Family Lawyer Interviewed by Susan Kehoe, Ph.D.
— Photography by Jerry Zolynsky
Jessica Woll is a divorce attorney specializing in family law. She grew up in Farmington Hills and has been married to Don Stewart, an executive at Chrysler, for 21 years. She founded her firm, Woll & Woll, in 1994 with her mom and serves as the managing partner.
In their travels, the couple fell in love with the art and culture of Asia and have been collecting Asian art ever since. In fact, they loved India so much that they named their 9-year-old daughter India Mae.
How is your firm different from other divorce and family law firms? Our firm is unique in that we care for the whole person and family. We are sensitive to the emotional trauma caused by divorce and address that as part of our overall strategy, which leads to a successful outcome for the client. We understand fully that our clients typically come to us for help at one of the worst times in their lives. Caring for the family means always letting our clients know they have a team of experts in their corner, ensuring their needs are met and that he/she receives the best-possible settlement.
What’s your passion when it comes to the practice of law? Right now, I’m intent on changing Michigan’s laws regarding privacy in divorce. About half of the states in the U.S. have already adopted similar privacy laws. Most counties in Michigan make all court filings available online. This means sensitive and private information on a divorcing couple is available for the general public to find via an Internet search and purchase for a nominal fee. Needless pain has been caused by the current system. I want to bring attention to this issue in order to privatize divorce records and protect the family, especially children.
Any tips for those considering a family business? Make sure you can really work with your family members! A working relationship is much different from a family one. If you choose to work with family members, rules and boundaries are key. In a family business, your work responsibilities should not be different just because your boss is your mother or your partner is your sister. You should never play the “family relations” card if you want your family business to thrive. Do not mix the personal relationship with the business, except when it comes to such issues as loyalty and trust. When it comes to your co-workers having your back, nothing beats the support of close family members!
What are the origins of your art collecting? I have a longstanding love and curiosity about all cultures, cultivated during my undergraduate years at the University of Michigan where I earned degrees in international relations and economic development, and from living abroad in England, Japan and Thailand during and after college. My husband, Don, and I were fortunate to begin our travels during college and to have experienced other areas of the world. We have been consistently drawn to Asian countries and try to buy one beautiful piece on each trip to commemorate the experience.
How has your passion for travel influenced your life? My travels have created a much “bigger” life for family and myself. I recently visited Bali and had the pleasure of studying Reiki while volunteering at an orphanage and donating supplies to a local school in Kerala, southern India. It’s gratifying to connect with people there, as well as humbling to be reminded of the privileges that I enjoy.
You recently hosted an event for the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. What’s your philosophy on community involvement? The annual Fine Art of Summer event supports the education and ArtAccess programs at the BBAC. The center is a gem in our community, and my husband and I were honored to be a part of it. We also support Covenant House and other charitable efforts that provide meaningful support for children and families. We consider it a privilege to share in the local outreach efforts that are so valued in our community.
I understand you are a gourmet cook with the ability to discern ingredients just by taste — no peeking at the recipe. Is that an acquired skill? I attended cooking school in Thailand for a summer, which broadened my food perspective and appreciation for the culture. Cooking without a recipe comes from a lucky palette. I can taste something and recreate it. NS
Jessica Woll, 550 W. Merrill St., Suite 210, Birmingham, MI 48009, wollandwoll.pc.com, (248) 354-6070.