Welcome to MyShingle’s continuing series celebrating Woman-Owned and Mom-Owned Law Firms. This profile features Genoveva Meza Talbott who owns a mediation-focused family law and estate planning practice in Claremont, California.
What is your name?
Genoveva Meza Talbott
Law School year of graduation.
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm.
Meza Talbott Law
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer.
I have worked in law firms during college and law school. After law school graduation, I went into private practice working at a high-end, celebrity divorce firm for about 9 years before opening my first firm with a colleague in 2010. It was a successful, boutique family law firm that gave us both what we needed at the time – great income and added flexibility for our families. However, it was mainly a litigation practice and after 8 years, we both decided we wanted a lifestyle change. We dissolved our partnership in 2018.
When did you start your firm?
Why did you decide to start your own law firm?
I opened this firm as a solo with the goal of building a business that provided me and my family with a non-litigation lifestyle. And, after more than 15 years seeing how destructive litigation is for families, my mission was to provide much-needed legal services aimed at helping people plan and stay out of court.
What was the reaction you received from family, friends, colleagues, law school classmates, judges, etc…when you announced your decision to launch?
The support in 2010 and in 2019 was fantastic. I’ve never struggled to get clients in the door. To this day, most of my clients are referrals from friends, family, colleagues, and former clients.
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on?
Family law and estates. For family law, we focus exclusively on private family law mediations, prenuptial/postnuptial agreements and general family law consulting. I have added an estate planning practice because I was absolutely sure that it would benefit my clients and would be a great compliment to my family law experience and practice.
What size is your firm?
1 attorney, 4 staff.
Do you practice full time or part time?
The goal is part-time! Some weeks I work more…
What makes your law firm unique and different from any other law firm in the world?
Me – I am an immigrant, 3rd generation lawyer, daughter to a single mother, wife and mother and trilingual. I am my own special sauce
How many children do you have and what ages are they?
A have an 8 year old boy and 13 year old girl.
Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how?
Absolutely! The main reason I opened my first firm in 2010 was because my daughter was 2 years old and I wanted to spend more time with her while continuing to practice law. I knew the best way was to create a law firm that could make this possible. Best decision I ever made for my children and family.
If you are married/living in a committed relationship with a partner, 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 my biggest cheerleader from the start. Not only did he support my idea of hanging my own shingle, but he has stepped up tremendously as a partner these last 12 years with household and parenting responsibilities. While our marriage has always been strong, I sincerely believe that my owning a business has added to our marriage because he is even more proud of me and it shows. As a mother, owning my firm has not only given me control of my schedule, but it has given my children an example of what owning a successful business can look like. My children too are proud of me and value what I do. That’s priceless.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance?
The biggest con is that there may be no one around to keep our workaholic tendencies in check!
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint?
None if you are willing to be an entrepreneur. Sky’s the limit. Its’ definitely a con if you just want to lawyer because you can’t do that as an owner.
In your opinion, has the pandemic changed your colleagues’ attitudes towards parents – particularly moms – in the workforce?
I don’t know about colleagues yet….But, I think the pandemic has definitely changed the public’s attitude toward parents. Definitely more accepting of our duality.
Please share a parenting mishap or embarrassing kid moment that another parent who practices can relate to
My kid’s earphones connecting to a client call!
Please share a story about an opponent or colleague who grossly underestimated you (whether due to youth, limited experience or just being a woman or parent) or an awesome victory that you achieved
In my first year of practice, I was forcefully kicked out of the courtroom by bailiff’s TWICE because they couldn’t believe that I was an attorney. Because both times court was in session, I couldn’t say much as they escorted me out of the jury box where all other attorneys sat. Even after practicing 10+ years, if I showed up to court with a white client, court staff always assumed they were the attorney…I have too many similar stories to count. But being underestimated as a lawyer, that happened regularly while litigating and it was the sweetest reward when I ALWAYS came out on top. While it enraged it, I also knew it ended up being an advantage to be grossly underestimated as a lawyer.
In your view, what role does law firm ownership by mom lawyers play in advancing gender equality in the legal profession?
Women lawyers still only make up about 38% of the legal profession with lawyers of color consisting of about 14%. If we break it down further, the numbers are dismal. So, law firm ownership by mothers plays a huge role in increasing those dismal numbers. I think that future or new female lawyers benefit greatly from seeing successful female law firm owners with families. If we can do it, so can they! We don’t have to conform to the archaic model of what a lawyer or law firm owner looks like. Our profession without a doubt continues to be male dominated, but we can change that by “owning” it (pun intended). Our female colleagues and clients will reap the rewards.
Let’s pay it forward – share your best advice or most powerful lesson learned with other woman mom lawyers who may be thinking about starting a firm or have started a firm but are going through a rough patch.
Set boundaries from the start. Otherwise, this profession and business can take and take until you work for it rather than the other way around. If you haven’t already, it’s never too late to start.