A protege of the legendary divorce lawyer Betty A. Thompson, Laura Dove today has emerged as one of Northern Virginia's most skilled, sensitive and discreet young matrimonial lawyers. Dove brings to the profession a calm, grounded Midwestern sensibility, very much a product of her Iowa roots, while retaining the grittiness and verve of her late boss. In fact, Dove and her three partners at Mullett, Dove, Meacham & Bradley, are all former associates of Thompson (who passed away in 2012) and, in the three years since launching their firm, Dove and her colleagues have carried on a legal tradition respected throughout the state. And by all accounts they've built their own identity. As Dove herself explains, "We have core values, and we live and practice those values every day." Dove was born in Florida and grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa, "about as dissimilar to Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia as a place in the U.S. could be - it's just a different pace of life." By age 10 she had gone through her parents' divorce - twice, after one reconciliation. Her father, a trucking company executive, went on to re-marry, and it was her step-mother who first said, "You'll make a great lawyer someday." Outgoing and interested in people, Dove took an interest early on in politics and student government, and she majored in public administration at the University of Northern Iowa. Still in college she took an internship in the Capitol Hill office of Charles Grassley, the powerful Iowa Senator. That summer job changed Dove's life: "I loved Washington right away - few places have so many people living their lives with a great sense of purpose." Graduating at the end of her internship, she was hired onto staff as chief clerk of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, which reviewed presidential appointments to the federal bench. "I found that all the successful people I worked with had law degrees, and it made them more effective in their jobs, and I wanted to be one of those individuals." By her late 20s Dove had earned a key political position managing the Political Action Committee of the American Trucking Association, and was based in Washington, D.C. After work each evening, she attended George Mason University Law School in Arlington. Right away Dove gained a good grasp of the mechanics of the law: The advocacy, the legal writing, and the preparation. She was selected to be a Writing Fellow, assisting with the teaching of first-year law students. She excelled in a moot court competition and later won recognition in an ABA-sponsored appellate competition. And it was in law school she met a future law partner Jennifer Mullett; she referred Dove to an opportunity with Thompson's office. Ultimately the two, with Augusta Meacham and Jennifer Bradley, worked for Betty Thompson for nearly a decade, doing the nut-and-bolts legal work that allowed Thompson to represent throngs of clients well into her 80s. Thompson had a famously strong personality, and working for her wasn't always easy; "Betty could be a task-master. She had high expectations. She demanded excellence and passion for the law - there's no question she was a major and positive influence to all of us." Divorce law "has all the elements I was looking for in a career path: It's a dynamic area of the law, and we're helping people, directly and when they most need it. This is why I became a lawyer." When Thompson died in September 2012, Mullett Dove Meacham & Bradley was launched in a matter of days - "that's how committed we were to one another. There were no doubts." Over the years, and with echoes of Thompson, Dove has developed a kind of determined, line-in-the-sand philosophy: "If we don't have that confidence - as lawyer and client - it's really impossible for me to effectively represent you. It's a partnership that requires trust and confidence. Without it I can't protect, advocate and counsel in a meaningful way." Dove says today "our firm is fortunate that we can be selective - we don't take every case. And that makes us better lawyers." This year Dove was elected Vice-Chairman of Arlington County Bar Foundation, supporting legal services in the Arlington community. That role has raised her stature significantly as well. Her practice includes divorce and custody litigation, as well as international custody cases, not uncommon in the Washington area. Still with a keen interest in politics, Dove says "I don't think I'd ever run for elected office, but I always loved being the behind-the-scenes strategist. And in a lot of ways that's what I am for my clients today."