Opening Statements

Law school friends score a reality TV show

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Photo of Elura Nanos and Michele Sileo courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey Network.

When Elura Nanos and Michele Sileo wanted to grow their law student tutoring business, they sought assistance from an adviser who suggested that the two self-described “big-mouth lawyers” raise their profile by appearing on television.

The longtime friends knew nothing about TV, but that didn’t stop them. After Googling questions like “How do you find a production company?” and “What’s a sizzle reel?” the former New York Law School classmates experienced the improbable: They not only landed a production company but also scored a six-episode deal with the Oprah Winfrey Network.

“Our families were like, ‘How the hell did you get that?’ ” Nanos says.

Their legal reality show, Staten Island Law, which debuted in January, featured Nanos and Sileo mediating disputes between residents of Staten Island—where Sileo lives and Nanos grew up.

The first episode focused on a conflict between an engaged couple who didn’t see eye to eye about the desirability of a prenuptial agreement. The bride-to-be didn’t want to begin the marriage already planning for divorce, while her fiancé wanted to guarantee that, no matter what happened in the future, he would never lose his house—a gift from his father.

While each 30-minute show focused on a genuine dispute, the people who appeared weren’t actual clients; instead, they were real-world recruits willing to mediate their disagreements on TV.

Nanos and Sileo still run a small mediation practice, but their primary endeavor is Lawyer Up, the educational company they launched in 2001. They started their careers prosecuting cases in New York City’s family court, then briefly worked for law firms but found private practice incompatible with the demands of their families. Both of the women have two young children.

At this point they don’t know whether they will film any more episodes of Staten Island Law. But for now, they’re staying in the public eye as talking heads on Fox’s Your World with Neil Cavuto, where they weigh in on questions like whether a convicted terrorist should get out of solitary confinement.

“We would like to continue in TV,” Nanos says.

Sileo adds: “We have always taken every opportunity that life brings us.”

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