On a recent morning, Alisse Camazine got a call from a client whose husband had tested positive for a substance while their children were in his custody. Camazine then spent her morning figuring out a way to get the kids back safely.
It’s common for lawyers to know the details of their clients’ lives and businesses, but for a family-law practitioner like Camazine those details are particularly intimate. She has a fantastic phrase for the role that attorneys in her line of work play: “agents of reality.”
“My hope was, when people walked into my office, whenever they walked out of my office at the end of the process they would be ready to move on,” she said.
Camazine heads the largest family-law practice group in St. Louis that is part of a full-service firm. She and partners Don Paule and Tom Blumenthal started the firm in 1994 as Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal. With 31 attorneys, it is the largest firm in Missouri with a female name partner.
“We decided that we wanted to practice with people that we liked, that were ethical and that maintained the highest standards in the profession,” she said.
A native of New York, Camazine came to St. Louis for school, then stayed because it was a great place to raise her family. She and her husband, attorney Mark Ellebrecht, have three grown sons.
She attended Washington University for her undergraduate degree, then Saint Louis University for her law degree.
“I wanted to be a paralegal. My father told me he wasn’t going to help me pay for paralegal school, but he would help me pay for law school,” she said.
Her parents played more than a financial role in her legal career; their divorce, and the tense years that followed, illustrated the problems she hopes to help her clients avoid.
“I think I’ve been able to help people get through the divorce process and be in a better space at the end, which is a significant achievement,” she said.
Camazine handles cases involving alcohol and drug use, mental health issues and complex property and custody arrangements. She takes pride in her child-centered approach to family matters. Sometimes that means providing the best outcomes for the kids through the legal process. Sometimes that means confronting her clients with their behavior and saying, “What are you doing to your children?”
She takes pains to demystify the legal process — not just for her clients, but also for the general public. She and law partner Alan Freed co-authored “Divorce in Missouri” as a comprehensive guide on Missouri divorce issues for non-lawyers. She now is working on a book about how parents can help children navigate a divorce.
Camazine also has written and lectured extensively on family-law issues, and she is a past president of the St. Louis County Bar Association. Earlier this year, she was named to the board of Gateway to Hope, which helps low-income women with breast cancer, a disease that Camazine herself survived. She is co-chair of the not-for-profit organization’s annual gala, which will be held Oct. 12 at The Ritz-Carlton.
“It’s always been a big part of our family that you have to give back one way or another,” she said. “I did it a lot with the legal community, and now I’m excited to do some outside of the legal community.”