“When people think of divorce cases, they imagine issues like ‘who slept with whom’ or ‘who struck John’?” Those aren’t questions that most often occupy Sandy Ain, the area’s top divorce attorney and counselor to the likes of author Tom Clancy, former Maryland first lady Frances Anne Glendening, and Monica Turner (Mike Tyson’s ex). Sandy approaches his divorce cases “like a business deal with an emotional overlay,” and says his practice has more to do with asset valuation and accounting than gossip. Bisnow swung by to learn more.
Sandy takes pride in his reputation for being obsessively discreet about his clientele. No one knew he represented Law & Order star S. Epatha Merkerson, for instance . . . until she thanked her divorce lawyer from the stage when accepting a SAG award.
Given his high-worth clients, Sandy regularly engages forensic accountants on divorce matters, who require him to put a value on businesses, stock options, partnership stakes—or even the more nebulous matter of pricing and splitting a spouse’s “celebrity goodwill.” (Legal questions about the divisibility of celebrity status remain open in many jurisdictions despite Sandy’s ABA panel presentation on “Celebrity Divorce: The Good, the Bad, and the Value.”)
Sandy and co-name partner Rita Bank both say they get satisfaction from helping people move forward through emotionally difficult times. Sometimes, the thanks come from surprising sources. One of Sandy’s settlements called for his client’s ex-spouse to pay Sandy’s fees. When Sandy got a check in the mail, an attached note thanked him for being “the first person who’s held me accountable for my actions.”
Sandy also finds himself representing client’s business operations outside of divorce proceedings. After handling billionaire BET co-founder Sheila Johnson’s split from Robert Johnson in 2002, for instance, Sandy became her general counsel and recently oversaw her acquisition and on-going redevelopment of the Innisbrook golf resort in Florida. A team from DLA Piper came in to assist with the project, which isn’t unusual for Sandy. His occasional complex deals such as Johnson’s and associated manpower requirements make him the rare small-firm attorney who at times can be found directing heavyweight firms on matters, rather than the other way around. He’s developed relationships with many major firms, also including Williams & Connolly, Arnold & Porter, Steptoe, Covington, O’Melveny and Holland & Knight.
That famous mane of white hair in the picture belongs to Sandy’s former client and Dart Drug founder Herbert Haft, whose 1993 divorce proceedings drew such attention that a lottery was held for courtroom seats. Rita is also in the picture—she was on the other side, representing Haft’s wife Gloria. The future partners settled on the eve of trial.
During his third year of law school at Georgetown in 1972, Sandy began working at Kuder, Sherman, Fox & Meehan—“four bright guys who wanted to help families.” Sandy saw something he liked, and stayed at the firm (which adopted evolving names). In 2003, after scuttling a deal to join a larger firm at the last minute, Sandy, Mark Carlin, and Lauren Shea broke off and opened their own new shop with established divorce pro Rita. Ain & Bank now has 12 attorneys, and although they plan to keep their numbers small, are always on the lookout for talent. (As long as you’re ready for facts that are more likely to involve balance sheets than bed sheets, fire off a resume.)
Through it all, Sandy has stayed in the very same M Street office for over 30 years. His family life is just as stable. Sandy and his wife Miriam have been married for almost three decades. Their son David started working at the Cabin John Fire Department at the age of 16, and went straight from high school into a Medical School program at Brown University. Daniel followed, and is now a junior at Brown.