Women-Owned Law Firm Makes Its Home in Hartford
Meghan Freed (above left) and Kristen Marcroft (above right) are Managing Co-Partners at Freed Marcroft LLC, a Connecticut law firm devoted to divorce and family law. They founded the company in 2012 and purposely created a space for their business and personal lives in downtown Hartford.
Kristen and Meghan spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about how the business evolved, embracing entrepreneurship, and how their firm is handling the effects of the coronavirus quarantine.
NAN PRICE: Did you always want to have your own your own firm?
MEGHAN FREED: It happened kind of synergistically when Kristen and I came together. I had followed a traditional path to law school, so I was already a lawyer when we met. My dad was an entrepreneur, so I had it in my DNA, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have opened a law firm if it hadn’t been for Kristen graduating from law school.
KRISTEN MARCROFT: I graduated law school when I was 40, after working in restaurants for many years, which is how I started building relationships in Hartford. Between the two of us—then, not now—I think was more entrepreneurial in terms of risk. Kristen was already working at larger law firm, but I had nothing to lose.
MEGHAN: The idea to open our own firm came from someone I was working with who reached out to me. I remember thinking I had a job and I was comfortable, but Kristen said: Wait a second, that could be exciting. That excitement turned into everything it meant to start a new business—not just opening a law firm, but a creating a physical space and really building something.
NAN: Why Hartford?
KRISTEN: I grew up in Vernon, so Hartford was always on my radar as a place to be. When I started working at Max Downtown, I moved to the West End of Hartford and I just fell in love with it.
MEGHAN: I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I graduated from law school in 2004, I had a friend who lived in the Bushnell Tower condominiums. At the time, I remember thinking that was the coolest life to live downtown—which is amazing to think of now, since there was a lot a less happening than! When I got divorced in 2005, I bought a place at The Linden in 2005 and I’ve lived downtown since.
KRISTEN: Part of us wanting to locate our office downtown was thinking of Harford as an underdog and wanting to support its resurgence. We also wanted to own, so we were thrilled when we saw this first-floor space on Main Street.
NAN: How did you find your niche? Why family law?
KRISTEN: When we first started out, our third partner was gravitating more toward personal injury and we were gravitating more toward divorce and family law, so, it made sense to a separate.
In terms of finding that niche, it happened through a business coaching program called How to Manage a Small Law Firm. It’s designed for small law firms all over the country that are committed to building businesses. We joined even though, at the time, it was tremendous stretch for us financially and mindset-wise. But we knew we needed to learn more about building a business—implementing systems, policies, and procedures. One of the prerequisites to participation was that we had to choose a focus.
MEGHAN: It’s so obvious to us now, but at the time, all we could think of was: We’re just going to say no to people who want to hire us to do a will? Now, we recognize we’re so good at doing one thing. And, all our systems support that one thing, from how to help people who come into the firm to marketing to having all 15 of our lawyers only practice in one area.
NAN: Let’s talk about the transition from being attorneys to becoming business owners and being in leadership roles.
KRISTEN: It’s just growth. We’re much better at it now then we were six months ago, a year ago, five years ago. It’s also recognizing there are resources available to get better at being leaders and managers. Putting principles into systems and policies works if you commit to learning more about management and learning more about leadership and then trying things out.
MEGHAN: When opened our firm, I’d been a lawyer for 10 years. Technically I’m still a lawyer, but we are 100% people who run a business.
I have a totally different job then I thought I would have when we opened a law firm because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought we were opening a law practice and I’d be practicing law, which is what we would have done if we’d stayed a two to four people.
Lawyers don’t traditionally think of themselves as entrepreneurs. When we made that flip to really thinking of ourselves as entrepreneurs and leaders and business owners, we started seeking out other women who’d done it. But we found there aren’t as many women as men.
MEGHAN: Right! Part of the joy of being an entrepreneur is that we’re learning how to lead, and our lawyers are much better lawyers than we are. They’re the experts. We’ve been outpaced.
KRISTEN: What’s amazing is, we get to help them grow—and not just the lawyers, but everyone. For me, other people’s transformation is one of the absolute most rewarding parts of what we do, which is why we practice family law.
NAN: How has the COVID quarantine affected your business and how are you meeting clients’ needs?
MEGHAN: When we founded the firm back in 2012, we went cloud-based to start and, a few years ago, we made the shift and gave every employee a laptop for flexibility. So, in a sense, we were already set up to be working remotely. We went all virtual on March 16. The major transition—like most organizations—has been all of us working remotely all the time.
In terms of addressing our clients’—and potential clients’—needs, we went into an education mode, by introducing a series called In Control during COVID. We’ve been bringing in professionals from our team to address how people can help themselves, their families, and their communities safely throughout this quarantine. We cover everything from coparenting to the effects of courts’ limited services. court closures affect
A majority of the work we do with our clients happens outside of courthouses anyway, so there are plenty of ways we can fill that gap by doing what we already do as a law firm committed to not having people in court unnecessarily. We’ve just layered in technology, so we moved our mediations online and, so far, it’s working great.