Mom Owned Law Firm Interview with Jeralyn Lawrence

Jeralyn Lawrence started her law firm, Lawrence Law LLC, as a way to ensure stability and growth professionally while building something sustainable for herself, her family and her team. She believes that when it comes to work-life balance, there are only pros to owning your own law firm and is a firm believer that kids always come first.

Quote: Work will get done whether it be after they go to bed or before they wake up, but work should not be the reason a mom can’t be a mom. It takes constant and continual management of your to do list and priorities but it’s possible.

What is your name?

Jeralyn Lisa Lawrence

Law School attended and year of graduation.

Seton Hall University School of Law, 1996

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

Lawrence Law, LLC, 776 Mountain Boulevard, Suite 202, Watchung, NJ 07069

How long has your firm been in operation?

We opened our doors on January 2, 2019

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

I started my career as an associate at a mid-sized firm in Somerset County, New Jersey. I climbed the ranks to partnership, serving as Chair of the firm’s Matrimonial & Family Law Department, and as a Member of the Firm’s Compensation and Management Committees. 

Why did you decide to start your own law firm?

Opening my own firm became important to me as I saw the opportunity to ensure stability and growth in my professional career while continuing to build something sustainable and special for myself, my family and my team. 

What practice areas does your firm concentrate on?

Lawrence Law is a boutique family law firm, and we guide our clients through all phases of family law from pre-nuptial agreements, divorce, custody and parenting time, child support, alimony, and post judgment matters. 

How large is your firm?

Lawrence Law has 5 attorneys, one paralegal, two legal assistants, an office manager and a receptionist. We are an amazing team.

Do you practice full time or part time?

I practice full time, and then some.

How many children do you have and what ages are they?

3- a 13-year old and twin 8-year-olds. I also am a stepmother to a 20-year-old and a 14-year-old.

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

It certainly has influenced my decision to go out on my own particularly as a mom of two girls, it is exciting to show them how hard work and determination pays off. I will never forget that moment when they first saw my office with my name on the door and the gleam in their eyes. They were and are very proud of me. On some of the harder days, I take myself back to that moment and the look on their faces, and it reenergizes me to continue moving forward. It has been incredibly rewarding to tell my kids that if you can dream it, and believe it, you can make it happen.  It is an invaluable life lesson to not just talk the talk but walk the walk. My kids think I have already signed them up for law school, so they are even more invested in the continued success of Lawrence Law. 

What is your marital status?

I am happily married. (Most times, happily) 🙂  I have been divorced before – my daughter was 8 weeks old at the time. That terrifying experience made me a better person, and a better divorce and family lawyer. 

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?

I would not have had the intestinal fortitude to go out on my own without the steady hand of my husband.  When I felt nauseous about quitting a firm where I had been for 21 years, he assured me I had stayed there far too long. When I told him we may starve and have to sell the house and cancel vacations, he laughed and said he never saw a surer bet than betting on me. 

I opened my firm less than a mile from my house. That has been life changing as far as getting to the kid’s activities and events. For reasons I will never understand, schools have events at 10 am or 3 pm. When I worked 35 minutes away, those activities were impossible to attend. Now, I can get to them and back to work.  It was a blessing during my daughter’s basketball season. 

My husband works far from the house, so these obligations generally fell on me anyway so being closer to home, certainly helped me. He owns his own business too, so he can relate to my stresses and fears and I am better at understanding what he has been complaining about for all these years. We wouldn’t have it any other way and are thrilled to be our own bosses and chart our own path and destiny. 

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

There are no cons. All pros.  You’re the boss. You set the rules and the expectations. Kids always come first. Always. Work will get done whether it be after they go to bed or before they wake up, but work should not be the reason a mom can’t be a mom.  It takes constant and continual management of your to do list and priorities but it’s possible. I am a strong believer in “the days go slow and the years go fast“ – I am living that truth and it’s harsh but I want to have no regrets that my kids didn’t feel first.  

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

I have never felt the sense of collegiality that I feel now. Other solos or colleagues in small firms want me to succeed and are actually invested in my success. Big firms do not have that.  The warm welcome into law firm ownership has been overwhelming and rejuvenating from those who are similarly situated. The cons are that now I have to call a colleague if I have a question in a different practice area of expertise instead of walking down the hall, but I think the pros far outweigh that single con.  

I understand that you hold a leadership position with the American Academy of Matrimonial Law and the New Jersey State Bar Association.  Can you tell us a little about the work you do for that organization, the time commitment, and how you find time to juggle it all?

I love my work for the Bar Association and for the Academy. I am a former Chair of the Family Law Section for the New Jersey State Bar Association and had the opportunity to work with the legislature and the governor’s office in drafting and crafting legislation.  It was an awesome experience and much of my time now is devoted to reviewing and revising or drafting legislation. From relocation of children issues to child support to college contribution and many areas in between, I am passionate about trying to effectuate change through my leadership positions. I also am on the board of the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey and that affords me the opportunity to work on women’s issues and advance significant legislation. 

The time commitment is considerable, but it is truly a labor of love. It doesn’t even seem like work because I love what I am doing and am doing it with the best and brightest of the profession. The results are tremendously rewarding because you are improving the practice and profession for your colleagues.  

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?

Yes, yes and yes.  I do share.  This year has been particularly difficult.

My mom had a heart attack in February and my daughter was injured in school in April and still has a concussion and whiplash. Attending their appointments and caring for them was a priority. Every single client and every single adversary treated me with kindness and compassion and for that I will forever be grateful. I am so thankful and appreciative for all the women who came before us and paved the way for me to be able to say I can’t come to court because of my daughter’s medical appointment or my kids’ Halloween parade. I understand there was a time when women couldn’t do that, but that time has passed.

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

I was at the bar convention in Atlantic City. My kindergarten-aged-daughter’s gym teacher called to tell me she was sent to school (by her dad) wearing 2 different left feet shoes. The teachers and parents always know when I am traveling and away from home, as my kids’ hair is not neatly brushed or their clothes don’t match – but they are loved and that’s all that matters.

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 responded by starting my own firm. When I left, I was the top rainmaker, the top biller, and had the most successful practice group. I felt overlooked at times when I should not have been.

Would you recommend to other women lawyers who have children to consider starting a law firm – and what advice would you give them?! You need to have a strong stomach, a large village of friends, a significant line of credit, and then I say go for it. Surround yourself with an amazing team. Have no weak links in your chain. Invest in yourself. Take control of your future. Develop a niche and then market, market, market that niche. You can’t fake passion or compassion so chose a niche they you are passionate about and become the absolute best in that area. Write about it. Blog about it. Lecture about it. Mentor about it. Be a good adversary and colleague. Be kind to the other lawyers in your field.

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

I don’t cook so the best I could do is give you the recipe for ice 🙂 

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