Inspired by an injustice, bored by the CIA,
business litigator Michelle J. Correll keeps moving
BY JESSICA OGILVIE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DUSTIN SNIPES
MICHELLE J. CORRELL
· CO-FOUNDER, SMITH CORRELL
· BUSINESS LITIGATION,
ESTATE & TRUST LITIGATION
· SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
RISING S TARS: 2013–2015;
UP-AND-COMING 100: 2015
MICHELLE J. CORRELL REMEMBERS THE DAY HER FATHER
came home from court after his final divorce hearing. She was 16.
“He sat down,” she says. “And he was in tears.”
Correll, an only child, had been living with her parents in Lake
Jackson, Texas, a small town south of Houston, since she was small.
Her father had wanted to leave her mother, whom Correll describes
as “verbally abusive, psychologically abusive and physically abusive.”
But after consulting with attorneys, he feared that Correll’s mother
would receive sole custody, as was often the case in Texas, so her
father waited to pursue the divorce until Correll was old enough to
decide for herself where to live.
Per state law, the split of assets was expected to be 50-50.
Instead, that day, after a year of legal wrangling, the judge told him
the split would be 90-10. He would be the 10.
It felt like a body blow to him; it felt like something else to Correll.
“I was like, ‘Well then, we just have to appeal!’” says Correll, now
38, perched on a swivel chair behind her massive oak desk. But her
father couldn’t go on with the case. “I just can’t afford to continue to
fight,” she remembers him saying.
An all-state oboist, Correll had toyed with the idea of either going
to Juilliard to pursue a professional career in music or becoming a
lawyer. At that moment, her choice was cemented in her mind.
“I remember thinking, ‘Whoever can afford to fight the longest,
that’s who ultimately wins,’” she says. “I felt it was important to
become a lawyer so I could protect myself and my family.”