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Cats and Dogs and Domestic Relations

Maybe you thought that odd business combinations like a shoe store doubling as a law practice a la “Harry’s Law” happened only on television. Think again.

In Culpeper, Va., Washington and Lee law alumna Monica “M.J.” Chernin, of the Class of 1988, practices family law and operates a pet store, Reigning Cats and Dogs.

Unlike the fictional “Harry’s Law,” where the shoe store and law practice operate from the same building, the Law Offices of Monica Chernin are about five blocks away from the store. As a feature in the July 2012 edition of Washingtonian magazine notes, the businesses operated under the same roof when M.J. opened the pet boutique in 2005. A fire forced a separation.

When M.J. is dealing with the law, her 87-year-old mother manages the pet store, which she started after careful research that concluded the pet industry is booming. She was predisposed to the idea, though, because of her 12-year-old black Lab, Lady Justice (Justi for short). She was M.J.’s constant companion at the office until the amputation of her front left leg three years ago because of cancer.

M.J. told Washingtonian writer Marisa M. Kashino that the pet business is a good balance to her legal practice because people are happy when they come to shop for a pet, as opposed to their mood when they come to see about a divorce.