Lisa Helfend Meyer
Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers is a female-owned and operated boutique family law firm that equally represents both men and women. Founder Lisa Helfend Meyer and her team specialize in all aspects of family law, including complex divorce, division of high net worth estates, custody cases, domestic violence, pre- and postnuptial agreements, dissolution of domestic partnerships and issues specific to LGBTQ+ families, and mediation. Lisa has worked in law for four decades.
Why did you choose to work in law and start your own firm?
I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, earning my bachelor’s degree in communication studies from UCLA. Initially, I wanted to go into broadcasting and spent a summer working at a local television network. I saw how poorly women were treated. I didn’t like the atmosphere and felt disrespected, so on the advice of my dad, I decided to go to law school.
After graduation, I practiced personal injury law and realized that wasn’t for me. I segued into working with victims of domestic violence and loved it, as I am a people person and love hearing about clients’ histories of their lives and helping them become better people. I love it when people transform themselves from victims to empowered and strong individuals. From there, I opened a domestic violence restraining-order practice, and then moved into the practice of divorce. I made appearances for people with very low incomes, and from there it took off.
I established my own firm in 2000, and I couldn’t be happier. I love being a small part of women changing from someone who is controlled and oftentimes abused in her relationship to someone who is independent and assertive. I wanted to practice in an environment where female (and male) attorneys could be themselves and thrive.
How do you balance work time and playtime?
After 40 years, I am constantly trying to achieve work-life balance. Although I love what I do professionally and consider work “play” at times, I make sure I carve out time for my family and friends, shopping (usually online), AcroYoga and binge-watching my favorite TV shows.
What role does your family play in your career?
My family is part of our firm and my career. My son, Eric, is a partner at our firm and is a rising superstar. We have tried cases together; it is an amazing experience to sit next to your son at the counsel table. My granddaughter Lila has been working at my office since she was a very little girl. Of course, she raids my closet before we leave for work.
Tell us your favorite quote.
My favorite and often-used quote is “Mother Teresa doesn’t marry Attila the Hun,” meaning that it usually takes two to tango.
Describe your leadership style.
I love working with the attorneys in my office. I believe I earn their loyalty, respect and honesty by being loyal, respectful and honest with them. I have an open-door policy where I encourage them to speak candidly with me and express their views even if different from mine, and I help them develop their legal skills. I also enjoy unwinding with them after work with a glass of wine and getting to know them personally.
Who has been your role model?
I don’t have one role model but an amalgamation of strong women who preceded me. When I was younger, I looked up to Gloria Steinem. There was a dynamic professor at UCLA, Andrea Rich, who taught communication studies. I had the good fortune to meet
her again when I was an established attorney. I respect immensely Justice Sheila Prell Sonenshine, who “has it all.” Unfortunately, when I first started practicing, there were very few assertive and accomplished female family law attorneys I could seek guidance from, so I had to find my inspiration from many different role models and mentors. That is why it is important for me to mentor young women today.
If you could begin again, what would you want to do over in your career?
I don’t think I would want a do-over. I have loved my career from my first case in front of a grumpy senior judge through today when I have a mediation on a Sunday followed by a barbecue at our home with our children and grandchildren.
What advice do you give your children and grandchildren?
There are no limits, and if you believe there are—exceed them! Be the best you can be personally and professionally. Give to others. Crush it!
What are some of your favorite ways to stay grounded?
I stay grounded by religiously practicing AcroYoga followed by Thai massage every weekend in my home studio with my yoga ladies. It is definitely my favorite time of the week!
Describe a recent happening that restored your faith in humanity.
Being able to help a client who has been abused by a partner or someone unrelated to them. It makes me realize that there can be a silver lining—you can learn and grow from even your worst experiences.