After six years of marriage, titillating headlines and rumoured meltdowns, the first couple of Calabasas are (almost) no more. Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce from Kanye West.
He is supposedly spending all of his time at his $14 million ranch in Wyoming, while she is holed up in luxury with the family in LA. She’s stopped wearing her $1.3 million engagement ring; he was absent from the festive family photos. There’s the issue of the custody of their four children, and a large fortune to divide.
Who’s Kim going to call? She’s reportedly already in touch with Hollywood’s hottest divorce lawyer, Laura Wasser -who handled her first divorce from basketball player Kris Humphries, and has worked with her sister Khloe and momager Kris - not to mention negotiating the ins and outs of BrexPitt, the Brangelina divorce.
The Brangelina divorce was until now her highest profile case - but Kimye’s will probably be bigger and noisier. Lucky then, that Wasser’s MO is controlling the story calmly and meticulously. In the noisy hysteria of Hollywood, composure is a virtue - and those who stay calm in the nucleus of the Twitter storm are worth their weight in gold — or, in real terms, $850 an hour (about £650), which is how much the 52-year old charges for her services.
Wasser is a partner at LA law firm Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles, co-founded by her father Dennis Wasser in 1976. She joined in 1995, aged 26, and in the two decades since, she has acquired a reputation as the most coveted divorce lawyer in Hollywood. On top of her $850-an-hour rates, she also commands a $25,000 retainer (about £19,000) and “rarely represents people who have less than $10 million”, reports Bloomberg, reverently. She attended Berkeley, an elite college on the west coast of the United States, and has a law degree from Loyola Law School. She is also the founder of the online divorce service called "It's Over Easy" and hosts the podcasts "All's Fair With Laura Wasser" and "Divorce Sucks! With Laura Wasser".
How did it all start? “For a minute, I worked at the Western Law Center for disability rights, writing up briefs to put safety things in public bathrooms,” she told Dame Magazine in 2012. “But then I split up with my husband and I needed to make a living. So I told my dad, ‘I don’t think it’s going to work out’. And he said, ‘Great, take care of it.’ That was my first case.” After a catalogue of smaller cases, she ended up managing Stevie Wonder’s first divorce. “I don’t think Wonder would make a move without talking to Laura,” her father told Bloomberg in 2015. Her trajectory was established.
Since then, other gilded names who have called on her to navigate pre-nups and settlements include Heidi Klum, Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani. Jolie employed Wasser during her first divorce from actor Billy Bob Thornton in 2003, as well as the split with Brad. The lawyer represented Johnny Depp in his tumultuous divorce from Amber Heard , and Jennifer Garner in her split with Ben Affleck in 2015. She did such a good job with Stevie the first time that he employed her for his second divorce.
TMZ nicknames her the “disso queen” (queen of dissolved marriages), and Bloomberg appointed her “Hollywood’s complete divorce solution”. She is renowned for being thorough, careful and discreet: apparently her father only finds out about some of her cases when he sees them appear in the news. Usually, she advises her clients to agree some terms before making statements, to conduct themselves amicably (at least in public) and to ultimately settle, so as to minimise the story. She has said that she sometimes tells her clients to wait to file their papers so that she can release the limited details of several cases simultaneously, in order to minimise the press focus on any single separation. She employed this tactic in 2015, releasing the details of her clients Gwen Stefani and Jennifer Garner’s divorces (to Gavin Rossdale and Ben Affleck, respectively) in the same week. For this reason she often releases details in the summer — ideally on a Friday, or before a holiday weekend.
Even so, divorces are charged and emotional, and that’s without the forensic focus of the paparazzi. Wasser not only calculates how to handle the furore but is renowned for being straightforward behind closed doors. “You can call Laura and say, ‘I’m so angry, blah blah blah blah,’ but Laura does not operate in that space,” former client and co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer, has said. “She will be calm and logical, and she’ll tell you to think about what you’re saying.” “One thing I’ve learnt after practising family law as long as I have: I do not judge,” she told Vanity Fair this month. “Some of the most unlikely relationships have lasted the longest both in and out of Hollywood, and some you would have thought great, fall apart a year later.”
Sometimes, her counsel is sought pre-emptively. Wasser once told an interviewer that she had been called in to float the idea of a pre-nup to a then 22-year old Britney Spears, who was preparing to marry boyfriend Kevin Federline. “Young women… don’t want a pre-nup,” she observed. “They’re in love. This is fantasy time —‘We’re never going to get divorced, and I don’t want anybody, certainly not some old guy in a suit, telling me how it’s going to work out.’ So they bring me in. We have the conversation.” When Spears did get divorced, she called on Wasser to manage proceedings.
Certainly, she does not defer to celebrity which, in the cooing, insincere hothouse of Hollywood, is a rare and valuable quality. When a wealthy client complained about custody arrangements, and that looking after her children at the weekend was exhausting, Wasser was candid, reportedly saying, “That sounds like every weekend to me. Also, you have no job.’” And she tells another story about cautioning a client who wanted to kick-start a custody battle on the grounds that her ex-husband gave their vegan child a burger. “I’m sorry but no judge is going to take away custody because you gave the kid In-N-Out.”
Though she makes it clear that she is counsel to her clients, not a counsellor. “I tell them a) your therapist costs less than I do b) what do I know? I’ve got two kids with two different dads, I’m not the person to give you relationship advice,” she told Dame Magazine. Nonetheless, many of her celebrity clients will try to share intimate, scurrilous details. “I don’t know why it’s brought up but they always bring [sex] up,” Wasser told Vanity Fair. “I’m saying, ‘It doesn’t matter!’ But people want to tell me all about whatever was the matter or weird in their sex lives. I say to them, ‘I really don’t need to hear it and I certainly don’t need to see it. Please don’t bring me any pictures. Please don’t bring me any videos. I believe you.’”
She can speak to charges on their terms, though. “I text a lot, which is good for a lot of my younger clients, especially the athletes,” she has said. “Athletes are big texters for some reason.” She visits many of the same restaurants and bars as her clients. She understands their lives and the high- velocity celebrity machine from which they need protection. And she is pragmatically sympathetic. “My musician clients are usually extremely emotional — not dramatic — but they’re emotional because they’re artists and they’re not super-verbal. They feel things on a different level. Some of the kid stuff is really, really difficult for them.”
Wasser’s office is based in her father’s firm in LA. Reportedly, it is modern with a glass desk and contemporary fittings. Clients are positioned in green chairs opposite the desk, and tissues are provided. There is a fur rug, a gold hand-grenade and a poster inscribed simply with the words “The End”.
Lore such as this fascinates commentators: other titbits include the fact that her full name is Laura Allison Wasser, making her initials LAW, and that she was an aerobics instructor in college. She has written a book, It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way: How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself. Client Stevie Wonder once reportedly serenaded her at a benefit dinner in the Hollywood Hills.
She treats her own situation with the same frank, straightforward manner as she handles her professional ones. She has married and divorced once, and is not especially romantic. “I only know about divorce. I don’t know how to stay married.” She is no longer with either of her children’s fathers, and she reportedly has a verbal custody agreement with both. “Is it a little bit of the cobbler’s son not wearing shoes? Maybe,” she once quipped.
The Kim and Kanye case will, obviously, be complicated, and a subject of extraordinary speculation. But Wasser’s not just good: she’s the best. And form suggests she’ll have no difficulty firefighting on several fronts.