"You Ask...I Answer" - What Role Does A Spouse Play in Going Solo?
Question: Let me start by introducing myself to you. I am a paralegal student. I love your weblog and it has truly been a source of inspiration to me.
My husband is an attorney. I came to the United States as a student from India, completed my Masters in Computer Sciences, worked for roughly 2 years in the software industry until last fall and now I am enrolled in the paralegal program due to a keen interest in law and thanks to my husband's encouragement that I could potentially be a lawyer myself. We got married last year. He moved to my part of the country to be with me while I finish my paralegal degree, but now we intend to move back where he is from and hang a shingle. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and the idea of a solo practice is very appealing to me as well (my aunt in India has been a succesful solo practitioner for many years).
I am also currently doing some IT-related work as I finish my paralegal certificate program part-time. However we hope to be able to move in a couple of months and I am unsure and concerned as to what my role should be. I am trying to help my husband out as much as possible by helping set-up a website etc., for his firm, but I am afraid if I will hurt more than help by not having a steady job as he sets out on his own. My husband however wants me to help out and thinks that he will need all the help he can get from me. We do have some capital saved up to keep us going hopefully until his practice gains momentum.
I however would love to hear your 2 cents on what you think a spouse's role should be while setting up a solo practice.
Answer: This is a great question and I'm sure of interest to many. I will answer this scenario only, though, as it is unique but it will give others what to think about when considering the role of the spouse in this context.
So much turns on the level of support you feel you can offer your husband and how desirous he is of that support.
Most importantly, your husband wants your support and you want to support your husband. This is the crucial ingredient. Now you both need to determine what he means by support and decide if you can fill that role and if that role is right for you...and your marriage.
You both have an entrepreneurial spirit as he wants to start a solo practice and you love the idea of being an entrepreneur and maybe even a lawyer. Given you are newly married and you make no mention of children, you just have the two of you to take care of at a time in your life when you will be laying important foundations for your professional and personal growth AND have the time and energy and desire to do so.
These are very compelling arguments.
In addition, given your IT background and your paralegal background you will be actually contributing significantly in a tangible way to your husband's practice. Without your assistance, he may have to do the paralegal work himself thereby taking away from important marketing/networking duties or higher rate billable hours. In the alternative, he will have to hire a paralegal or administrative help, both which cost money.
When you do your cost/benefit analysis, any other type of job you take on will have to compensate for this expense.
From an emotional perspective, you have to decide if you can work well together; do you have the personality to work in away which allows him to thrive in his practice; do you want to eventually get your legal degree and become a partner? All these thoughts and ideas and goals must be clarified as they play a very important role in both your futures as a business partnership and a married couple. If you decide to have children how will this impact your working relationship?
In the final analysis, if everything else fits....from the description you provided, it might be very wise to devote your considerable talents and energies to helping the practice grow.
There are many successful husband and wife law firm partnerships as well as spouses who work within the law office of their lawyer-spouse. It turns on mutual goals and respect and the talents each one brings to the practice.
I know many of my readers are practicing with their spouses or have their spouses in their law offices. If you would like to help this reader and others with your experiences, please share.