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 Jan Meyer, owner of Law Office of Jan Meyer, an estate planning practice in Dana Point, California. You can view our past profiles here.
Money Quote: Every dime I make is mine and it has felt really good.
What is your name? Jan Meyer
Law School attended and year of graduation. Hofstra University School of Law, 2010
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm. The Law Office of Jan A. Meyer, Dana Point, CA, www.danapointwills.com
How long has your firm been in operation? approaching my 7th year of practice
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm, both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I worked as a nanny. While in law school, I interned for an estate-planning firm. Right out of law school, I started my estate planning practice and also worked as a contract probate attorney for solo practitioner.
Why did you decide to start your own law firm? I started my practice right out of law school because I needed the flexibility. We had a four-year old and an eight-year old. My husband is a registered nurse who works 12-hour shifts. Once he’s at work, it is very difficult, if not impossible to leave. We figured that one of us had to have a flexible schedule for the kids. Working at a firm didn’t seem like it would fit our family’s needs so I went out on my own.
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on? We do estate planning, probate and trust administrations
How large is your firm? Solo
Do you practice full time or part time? Full time
How many children do you have and what ages are they? I have 2 children; ages 11 and 15
Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how? It was THE reason for starting my practice and continue to operate my practice. Two years ago, I made the decision to begin practicing out of my home-based office. I can actually, and do meet with clients at my home office. I get to watch my kids grow up and be present in their lives. I’m available to help with homework; ubering them to their various activities, or just giving a hug when needed.
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? In the beginning, my husband played a much greater role in advising me with my practice. We soon realized that his level of involvement was putting a strain on our marriage. Too many conversations about the business would end in arguments. We decided that for the health of our relationship, my husband would take a supportive role. He listens to my troubles, offers advice if asked, and serves as a sounding board for my business ideas. A much better system. As for my role of mom, I am the primary caretaker. As I mentioned previously, because of my husband’s work schedule, the kids’ stuff generally falls to me, unless my husband has the day off. Also, as a fledgling practice, I wasn’t always profitable. During those times, my husband would have to work more to pick up the slack, which also meant more parenting time for me. As my practice has grown, and the kids have gotten older, I have been able to transition from part-time to full time. My husband also has to work less, so he is more available to help with the house and the kids.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance? The greatest pro for me has been the flexibility of schedule. I have been able to work around the children’s schedules. That also has its downsides. The more involved I am with the kids and the home, the less time I spend on my practice and vice versa. When things are busy at my practice, my family gets so much less of my time.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint? Pros- every dime I make is mine and it has felt really good. I get to pick the clients I want to work with and the areas that I want to practice in. Con- financial sacrifice. I started my practice with no cash flow and have worked really hard to get into the positive. I’m not where I want to be yet, nor where I would have been working for a firm. That being said, I absolutely love the challenge of building a successful practice. I am so much more invested in growing, learning and improving myself because I know that my success depends, almost entirely on me.
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 very open with my clients and colleagues about my family. If my kids are sick and I have to reschedule, I say so. I have never had a client or colleague react negatively to that. In fact, I usually get a lot of understanding. People like knowing that I understand their struggles because they know that I experience them too. I do however, try to limit the number of reschedules I do because of my kids. We keep a family calendar so I try, as best as I can, to schedule around that. My family knows that they are important to me. I want my clients to know that they are important, as well.
What was your worst or funniest child-related scheduling mishap? The worse child-related scheduling mishap was excusing myself out of a client meeting to call a friend to pick my kid for practice because the client meeting took longer than expected and my child already late.
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 cannot recall a time when that has happened.
Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them? I would recommend it. My advice would be the same advice I received from two mom attorneys. Ease yourself into practice. Start part-time if possible. Lay the foundation so that when your kids need you less, you can go full time. Messes are a fact of life and you will have to learn to live with them. Sometimes, you will disappoint your kids, or miss their events. Its ok! Just make sure to be there and present during the moments when you can be.
If you can, share the name of (or if possible recipe for) one of your family’s most reliable, easy go-to recipes: Oven-roasted split chicken breast. Ingredients: 4 bone-in chicken breast, seasoning mix consisting of 2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp each of dried thyme, dried oregano and dried basil, 2 tbsp. olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the chicken with either white vinegar or lemon juice and water. Dry and place in a 9×13 glass baking dish. Drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle the seasoning mix on both sides of each breast. Roast in pre-heated oven for 40 minutes or until clear juices run from breast when pricked. You can scale up the recipe. Serve with side of choice. Great with roasted potatoes, steamed veggies, on top of a salad or in a sandwich. It’s very versatile. I even use it for chicken wraps for the kids lunches sometimes.
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