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Lorie Nachlis didn’t want to head to a large downtown firm or a government office when she finished law school. Instead, she started her legal career as a solo civil litigator in a rented office above what is now the Noe Valley Starbucks. Within a year, the seeds of her family law specialty were planted when she landed a contract with the state Department of Education to mediate parental disputes about kids in special education. Then, a decade later, she joined San Francisco family law firm Schapiro-Thorn Inc., where she met fellow associate David Fink. They left in 1995 to open Nachlis & Fink. Today, from her Financial District offices, Nachlis, 49, takes a variety of family law cases. But she’s especially known for handling high-conflict custody disputes. Trial work makes up most of her practice, though she also does mediations, both as a neutral and as an advocate. “The thing that’s outstanding about her is her thoroughness in compiling a really super-complete picture of the child,” said Roderic Duncan, Alameda County’s longtime family law judge who now works as a mediator. In one case, Nachlis called a teacher to testify who could tell by the student’s mood which parent the child had spent the weekend with, Duncan recalled. “People who have had really significant day-to-day contact with the child � are frequently overlooked by other lawyers,” Duncan said. Many family attorneys prefer to avoid custody disputes, Nachlis said, noting that a case on her desk began nearly two years ago and is still in trial. “It’s draining,” she said. “It seems like a very tough way to resolve issues that have such an emotional impact.” But she feels good about her work when a client becomes a better parent or blossoms into independence after a long marriage, she said. “Those [cases] make family law a special place.” Nachlis, who charges $325 an hour for any of her services, said she refuses to be a tool for revenge. She often specifies in her retainer agreement that she will act in accord with the child’s best interest. “I’m not the kind of attorney who’s going to do whatever it is that the client wants,” she said. The Hastings College of the Law alum has presented at conferences for the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and she also chaired, for two years each, a State Bar standing committee on custody and the Bar Association of San Francisco’s family law section.

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