Running a Law Firm with a Spouse or Close Family Member (Part 2)

If your spouse or another close family member plays an integral role in running your law firm with you—whether as a fellow attorney, a business manager or in another important role—you’re obviously walking a bit of a tightrope. On one hand, mixing business and family can prove highly successful and synergistic; on the other, it can devolve into a personal and professional nightmare. Let’s look at some ways to improve your chances of success.

Start with Honesty

Truth be told, family-business relationships aren’t a great fit for everyone. You don’t want your marriage or sibling relationship crumbling as a result of building your business, nor do you want your business to fail because you can’t respect each other’s boundaries. Thus, before getting too deeply involved, try spending time in meaningful conversation and honest self-reflection about your priorities.

In an article in Fast Company, leadership coach Lolly Daskal recommends asking yourselves four important questions:

  1. Do you share the same values?
  2. Is your marriage more important than your business?
  3. Will you continue to work on your personal relationship?
  4. If you were not married, would you still want to go into business together?

Daskal believes you should be able to answer “Yes” to all four of these questions before agreeing to work together.

Tips for Working Together Successfully

If you’ve decided to work on your law firm together, take proactive steps to preserve both your personal and professional relationships. The following tips should help:

  • Create some “personal space.” An article in S. News and World Report puts it best: “The forces of home and work may put you and your other half side-by-side from sun up to sun down. And a round-the-clock viewing of your other half could transform the one you love into the one you can’t escape.”

To reduce this risk, try working different shifts, taking separate days off once in a while, or even commuting separately. Make sure you each have room to breathe.

  • Define the authority structure. Are you true equal partners in the business, or is one of you the final decision maker? There’s no right or wrong answer, as long as you both understand and agree.

    In addition, consider delegating responsibilities for the firm according to each other’s strengths. Once the authority structure is clear, respect it.

  • Be realistic and flexible. You are going to butt heads at some point: Count on it. The question is, how will you resolve your differences when it happens? Additionally, as much as we advise you to separate personal and business, you’re likely to experience crossover—“bring work home.” Do it in a way that’s comfortable for both, and be willing to drop a work conversation if either of you needs a break.

Running a law firm with a close relative or spouse comes with unique challenges, but by addressing those challenges honestly and realistically, you can make it work to your advantage. For more advice and assistance in growing your law firm, give us a call at (888) 207-2869.

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