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"We hate 'em. Until we need 'em. The toughest lawyers in town as chosen by their peers."


Divorces Looking over your American Express bill, you notice an apparently mistaken charge to the Bloomingdale's bridal registry. On further investigation, however, you come to discover that your husband and another woman have begun planning their wedding. Who ya gonna call?

As farfetched as that scenario sounds, it actually happened, and the woman called Gerald Nissenbaum (Boston University Law '67), who has inherited the mantle long held by Monroe "Don't Leave Home Without Him" Inker as the deadliest divorce lawyer in town. As further proof that the guard is changing, Nissenbaum, 53, was recently elected president of the prestigious but euphemistically titled American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "They don't call it death insurance, do they?" he says.

Nissenbaum, who occasionally wears a bulletproof vest in court ("Emotions tend to run high in probate court"), has handled more than 1,000 divorces, representing the likes of Beverly Mailer, author Norman Mailer's fourth wife; and the wife of McLean Hospital psychiatrist Watson Reid, an heir to Thomas Watson's IBM fortune. Nissenbaum has also held his own against Inker. "Monroe has a history of not settling the case until pretrial," he says, "So there's going to be a tremendous amount of discovery. As a result, I go into my turtle defense. Every time they bury us in an avalanche of stuff, I pull my arms and legs inside my shell. When they're through, I stretch out again and inch toward the trial."

Nissenbaum's hourly rate–$300 to $350– is steep, but if there's a lot of money at stake, his fees are probably worth it. Having gone through a divorce and remarriage himself ("I've been married to two good women"), however, he offers this bit of advice to men free of charge: "The secret to a good marriage is always doing what your wife wants. Here's the trick, though: it's not always what she says she wants."


Excerpted with permission from, "The Bar's Top Shelf," by John Strahinich, Boston Magazine, February 1994.

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