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Mom Owned Law Firm Interview with Kristen Stanley-Wallace

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February brings more Mom-Owned Law Firm Profiles —  where we celebrate mom lawyers who have chosen to own, not loan their talent. Today, we feature Kristen Stanley- Wallace, owner of Stanley-Wallace Law in Slidell, Louisiana. Stanley-Wallace is an example of a woman and mom with multiple career options, with work experience at the Louisiana State Senate, in-house and at big law in a big city. But after nine years as a lawyer, Stanley-Wallace decided that launching her own firm in a smaller town would best serve the needs of her family while allowing her to advance her career by calling the shots and making the big decisions for clients. Please enjoy this profile, and view past profiles  here.

Money Quote: I can’t put a dollar amount on the flexibility I have.  However, after seeing the firm grow, year after year, I know that in all the ways that count – personally, professionally, financially- this was absolutely the right decision for me and my family.

What is your name? Kristen Stanley-Wallace

Law School attended and year of graduation. Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University, 2005

Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm. Stanley-Wallace Law; LLC, Slidell, Louisiana; www.stanley-wallacelaw.com

How long has your firm been in operation? Three and a half years

Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer. Prior to becoming an attorney I worked at the Louisiana State Senate and with an in-house law firm as a law clerk.  Right out of law school I was lucky enough to have been recruited by a large law firm in New Orleans.  Unfortunately, that was the end of July of 2005.  Just three weeks later Hurricane Katrina hit Southeast Louisiana and I, along with numerous other attorneys, was out of a job.  Luckily, I landed back in my hometown, Slidell, with a solo practitioner.  He and I became partners in 2008.   Thinking that I missed out on the big firm experience, in 2012 I was again recruited and began working for a large law firm in New Orleans.  After much soul-searching, in June 2014 I opened Stanley-Wallace Law, LLC and haven’t looked back since.

Why did you decide to start your own law firm? In 2013,  I married and my husband and I knew that we wanted children.  I loved the excitement and prestige that came along with practicing at a large litigation firm in the city, but knew that, for me, it wasn’t conducive to the amount of time I wanted to be able to spend with my family – especially if my husband and I were going to have children.  I also liked calling my own shots – creating a strategy for a case and following it through.  I wanted to be the one making the big decisions.

While I enjoyed my time at the larger firm, I knew that I needed to be back home and helping the community I grew up in.  I hoped that opening up my own law firm would offer me those things – and it did!

What practice areas does your firm concentrate on? Family Law, Workers’ Compensation, Business Law, and Personal Injury

How large is your firm? We are an all woman firm so far:  1 full time attorney (me), 1 of counsel attorney, 1 paralegal/office manager, and 1 client concierge (a new position that we created to make sure our clients are well taken care of)

Do you practice full time or part time? Full time

How many children do you have and what ages are they? 1 child, 21 months.

Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how? Absolutely! My little girl was not born when I started the firm but the possibility of her is what inspired me to begin.  Now that she is here, for me and my family, owning my own firm is the best of both worlds.

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 picks up a lot of slack at home.  He cooks almost every night, cleans, and takes very good care of our daughter – particularly on nights when I have to work late.  I also call him my “CMO” – Chief Maintenance Officer.  He puts together furniture, installs equipment, and has even built us a partition so we can continue to operate from our small office with four ladies.  We are also extremely lucky to have two sets of grandparents close by that help us with our daughter.

What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance? Pros:  1) You can (try) to work your schedule around important moments. Sometimes it doesn’t work – but sometimes it does.  2) I feel like I am setting an example for my daughter – if she works hard enough, she can do anything she wants.  Cons:  1) Until I hired the of counsel attorney – it was just me.  If I was double-booked, I had to make it work.  When I had my daughter, I was back in the office the next week.  It was heart-breaking, but necessary.

What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint? In the beginning of starting your own firm, you will make sacrifices financially.  Every new endeavor does.  But, for me, I can’t put a dollar amount on the flexibility I have.  However, after seeing the firm grow, year after year, I know that in all the ways that count – personally, professionally, financially- this was absolutely the right decision for me and my family.

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 much more open with colleagues about my family than my clients.  I know that if someone comes to see me, typically, they are not having a great day.  Particularly with family law clients, my concentration is on their family – not mine.  They don’t need to hear about my personal life – they need to hear about how I am going to help them.  I will say that since the birth of my daughter, I am much more empathetic to clients who have custody issues.

If I am able to pop out of the office to attend a child-related activity, or, every once and a while have a “mommy-daughter day” (I think I may have had one of these since my daughter was born) I will.  However, my office and clients know that I am never really “unreachable”.

What was your worst or funniest child-related scheduling mishap? Around Christmas time my daughter’s Mother’s Day Out program had a “pajama day”.  I looked forward to that day for about a month – thinking what I would put her in and how cute all the kids would be.  Of course, I had it wrong on my calendar and my daughter showed up fully dressed and all of the other kids were in pajamas.  I’m sure there will be bigger mishaps in the future, but, we are blessed to have such a great support system that those mishaps are few and far between.

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? Not particularly as a mom, but I have as a woman.  I will never forget someone calling my office and demanding to speak with either Mr. Stanley or Mr. Wallace.  When he was informed that there was no Mr. Stanley or Mr. Wallace, only Mrs. Stanley-Wallace,

Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them? If you think it would be good for your family, do it.  If you are married, make sure your partner backs you 100% on the decision because they will be working at it too – just in a different way.  Don’t get discouraged! There will be setbacks, there will be times you can’t make your child’s recital or school presentation.  You will work harder than you have ever worked – BUT, if you are anything like me, you will love every minute of it.

If you can, share the name of (or if possible recipe for) one of your family’s most reliable, easy go-to recipes: I had to ask my husband this!! On any typical week we either have spaghetti and meatballs (I usually do zoodles – zucchini noodles) or tacos.  While I don’t know his exact recipe, his food always is great because anything I would prepare would come from a menu!

Kristin Stanley-Wallace is the owner of the firm Stanley-Wallace Law and can also be found on Facebook, Avvo, Yelp and the BBB.

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