Family-Run Firms
California Lawyer

Family-Run Firms

April 2013

Working closely with relatives can be tricky, particularly if you’re starting a new business together. Before you take that leap with your closest of kin, read what lawyers at small, family-run firms have to say.

- Corren & Corren, Stockton. Corren & Corren is truly a family operation. Craig L. Corren and his son Adam B. Corren are the partners, and Craig's wife Josephine Corren works with them as well. Other extended family members have also held jobs at the general civil practice firm.

Would you recommend working with family to everyone?

Craig Corren: I love working with family - you know you can trust them. I know them well, so I know what to expect.

Adam Corren: Still, I don't think it's for everybody. I've talked to other lawyers who have tried to work with family, and it doesn't make sense. I think it's important not to force the issue. For Dad and myself, from the beginning I realized it was going to work, and it always has worked. And I think that's because I've always understood that our most important relationship is as father and son. I've always considered him a father first, a mentor second.

- J. Lewis & Associates, Riverside. Jonathan and Robyn Lewis are husband and wife, and partners in their personal injury firm.

What's your advice for working with a spouse at a small firm?

Robyn Lewis: You have to really think about whether you have the type of relationship where you can accept criticism. We knew we did, because we met at work. I think the rewards are great, working with a spouse. We have triplets now, and one of us can be in the office while one of us works remotely from home. But again, you really have to make sure that your relationship is one that can withstand constructive criticism. Sometimes, for example, he'll get very excited about [taking] a case, and I'll have to say no. And we may disagree, but at the end of the day it's a partnership and we come to a mutual decision. You also have to make sure you're comfortable with the fact that your whole livelihood is tied up in one place.

- Brigham Law Office, Ukiah. Thomas Brigham and Brooke Brigham are a father-and-daughter team who practice mostly civil law.

What's it like, working with your father?

Brooke Brigham: I really enjoy it. I think at first, I wondered if people looked at me as a lawyer in her own right, or if they just thought of me as Tom Brigham's daughter. But as time goes on and you establish yourself, you feel that less and less.

Going from solo to working with my dad, I realized how valuable it is to have a mentor. When I was out on my own, I did seek out mentors - I was never afraid to ask other people questions or consult with them. But it makes a huge difference when it's a family member. He's much more invested in spending time teaching me and explaining things to me than anyone else. We also just get along very well - we have similar personalities and styles. In other ways, we complement each other, since we're of different generations and different genders. It helps to have a different perspective most of the time.

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