Cheryl (Cheryl K. Black, Esq.) and I met while in college at UC Davis. We both had internships in, you guessed it, a law office in Sacramento. We began dating.
After graduation from college, we each started law school – I went to Southwestern in LA and Cheryl went to Hastings. We spent that first year traveling back and forth between LA and San Francisco as time and budget permitted (there was a 6:00 am Pan Am flight, $10, including breakfast, LAX-SFO). I transferred to Hastings at the beginning of second year. We moved in to a little house in El Cerrito.
We graduated together from Hastings on May 17th, 1980. During graduation, it was announced that the next day, May 18th, 1980, we would be married! We got a nice round of applause and in honor of our wedding, Mt. St. Helens, a place we had camped the August before, blew its top!
The summer of 1980 we spent in bar review, commuting to Boalt Hall on a Honda 350. We took the July bar together, and thank G-d, both passed.
In March 1981, we hung out a shingle. Literally. With the last of our student loans, we rented a house on the Richmond/El Cerrito border, where now is located the Starbucks parking lot. We practiced together there until 1984, when Steve Easton became a juvenile referee and I took over his practice on San Pablo Avenue. Again, we shared office space – it was pretty cramped but we did it.
In September 1987, with our law school friend, Barbara Lanier, we formed Black, Brown & Lanier, A Professional Association. In 1992 we took in an associate, Edith Jackson, and after some years Edith became a partner and we changed the firm name to Black, Brown, Lanier & Jackson, and continued to practice together until 2005 when Cheryl decided that she didn’t want to practice law anymore, and retired (she has since gone back to work as a kindergarten teacher – parallels?). In 2006, I relocated to Hilltop as a solo where I have been ever since, engaged in the practice of probate, trust and estate law.
How did we do it? I’m not sure, except for the following:
- We did not share cases - I handled my cases and she handled hers. Early in our career we tried to handle a case jointly and it was a major disaster, so we figured that part out quick.
- We stayed flexible. Cheryl assumed most of the burden of raising our two sons and at times spent a little less time in the office, and I a little more.
- We spoke a common language. We complained about the same things, we talked about our cases (all covered by the privilege, I will point out), we didn’t have any hard and fast rules about taking or not taking work home.
- We remained, and remain to this day, best friends (some might say she’s my only friend!). We were and are committed to our marriage and I look forward to growing old with her.
One other factor that was frankly huge in our successful balance of working, living and raising a family together was the fact that our home, our business, and our kids’ schools were all within a 2.2 mile radius. Having no commute was a major factor in our success.
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