After years of working for other law firms, family law attorney Kelley Spigel decided to start her own firm. Just two weeks ago, after four years of working at the law offices of Garland C. Hall, Spigel stepped out on her own.
Spigel, 30, attended Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and earned her bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston before returning home to study at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She is getting married next month, explaining that she “decided it would be smart to make all of the big life changes at once.”
How did you get into family law?
I really wanted to do criminal defense, but I ended up working in a family law clinic as a student attorney, and that’s where I learned the ropes of protective orders and divorce cases. At the time, the economy was terrible, so everyone was resorting to taking family law cases because that’s the only thing that wasn’t going away. No one was hiring private defense council, so I stuck with it from there.
An attorney I knew at the time had his own law firm and was ready to give it up. I said, “Why don’t you just hire me and see what happens?”
He was worried that he wouldn’t have enough cases and was worried that he wouldn’t be able to pay me, but I said, “Let’s just see what happens, no commitment. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.” Four years later, I literally just left his firm [Garland C. Hall] to start my own, so I am the proud new owner of the Law Office of Kelley Spigel.
What compelled you to start your own firm?
A year ago, I was back and forth about it. It made me a little bit nervous, and I was very happy at my job. It was very flexible, I made my own hours, I took the cases that I wanted. I felt like my own boss.
I was very lucky because [Garland] helped me, and once I told him I was leaving, he gave me contacts and advice. We had a great working relationship, which really helped me. I am so lucky that so many people have helped me. All of my clients came with me, so I ended up with a full case load. I have another colleague who I work with who is providing me with an empty office until I get on my feet. My clients are so excited about me starting my own firm.
What are your goals?
I don’t think I want a huge firm because I feel like you lose a little of your work-life balance, and I don’t want that, I feel like I’ve been so lucky in that aspect. I definitely want to grow but not too big. I would love for somebody that I really trust to join [my firm] who knows another area of law.
I want them to know a different area because family law is very exhausting. People really want you to come into their drama. Part of the job, really, is staying out of it, and that can be really hard. I don’t want to do just family law forever, although it will remain my area of expertise. I don’t know that I’ll ever want an office with more than five to 10 people, and I think I’ll stay in Anne Arundel County because I am so used to it. I think the hard part of this new firm is going to be the marketing.
In the legal field, particularly family law, people are so adversarial. I just think it’s really important for people to think about the future. You don’t know who is going to help you, so put out the niceness.