We continue with our third installment of the MyShingle profile series featuring Mom-Owned Law Firms — where we celebrate mom lawyers who have chosen to own, not loan their talent. Today, we profile Erin Morse, owner of Law Office of Erin Morse, in Orlando, Florida handling family law. Erin just launched her firm in July 2017 but as her website shows, she is off to a thriving start! You can view our past profiles here.
Money Quote: I’ve heard that women have different seasons in their lives.This season is for me to raise my family and build my practice. This season is for me giving back to my staff, to employ them in an environment that can offer moms the flexibility.
What is your name? Erin Morse
Law School attended and year of graduation. Barry University, School of Law, Graduated December 2015
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm. Law Office of Erin Morse, 17 N. Summerlin Ave., Suite 100, Orlando FL 32801, Morse-Firm.com
How long has your firm been in operation? Since July 2017, so less than a year.
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer. I was a paralegal in a few law firms for approximately 5 years before becoming a lawyer, I was a Law Clerk in a big law firm, then once I became licensed, I was hired as an associate. After about 4 months, I left that firm with a partner, that partnership subsequently dissolved and I opened up a solo practice.
Why did you decide to start your own law firm? After about 4 months of being an associate, I looked at the associates above me, and the partners. Using them as a reference I considered whether that was the life I wanted, and if that would be a good fit for me as a lawyer, wife and mother. I decided it wasn’t. The billable hours were incredibly high, and the preverbal “cost” of being employed there was too high.
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on? Family Law
How large is your firm? 1 attorney, 1 paralegal/office manager, 1 receptionist, 2 law clerks
Do you practice full time or part time? Full time
How many children do you have and what ages are they? 1 child, 5 years old. Side note: he was 5 months old when I started law school.
Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how? At all times relevant to me becoming a lawyer I was a mother. So, taking on these endeavors simultaneously was a well-contemplated decision. Having been a paralegal for a few years before going to law school gave me some confidence to understand the internal office necessities as well as the skills to attend to administrative matters. In continuing to operate my law firm, I offer flexibility to my employees with children. They can go to the school play, or work from home on a sick day without penalty from me. I always knew I could offer this flexibility to my staff, and it has paid me back in droves.
What is your marital status? Married
If you are married, what role has your spouse played with respect to your practice and mutual family obligations and conversely, what impact has owning your firm had on your marriage and role as a mom? I was really fortunate recently as my husband has taken a different more aggressive approach to helping with my firm. Initially, when I went out on my own it was tough and caused strife between us. But once my partnership dissolved and I became solo, my husband actually made my firm his part-time job to help with internal operations in my firm. We find balance with my mom helping with our son, and we hired a housekeeper for the house. That has helped our off time really be family-focused.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance? It is definitely a wonderful balance to be able to take the time to be with my son, and put all of his events on the office calendar, so my staff knows not to schedule anything at those times. They just say I’m unavailable; I really get to make my son a priority.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint? I do feel like I get to achieve greater professional success. Bringing in my husband on a number of things I need completed has worked beautifully for me, and really has opened up my potential for earning. I’m newer at this, so time will tell, but financially it has been a much greater success.
How open are you with colleagues and clients about your family? Do you tell them about your kids? Do you ever use child-related activities as an excuse for changing your schedule, and if so, are you open in sharing those reasons? I am pretty open about my family with colleagues, a but less with clients. Often, it depends on the circumstance and the client. But I will turn down events regularly based exclusively on my preference to be with my family. I have also turned down certain leadership and voluntary bar opportunities. I heard somewhere that women have certain “seasons” of their life. And this season is not for me to be on the board of whatever, or to be on a committee. This season is for me to raise my family and build my practice. This season is for me giving back to my staff, to employ them in an environment that can offer moms the flexibility, etc.
What was your worst or funniest child-related scheduling mishap? Usually, it is being very late for pick-up when my mom is out of town.
As a mother who owns a law firm, have you ever encountered discrimination from colleagues or judges or been taken less seriously or treated with less respect? How did you respond? I have experienced discrimination from colleagues as a mother and wife. One of my most infuriating was in law school, with 2 different older male professors commenting: “Your husband must be a lawyer” (which he is not) or something to that effect. On both occasions, it occurred after a lengthy discussion and/or debate on a matter. It was almost as if they couldn’t fathom a woman with a comfortable grasp of the law and its practicality.
Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them? This is tough, because I believe everyone’s experiences are different and everyone’s capabilities are so unique. I do believe that if you love it, do it. I recommend anyone who believes they can, should. It is hard, and it does not come easy. I definitely don’t work less, or make much more, but I am happier and I find much better balance.
If you can, share the name of (or if possible recipe for) one of your family’s most reliable, easy go-to recipes: This is an ironic question because you have asked me professionally about my career and motherhood, but here I am back in the kitchen. Haha! But, my best recipe is for an egg and cheese sandwich. It goes best on a bagel or english muffin. Scramble eggs and season with dill, onion powder, garlic powder, fresh cracked pepper, cook as usual. Remove pan from heat place 1 slice of smoked gouda on the eggs. Toast of your bagel or english muffin, add cream cheese to the top slice, add chopped chives to the cream cheese side. Add 1 slice of tomato (optional) add bacon (optional) make into an egg sandwich with the scrambled eggs and gouda. Serve with fresh fruit.
See more Mom Owned Law Firm Profiles.