Welcome to the MyShingle profile series featuring Mom-Owned Law Firms where we celebrate mom lawyers who have chosen to own, not loan their talent. One of our two inaugural profiles comes from Christine Matus, a New Jersey-based estate planning attorney, who will celebrate 15 years of law firm ownership.
The Money Quote: “I always wanted to have my own firm with my vision”
What is your name? Christine L Matus
Law School attended and year of graduation. Touro Law School 1995
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm. The Matus Law Group, www.matuslaw.com
How long has your firm been in operation? Since 2003
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. I worked at small (5 attorneys) to mid sized firms (60 lawyers) prior to opening my firm. Insurance defense as well as general practice with those firms.
Why did you decide to start your own law firm? I always wanted to have my own firm with my vision. My father was a physician with his own practice and so I grew up with that mindset and scenario.
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on? Estate planning specifically helping parents with special needs children as well as residential real estate.
How large is your firm? I have an Associate, two legal assistants, client relationship coordinator and two off site paralegals
Do you practice full time or part time? Full time
How many children do you have and what ages are they? 2 children, ages 10 and 8. My youngest has Down Syndrome.
Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how? Being a mother influenced my decision to continue to operate my firm because of the time blocks I wanted to dedicate to my children. I can structure my schedule around class activity and therapy for my youngest.
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 is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He is an equal partner with child care and understands some of the schedule changes that can occur during the workday. He is always there to help. He is a big part of how I can help as many people as possible. In return it’s made our marriage stronger and value the time we do spend together.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance? One of the major pros of owning your own law firm and being a mother is the ability to control your schedule. Also, to control the type of cases and clients we want to help. I make it a rule not to take home any issues that could occur during the day at home. Work is work and Home is home. I am vigilant about separating the two of them. Some of the cons, is that as a business owner, there are issues that need to be dealt with, like personnel, budgets, marketing, cash flow issues. Those aspects, sometimes I do make me feel alone. The stress can be overwhelming, and so I’ve been able to focus on meditation and reach out to other business owners who are like-minded for strategies.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint? Law Firm ownership has provided me characteristics and skills that I would not have achieved if I was an employee. Downside: But I had to learn the skills sometimes at a cost. I didn’t take a class in law school on how to run a firm. It wasn’t offered. One of the best things I did was finding a group that taught me how to be a business owner. Another Pro; I have a learn to be stronger mentally, focused, causes lead to effects. Things that I can teach my children.
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 proud to be a mother. I do. I hide the fact that I have children and may need to reschedule something because of an issue with them. My youngest has school that starts late. So if I have a 9am court hearing I ask for a ready hold for 10am.
What was your worst or funniest child-related scheduling mishap? My worst was when my daughter’s school called to advise that an accident occurred and that her shoes were ruined. I had to pick her up because they didn’t want to put her on the bus with no shoes. So I had to finish a meeting, jump in a car, pick her up, drop her off my mother’s home and go back to my next meeting.
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 had a lawyer once refuse to reschedule a real estate closing when I advised that my youngest needed physical therapy at that time.
Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them? Yes, starting a firm as a mother is recommended but not without support.
If you can, share the name of (or if possible recipe for) one of your family’s most reliable, easy go-to recipes: Our favorite go to recipe: (my husband’s actually) elbow macaroni, four cheese pasta, ground beef, chopped onions, red and green peppers. All mixed in one pot!
Christine Matus is owner of The Matus Law Group, 81 East Water St., 2C, Toms River, NJ 08753. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also download her free e-book, Basic Estate Planning for Parents with Special Needs Children.
View more Mom Owned Law Firm Profiles.