As Alma Mater’s Reputation Grows, So Does Firm’s

Posted: December 7, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: January 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm

By Corey Jenkins Schaut

Alan Plevy, left, and Jason Smolen established their business, which they describe as a "people law firm," right after graduating from Mason.

Alan Plevy, left, and Jason Smolen established their business, which they describe as a "people law firm," right after graduating from Mason.

When Jason Smolen, JD ’77, and Alan Plevy, JD ’77, decided to go into business together after graduating from Mason’s School of Law, the two young, single classmates had nothing to lose — except a brand-new IBM Selectric II typewriter.

“That was our first major office equipment purchase,” Smolen notes.

“We paid $100 a month on it,” Plevy adds. “We still use it 32 years later.”

Along with the typewriter, the Smolen-Plevy partnership has endured, growing from just the two colleagues pursuing court-appointed work in the Fairfax County courthouse to a successful, established firm. Both are well-recognized in the legal community for their work. Most recently, Plevy was named one of the area’s top divorce attorneys by Washingtonian magazine.

While Plevy focuses on family law, Smolen specializes in business and trust matters. According to both, neither planned to take up their established specialties, but rather fell into them as they developed their practice.

Once they opened their firm in downtown Fairfax in a small suite located in a recently converted apartment building, the partners started frequenting the halls of the county courthouse, meeting the clerks and picking up court-appointed cases. Their reputation, which Smolen describes as “youthful enthusiasm,” spread, and their client base grew. Within a few years, they moved to their current location in Tysons Corner, Va.

Both describe their practice as a “people law firm,” focused on doing the best for their clients. Both insist that everyone in the firm works together to do whatever needs to be done.

“Do the best job possible for the client,” Plevy notes, “and the client will take care of you.”

Their work continues to speak for itself. Spring and summer 2009 brought attention to the firm, with Plevy’s Washingtonian designation and through a series of media appearances for Smolen. As a trust and estate attorney, he appeared on a number of local news broadcasts as an expert to comment on Michael Jackson’s will after the entertainer’s death.

The duo credits their experiences at the School of Law as influencing their early stab at entrepreneurship. They were among the school’s first classes to graduate once the International School of Law merged with George Mason University and moved to the former Kann’s department store in Arlington. The interior still resembled its former tenant, complete with an escalator and, according to Plevy, the original counters and wall hangers still intact on the top floor.

“There was this brothers-in-arms approach,” says Smolen. “Everyone felt that not only did they have to get through law school, they also had to get the school through.”

Plevy adds, “There was an entrepreneurial spirit, a great sense of adventure. These were people who were willing to take a risk.” Both note how rewarding it has been to see the school expand and grow in prominence over the years.

Giving back to the School of Law remains a priority for them, and the pair gives back in a number of ways. Many of the firm’s employees are Mason graduates, and most of the firm’s interns have come from Mason. Most of the firm participates regularly in activities through the School of Law Alumni Association, with one of the firm’s principals serving as a board member.

When the firm’s 25th anniversary came around a few years ago, Plevy and Smolen decided to create a more lasting legacy at their alma mater, establishing a scholarship endowment to benefit a law student. Smolen explained that he and Plevy believed the right thing to do was to give back to an institution that they believed had given them so much.

“People say that opportunities knock on your door,” Smolen says. “At best, they lay at your feet, and you have to pick them up. The Law School gave us the opportunity to be here and open up a practice.”

This article appeared in a slightly different form in the Mason Spirit.

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