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Mom Owned Law Firm Interview with Jennifer McCaskill

McCaskill was familiar with hustling to make ends meet, so when she was laid off in the 2009 economy,  she knew she could take the initiative to start her own firm, the Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC. That way, she could be flexible in the way that her growing family needed. While she admits to being plagued with working mom guilt, she knows she’s setting a great example for her daughter by running a business that she can be proud of.

Quote: “As a law firm owner, the sky is the limit for my income, I make all of the decisions for my business and do not have to answer to anyone.  If I don’t like a potential client, I don’t have to take the case.

What is your name?

Jennifer McCaskill

Law School attended and year of graduation.

 Catholic University, Columbus School of Law, 2002

Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm.

 Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC; www.jjmccaskill.com

How long has your firm been in operation?

 Since 10/1/09

Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer.

 My first job was selling perfume at a stand in a flea market when I was 13.  In high school, I worked at a pharmacy after school, then as a bus-girl and a lifeguard at a hotel.  During college and after college, I waitressed and bartended.  Then I got a day job when I was 25 for a trade association in DC, while still bartending at night.  I went back to law school when I was 28, so I went at night and worked during the day at law firms.  Graduated in 2002, practiced in DC and Northern VA until 2006, when the firm I was working for closed.  I was married and already had my first child and my husband and I had been discussing leaving the DC rat race for a better quality of life.  I wanted to live at the beach, so in 2006, we moved to NJ (where I am originally from), I took the bar and started my career all over.  I got a job in 2007 with a local firm, but was laid off when the economy went to shit in 2009.  No one was hiring.  I had 2 kids and needed flexibility, so I took the 8 cases I had, my mom took a loan against her 401k, and I opened my firm on 10/1/09.  I now have three kids, 2 staff and one associate.

Why did you decide to start your own law firm?

 When I got laid off in September 2009.

What practice areas does your firm concentrate on?

 100% family law

How large is your firm?

 1 associate, 2 staff

Do you practice full time or part time?

 Full time

How many children do you have and what ages are they? 3 kids:  14, 10 and 7.

Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how?

 I started my firm because I really needed the flexibility to be able to care for the kids when sick, be able to attend school plays/functions, etc.  For me, it was really a quality of life issue and work-family balance.

What is your marital status?

 Married since 2003.

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 has been 100% supportive of me opening my own firm.  When I work one day on most weekends, or if I have to work late, he is supportive and deals w/ the kids, house, etc.  He wants me to succeed and he wants me to make as much money as I can for our family.  I always have had and continue to have “working mom guilt,” but I realize that I would not be a good stay-at-home Mom and the guilt has lessened over the years.  My children complain that I work a lot, so I try to be aware of that.  I think it’s good for my children, especially my daughter, to see me working and running my own business.

What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance?

 Cons:  Working mom guilt; my house is not as organized as it could be; I minimal time to myself.  Pros:  The inherent flexibility that comes w/ owning your own business.

What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint?

I don’t see any cons to owning my own firm, it’s the best thing I have done for me, my family and my career.  As a law firm owner, the sky is the limit for my income, I make all of the decisions for my business and do not have to answer to anyone.  If I don’t like a potential client, I don’t have to take the case.

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 about my kids and family.  If there is a school function, like a Mother’s Day Tea, and I am scheduled for court, I always request the time/date be changed so I can attend the school function and the Courts are very accommodating.

What was your worst or funniest child-related scheduling mishap?

 I had my 3rd child about 2 years after I opened my firm.  I could not justify the cost of day care, as my firm was still new and growing, so he came with me to work everyday for the first 6 months.  My consults would hold the baby while I was on my computer and there were times I had to stop the meeting to change the poopie diaper.  I would sit in my office and pump breast milk, while on the phone and working, it was a new level of multi-tasking.

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 as a Mom per se, but definitely as a woman.  I was in front of a Judge a few years ago, I was 4 months pregnant at the time with my 3rd child and the only female lawyer in the Courtroom.  The Judge took my case last.  I watched him bend over backwards to accommodate all of the male attorneys before me and was so pleasant and professional to them when they got up to argue.  Then I got up there, and the Judge kept referring to my male adversary as “counsel” and kept calling me “Mrs. McCaskill.”  I then felt compelled to inform me that I did not change my last name when I got married – just to piss him off.

Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them?

 Yes, absolutely.  My advice would be: don’t be chicken, do it for yourself and your kids; and take some business classes to educate yourself on how to the run the business of a law firm.

If you can, share the name of (or if possible recipe for) one of your family’s most reliable, easy go-to recipes:

 I like to cook in the crock pot as much as I can because walking in the door at 5:30 p.m. is hard when my kids eat at 6:00 p.m.  I wrap ribs tightly in aluminum foil, put them in the crockpot on low before I leave the house.  I come home, unwrap them and let them dry off, then put bbq sauce on them and put in the oven for 5 minutes.  Easy and delicious.

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