Happy Father's Day: The Best Parenting Stories From Lawyer Dads

Writing a contract for dessert after dinner. Winning a "favorable ruling" from the softball umpire. Requesting a trial when your two-and-a-half-year-old dumps sunscreen on the couch.

These are a few of the stories we heard from lawyer dads when we asked them about lawyering while parenting.

They also told us it means telling work, "No, that doesn't work for me," at times and learning to listen to your kids like you'd listen to a client. But above all else, their smiles in the photos they shared told us how much they love being dads.

Happy Father's Day to all the lawyer dads.

01.

01.

Daniel Bojorquez, law student at Stanford Law School

"One benefit of Zoom has been the convenience of introducing my child to my professors. Once, I logged in early to my Crim Pro class, and asked the professor to adjudicate my son's case. The crime: purposefully dumping a bottle of sunscreen lotion on the couch. The plea: good boy. His argument that it was "fun" and made him "happy" seemed to convince my professor, and he won despite going pro se. On appeal, he was placed in the corner by judge mommy."


02.

02.

Collie James, partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

"After losing my daughter to cancer, I made a promise that if I was given the gift of being a daddy again, I would prioritize my time with my family above all other things. Ten years later, I am blessed with two sons — 8 and 7 years old — and some of our most treasured moments have developed through coaching their sports teams. … Our profession demands so much of us — and I have been lucky to have wonderful career experiences — but those inescapable demands require us to employ the same commitment to carving out the moments that ensure our lives and the lives of families and friends remain an equal priority. It often takes scheduling creativity, it sometimes requires sacrifice, and every once in a while, it means saying, 'No, that doesn't work for me.' Those are very hard words to say for any lawyer. But I have found that the things that make me better as 'Coach Collie' — patience, consistency, good humor in the face of disaster — also make me a better lawyer, colleague, and mentor. I just don't use a whistle to make my point in the office or the courtroom."

03.

Joel Hughes, attorney at Law Office of Kenneth Berger

"My daughter, Holland, is in a dance class and her recital was fast approaching. Although a very precocious and clever girl, Holland displayed signs of stage fright in recent months. Similar to trial seminars, I had her perform for anyone and everyone she could. If we were at a restaurant, she would show a family member her plie (knee bend). If we were at church, she would make sure the pastor saw her saute (jump) before we left. Flash forward to the recital, she called on her previous experiences performing in public and her stage fright was gone."

03.

04.

04.

Brian Koch, partner at Holland & Knight LLP

"Although a litigator by trade, I'm often trying to settle disputes when the girls start to complain about one another. I ask questions to get my daughters to understand the point of view of others. At the dinner table, I try to avoid leading questions so I get more than one word answers. However, I sometimes find myself on the opposite side, as the girls have figured out how to negotiate with dad."


05.

05.

Daniel Epstein, partner at Epstein Ostrove LLC

"Harry started to ask what I do at the office when he was two. First, being a new dad, I said I fight for people who need my help. I quickly learned that telling him that I fight wasn't helpful. I changed my job description to: I try to make sure people are treated fairly. Words are important. He's learned the lesson well, advocating for more TV time with his little sister, Celia (whose bedtime is earlier than his.) 'Daddy,' he reminds me, 'I'm making sure she's treated fairly."


06.

07.

06.

Dale Lang, attorney at Levi Law Group

"My daughters, now grown, learned quickly that my lie detector skills were pretty good after hundreds of depositions. They also accused me of cross-examining them on a regular basis. What resonated most with them is they learned from a young age that 'words mean things.' It made them better writers and thinkers. They know what they think, why they think it, and are able to defend their positions. Unfortunately, one of their positions is that they didn't want to be lawyers."

07.

David Monteiro, partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

"My wife, Michelle, and I are both practicing lawyers — we had the first of our five wonderful daughters when we were both still in law school. The only way I have ever known how to practice law is as a father. But I got off to a very important start: I stayed home with my oldest daughter until she was six months old while I studied for the bar exam. I held her in my left arm while handwriting my notes — listening to the bar classes on the speakers — with my right. Having that time with her firmly established me as both a lawyer and a father — not balancing the two, just both. … Being a parent-lawyer, not a lawyer trying to be a parent or a parent trying to be a lawyer, is at the heart of who I am."

08.

09.

08.

Brad Lanford, attorney at Law Office of Kenneth Berger

"I coach my daughter's travel softball team and as a pitcher she is often unimpressed with the umpire's strike zone. At a tournament last year, I explained to her the importance of picking and choosing your battles with the umpire in the hopes of ultimately obtaining a favorable ruling when you really need it. If you complain too often, the umpire will ignore you and will not take you seriously when there is a legitimate complaint ... much like with a trial judge! Lo and behold, we get the makeup call late in the championship game. Lesson learned!"

09.

Ernest Greer, co-president of Greenberg Traurig LLP

"A good lawyer must have or develop great listening skills. We are trained to diagnose problems and offer solutions. Many times, the winning is in the listening. This has helped me as a father to two amazing young women who are smart, independent, but yet, know when to seek counsel but do make their own decisions. Listening has helped me really get to know them as people, beyond the typical father-daughter relationship. Because I learned to listen, I can best help them get to their win. Along with a good education, a winning attitude is a great precursor to success."

10.

11.

10.

Rob Roy Smith, partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

"My daughter, who is eight and the product of two lawyers, presented me with a contract a few weeks ago. She asked me to sign the contract agreeing that she could have dessert that night for dinner. I refused, explaining that every contract needs consideration, and that she had offered me nothing in exchange. We quickly reached agreement on a kiss for dessert. A more than fair compromise, and an important life lesson!"

11.

David Aylor, founder of the David Aylor Law Offices

"My son borrowed my car recently to go to work. It was his first day at a new job. His car was in the shop, and I allowed him to take mine. ... The good news is he made it on time and had a great day. The bad news is he tends to drive too close to cars parked on the street. My car is a lot wider than his and this did not turn out well for my passenger side mirror. … As judge, jury and dad, I determined he was guilty of careless operation, his fine being extra chores around the house. And of course 'the court' also ordered full restitution for the broken side mirror, funds coming from his new job!"

12.

Jim A. Ballerano Jr., partner at Day Pitney LLP

"When our boys were 3 and 6, the younger one was grounded. … [The] consequence was that he was prohibited from riding his bicycle for one week. From my home office I spied him riding a bike. Walking out our front door to reprimand him, I was met by our older son, who, standing with his arms crossed, simply stated: 'Dad, you said he could not ride his bicycle. You said nothing about riding mine!' I have yet to win an argument with them."

12.

13.

14.

13.

Jim Bannister, partner at Bannister Wyatt & Stalvey LLC

"One of my daughters told me that she had brushed her teeth before bed. She was about 9 years old. After feeling her toothbrush, I knew it was dry. I told her about it and she said she always dries off her toothbrush. I asked her why her sink wasn't wet. She told me that she always wiped out her sink. … The next night I asked her the same question. She told me, truthfully this time, that she had brushed her teeth. I felt the toothbrush. It was wet and so was the sink. I reminded her that she said she always dried her toothbrush off and wiped out the sink. I made her dry her toothbrush and sink. I kept doing this for about a week. She finally admitted she had lied to me and asked if she could quit drying off her toothbrush and wiping out her sink. She never forgot it."

14.

Michael Jeffcoat, founder of the Jeffcoat Firm Injury Lawyers

"Nothing is more important to me than my role as a father, but I'm always thinking like a lawyer. Most lawyers will tell new clients that they should tell them everything about their situation — the good, the bad and the ugly. That approach has come in very handy with my kids when discussing the normal challenges that inevitably come along. I can't fully help if I don't have a really good picture of what's happening. That's how we handle things together. It works mostly because they know I'm fully there for them whenever they need me."

Writing a contract for dessert after dinner. Winning a "favorable ruling" from the softball umpire. Asking a law professor to adjudicate a two-and-a-half-year-old's reason for dumping sunscreen on the couch. Requesting a trial when your two-and-a-half-year-old dumps sunscreen on the couch.

These are a few of the stories we heard from lawyer dads when we asked them about lawyering while parenting.

They also told us it means telling work, "No, that doesn't work for me," at times and learning to listen to your kids like you'd listen to a client. But above all else, their smiles in the photos they shared told us how much they love being dads.

Happy Father's Day to all the lawyer dads.

Daniel Bojorquez, law student at Stanford Law School
"One benefit of Zoom has been the convenience of introducing my child to my professors. Once, I logged in early to my Crim Pro class, and asked the professor to adjudicate my son's case. The crime: purposefully dumping a bottle of sunscreen lotion on the couch. The plea: good boy. His argument that it was "fun" and made him "happy" seemed to convince my professor, and he won despite going pro se. On appeal, he was placed in the corner by judge mommy."


Collie James, partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP
"After losing my daughter to cancer, I made a promise that if I was given the gift of being a daddy again, I would prioritize my time with my family above all other things. Ten years later, I am blessed with two sons — 8 and 7 years old — and some of our most treasured moments have developed through coaching their sports teams. … Our profession demands so much of us — and I have been lucky to have wonderful career experiences — but those inescapable demands require us to employ the same commitment to carving out the moments that ensure our lives and the lives of families and friends remain an equal priority. It often takes scheduling creativity, it sometimes requires sacrifice, and every once in a while, it means saying, 'No, that doesn't work for me.' Those are very hard words to say for any lawyer. But I have found that the things that make me better as 'Coach Collie' — patience, consistency, good humor in the face of disaster — also make me a better lawyer, colleague, and mentor. I just don't use a whistle to make my point in the office or the courtroom."


Joel Hughes, attorney at Law Office of Kenneth Berger
"My daughter, Holland, is in a dance class and her recital was fast approaching. Although a very precocious and clever girl, Holland displayed signs of stage fright in recent months. Similar to trial seminars, I had her perform for anyone and everyone she could. If we were at a restaurant, she would show a family member her plie (knee bend). If we were at church, she would make sure the pastor saw her saute (jump) before we left. Flash forward to the recital, she called on her previous experiences performing in public and her stage fright was gone."


Brian Koch, partner at Holland & Knight LLP
"Although a litigator by trade, I'm often trying to settle disputes when the girls start to complain about one another. I ask questions to get my daughters to understand the point of view of others. At the dinner table, I try to avoid leading questions so I get more than one word answers. However, I sometimes find myself on the opposite side, as the girls have figured out how to negotiate with dad."


Daniel Epstein, partner at Epstein Ostrove LLC
"Harry started to ask what I do at the office when he was two. First, being a new dad, I said I fight for people who need my help. I quickly learned that telling him that I fight wasn't helpful. I changed my job description to: I try to make sure people are treated fairly. Words are important. He's learned the lesson well, advocating for more TV time with his little sister, Celia (whose bedtime is earlier than his.) 'Daddy,' he reminds me, 'I'm making sure she's treated fairly."


Dale Lang, attorney at Levi Law Group
"My daughters, now grown, learned quickly that my lie detector skills were pretty good after hundreds of depositions. They also accused me of cross-examining them on a regular basis. What resonated most with them is they learned from a young age that 'words mean things.' It made them better writers and thinkers. They know what they think, why they think it, and are able to defend their positions. Unfortunately, one of their positions is that they didn't want to be lawyers."


David Monteiro, partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP
"My wife, Michelle, and I are both practicing lawyers — we had the first of our five wonderful daughters when we were both still in law school. The only way I have ever known how to practice law is as a father. But I got off to a very important start: I stayed home with my oldest daughter until she was six months old while I studied for the bar exam. I held her in my left arm while handwriting my notes — listening to the bar classes on the speakers — with my right. Having that time with her firmly established me as both a lawyer and a father — not balancing the two, just both. … Being a parent-lawyer, not a lawyer trying to be a parent or a parent trying to be a lawyer, is at the heart of who I am."


Brad Lanford, attorney at Law Office of Kenneth Berger
"I coach my daughter's travel softball team and as a pitcher she is often unimpressed with the umpire's strike zone. At a tournament last year, I explained to her the importance of picking and choosing your battles with the umpire in the hopes of ultimately obtaining a favorable ruling when you really need it. If you complain too often, the umpire will ignore you and will not take you seriously when there is a legitimate complaint ... much like with a trial judge! Lo and behold, we get the makeup call late in the championship game. Lesson learned!"


Ernest Greer, co-president of Greenberg Traurig LLP
"A good lawyer must have or develop great listening skills. We are trained to diagnose problems and offer solutions. Many times, the winning is in the listening. This has helped me as a father to two amazing young women who are smart, independent, but yet, know when to seek counsel but do make their own decisions. Listening has helped me really get to know them as people, beyond the typical father-daughter relationship. Because I learned to listen, I can best help them get to their win. Along with a good education, a winning attitude is a great precursor to success."


Rob Roy Smith, partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
"My daughter, who is eight and the product of two lawyers, presented me with a contract a few weeks ago. She asked me to sign the contract agreeing that she could have dessert that night for dinner. I refused, explaining that every contract needs consideration, and that she had offered me nothing in exchange. We quickly reached agreement on a kiss for dessert. A more than fair compromise, and an important life lesson!"


David Aylor, founder of the David Aylor Law Offices
"My son borrowed my car recently to go to work. It was his first day at a new job. His car was in the shop, and I allowed him to take mine. ... The good news is he made it on time and had a great day. The bad news is he tends to drive too close to cars parked on the street. My car is a lot wider than his and this did not turn out well for my passenger side mirror. … As judge, jury and dad, I determined he was guilty of careless operation, his fine being extra chores around the house. And of course 'the court' also ordered full restitution for the broken side mirror, funds coming from his new job!"


Jim A. Ballerano Jr., partner at Day Pitney LLP
"When our boys were 3 and 6, the younger one was grounded. … [The] consequence was that he was prohibited from riding his bicycle for one week. From my home office I spied him riding a bike. Walking out our front door to reprimand him, I was met by our older son, who, standing with his arms crossed, simply stated: 'Dad, you said he could not ride his bicycle. You said nothing about riding mine!' I have yet to win an argument with them."


Jim Bannister, partner at Bannister Wyatt & Stalvey LLC
"One of my daughters told me that she had brushed her teeth before bed. She was about 9 years old. After feeling her toothbrush, I knew it was dry. I told her about it and she said she always dries off her toothbrush. I asked her why her sink wasn't wet. She told me that she always wiped out her sink. … The next night I asked her the same question. She told me, truthfully this time, that she had brushed her teeth. I felt the toothbrush. It was wet and so was the sink. I reminded her that she said she always dried her toothbrush off and wiped out the sink. I made her dry her toothbrush and sink. I kept doing this for about a week. She finally admitted she had lied to me and asked if she could quit drying off her toothbrush and wiping out her sink. She never forgot it."


Michael Jeffcoat, founder of the Jeffcoat Firm Injury Lawyers
"Nothing is more important to me than my role as a father, but I'm always thinking like a lawyer. Most lawyers will tell new clients that they should tell them everything about their situation — the good, the bad and the ugly. That approach has come in very handy with my kids when discussing the normal challenges that inevitably come along. I can't fully help if I don't have a really good picture of what's happening. That's how we handle things together. It works mostly because they know I'm fully there for them whenever they need me."

Wondering what lawyer moms had to say? See our companion Mother's Day story here.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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