From left, Austin Buerlein, Gillian Fierer O'Nan, Regina Edwards and Rachel Elovitz, Elovitz,Edwards,O'Nan & Buerlein, LLC, Atlanta. Austin Buerlein (from left), Gillian Fierer O’Nan, Regina Edwards and Rachel Elovitz of Elovitz,Edwards,O’Nan & Buerlein, LLC, Atlanta. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

Four seasoned family lawyers have formed a new firm, Elovitz, Edwards, O’Nan & Buerlein, saying they shared a similar philosophy to practicing law.

Asked to describe their approach in what can often be contentious divorce and custody cases, Austin Buerlein replied that he and his partners—Rachel Elovitz, Regina Edwards and Gillian O’Nan—take a long-term view of families’ well-being after the legal proceedings.

“We are doing what we can to preserve parties’ ability to be able to cope after a divorce,” Buerlein said.

“A lot of family lawyers go scorched-earth right out of the gate,” he explained. “We think more long-term. Our client is going to have to deal with this individual for the rest of their child’s life. I think a lot of lawyers neglect that—the big picture.”

As can be the case at smaller firms, office space played a role in Elovitz, Edwards, O’Nan & Buerlein’s formation.

Elovitz and O’Nan had been practicing together at Elovitz O’Nan since 2014 and had added an associate, Kelley Webb. They decided they needed more space, and some had become available in their building at 38 Old Ivy Road in south Buckhead, where the new firm now occupies the entire second floor.

The two partners had been talking with Edwards, a longtime solo family law practitioner, about joining them when they learned that Buerlein was planning to leave an established Marietta firm, Browning & Smith, to start his own practice.

“A bunch of moving parts came together at the same time,” Elovitz said.

“We put the pieces together—and realized we could merge and transition into new space as a new firm,” said O’Nan, the managing partner for Elovitz, Edwards, O’Nan & Buerlein, which launched in January.

Shared Values

The four have had cases against each other over the years, and Elovitz and O’Nan said they discovered that they shared similar values when they met through a contentious child custody case six years ago.

O’Nan, who in 2013 had just left family law firm Levine, Smith, Snider & Wilson to start her own shop, said she was representing a father who’d taken off for Europe with his child without telling the child’s mother, who was represented by Elovitz, a solo family lawyer since 2001. The parents had never married.

Two days after entering an appearance for the father, O’Nan said, she withdrew from the case. She’d found out from phone conversations with Elovitz that the father had lied to her about the circumstances.

“Some of the greatest days of my legal career have been withdrawing from a case,” O’Nan said with a laugh, adding that she’d fired a few clients when they “were not in line with my values.”

That made an impression on Elovitz. “This was a really ethical lawyer,” she said. “I loved that—and we stayed in touch.”

The two consulted informally over the phone on cases, Elovitz said, until deciding in mid-2014 to become law partners.

Elovitz said that she and O’Nan invited Edwards and Buerlein to join their firm because of their similar outlook.

“One of the things I like about Austin is that he is easy to get along with while still acting as a strong advocate for his clients,” she said.

“Regina can be as tough as nails when she needs to be,” Elovitz added. “If the other attorney is being unreasonable, she can cut through that.”

Buerlein said that after 10 years in practice he had developed a self-sustaining practice. “It was time to make a leap,” he said. “I came up with a short list of lawyers that I wanted to practice with and met with Gillian and Rachel. The next thing I knew, I was in a firm with four women.”

Edwards had run her own shop since 2006. “The life of a solo can be kind of lonely,” she explained. “I’d call Gillian to bounce off ideas, and I thought it would be nice to have partners so we could work on each others’ cases and share advice.”

Elovitz, Edwards, O’Nan & Buerlein handles all aspects of family law, representing both men and women. Buerlein said the four partners are experienced with complex child-custody cases and that each has handled divorces involving estates of more than $25 million.

The partners declined to name clients. “You’re not going to see us on the news talking about our clients,” Edwards said. “But we’ve represented some high profile athletes and entertainers.”

Along with high-net-worth clients, Buerlein said, the firm represents “individuals from all walks of life and backgrounds.”

The four handle cases statewide, but mostly in Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. Collectively, Buerlein said, they have 64 years combined experience and have appeared in about 1,500 court hearings in Georgia.

Elovitz and O’Nan also serve as guardians ad litem and, like Edwards, mediate divorce and domestic violence cases.