In little more than a decade ShounBach's Molly Garrett has established herself as one of Northern Virginia's more talented and grounded young matrimonial lawyers. Now in her late 30s she has gained broad experience in complex divorce litigation and mediation. She's already a partner at 12-lawyer ShounBach, perhaps the leading firm focused on divorce and domestic relations law in the region. Clients will find that Garrett brings to her work a no-nonsense maturity and acute sense of fairness, all borne of a background that almost accidentally prepared her for her specialty: In law school she mentored under the well-known civil rights lawyer Randolph M. McLaughlin, and almost chose a career in anti-discrimination law. She interned with the Department of Justice, as well as a local Office of Human Rights. More significant, while growing up in suburban Pittsburgh, Garrett contended with her parents' divorce - beginning when she was all of 6 years old. "It was one of those life-defining experiences that gave me a unique perspective on almost every case I handle today," she says. "When a lawyer tells me they think they know how a scenario will impact their clients' kids, I simply say, 'Wait a minute. I was that kid.'" In fact, Garrett spent the ensuing years benefiting from the example of her hard-working mother, who taught her the value of personal strength and self-reliance - at any age. When her mother re-located for a new job to ultra-diverse Arlington, VA, Garrett, in her final year of high school, got another jolt: Entering Arlington's Washington-Lee High School "I'd hear four languages being spoken in the hallways. It was like the United Nations, a world away from Pittsburgh." She matriculated at nearby George Mason ("I'd been in the area all of 8 months - I wasn't inclined to leave right away") and majored in government affairs and legal studies; she supported herself as a NCIC-trained dispatcher for the campus police department, "crazy hours" but "you made a lot a friends knowing which campus party was about to get interrupted." For a while she contemplated pursuing marine biology because "I liked the idea of swimming with dolphins all day," but, more practically, she chose Pace Law School in White Plains, NY, "in part to finally get away." In her last year of college, she interned with the DOJ's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, reviewing grant applications. Reading them "showed you that people were doing important things with their lives, and it made you ask, â€²What can I do?'" Over the summers during Law School, she worked under Jean Niebauer ("a great influence") in the Alexandria Office of Human Rights, which was established to combat discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for people who live, work or visit the City of Alexandria (which is still her home). Months later, she got her first taste of matrimonial law working for an Alexandria-based general, civil and criminal litigator who "handed me divorce files and told me to take care of them. It was classic sink or swim." She knew then that courtroom work was for her: "After a few weeks in court, I knew sitting around reviewing documents all day wasn't for me." In 2005 she joined the thriving divorce practice of Bean Kinney & Korman of Arlington, where the widely admired Jim Korman was "another mentor who set high standards for me." In 2007, Garrett had a case against one of Robert E. Shoun's partners, and the Fairfax-based Shoun firm lured her away a short time later. Shoun, who passed away in 2015, built one of the most successful family-law practices in the state with the late Barbara Bach and the late Ed Walinsky. Today Garrett and her colleagues - which include managing partner Albert Bonin, Susan Butler, Keenan Goldsby, Roberta Henault and Hope Rosen - are building on Shoun's long and distinguished legacy of legal diligence and personal integrity. She was named a partner in January 2014. "I feel I have some of the best lawyers in our field - right down the hall. There's no group of professionals that I trust or respect more." Garrett recently purchased a historic rowhouse in Old Town Alexandria; "I may be scraping paint for a few years." But in her work she says she's hit her stride: "I told myself that whatever I did I wanted to help people make positive change in their lives," she says. "I feel that is what we do."