Regardless the profession, many spouses are living their entrepreneurial dream by working together. And there are certainly unique challenges in building a law practice together. Yet more and more lawyers are doing just that. I myself have known several couples who practice together. Here is one new solo’s commentary – Elizabeth Meehan
To Have & To Hold (& to Hang a Shingle With)
When I met my husband, we were in our first year of law school. He was driving me home from a party, and we started talking about where we wanted to practice after graduation. He said, “I really like the Southern California region–you can’t beat the weather.” I was elated, as that’s the location I wanted to work in too. Later, we chatted about what type of law we wanted to practice, and what type of jobs we hoped to secure after graduation. Both of us are entrepreneurial, and eventually the conversation turned to the idea of opening our own practice. Half-way through law school, we were in love. Two years through law school, we were in love with opening our own practice–and furiously started researching and talking to solo practitioners as well as married couples who practiced together. After graduation and the bar exam, we tied the knot, then drove to California in a car loaded with business suits and computers.
Practicing with your spouse has been a unique experience. One of the biggest hurdles is “turning it off.” This means stopping the chatter about the firm which occurs constantly. Many times we’ll be driving home and Paul will say “Enough! No more talking about the firm! Let’s talk about anything else.” We drive for a few minutes in silence, then I can’t help myself, “Sorry, can I ask one more question? Just one more, I promise.” Similarly, we’ve found it difficult not to work on the firm seven days a week. But we were getting burned out and irritated with each other when we go too long without a break. Now, we aim for one day off per week.
Although there are some challenges, the benefits are enormous. Being that there are two of us, we can “divide and conquer.” For example, I’ve joined the local Rotary Club. I’m also very involved with my college alumni groups here. I go to networking events as often as I can. I make and take the majority of our phone calls, and schedule meetings. Paul is very talented with computers. He is building our server from scratch, researching the best methods to keep time, scan documents, streamline client intake, and the like. Hence, while I’m out beating back the bushes, Paul can be working on the critical systems which make our firm work.
One of the best things about opening shop with your partner is having a sounding board with whom you can be authentic. We don’t have to watch our language when we’re frustrated, don’t have to make an appointment to see each other, and don’t have to worry about coming off to whiny. When Paul wants to throw the computer out the window, I listen. When I want to chuck the phone in the road, he listens. Our practice is very demanding and all-consuming. Things are much tougher than we originally thought they would be, thanks to the economy. That being said, I am incredibly grateful to have my husband as my partner in this venture. There are few things I feel I would be happier doing. Hokey as it sounds, I can honestly say we are living our dream.
Elizabeth Meehan, Esq.
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