among Washington area divorce attorneys, based on name recognition alone. But further, as Northern Virginia has grown into one of the nation's most important economic hubs, Condo, now in his mid-60's, symbolizes the dramatic transformation of the region, the state, and even the profession: With no Commonwealth pedigree and no special connections, Condo, the son of a pharmacist in Northern New York, cheerfully worked his way through the old-boy channels of the Virginia State Bar to become its president; he's only the second divorce lawyer to lead the 23,000 member VSB in the last two decades. He has mentored many younger lawyers, and taken a career-long interest in the progressive development of the law. All along he has strengthened a reputation as an effective divorce lawyer who suffers no fools gladly, yet manages, with his sound political instincts, to stay on good terms with rivals and clients alike; today his firm is one of the best-known divorce boutiques in the state. Condo himself recognizes his circumstance: "I've known for many years that I have the talent and the temperament for this work, but I've been very fortunate as well."
Condo, the youngest of four, grew up in Plattsburgh, N.Y., where his father owned and operated Condo Pharmacy (long since sold, the business still prospers). Young Condo attended a small Jesuit college in Syracuse, N.Y., and then, after being discovered by a recruiter who "took a shine to me even though I wasn't on the Honor Roll," went on to Catholic University's law school in Washington. That was the only big break Condo needed: "I knew I wanted to be a lawyer back in grade school. College and law school were necessary interludes to my actually getting to practice law." Still, Condo, married to his college sweetheart, had practical considerations early on; in 1973, just before law-school graduation, he turned down a job with Congressman Peter Rodino, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Before that, a clerkship with a large downtown firm "convinced me I wasn't a soldier in an army." Instead he served short stints with small general practices where he "was handed one divorce case after another." Condo quickly gained litigation experience, building a confidence to match his career goals - "No one ever said I had a small ego."
A few years later he was invited to become the sole family-law partner in a Tyson's Corner firm, where, over the next 14 years, he built the firm's divorce practice group. In 1993 Condo left to launch his own practice; he recalls the hectic weeks of setting up the new firm, locating and designing office space, buying furniture and ordering stationery, as "some of the most exciting moments of my career," and in retrospect a reflection of a lifelong independent streak. Through the 90s the gregarious and genial Condo served as a kind of Northern Virginia ambassador to the Virginia State Bar, a cultural world away, in Richmond. Moving up its ranks, he became VSB president in 2000. Condo today is the principal in a 4-attorney firm; he continues to handle his own cases, although "I'm finally learning to delegate." Away from the office, Condo and his wife Chris sing in the 240-member New Dominion Chorale, with weekly rehearsals at the McLean Baptist Church. They have two grown daughters and live in nearby Vienna.