It all started with a request to handle the divorces of a few of the firm’s clients, Suzanne Landers recalled from her office in the Memphis Cotton Exchange building in Downtown Memphis.
Early on in Landers’ legal career, she worked for a firm that specialized in insurance defense work.
“They had people who needed a divorce, and who were really part of their business clientele,” she said. “And that’s a very awkward thing to handle when you are actually in-line with those clients on a case.”
To Landers’ surprise, she found she loved working on the divorce cases and began quickly building a referral base. Before long, she had a huge family law practice that didn’t quite fit within the structure of the firm she was with at that time.
The Landers Firm is led by managing partner Suzanne Landers, center, and partners Amy Martin, left, and Lucie Brackin.
(Daily News/Brian Johnson)
While many attorneys are repelled by the personal drama and baggage that tends to accompany many divorce cases, Landers said she found her earliest cases both interesting and rewarding.
“The reward comes when you take someone who has never balanced a checkbook, never written a bill, never had to survive on his or her own because the other partner controlled all of that … and they get faced with the real world, and they are forced to learn,” Landers said. “And then you sort of launch them, almost like children, and it is exceptionally rewarding to watch someone succeed in that.”
After a few moves to firms more suited to deal with family law, Landers decided to launch her own firm, The Landers Firm, in 1997. The firm specializes on litigation and mediation of divorce and other family law issues like child visitation, alimony, paternity issues, prenuptial agreements and international child abduction.
The all-female firm has now grown to include two other partners and three attorneys who are employees.
“When I was practicing early on, it was primarily around men and with men, and that became very hard once children came along,” Landers said, as she explained her decision to launch The Landers Firm. “Part of what I was looking for, was to craft an arrangement where I could come and go a little more freely and to have a little more control over that calendar so I could meet all of my obligations with a little less stress.”
Landers said it was challenging to balance family obligations with her growing family law practice when her two sons were young.
While Landers’ two sons are grown today, she still strives to maintain a firm culture that helps women balance both career obligations and their personal lives.
“If Tuesday is the only day that your doctor can see you, you aren’t going to get any squabbles from me,” she said. “As long as your work is finished, there are truly no questions asked.”
Family law has evolved since the Little Rock, Ark., native began carving out her niche in the industry. Landers said more couples are willing to use mediation to save money and time.
“The fewer traumas they go through in the divorce process, the better they will perform down the road as a family,” she said. “We try really hard to get people into settlement mode as quickly as we can.”
Landers said mediation can save people from having to say particularly ugly things about the other party in a court room.
“That’s the stuff that really sticks with people,” Landers emphasized. “It helps them down the road not to have had to sling the mud.”
Relatively soft-spoken but assertive in her own way, Landers said she sometimes employs whispering as a tactic to get the attention of clients who are in a particularly heated argument.
“I’ve had to find my own way, and my own way is quiet for the most part,” she said with a smile. “It’s better for all of the parties if we keeping the yelling to a minimum.”
An art aficionado, Landers has decorated The Landers Firm with sculptures, paintings and other contemporary art that is primarily from local artists. She also loves to draw and to bake elaborate cake pops that range from miniature Elmos to Halloween-themed monsters and candy corn for family and friends.
“You can really lose yourself working on them,” Landers said as she showcased her cake pop art collection on Facebook.
While not closed to future growth, Landers said she’s happy with the boutique-style size of the firm.
“We travel together, we work together and we spend a lot of time together,” she said. “It’s not just a work environment. I am really comfortable with who we are right now.”