Welcome to MyShingle’s series celebrating Woman-Owned and Mom-Owned Law Firms. This profile features Shelley Kier, special education/education law attorney in Connecticut.
What is your name?
Shelley Kier, Esq.
Law School attended and year of graduation.
The George Washington University Law School, 2011
Name, location(s) and URL of Law Firm.
Woodbridge, CT (Licensed in CT, NY, NJ)
Summarize your work experience, if any, prior to opening your firm. Both as a lawyer or prior to becoming a lawyer.
My 2007 work at the Boston Juvenile Court solidified my decision to pursue law. My experience grew to include: JLB Innocence Project, Black Legislative Caucus, House of Representatives, U.S. District Court of CT, Leeds Brown Law, P.C., GWU Law Human Rights clinic and Oxford University program, International Rights Advocates/Conrad & Scherer LLP, and Legal Advisor at the United Nations. I then spent six years as General Counsel for the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, and their school for children with disabilities. In 2019 I began my firm to receive education case referrals from the Juvenile Court.
When did you start your firm?
2019 but just recently started to take on private pay clients.
Why did you decide to start your own law firm?
I left my General Counsel position due to relocation, starting my own firm wasn’t initially part of my plan. However, it quickly became the obvious next step for me in my career. My unique viewpoints and creativity have the perfect outlet in helping my clients.
What was the reaction you received from family, friends, colleagues, law school classmates, judges, etc…when you announced your decision to launch?
Very supportive! Also, some were seriously concerned that I would give away my services for free just to help. Still a concern…
What practice areas does your firm concentrate on?
Special Education/Education Law and General Counsel
What size is your firm?
Do you practice full time or part time?
What makes your law firm unique and different from any other law firm in the world?
Me! Love me or hate me, I’m certainly one of a kind. I care too much, and am far too honest. Due to my wide variety of experience, when I look at an issue, I can see solutions and creative ideas where others may not. My empathy results in zealous representation, a tailored approach, and a tendency to continue thinking up ideas for cases well beyond the hours I charge.
How many children do you have and what ages are they?
Two children, 1 & 3 years old.
Has becoming a mom influenced your decision to start or continue to operate your own law firm? If so, how?
Absolutely! Setting an example for my children is key. If I’m not with my munchkins, I need to focus my energies on being the best lawyer I can, to help others as much as possible. As I tell my kids often, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
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 is an attorney as well. So having him around to talk things through is always helpful! Thank goodness for spousal privilege.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership as a mom with respect to attaining work-life balance?
Pros: The ability to set my own limits with regard to what cases I take, and how many cases. And the freedom to be myself! Exclamation marks and all. An old supervisor of mine was not a fan of exclamation marks. I love law, and building relationships, so sometimes the enthusiasm is hard to contain.
Cons: For me, starting my firm meant no more maternity leave. I had it with my first, but not with my second. I chose to forgo a paycheck in order to take the time off that I needed, but it was a real financial hit.
What are the pros and cons of law firm ownership from a professional standpoint?
Pros: You’re the boss, set your own limits, take the cases you want, expand your practice the way you want, make your own hours.
Cons: It can be a bit lonely when it’s just you. And there’s a lot involved that’s not actually the practice of law. Ofcourse, your goal may be to get to the point where you’re hiring other people to do things like answering the phone, or social media. But, in the beginning, it’s often all you, doing things law school didn’t train us for! It’s different for each person, but my biggest struggle is self promotion. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I know it’s integral to my success.
In your opinion, has the pandemic changed your colleagues’ attitudes towards parents – particularly moms – in the workforce?
I have found my colleges delightfully supportive! Women entrepreneurship is on the rise, and people are excited to make connections.
Please share a parenting mishap or embarrassing kid moment that another parent who practices can relate to
While on zoom for a hearing:
“Excuse me for one moment, an urgent matter just came across my desk.”
(place on mute and turn off video)
“My dear Munchkin, please get off Mommy’s desk!”
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
After taking a very creative strategy for a case, I heard my favorite line from a hearing officer “I have never done this before but..” ultimately laying out a plan that resulted in my client going straight back to school where he belonged!
In your view, what role does law firm ownership by mom lawyers play in advancing gender equality in the legal profession?
The more Moms that run law firms, the more Mom friendly the field will become.
“Young girls [and attorneys!] need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.” Sally Ride
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.
Get reviews from day one! I never asked for reviews, because I was solely focused on the cases as they came in. I finally put myself up on google recently, and am starting from nothing unnecessarily.
Also, feel free to ask everyone for advice, then pick and choose which advice you want to follow. Because, just like being Mom, you’re the boss!