How To Be Husband and Wife When You Are Partners In Law

Allison and Ryan McKeenHow do you separate the marital relationship from the working relationship?  Today, Allison and Ryan share their thoughts.


I started working with Ryan in January, and I believe we had a solid six week run before it happened.

I was working on a case that was challenging me on every level, and I needed to get it right. This meant I was mulling it over constantly, both silently and out loud as we went about our weekend. I think we need to say X. The best way to phrase that concept would be to say Y. How do we express to the court that Z happened?

Look, I take work home, and I was really excited about living with someone who actually understood everything I was working on. I could skip the background and head straight for the juicy parts!

So there we were, and it was a wintery Sunday so odds are good we were trapped inside. We were talking about this case, and it suddenly struck me: we’d spent all weekend talking about that case. You know those moments parents steal when they’re raising young children? Those fleeting, precious minutes when the kids aren’t running with scissors or throwing paint on the dog, and you can connect like adult humans and maybe, you know, talk about something other than whose turn it is to change the diaper? All of ours had been spent discussing work.

We were boring.

Ever since that realization, working together has meant setting boundaries. Yes, it’s great to have someone with whom to discuss interesting legal issues, but we are more than our careers. We are individuals with distinct interests, and we need to continue to honor that. We are a married couple with a life outside of the legal realm. Consequently, this means that “working together” really means working on separate matters.

It also means supporting each other when we pursue our independent interests. And finally, it means setting aside time to discuss matters other than what type of motion to file next, and changing the subject when dinner table talk is dominated by work.

In these ways, we can continue to care for each other as partners in life, and not just in law.


Starting a law firm is consuming. The list of things that needs to be done to get a practice off the ground and sustain it is daunting. There are late nights, long days, and never ending worries.

When I began my journey as a solo it was me.  All me. I was the lawyer, CFO, CEO, marketer, web designer, blogger, bookkeeper, cleaning service, office manager, and IT guy.  Allison was an attorney for the CT General Assembly.  There were some what compartmentalized work and home lives.

When Allison joined the firm – those lines blurred.  What was my business was suddenly our business. An all consuming business.

The Case

As is often the case in small firm practice, it was baptism by fire for Allison. She jumped right into the fray. Our firm had been hired to handle an appeal. Not just any appeal, one of the more significant appeals in Connecticut this year on a case that has garnered national attention.

Allison is a better writer than me. That’s who she is. She is a writer. She took on the tasks of writing the briefs. While I worked on a number of issues related to the appeal and on other cases.

The case started to creep into all of our time. We cared desperately about doing the best job we could for a client we firmly believed had been wronged.

Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, weekends, and evenings were filled with the case. “What do you think about framing it this way?” or “How about this?” or “What do you think they’ll ask about at oral argument?”

Being partners was taking the space that used to be reserved for being spouses. Talking about motions to supplement the record on a Saturday night after the kids go to bed is beyond lame – it is unhealthy.

The Takeaway

You must push back. Boundaries are good.

There’s no getting away from having to talk about work at home. That is what we did before we started working together.

Once the dust settled from the case it was a relief. It was a time to reflect and examine where the first 6 months of partnership had brought us. One of the things that emerged was the need to set aside time to actively engage in being a spouse and pushing the business aside.

If you’ve worked with your spouse you can probably relate. If you haven’t, strongly consider setting aside time every day to just be married and create a “no business” zone if you will. Though that can be easier said than done.

I can’t wait for our “no work….no kids” dinner on Saturday night.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

This entry was posted in Guest Bloggers and tagged Allison McKeen, McKeen Law Firm, Ryan McKeen. Bookmark the permalink.

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