Lauri Cleary, a trial lawyer who chairs Lerch Early’s litigation practice, helps businesses, employers, and individuals resolve disputes in and out of the courtroom throughout Maryland, DC, and Virginia. Lauri negotiates and litigates employment, commercial, real estate, and white-collar criminal defense cases.
Clients interviewed by leading legal directory Chambers USA call her “a great litigator who isn’t afraid to fight—she can be charming or forceful depending on what the situation calls for,” and noting that her “ability to see the entire battlefield has been a tremendous asset. She sees how pieces on the board will be moving." Lauri’s three decades of commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense experience allow her to envision multiple paths to achieving her clients’ goals. Her common sense and intellectual curiosity drive her desire to understand and advocate for her clients’ interests.
She helps businesses and their owners assert and defend claims related to contracts, real estate and eminent domain, corporate and partnership issues, non-competes, and other commercial matters. She also defends management in employment litigation, such as discrimination and wage-hour claims. Religious organizations rely on Lauri to handle a wide range of matters related to their religious and educational operations, real estate holdings, and tax-exempt status, including cases involving First Amendment religious freedoms. Lauri represents individuals who are witnesses, subjects, or targets of white-collar criminal investigations and defends prosecutions in state and federal courts. Lauri also represents lawyers and others facing professional responsibility complaints.
As one client said, Lauri is “100% committed to [my] best interests.” She listens intently, probing so she really gets to know each person and problem. In difficult times, her clients appreciate Lauri’s gentle wit and the feeling that she will take care of them.
The immediate past president of Maryland’s largest local bar association, the 2,500-member Bar Association of Montgomery County, and current president of the Montgomery County Bar Foundation, Lauri is well-known to lawyers and judges across the state. She has successfully litigated trial and appellate cases before state and federal courts and administrative agencies throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.
Lauri is a lifelong resident of Montgomery County who tries to make time to become a more proficient pianist, horseback rider, and golfer. She is a parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, where she has served as a lector since 2003.
Judicial law clerk to the Honorable Howard S. Chasanow, then a member of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, and later to serve as one of the most distinguished members of Maryland’s Court of Appeals, the highest appellate court in the state.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faced an unexpected property tax assessment when the Maryland Tax Court ruled that a Montgomery County apartment complex where it housed religious workers no longer qualified for the property tax exemption it had held for nearly 30 years.
The Tax Court adopted the state’s narrow (and arguably discriminatory) definitional approach that excluded the purposes for which the client church’s properties were being used to deny the exemption. We demonstrated to the Montgomery County Circuit Court and then to the Maryland Court of Appeals that the apartment complex qualifies as a “convent,” because the church uses the properties exclusively to house a community of people who live together, follow strict religious vows, and devote themselves full-time to religious work, thus meeting the statutory definition and avoiding discrimination in favor of particular denominations allowing only “nuns” to live in properties called “convents” as a doctrinal matter.
The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld and reinstated our client’s tax exemption. This allowed the church to continue housing visiting religious workers who leave their homes and families to devote themselves to a two-year commitment to ministry in the temple.