Columnist, blogger, lawyer: Attorney Marie Matyjaszek finds niche in family law and writing

By Frank Weir

Legal News

It takes more than half a dozen knee surgeries since the age of 21 to keep Jackson attorney Marie Matyjaszek down.

A veritable whirlwind of energy, Matyjaszek has practiced with her father, Robert, at his office at 740 West Michigan in Jackson since 2004.

Although she had been interested in a prosecutor's position after graduating from MSU's College of Law in 2003, her knees had other ideas.

A Jackson native, Matyjaszek was living in Holt with husband Todd after having taken the bar exam and had to have an unexpected reconstruction of her right knee.

Although she passed the bar, she was in physical pain and could not even tell potential employers when she'd be able to fully walk again following extensive physical rehabilitation.

"My dad was able to accommodate my physical therapy appointments and incapacity. It was the right working environment for the predicament I was in."

With her new situation, she switched legal interests from prosecution to family law. Her father is a family law practitioner and was able to offer his expertise along with some cases to get her started, she noted.

"Family law is one of the most heart-breaking types of law you can practice, in my opinion. It's one of the most emotional points in someone's life and that can lead them to do things they would never dream of doing otherwise."

And her compassion for others that had led her toward prosecution and helping crime victims, matched well with her family law clients.

"Just as prosecutors protect people from the negative behavior of others, so it is in family law. You're really helping people, being a 'counselor' at law in the fullest sense of that term.

"You are counseling them, getting them through it, reassuring them."

Continuing the comparison to crime victims, she sees people who "have been beaten down, who feel betrayed and wronged."

In either criminal law or family law, the emotional stress for the legal practitioner is certainly there, she admits.

Often, the stress comes from one's own clients.

"You have to be open to people who give you so many explanations for what they did or want to do. I have to tell people what they need to hear, which is often not what they want to hear."

She knows that many clients, caught in the emotional tornado of divorce and child custody matters, make emotional decisions that can be self-defeating. She has to keep her head above the fray and stay unemotional.

"You must be the voice of reason and typically if they have a day or two to rethink things, their choices are far more rational after we have talked," she said.

Along with that, Matyjaszek adds that if her client takes it upon himself or herself to violate a court order, she will hold them accountable. "The law has to be respected, even if you don't agree with it."

Although she knows family law is a tough business, lawyering in Jackson is a pleasant experience and most attorneys are cooperative and friendly.

"No one wins in a divorce and, as the old saying goes, the best settlement is when both parties walk away somewhat unhappy. But the other family law attorneys in Jackson are a good bunch. And I think that's typical in smaller communities."

In addition to the law, another overriding passion of Matyjaszek's is writing.

She contributes to the Legal News and hosts her own Internet blog at

Many have found her columns entertaining even though they can deal with weighty legal matters.

"I've always liked to write from day one; English class was my favorite and I always excelled in it. That's one reason I chose James Madison College at Michigan State University because it offered small classes and you would write seven or eight term papers for your grade. I still had the experience of a large college and the 600 person economics class, but my core classes were intimate with only 15-30 students."

It didn't take long for Matyjaszek's academic advisors to suggest that she ought to be a writer.

Her legal writing, by definition, is far more straight forward and factually based.

"It's not as fun as my other writing. I'm a bit on the sarcastic side, creative and I like to have fun. I enjoy bringing all that into my blog and column writing.

"You need to laugh a little in life. My writing is one of the favorite things that I do and it brings me a huge amount of satisfaction and enjoyment."

When she gets feedback from her columns, that's a wonderful pay off she says.

"I receive emails from complete strangers--attorneys and others--commenting on how much they love reading my articles in the Legal News, and sometimes they have questions relative to the issue discussed. When people say how I have helped them, whether through my writing or representation, that's absolutely rewarding."

Matyjaszek resides in Brighton with her engineer husband, Todd, their two Collies, Jury and Verdict, and three cats.

Published: Tue, May 24, 2011