Lawrence Installed as 2nd VP for NJ Chapter of AAML Jeralyn L. Lawrence. Photo Credit: Lynn Goodwin.

The head of Norris McLaughlin’s matrimonial and family law practice is spinning off her practice to form a new firm, with four other Norris McLaughlin attorneys.

Jeralyn Lawrence is planning to leave Norris McLaughlin at the end of the year to form Lawrence Law LLC. Joining the new firm are Rita Aquilio, who had also been a member at the Bridgewater-based firm, as well as Daniel Burton, Kristyl Berckes and Ashley Edwards, who are associates at Norris McLaughlin. Lawrence’s paralegal and legal assistant are also making the move.

The new firm will be based in Watchung, where Lawrence lives.

“In every lawyer I think there’s some piece of them that always has that goal, that dream of owning their own shop,” said Lawrence, who is also treasurer of the New Jersey State Bar Association and second vice president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Given that she is set to become president of those organizations within the next few years, she said, now was the right time to transition her practice into her new firm.

Lawrence was appointed chair of Norris McLaughlin’s matrimonial and family law practice at the beginning of 2017, after nearly 20 years practicing at the firm. She was also elected to the firm’s management committee in May 2017.

“That helped give me the tools needed to be able to run a firm,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to do it in a boutique law firm.”

Her group’s move leaves Norris McLaughlin with four attorneys in that practice, according to the firm’s website.

Lawrence said her practice’s business model will be largely the same as it was at Norris McLaughlin, providing a full spate of family law services, but in a smaller setting. But she will be the only owner, she noted, and the rest of the lawyers will be designated as attorneys rather than associates and partners.

“I’m hoping it’s one-stop shopping for anybody who has any divorce- or family-related issues,” she said.

Lawrence said she hopes to grow the new firm over time as well, perhaps adding wills and estates lawyers in the future. She will continue to push some work down to other lawyers and staff based on clients’ needs, she said, so she can offer a blended rate.

In a statement Wednesday, Norris McLaughlin chair John Vanarthos said he was “torn” when he heard that Lawrence would be leaving, given that she started practicing law at the firm 21 years ago, but he wished the group well. He said the firm’s matrimonial practice is self-contained, so the departure does not impact the firm’s client base.

“With Jeralyn’s boutique family law firm, we will continue to have a business relationship with Jeralyn and her group and cross-referrals between our two firms will be ongoing,” Vanarthos said.