Most celeb watchers were caught off guard by Tuesday’s revelation that Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, but there’s one aspect of the case that surprised no one: Jolie hired Laura Wasser, Hollywood’s most famous divorce lawyer, to represent her. Wasser is not quite a household name, but thanks to her celebrity-adjacent status, has attracted plenty of press attention over the years—most recently in the role of Johnny Depp’s counsel in his ugly, scandal-torn divorce from Amber Heard.
Born in Los Angeles to two lawyer parents, Wasser was given a name laden with career pressure. “I was actually conceived the night that my dad found out that he passed the bar exam, so they decided that my initials would be L.A.W.—Laura Allison Wasser,” she explained in Interview magazine in 2012.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, which profiled Wasser last year, “She charges $850 an hour, requires a $25,000 retainer, and rarely represents people who have less than $10 million.” (She does, however, do some pro bono work.) She has represented the likes of Stevie Wonder, Spike Jonze, Britney Spears, Shaquille O’Neal, Maria Shriver, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, and Kim Kardashian. (Jezebel compiled a comprehensive timeline of Wasser’s celebrity cases last year.) She also represented Angelina Jolie for her 2003 divorce from Billy Bob Thornton, about which she once said in an interview, “Sure, they had a very public courtship, but they were very private about this. It was really resolved quietly and easily because no one wanted it to become a media circus.”
Jolie’s divorce from Pitt is, so far, a total media circus, as anonymous sources from each camp sling mud in ongoing attempts to discredit the other. Jolie’s representatives claim that Pitt has problems with anger, marijuana, and drinking; in response, Pitt’s proxies have said that Jolie was irrationally jealous of Marion Cotillard (allegedly even causing a scene on the set of Pitt and Cotillard’s forthcoming film Allied) and that Pitt has begged her “to handle the divorce ‘like adults’ ” and “to low-key it for the benefit of the kids,” as TMZ put it. With Jolie seeking full physical custody of the couple’s six kids, it seems clear that this conflict will play out in the public eye.
Wasser, for what it’s worth, has spoken previously about the harm this kind of media battle can do to kids. In a 2012 interview with Dame, Wasser was asked, “When do you refuse to take a case?” She replied,
If someone has unrealistic expectations—like, they want the kids 100% of the time “because he’s an asshole.” Or if a client wants to go public with things that I think are detrimental to the whole family. I’ll say, “I get it, it’s strategic, but in the long run, your kids can read, and it’s not going to help you.” I don’t feel comfortable when the desire to ruin the other person is so great.
Hmm, sounds familiar. Maybe Jolie should consider taking her own counsel’s advice.