It’s a Family Affair: Juggling a Legal Practice and Raising a Family
With Father’s Day right around the corner, we at Martindale-Avvo are particularly interested in how attorneys approach unique challenges and opportunities that arise from balancing family responsibilities with the demands of running a business. We caught up with two attorneys who are both fathers and work alongside their families – Alex Johnson of Johnson & Johnson Law Firm (Yakima, WA) and Clay Culotta of Culotta & Culotta (New Albany, IN) – and asked, how do you do it?
Learning from their own fathers
Running a successful business while maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a challenge many professionals face. For both Alex Johnson and Clay Culotta, the responsibility of managing their respective law firms while prioritizing their families has been a journey shaped by their fathers’ influences.
Alex Johnson, son of Richard (“Dick”) Johnson, currently runs his father’s firm alongside his brother, Jeff and an administrative staff. His father, now passed, instilled in him and his siblings a strong work ethic and the impact of perseverance. He recalled his father’s dedication to coaching their sports teams while running the practice his sons now lead. “My dad was an enormous influence, from coaching us as kids to always being even tempered. In law, there are ups and downs, some areas of practice have bad months, and he was never reactionary. He was an exceptionally good lawyer and very well-prepared for every case.”
When Clay Culotta entered the field, he cited the same support from his father. “My dad never held me back from doing what I wanted to do,” he says. “He just told me to be the best attorney you can, and that’s the same thing I want for my kids.” Both of his children are now lawyers themselves, to which he says, “If they decided they wanted to do something different, I’d do as my dad did – encourage them to the best version of that new career they can be.”
Embracing the roles
Balancing the responsibilities of family and managing a business presents unique challenges and opportunities. Both Alex and Clay have embraced their roles as fathers and business owners, finding ways to prioritize their families while maintaining the success of their firms.
Alex, like his father, actively coaches his children’s sports teams and engages in family activities. He prioritizes leaving the office by 4pm to be with his family, and will prepare for the next day after dinner or later in the night to make sure he’s there for his kids. Recognizing the small window of time he has to be present in his children’s lives, Alex understands the importance of seizing those moments and creating a healthy work-life balance. Of course, they’re not perfect: “The laundry gets piled up or we’re getting takeout and flying by the seat of our pants,” he laughs. “The important part is that we spend time together.”
For Clay, starting his own law firm allowed him and his wife, Jennifer, also a lawyer and partner at Culotta & Culotta, to create schedules that accommodated their family’s needs. Juggling work and family, they would take their children to the office when they were young, allowing them to witness their parents’ dedication and work ethic.
The ability to create their own schedules contributed to a healthy balance, ensuring their children’s success while maintaining a thriving business. “When the kids were younger and involved in sports, I’d pick them up from school, take them to practice, and just bring a briefcase full of work, so I could be there but also take care of business.” Now both his children, grown adults themselves, practice law – one at Culotta & Culotta, and the other in the US Army.
Compromise and conflict
In the context of both business and family dynamics, conflicts can arise. The open line of communication between partners Jeff and Alex has played a pivotal role in preventing conflicts, while their complementary skills and shared vision have fostered a harmonious working relationship. Alex’s steady business with DUI cases and Jeff’s varied workload with personal injury cases allow them to navigate potential conflicts seamlessly. “We’re on the same page with the same perspective in life. Jeff coaches his kids’ teams like I do, and we have a very good, open line of communication. I realize how important it is to be with family, and how this is a unique situation in law firms. We have the same vision and priorities when it comes to family and the firm.”
Clay’s approach focuses on allowing his children to find their own paths within the legal profession. He recognizes their individual strengths and interests, encouraging them to excel in their chosen areas. By stepping back and giving his children space to grow, Clay ensures that conflicts are minimized, and each family member’s aspirations are respected. “I’m very fortunate. Looking back, we didn’t really have conflict between the family and the business.” Clay adds that even his dog, Teddy, gets to come into the office every day.
Tips for attorneys
Balancing a legal practice with the responsibilities of raising a family is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor. Attorneys who successfully navigate this path often demonstrate remarkable resilience, adaptability, and commitment. By embracing flexibility, mastering time management, leveraging technology, building a support network, and prioritizing self-care, attorneys can create a harmonious blend of professional and personal fulfillment. Ultimately, striking this delicate balance allows attorneys to excel in their legal careers while nurturing the bonds that matter most—those with their families.
If you’re a family firm, or if you simply want to achieve a healthier work-life balance, look into outsourcing your marketing and advertising efforts via Martindale-Avvo. We provide effective strategies that can help grow the business of your practice, maintain your reputation, or increase your digital presence. Check out our services page for more information.