March brings another round of Mom-Owned Law Firm Profiles where we celebrate mom lawyers who have chosen to own, not loan their talent. Today, we feature Nicole Avila, owner of Avila Law PLLC in Weston, Florida. Avila launched her firm almost two years ago after returning to her former firm following her maternity leave and realizing that her priorities no longer aligned with new management. Please enjoy this profile, and view past profiles here.
Money Quote: To me, flexibility to take time off when I need to, or conversely, work odd hours as needed to spend more time with my family is amazing, and one of the things I love most about firm ownership.
What is your name? Nicole Avila
Law School attended and year of graduation. Nova Southeastern University, 2014
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm. Avila Law PLLC, Weston, FL – www.avilaimmigrationlaw.com
How long has your firm been in operation? Since Aug. 2016
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. .Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer. Worked at a mid sized firm for about 2 years
Why did you decide to start your own law firm? After I became pregnant, management and leadership at my old job changed their demeanor with me. After I came back from maternity leave, with new priorities, our goals didn’t align any longer, and they were doing things that I did not agree with, so I resigned and went solo two weeks later.
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on? family based immigration, removal defense, and visas for victims of crimes, DV, and human trafficking.
How large is your firm? 1 attorney, 1 business manager, and a contract paralegal
Do you practice full time or part time? Full time
How many children do you have and what ages are they? 1 child, she’s 2 years old
Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how? Yes
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? It’s been difficult navigating the new roles, but we’ve adapted. Especially the change in income was difficult to adapt to, but the flexibility is unparalleled!
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance? To me, flexibility to take time off when I need to, or conversely, work odd hours as needed to spend more time with my family is amazing, and one of the things I love most about firm ownership. I am also able to work away from the office, so we can go places and I have the ability to run my firm as needed even when away from the physical files; or the ability to (mostly) disconnect with good planning.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint? I think that the freedom to take cases I want to take, and no pressure to take the ones I don’t want, has helped me become a better lawyer. The financial status will come, as we’re still working out firm automation and such, but we’ve done well since we opened, and now we’re looking to grow.
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. Most of my clients have children themselves, so they understand. I have let clients know when I’ve rescheduled them last minute for a pediatrician appointment, for instance. They all know I have a daughter, and have probably seen a picture or two of her.
What was your worst or funniest child-related scheduling mishap? My mom (who takes care of my toddler when I’m working) was out of town for a few weeks, and had to leave unexpectedly, so I couldn’t prepare. My toddler (about a year old at the time) came to all my appointments and consultations that I couldn’t reset. She’s a pretty fun kid, so the clients had a laugh.
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 yet. But I do think there is a lot of pressure on working moms to completely separate those two roles.
Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them? I think it’s not necessarily for everyone, but it does give working moms the ability to spend more time with their kids and families. I would say make a plan (and don’t just throw everything together in two weeks, like me). And have systems for everything. I have a pretty elaborate database on which I keep track of clients, referral sources, marketing efforts, important dates, etc. I also keep a paper planner as back up and creative outlet. And most importantly, take time for yourself to just be you for a little bit!
If you can, share the name of (or if possible recipe for) one of your family’s most reliable, easy go-to recipes: Skinnytaste’s Cheeseburger Casserole!