Family Law Practice and Family Life: Finding Balance
I often reflect these days on my own ways of balancing my family law practice here in Howard County, Maryland with being a new mom. Balance is a word that feels elusive, given the demands of private family law practice which I began in August 2008, along with a husband, young son, and dog. But I am and have been family-focused and remain confident that the busyness of my life is what helps my clients the most.
Balancing my family life with my family law practice
One of the things a busy family law practice does to my life is making me focus on what matters most. My health, meaningful family moments, staying fit, and living local – especially when it comes to giving back to my community. For example, I am putting together and speaking at the Ellicott City Miller Branch library at the end of April. It is a free adult education class (hope to see you there). I am also co-chair of the Family Law Section of the Howard County Bar Association, and we will be having a program for the family law section in May.
While involved in these efforts, I was recently interviewed in Voyage Baltimore. It brought me back to my journey and I thought today, I would share a little. Perhaps it will reassure you that any path we take is not necessarily easy, but it can be rewarding. You may be, as many clients are, wondering how to go from where you are now to being divorced or figuring out the best custody arrangement, or child support modification, etc.. Everything has steps and here is some of my story which I hope serves to inspire you to find the courage on your difficult journey. Even if while you ‘go for it’, balance feels out of reach.
Start with a goal.
I always wanted to litigate. I paid for law school (University of Baltimore, School of Law, graduated Magna Cum Laude Class of 2006) on my own – yes, I took out student loans. After law school, I clerked for a Judge on the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. Once I graduated and completed my clerkship, I realized just how much I had to start paying back in student loans. My Judge suggested family to me. I had helped draft most of the family law appellate decisions, he knew I wanted to litigate and he knew I liked working with all different types of people. So, I also applied to local law firms’ family law departments, and the rest is history. I have been doing solely family law since January 2010. Perhaps you have a goal in mind as well – what is it?
Use that kick in the pants to make big decisions.
Why did I start my own firm? I practiced family law for a long time before I got married and had a child. In fact, I found out I was pregnant in March 2020 (right when the pandemic was hitting us). I was working for a small boutique firm with offices in Annapolis and Columbia, MD. After the pandemic hit, she decided, in June 2020, to retire and close her firm. That left me, and two other lawyers, in a tough position. At that point, colleagues had been telling me to go out on my own for a while and after a lot of tears and panic, I decided that it was the kick in the pants that I needed to open my own law firm. Maybe you need a nudge or some guidance to make a huge step too.
Sometimes opportunity arises out of necessity.
So, approximately 6 -weeks after she told us she was closing the firm by December 2020, I had opened my own law firm. All of my clients came with me, and I was off and running at 6 months pregnant. I honestly don’t know how I did it, because I was also simultaneously planning a small October 2020 wedding. Then, in the Spring of 2021, I sold my townhouse, and my husband and I bought our house in Ellicott City, moving with a 6-month-old (if you can avoid it, do). I literally jammed a wedding, having a baby, starting a business, selling my home, and buying a house all into about one year. Anyways, back to the opening of my firm: It wasn’t glamorous, rather, initially a product of necessity. But because I chose this route, I was able to stay home on Fridays until my son turned 9 months old. I have attended every single pediatrician appointment. I don’t miss his bath or bedtimes. And I love it. While it is very stressful running your own business, it has allowed me to have so much more time to watch my son grow and be therefore him, and so much more flexibility. I understand the importance of sacrifice for family. You may also be stressed, but it does not have to prevent you from taking a next step.
Know there may be pain points.
Any path, including being a family attorney can be hard and you may want to quit. In fact, for me, it can be challenging to leave the courtroom behind at night. Almost every weekday, I wrap up work around 300pm, so I can go to the gym for the 4:30pm CrossFit class (it is the only class that works with my schedule). I rush home, get home while my son is eating dinner with my husband, finish dinner with them, watch him run around and play with the dog and us, do bath time, get him into bed, and then I come back downstairs to my office to work. It’s a lot. I am often exhausted. While I am most often in Howard County Circuit Court and Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, I also practice in Baltimore County, Montgomery County and Carroll County. This is what I must do for now. It may be easier to look at the obstacles but finding ways to work around them may be the better option.
Seek out a silver lining
Other than my office, work brings me to the local circuit courthouses and lawyers’ offices. But with Covid, everything was virtual for a long time. And to be honest, I think a lot of things may stay virtual. It saves clients a lot of money – and I’ve adapted the skills to attend virtual mediations, settlement conferences, scheduling conferences. Clients don’t have to pay lawyers to travel, clients can stay put and that provides convenience and flexibility in scheduling for clients. Anyway, while the new norm balance includes being here and there and online, I try to enjoy some pleasures. I am a huge coffee lover and frequent my local Starbucks – love my oat milk lattes. There is also a wonderful local coffee place near my office, named Decadent (in Maple Lawn neighborhood, in Fulton, MD). To clear my head, with my very little free time, I also go to my CrossFit gym, and I read. I love books. I devour them. My husband jokes that I am a speed reader. I need to get to the local library more because buying books makes no sense considering the speed at which I read. A clear head is important.
I often tell my clients – do not pay me $20,000 to fight over $20,000 as that makes no financial sense for you and litigation is never best for families. It is stressful, emotional, and once two parents step into a courtroom and testify against each other, and then must co-parent, it is a whole new ballgame. I tell people – your kids will benefit from YOU reaching an agreement as to what is best for your family. Don’t let a judge, a stranger, decide what is best for you and your family.
Need some help navigating a prenuptial, a postnuptial, alimony, child custody, child support, divorce, or any other family law practice area I specialize in? Please reach out. By the way, we have a NEW phone number: (443) 583-0405.