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. Up this week is Summer Nichols, owner of Law Offices of Summer Nichols, a thriving family law practice in Jacksonville, Florida which she started when her pregnancy prevented her from making the long commute to the firm where she worked at the time. You can view our past profiles here.
Money Quote: [The law firm] work never truly stops, but then again, if I can’t pick up the phone because I’m out with the kids, I just don’t ! I’m my own boss!
What is your name? Summer Nichols
Law School attended and year of graduation. Florida Coastal School of Law 2008
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm. Law Office of Summer R. Nichols Jacksonville, FL www.summernicholslaw.com
How long has your firm been in operation? 8 years
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer. 3 years legal assistant for family law firm before law school, legal clinic in law school, 1 1/2 years as associate for family law attorney after law school
Why did you decide to start your own law firm? My employer told me I should after I got pregnant with my first child and couldn’t do my weekly commute from Jacksonville to Tallahassee anymore and was nervous about trying to find a job.
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on? Family Law
How large is your firm? 1 attorney (me) , 2 assistants in office, and 1 billing assistant outside office
Do you practice full time or part time? Full time
How many children do you have and what ages are they? 2 kids, ages 7 and 5
Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how? Continue due to the flexibility. As long as I preplan, I can take off whenever I want for school holidays, field trips, etc. And there’s no one to ask but the judge if one of my kids gets sick and I have to stay home, I get to work from home often.
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? My husband works full time as well but has set hours (he has a boss) and only works Mon-Fri till 4pm. I drop off to school and he picks up, he is there on evenings I have to work late. We try to take turns taking off when kids are sick based on who has more to lose by not showing up for work that day (for instance, if I may lose out on money because I have a day stacked with potential client consults). I got lucky with my husband who does just as much of the house and mid work as I do, if not more. We have a true working partnership.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance? All pro, except I feel like I’m always on call, work never truly stops, but then again, if I can’t pick up the phone because I’m out with the kids, I just don’t ! I’m my own boss!
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint? Better money, less hours.
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? It depends on the client. For example, sometimes I might just state I had an emergency court conflict if I think my kid being sick might be a turn off to a potential client.
What was your worst or funniest child-related scheduling mishap? Worst. My dad had just died AND my 5 year old daughter was home sick. I had requested to continue a mediation and opposing counsel objected, then accused me of lying about my daughter being sick in front of the judge. Of course, the judge stated he had no reason to believe I was being untruthful and granted my continuance. I then sent a nasty letter to the attorney and refuse to acknowledge or speak to him to this day.
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? No, except for the above example.
Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them? Yes. Find mentors! Call me!
If you can, share the name of (or if possible recipe for) one of your family’s most reliable, easy go-to recipes: Grilled Cheese with fruit on the side, works every time!