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Like mother, not so much like daughter. At the Milwaukee law firm Pitts & Pitts, clients know whether to ask for the mother or the daughter, depending on what sort of representation they are looking for. If they want a pit bull, they ask for the daughter, Trinette. If they want compassion and someone to hold their hand, they ask for the mother, Cristina. It’s this dynamic that has kept the mother-daughter personal injury and family law firm in business for the past 22 years. The Pitts are one example of family members opening a law practice together. According to information provided by the Family Firm Institute, there are 24 million family-owned businesses in the United States, 22 million of which are partnerships such as law firms. (The information was collected in 2000 based on tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service.) According to Priscilla M. Cale, director of the University of Connecticut’s Family Business Program, more family-run law firms are developing because more people have access to education. In the past, most family-run businesses were in manufacturing, where there was no need for a degree. Not the ‘idiot son’ Dan Flanzig of the Mineola, N.Y., personal injury firm, Flanzig & Flanzig, works with his older sister, Cathy Flanzig. Before going out on their own, the siblings used to practice law with their father and uncle at Joachim & Flanzig. The firm dissolved in 2001. Dan Flanzig said when he began working at his father’s firm, he had to overcome the challenge of other lawyers at the firm thinking he was favored. “I had to prove myself, that I wasn’t just going to be the idiot son,” he said. A successful family-operated business is one that can, at critical times, forget that they are related to each other, said David Javitch, president of Javitch Associates, an organizational and consulting firm in Newton, Mass. “You can’t say ‘You are always nasty to me’ or ‘You are just picking on me, you don’t treat anyone else that way,’ ” he said. If personal issues can be avoided, benefits can accrue from working with family members. Steve Gardner, a Tampa, Fla., lawyer who started a real estate firm with his son, Truett Gardner, finds the largest benefit is spending more time with his son and getting to pass on some of his life experiences. Steve Gardner practiced law with his father-in-law, Truett Ott, 35 years ago and learned from him how to “conduct his affairs with integrity.” For Ann Di Maria Cone of Palo Alto, Calif.’s Di Maria & Cone, the benefit of working with her husband is consistently having another legal opinion on how to approach each case at her disposal. “It’s all business at the office, but we still talk about our cases at home,” she said. “We pick each other’s brains and can see how another attorney would look at the issue.” The firm, which focuses on family law, started when Di Maria Cone went into practice with her father in 1979. The firm was looking for a new attorney, and after receiving hundreds of resumes, the only resume to stand out was Steve Cone’s, Di Maria Cone said. The two were married nine months later. Di Maria Cone heard from friends that working with her spouse could end horribly. But Cale said that spouses who work together can empathize with each other’s stress and they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But the possibility of a bitter dissolution is always a potential concern. Dan and Cathy Flanzig know this firsthand. Their father and uncle’s 47-year-old firm closed due to a variety of issues, including differing visions for the firm, said Dan Flanzig. Because of those issues, there wasn’t a pleasant atmosphere at the office for the lawyers or the staff, he said. Their uncle, Ed Joachim, has since started the firm Joachim, Frommer Cerrato & Levine in Mineola, N.Y. While he had many good years working with his brother-in-law, Sheldon Flanzig, he said that, in general, it is better not dealing with family in business. “But it all depends upon the relative,” he said.

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