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Your Partner in Life and Law

by Carolyn Elefant on September 29, 2008 · 6 comments

in Law Practice Management, Outsourcing & Hiring, Work Life Balance

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Update – a reader tipped me off to this letter from Bruce Allen’s Marketing Catalyst that seeks a spouse’s buy in when a professional signs up for Allen’s services.  Actually, I think one of the hardest things for a spouse to understand is that new solos need to invest much of their extra in business first before they can start taking extra money home to pay the bills.

Today at the Juggle, John J. Edwards III poses the question of “How involved should spouses be in each others’ career?”  Edwards broaches the matter in the context of politics, referencing several articles on the significant role that First Dude Todd Palin has played in his wife’s administration.  Yet even before Palin, in the political arena, we’re all accustomed to involved spouses, with Hillary and Bill Clinton offering the best example of spouses sharing in each others’ careers.

Edwards’ post got me thinking about the level of involvement of partners or spouses in each others’ law careers.  In my own experience with other solos I know, many of their partners or spouses are integrally involved in their firms.  Of course, where a spouse is a lawyer, he or she might provide feedback or insight on cases, or review briefs or pleadings.  But even if a partner or spouse is a layperson, they can serve as a sounding board for a jury or appellate argument – often offering more practical advice than a lawyer spouse would.  And I think in every solo’s case, there’s been at least one time where a partner or spouse pitched in with a crazy filing or a tight deadline.

Some lawyers I know use their spouse as a book keeper or administrator, while other spouses offer input on business development and marketing.  In fact, I recently attended a meeting where a lawyer described the marketing plan that his wife had created for him that was so effective that the other lawyers wanted to hire her.   In my own case, my spouse is a veteran computer engineer who takes care of most of my technical needs (except for blogging and HTML, where I’m now more advanced).

Spouses and partners can also offer financial support for a firm.  As the beneficiary of my husband’s health insurance plan for years, I’ll be the first to admit that having health care coverage makes starting and running a firm a little bit easier.  And of course, spouses provide coverage with childcare — this week, while I’m out on travel, it’s my husband who’ll be working from his local office, doing bus drop offs and pick-ups.

But as I discussed in my book, Solo by Choice, where a partner spouse has the most impact is one the personal level:  whether they’ve got your back and whether they’ll make the sacrifices, be it cutting back on the budget while you get the practice off the ground or understanding that you may need to work long hours starting out,  to help you get your start.   After all, at the end of the day, you can purchase health insurance, you can ask your colleagues to review your brief, you can hire a bookeeper.  But you can’t buy someone who will believe in you even during those times when you don’t believe in yourself.

Do you think that solos are more likely than other lawyers to have an involved spouse?  What role has your spouse or partner played in your practice?  Join the conversation in the comments below.

  • http://solopracticeuniversity.com Susan Cartier Liebel

    This is a great topic, Carolyn.
    For me the greatest support my spouse gave was the gift of ‘time.’ This means time to develop what I needed to do without feeling pressured to produce financially, even if it meant he worked longer hours, overtime, to compensate for periodic shortfalls as well as gave me the time I needed to actually do the work by caring for our child when he wasn’t working.
    Time to develop the practice properly was critical.
    And I thank him almost every day for this type of support.

  • http://solopracticeuniversity.com Susan Cartier Liebel

    This is a great topic, Carolyn.
    For me the greatest support my spouse gave was the gift of ‘time.’ This means time to develop what I needed to do without feeling pressured to produce financially, even if it meant he worked longer hours, overtime, to compensate for periodic shortfalls as well as gave me the time I needed to actually do the work by caring for our child when he wasn’t working.
    Time to develop the practice properly was critical.
    And I thank him almost every day for this type of support.

  • http://www.ddllaw.com David Little

    As always, an insightful post.
    The greatest role my spouse has played in my practice has been support. My spouse is also self-employed, and has known how wonderful a life spent working for yourself can be. From the moment I decided I wanted to go solo, my spouse was supportive.
    I would never have had the courage to do this without her.

  • http://www.ddllaw.com David Little

    As always, an insightful post.
    The greatest role my spouse has played in my practice has been support. My spouse is also self-employed, and has known how wonderful a life spent working for yourself can be. From the moment I decided I wanted to go solo, my spouse was supportive.
    I would never have had the courage to do this without her.

  • http://halosecretarialservices.com Laurie/Halo Secretarial

    I’m not a lawyer, but with a business I operate from home my spouse’s support, especially his emotional support, has been a necessity and a blessing. I would not want to be doing this without his understanding, it would be far too stressful for our whole family. Similarly, I support him in his employment!

  • http://halosecretarialservices.com Laurie/Halo Secretarial

    I’m not a lawyer, but with a business I operate from home my spouse’s support, especially his emotional support, has been a necessity and a blessing. I would not want to be doing this without his understanding, it would be far too stressful for our whole family. Similarly, I support him in his employment!

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