For many people, running a small business also means running a family business—and this includes attorneys who start firms. Perhaps your spouse or brother also happen to be a lawyer, and you decide to co-partner. Even if your significant other or family member isn’t a member of the bar, perhaps she has excellent administrative skills to run the office, could do some help on the marketing side or other non-legal aspects of the firm.
Whatever the case, running a law firm with a spouse or other family member can be either a blessing or a curse, and sometimes both. Let’s look at some of the plusses and minuses of doing so, followed by some helpful advice for overcoming the obstacles and running a successful family firm.
- Mutual understanding. With proper boundaries, working alongside someone who knows you that well can create great synergy in the office.
- Shared passion. A family member or spouse will likely care as much about the firm as you do, and as a result will be more committed to its success.
- Mutual encouragement. Everyone gets discouraged at some point or another. Running a firm with a family member often means you have a built-in source for a morale boost, when you might not have been so willing to ask for that from a non-relative employee or colleague.
- Potential for conflict. Family is…well…familiar. Occasionally this reality translates to strong differences of opinion, freely (and sometimes loudly) shared.
- Blurred boundaries. You might be co-equals at home, but this is not always the case in the office. If one person is in the role of “boss” in the office, family members sometimes forget to keep work and home separate.
- Sometimes living and working together means you spend no time apart from each other. If you don’t implement some healthy “breathing space,” your personal relationship could sustain damage even while the business blossoms.
Recognizing the pros and cons of relatives working together in a law firm, we’ll next look at constructive ways to make that new type of relationship successful.