By Esther Goldschlager • May 20, 2015
I connected with Christie Asselin several months ago via social media. Christie has an inspirational story. I hope that you will enjoy learning about Christie’s journey.
Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?
I graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s in Political Science. I received my JD from Seattle University. Since 2009, I have worked as a freelance research and writing attorney. I am also a wedding lawyer. More on what that means below…
While in law school, did you know that you wanted to work in your current field?
Not at all! When I went to law school, I really wanted to go into public policy work. During my second year of law school, I had a great legal writing professor, Prof. Mimi Samuel, who was very encouraging. I realized how much I enjoyed legal writing because of that class. I then competed in an invitational appellate moot court competition. During one round of my oral argument, I made one of the judges break into a laugh with a joke about the case. I was arguing for the defense on a Fourth Amendment matter. I made a comment about how the plain sight doctrine did not apply because the drugs at issue were hidden in the back seat and were “hardly the size of elephants.” Because of all this, I realized that litigation and trial work might be a great fit for me after all. The wedding lawyer concept did not come to mind until 2011 or 2012.
You own a law firm where you are a wedding lawyer. Could you please tell the readers what this role entails?
About four years ago, I was contemplating my next career step. I thought about all of the things I really love to do. Weddings and event planning immediately popped into my head. Then I started researching the market and discovered that not many people practice “wedding law.” I saw a lot of white space in the market to play with, so I decided to explore that concept further
Since then I have helped clients deal with problematic vendors, have created and now sell a template wedding contract, have been featured on wedding blogs, and have spoken to an association of wedding vendors on the fundamentals of contract law. I can talk about weddings, and law, all day.
At the moment, I’ve turned my focus more on the aspect of educating couples on savvy wedding planning from the perspective of a lawyer. I talk to couples all the time who have a great case but are outside of California where I am licensed. Or, in some cases their conflicts were preventable. With the average wedding costing $30,000 and lots of couples handling planning on their own, I really feel that couples should feel empowered in their wedding planning. Getting married presents multiple legal issues that nobody focuses on much. It’s my mission to help!
What inspired you to focus on this area specifically?
In general, I love event planning and have done quite a bit of it as a novice. In law school, as the Director of the Summer Grants Program, I worked on the annual Public Interest Law Foundation auction fundraiser during my first and second years. More recently, I was both a Special Events Co-Chair and Co-President of the UCLA Alumni Association, Westside Network. In that role, I worked on a speaker series, and other alumni events.
Also, I experienced a wedding disaster first hand. I was the Maid Of Honor for one of my best friends in 2009. Just before the bride walked down the aisle, the zipper that ran down the back of the dress broke, and the dress splayed. After waiting for about an hour for the dress shop’s seamstress to arrive, which is an absolute eternity on your wedding day, the wedding planner sewed my friend into her dress. The show just had to go on. There was no time to really fix the issue.
The dress was just not constructed properly. The zipper should not have broken. I helped my friend file a small claims action after the dress shop refused to informally settle. I saw how devastated my friend was on what should have been the best day of her life. It broke my heart. But, don’t get me wrong. She pulled it together and the wedding was beautiful! But, it was an unnecessary strain on the evening and her.
Conflict makes many of us feel squeamish, especially when it involves one of the most meaningful days of your life. Also, much like getting work done on your car when you are not a mechanic or knowledgeable about the inner workings of your engine, legal problems can be overwhelming for non-lawyers. I think couples should be empowered legal knowledge, and representation when necessary.
Have you encountered any hurdles on your career path?
If there were a track and field event for the sheer number of career hurdles jumped, I think I could qualify for the Olympics. Let’s just say that the recession hit right when I graduated.
Is there anything on your path that you wish you had done differently?
With regard to my career path, no. I do wish that I had gone to law school locally for the full three years, or gone part-time while working. Staying local would have made the transition into my career a bit easier. Going part-time probably would have helped with the cost of law school.
Did you have a mentor at any time?
Yes. I’ve had a few attorneys come into my life in a mentorship role at various times. I really encourage young attorneys to develop those relationships. One mentor in particular has been wonderful to me over the years. I’m very lucky to have him. He’s been a great cheerleader for me! I also find that some of my best support comes from other attorneys who are more friends than mentors. We all face similar challenges.
Do you have any final advice for newly minted female lawyers/JDs who aspire to conduct similar work?
I have so much advice! Here are a few things that come to mind.
In terms of just being an attorney in general, I really lost sleep during my first year of practice. Even really simple court appearances made me anxious. I conquered this by over-preparing like the Type-A personality that I am, and like most attorneys are. I also stressed myself out way more than was necessary. Make sure you take care of yourself and remember that there is a learning curve that is particularly steep during your first year or two. It will get better. You will be more efficient. It just takes time.
Be courteous to everyone. Return phone calls and emails. Say “please” and “thank you” to everyone. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Be particular about who you work with. A great working relationship with your colleagues can make going to work a real joy. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When you interview with a firm, remember that you are interviewing your potential employer as much as s/he is interviewing you.
Practice guides are incredible teaching tools. Here in California, the Rutter Guide practice guides are priceless.
Authenticity, in life and business, is a highly attractive quality.
Ms. Asselin is a sixth year litigation attorney with a background in business disputes. In 2012, she began to explore legal issues related to weddings including vendor negotiation, and contract review. Initially interested in working with brides and grooms, Ms. Asselin’s interest has also focused on wedding professionals. While planning her own wedding and getting to know professionals along the way, Ms. Asselin saw that wedding professionals need some legal support as well.
Ms. Asselin graduated from UCLA in 2002, and from Seattle University Law School in 2006. She has been self-employed since 2009 as a freelance research and writing attorney, in addition to working with her own clients.
She loves all things weddings and has a personal and deep love of Gwen Stefani’s wedding gown. She also adores Oceana roses, and cathedral-length wedding veils.