If Laura Wasser were a Hollywood agent, she would easily be among the most powerful in the business. The list of clients she has represented reads like an A-list roll-call: Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher, Heidi Klum, Ryan Reynolds, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Garner, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera... and now, reportedly, Kim Kardashian for a second time.
Laura's role, however, is not landing these stars' multi-milion-dollar film or music contracts; rather disentangling them from one particular contract they no longer wish to be shackled with – marriage.
She represented Kim when she split from ex-husband Kris Humphries in 2011, and now, if the rumours are true, she's been brought in to manage the divorce settlement between Kim and Kanye West. Kim and Kanye have not yet confirmed or denied the reports.
The A-list go-to divorce lawyer, Laura, 48, has been representing the great and the good for 20 years, but her name has become more widely known in the past year thanks, in part, to two of the most acrimonious – and shocking - Hollywood divorces in recent memory; those of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard (she represented Johnny), and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
In 2016, Laura granted Grazia an exclusive, and rare, interview and I was invited to meet her at her Los Angeles home, tucked between Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Hills; a huge, airy villa, with a swimming pool, a courtyard fireplace, and Jethro, her amiable golden Labrador.
She is attractive, warm and funny - nothing like the Rottweiler the words 'divorce lawyer' might conjure up. She is also highly discreet.
'We are very tight-lipped, we really don't talk about our cases, ever,' she says of her firm. But the insatiable public appetite for the sort of details Laura's clients would rather keep private is, she says with a smile: 'Pure schadenfreude.
'People love magazine covers with the wedding or the new baby, but the ones that sell out are the break-ups.'
Such is the thirst for the details that the clerks in LA's courts – where divorce proceedings are a matter of public record - feed leaks to TMZ as a matter of course. 'I will sometimes send a runner to court to get something stamped and then bring it back to me, and it will turn up on TMZ before I've even got it back from court.'
A lot of very successful people are not used to anybody telling them no. And I have to.
Laura has, of course, developed some tricks to try to avoid such exposure. 'I'll file right before a holiday weekend, or on Christmas Eve - whatever I can do to minimize the exposure, I will.'
Interestingly, Angelina's divorce papers didn't appear to be 'buried' and were instead filed on a Tuesday - the day after the Emmy Awards when all the coverage had died down and it would appear to get maximum exposure. Other tactics include advising clients to file 'in bulk' to spread and minimise the news. She once said: 'I tell my clinets, "I have someone else, I can't tell you who, but you should really wait and file at the same time.'"
For $1,000 an hour, a celebrity can hire a private judge, who will come to Laura's office or a conference room, meaning they can avoid setting foot in a public court entirely. 'They are often retired judges, who have a lot of experience, and can mediate, or tell a couple what will likely happen if they do go to court.
'If the judge makes a ruling, it will eventually get submitted to the court for filing, so it will be public eventually, but it saves time and money,' says Laura.
Her own office has an underground car park, so celebrities can arrive incognito. 'I will also make house calls, and I've let people come to see me here,' she says. 'I tell them not to let any paparazzi follow them.'
She might be tight-lipped about the incidentals of her A-list clients marriage breakdowns, but she is happy to give her take on the unique position those in the public eye find themselves in when it comes to marital breakdowns, and the media attention that comes with that.
'If both people are used to the public attention, then it may be easier, but even that is difficult. I mean, I don't feel so terrible for them, they obviously have all the perks of it, too, and they did sign up for this. When you want to be a famous person and if you want to be an esteemed actor or musician or athlete, that is something that comes with the territory and you know that going in.'
But does she stay in touch with them? 'I remind them of the most miserable time of their life, so we're never going to be friends,' says Laura of her clients. 'I represent them for maybe six or 12 months, then it's buh-bye.'
She does, however, have a fair few repeat customers, such as Angelina. 'I hope we can engender a feeling of confidence with our clients that they would come back if they're going through something again - and mostly they do.' Many of her clients recommended her to family and friends - after she represented Kim Kardashian in her divorce from Kris Humphries, the reality star passed Laura along to her sisters, Khloé and Kourtney, both of whom hired Laura for their divorces.
That Laura would become a lawyer was almost predestined. Walls throughout the house are covered in black-and-white of musical artists, including The Beatles and Rod Stewart, former clients of Laura's father, Dennis, who founded the family law firm Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles, at which she is now a partner. Her father even gave her the middle name Alison, so her initials would spell LAW.
She got married in her mid-20s, to a man she describes only as 'a Spanish guy'. 'I'd never really been that keen on marriage, but I thought, well, I'll never look better than I look right now, so I might as well do this,' she quips. Shortly afterwards, 'we realised we were both too young. We didn't have any kids or money. All we had was debt, and a dog.' She represented herself in her own divorce, age 26, and finally joined her father in the family law firm.
Her first high-profile client was Stevie Wonder. 'I did Angie around the same time, when she and Billy Bob split up, and Britney [in her divorce from Kevin Federline],' she recalls.
Laura has no desire to walk up the aisle herself again. She has two sons, Luke, 11, and Jack, 6, with two ex-boyfriends. 'I enjoy having long-term, committed relationships, but I have an issue with the idea that the state gets to control what I do with my finances," She co-parents happily and successfully with both men, with no legally binding agreements. She currently lives with her boyfriend, Matt, a 51-year-old screenwriter, who has two daughters of his own, aged 11 and 14.
With marriage less essential than ever, particularly for single women, what drives celebrities to keep taking the plunge? "I think there's a huge security factor in it - I think people feel that if they're not married, they don't have the ring, that there hasn't been the appropriate exchange or reflection of love," says Laura. "People think that getting married is the highest and most public form of love."
She is often brought in before a celebrity even ties the knot, to help persuade them into a prenup. 'Particularly with some of the younger women, I will say: "I know this isn't romantic, and I know this isn't fun, but let's talk through it, and then you can put it in a drawer, and you never have to think about it again.'"
With men, it is often a different story. 'They call me and say: "Wasser, how am I supposed to tell her I want a prenup? She's going to be so mad at me." And I'm like, well, get a nice bottle of wine, go to a nice restaurant, have a conversation, and totally blame it on your representatives.'
She remains horrified, however, by the demands of some of her A-list clients. One basketball player asked that his wife and three kids be banned from keeping his surname after the split. 'I had to tell him, no, she gets to keep your name - you don't get that back.' Another basketball player tried (and failed) to have written into a prenup how quickly he expected his wife to lose the baby weight after birth.
'A lot of very successful people are not used to anybody telling them no. And I have to. I can't lie to them and say: "Don't worry, we're going to get you those kids one hundred percent of the time." I'm going to tell them the truth, and that makes them vulnerable. A lot of people don't like it, but for the most part, they appreciate knowing it up front.'
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