A few years ago, a friend told Michelle Crosby, "It's really simple for me to define you. Write down the word 'drive' on a piece of paper."
Crosby began to write the word, and the friend stopped her.
"No. Capital D, capital R, capital I, capital V, capital E," the friend said. "Now put those letters in bold. That's you."
Crosby is definitely driven. She's an accomplished attorney, an advocate for abused women and children and an occasional equestrian. She's also the founder and CEO of Boise-based Wevorce, the biggest online divorce service in the United States, thanks in large part to a recent partnership with LegalZoom.
Can you appreciate that someone else who grew up around custody battles might not want to get anywhere near what you do for a living?
My parents divorced when I was three. We were in court 15 times, growing up. When I was nine, one of my parents' lawyers asked me a question I'll never forget: "If you were stranded on a desert island, which parent would you choose to live with?"
That was a catalyst, even at a very young age, for me to recognize how broken the system was and that a child should never be placed in that position.
Let's skip ahead through college, law school and marriage.
I met my first husband in law school. We lived in California, but he was from Idaho, so that's how we ended up here.
You were a litigator at Moffat Thomas here in Boise.
It was a good place for me to start my career, but it was not the epicenter of my passion. I could sense there was something more. I was restless, searching. So, I started asking to take more family law cases and dabbling in divorce.
Why would you ever want to have anything to do with divorce again?
I was helping. You get to see the best and worst of human nature. I ended up learning that divorce is not a legal problem, it just has legal implications.
Frankly, you're describing counseling more than lawyering.
Well, isn't my tprofession called "counselor at law?" Look, in Idaho, a number of people going through divorces are served temporary restraining orders. That's a scary document. If you start your divorce process with papers served from a stranger in a very public place, well, congratulations. Welcome to your divorce. No wonder it's one of the most stressful moments in your life.
So, were you in search of a way to rewrite the rules?
The rules are what they are. Documents have to be filed, but it's not about those documents. You can find the same cadence of how you once communicated at the start of your marriage when you're uncoupling.
Here comes the uncomfortable part of our conversation. How long did your own marriage last?
Almost 10 years.
I have to assume your own divorce was as much a part of your journey as the rest of your life?
Every aspect of it, from being a child, to being a practitioner, to being a divorcee.
Did you ever ask yourself if you were predisposed to be a divorcee?
Getting a divorce was on my list of things I would never do, but we were married too young. Did you know that Idaho has the fourth-highest, per capita, divorce rate in the U.S. and the second highest among 25- to 35-year-old women?
You must have on theory of why that is.
Idaho has among the youngest brides, and full brain development happens between the ages of 26 and 28.
Let's talk about Wevorce. Things really took off for you around 2013.
That's when The New York Times wrote about my story and how Wevorce began.
I'm assuming the biggest difference between you and your competitors is price.
The average cost of a divorce lawyer in the U.S. is $27,000. Our price is $949.
And your online competitors?
Our biggest competitor was LegalZoom, and less than a year ago [we became] their divorce product, if you will. When you go to LegalZoom, their online menu says, "Powered by Wevorce." It was huge.
Are you still catching your breath over that?
It's been exciting. We serve all 50 states. We have specialists and mediators here in Boise and across the country. We've built up a community of professionals, about 6,000, all over the U.S.
One more personal question. You're currently in a relationship.
We have a contractual marriage.
Help me out. I don't know what that means.
I knew I would say "forever" only once. Why did I have to crawl back into a box that I know didn't work for me? So, I redefined it.
Can I assume that you file separate taxes?
That's right. I call it a contractual marriage. For the record, he's the most traditional man I know. We've been together five years. It's the best relationship I've ever had.