Cheshire l’Anson Eveleigh started her academic career thinking that she wanted to be a nurse. Partway through her undergraduate studies at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, she decided, “this science stuff is not for me,” and switched her major to history. After graduating, she took a few years off to work in retail, thinking she would eventually get into retail management. But she decided to go to law school instead.
Her father was in the military and took his family all over the world, but she grew up in Portsmouth and always considered it to be home. She applied to William & Mary Law School to get back to familiar surroundings. “I decided that if I get into William & Mary then I know I’m destined to go to law school, and if not I would continue in retail” Eveleigh says. “And thank goodness William & Mary accepted me.”
She committed herself wholeheartedly to law school, going to summer school and taking on a heavier caseload to graduate in just two and a half years. She wanted to stay in Coastal Virginia, so she applied to the Virginia Beach firm of what is now Wolcott | Rivers | Gates and joined the firm in 1990.
On a day-to-day basis, she might be involved with stepparent adoptions, custody cases, visitation cases, child support cases, spouse support cases, divorces, and post-divorce modifications, to name a few. “As children grow older, they may have different needs for their parents in terms of time they want or need to spend with each,” Eveleigh says. “So there might be a need for post-divorce custody and visitation issues or post-divorce modifications if you have one child that becomes emancipated and is no longer the subject of a child support order. People’s incomes can change, too, so I can potentially be with a client for up to 18 years on that side. I have had relationships of 10-plus years with clients because of all the different things that can come up after their initial divorce.”
It is those kinds of long-term relationships that she considers to be the best part of her job. “I’ve been blessed to meet some really great people in my role as their attorney,” she says. “Unfortunately, I often meet them under ugly circumstances. But if I can help them get through that process and see the light at the end of the tunnel, that’s what makes it great for me. Sometimes there are hiccups along the way, but I’m always going to do my best for every client in each particular circumstance.”
In addition to her experience and vast knowledge of the law, Eveleigh is chair for the Virginia Law Coalition, a group of 25 attorneys from across the state that gets together to review potential legislation coming up in the General Assembly. Based on those reviews, they can either support or try to prevent particular bills, or suggest changes to make them better.
But it’s her ability to keep calm and collected in court that keeps her clients on an even keel throughout what can often be a very difficult time in their lives. “I think my demeanor is such that I try not to get emotional in court,” Eveleigh says. “I think there’s sometimes a perception that in order to win in court you have to be bombastic and loud or even somewhat mean. And I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think you have to do that in order to be a good family attorney, and I won’t do that—that’s just not who I am. So I tell people, if they want someone who is going to yell and scream at the other attorney and/or the other client, that’s not me.”
To keep herself sharp and to blow off steam after a particularly tough day, Eveleigh goes to the gym on a regular basis. She also enjoys watching college basketball—she’s a fan of Duke since both of her parents went there—and spending time with her two daughters. “My daughter and I have been taking cooking classes at Williams Sonoma,” she says. “That’s been a lot of fun.”