As an unofficial expert in the field of matrimony, I have come to believe that I, unlike many of my clients, am good at being married. I should know – I have two spouses. One is my husband, whom I met on my first day of college and have been married to for 28 years. I spend evenings, weekends, and vacations with him. We’ve raised two children together, with all of the love and commitment that entails. The other is my law partner, Joni, with whom I’ve been practicing for 20 years. I spend my days with her. We have built a law firm together, which also entails an awful lot of love and commitment. Throughout the years we’ve added many “children” – associates, support staff, a new partner, and scores of law students and baby lawyers whom we train and mentor and generally fuss over and then proudly send out into the world to fight the good fight.
A business partnership is so much like a marriage. Joni and I have been through times of prosperity and times of great financial stress, we’ve mourned a beloved paralegal lost to AIDS, and we’ve rocked our employees’ babies in our arms. We’ve moved to different (and bigger) offices over the years, creating a space and a culture we want to live and work in. My husband had the opposite experience of having a business partnership go sour and it was just like a divorce. The hurt, the anger, the recriminations, the endless negotiations – it was all so familiar to me, and he so needed to get out.
So what is it that makes some people good at a partnership, personal or professional? I think being easy going is a really huge piece of it, being comfortable letting the other person make decisions even if they’re not exactly what you would have decided yourself. And then there’s money. So many of my divorce clients tell me that their marriages broke up over disputes about money (far more than disputes about sex, by the way.) About how to spend it, how to manage it, and when to borrow it. Since I can count on one hand the total number of arguments I’ve had with both my spouses about money in my collective 48 years of marriage to them, that’s probably the key.
In the last few years, I’ve added spouse number three, Megan, Joni and my third partner. So far so good with her as well. Think I’ll skip that model on the home front, though.