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The Daily Dish Bosses of Bravo

Emily Simpson Details Her Journey & Struggles from “Powerful” Lawyer to “Mom First”

The RHOC cast member shared how her small-town roots made her “very driven and ambitious” but also family-oriented. 

By Cynthia Robinson

From rural beginnings to law school to lighting up the small screen on The Real Housewives of Orange County, Emily Simpson has proved herself as a powerful force to be reckoned with. 

How to Watch

Watch The Real Housewives of Orange County on  Peacock and the Bravo App.

Bravoholics were introduced to Emily in Season 13 of RHOC via Tamra Judge, who noted the Ohio native was a “kick-ass attorney.” Emily quickly proved she was also a busy mom, caring for three young children while maintaining a household with her husband, Shane Simpson

Here, Emily tells how she transcended her small-town roots to explore a high-powered career on the West Coast and ultimately settled into a new routine that fit best with her own brand of Boss. 

Humble Beginnings 

Growing up in “rural Ohio” in the city of Middletown, Emily was the oldest of two kids, helping her single mom care for her younger sister. 

“My dad left when I was young, [and] my mom had to go get a job to support us. She didn’t graduate from college, and she didn’t have any skills, so she had to get a minimum-wage job working as a teller in a bank,” Emily revealed. “It was just really difficult growing up, always trying to make ends meet. I remember as a young child growing up thinking my only way out of this situation… is for me to be able to have a good job that pays well. And the only way to do that is for me to get educated.” 

Emily added that her mother was “a big advocate” of her daughters going to college and “being educated.” 

“At the time [it was] annoying, when you’re a kid,” she admitted. “But now, as an adult, I’m so glad that she was constantly pushing us that way.” 

Getting an Education 

Emily as a teenager wearing a black gown with white embellishments in front of a fireplace.

When it came to her education, Emily eventually found her focus on law, and she had her family’s support. 

“My mom was always like, ‘You should be a lawyer. You just argue all the time. You’re so good at arguing, you’re constantly arguing with me,’” she laughed, adding that her maternal grandfather was also “an attorney and a judge,” proving the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. 

“I think that whole ‘You should be a lawyer’ was embedded early,” she added. “I guess that’s where my mindset kind of came from: How can I have a better life? How can I provide more for my own children someday? And so that’s really where that push came from.” 

After earning her undergraduate degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1998, Emily went on to be a Spanish teacher for four years, which she described as “the hardest job.” 

“It’s so much work for so little money and so little recognition,” she explained. “And so I only taught for four years, and then I was like, ‘I’m going to law school.”

Starting a Law Career — and a Family  

Emily wearing an orange top and denim shorts with a friend.

After sending out applications, Emily headed to the University of Dayton School of Law in Dayton, Ohio, for one year and then transferred to Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego — mainly for personal reasons. 

“I was married to my first husband,” Emily explained. She was 26 when she got married. Her husband was in the military and was transferred to Camp Pendleton in San Diego, hence the move.

After graduating (and divorcing her first husband via a “summary dissolution” — by herself, by the way!), Emily was hired by a real estate firm in Orange County in the mid-aughts, “working with home builders” and “doing tax disclosures.” 

Unfortunately, when “everything crashed” due to the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, Emily was forced to look for another job. 

I actually got laid off around the same time that Shane and I got married,” she added, speaking of her now-husband, Shane, who famously proposed over Google Chat when they worked together. 

Following her layoff (and subsequent wedding to Shane in 2009), Emily and Shane briefly moved to Utah for work. The pair lived there for five years (close to The Real Housewives of Salt Lake Citys Lisa Barlow, in fact!) and Emily pivoted to working in family law “for a while” before they decided to head back to the OC.

Within that time period, they began to focus on starting a family together (Shane also has two daughters, Shelby and Chanel, from his first marriage). After Emily faced fertility issues, her younger sister volunteered as a surrogate. Their daughter, Annabelle, was born in 2013, while their twin sons, Luke and Keller, were born in 2015.  

“When my children were born, I moved over into copyright law because I liked it better when you have children; it’s very transactional,” Emily revealed. “It was easy for me to have a career as an attorney and also have three small children.” 

The Challenges of Having a Law Career

An blue illustration overlaid onto Emily Simpson smiling at Watch What Happens Live.

Though Emily found an ideal avenue for practicing law, she still faced certain trials that come from working in the field. 

“When I first started working in family law, I actually worked for a female attorney in San Diego. I feel like a lot of times females are pitted against each other,” Emily explained. “But she was amazing. She was an amazing mentor for me.” 

The California mom shared how “welcoming” and “kind” her mentor was, inspiring her in her own line of work. 

“I stayed in touch with her for years and years. And then I think she actually went to go work for an all-female firm, which I thought was really empowering when women kind of band together,” she shared. “[I love when women] start their own firm where they’re like, ‘We’re gonna be women and we’re gonna dress however we want. We’re gonna just embrace being women and not have to worry about dealing with men in a kind of male-oriented industry.’”

She continued: “I think women are really powerful in the law field. At least that’s how I experienced it. They’re few and far between, compared with how many men there are, but I always felt like women attorneys were just a force to be reckoned with.” 

Transitioning to Full-Time Motherhood 

Though she appreciated working as a lawyer, Emily ultimately settled back into where her heart was truly focused: being a mom. 

“When I grew up in Ohio, it was really, really tough for my sister and me. My mom had to go to work and we had to take care of ourselves. We had to figure out how to get to school, how to get home,” she divulged. “We stayed at home by ourselves all the time. We had to try and make ourselves dinner. It was just… difficult. I just didn’t want my children to have that life.” 

Adding that she wanted to be “very present” for her kids, Emily noted how much she “love[s]” taking her three children to school and “all their activities,” being “very involved” in their lives

“That was the most important thing for me. It was mom first, and then career second,” she shared. “I know I’m very blessed to be able to have that lifestyle where I was able to make a choice, and I know a lot of women can’t make that choice. And they make the best of it.” 

The Demands of Being a Mom 

Just like any other job, being a mom comes with its own set of challenges and hard work. 

“Sometimes I get jealous of Shane going to work every day and being in an office. Because that, to me… that’s easier than being a full-time mom,” Emily stated. “There are days when I’d rather go to an office, shut the door, and be able to just have eight hours where I can just be alone and do my own thing, instead of having three kids arguing and needing things, and driving all over the place.”

Though she is choosing to focus her time and energy on her kids at the moment, Emily revealed that she keeps her law license active in Utah and California, in case she wants to dip back into her law career down the line. 

“I earned it, I have it, it’s a part of me. And I can always use it,” she said. “Just ’cause I choose not to right now in my life, because I want to be the best mom that I can be, doesn’t mean that when my kids get a little bit older and they drive and they can do things on their own, that that’s not something that I could go back to.” 

Working with The Innocence Project 

Emily found her way back to her legal passions in 2020 by using her law expertise to volunteer for The Innocence Project, an organization that aims to “free the wrongfully convicted, work to reform the criminal justice system and train students to become zealous advocates,” according to its Instagram.

“That was a good transition for me because I didn’t want to just walk away from the legal world altogether,” she shared, noting that her passion grew to help those in need

“I guess I also felt like, as an attorney, I never even really wrapped my brain around the idea that there were people in prison who were innocent. I just remember making a promise to myself during that time that if I were ever in a position where I could help or be a part of it or do volunteer work, I would.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily reached out to The Innocence Project to put her skills to use for an incredibly touching reason.

“When you grow up in a situation where… maybe you feel a little left behind or like no one sees you […] I just feel like my childhood was robbed,” she explained. “I do appreciate it, though, because I feel like it made me very driven and ambitious. If you’re given everything in life, you don’t really have that fire lit under you. I do appreciate a lot of times how I grew up, ’cause I do know that it made me who I am today.” 

Setting an Example for Her Kids 

At the end of the day, whether she’s working with The Innocence Project or picking her children up from school, Emily strives to be the best example for her family

“I just want my children to be good humans, and I want them to be happy. I always talk about being kind to others,” she shared, also noting the importance of being open with her kids about the subject of work. 

I always talk about working, and dad working, and dad being at work. And he goes because he has to support the family. And he has to take care of everybody. So I always try to instill a work ethic in my children,” she added, sharing the chores they do around the house and why she takes them “home to Ohio a lot” for a certain dose of reality. 

“I’m like, ‘Not everybody lives like we do in Orange County. This is how mom grew up,’” she laughed. “It’s always a struggle, because I want to do everything for them and give them everything, but I also don’t want to make my children into bratty, horrible people either. So [I try] to always find that middle […] trying to figure out how to be the best mom, how to be the best wife.” 

She concluded: “I think we’re all affected so much by our childhood that we try to do better. My main priority in life was to always do better for my own children.” 

In Bosses of Bravo, Bravolebs pull back the curtain on their business journeys. From how they got started, to real talk about their career ups and downs, these stars-slash-businesspeople give us an in-depth look at how they made it.

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