Law Firm Partnership: Lessons From A Father/Son Partnership


WALLINGFORD, CT, May 28, 2010 — This could be the ultimate Father’s Day story. This father/son team graduated law school together, practices law together and still manages to enjoy each other’s company every day. The two attorneys are principles in IRS Medic at Parent & Parent LLP, a Wallingford, CT-based practice of tax attorneys that works to resolve tough tax problems for businesses and individuals. They didn’t start out to be law partners, but looking at it today, it looks like this was destined to happen.


The son, Anthony, was working Ford Credit when his dad, David, decided he was ready for a second career and started law school at night. David, then an accountant with the city of New Haven, had decided he was ready for a new challenge. So, in 1998 he decided it was time to pursue his dream of going to law school. The two had always been close and as David continued his studies Anthony heard enough to decide this might be the career for him, too. He entered law school and went his first year at night.


Then, in 1999, he quit his job and entered law school full-time. David and Anthony ended up graduating from Quinnipiac School of Law together in 2002. “When I first decided I wanted to go to law school, my dad didn’t think I could handle the work load, and this from the guy who was supportive of every crazy scheme I had,” remembers Anthony. “Of course, that’s all changed now. I finished in the top third of our class and my Dad finished in the top half!”

The two ended up taking a required course on Federal Income Tax together that literally shaped their future together. “I cursed QU for making me take Federal Income Tax class, but I had no choice. Who would think seven years later, that’s what we’d be practicing together?” recalls Anthony.


When David finished law school, he set up practice on his own. He had no thought of it being a father/son venture. “When I opened the firm in 2002, I knew one thing – I didn’t want a partner,” says David. “But things happened that changed my mind and here we are today, in practice together.”


For Anthony’s part, practicing law with his father was the last thing on his mind. “I was looking for a job as a public defender,” he recalls. “I had interviews in Connecticut and Vermont. But, the poor economy meant tight budgets and no one was hiring. My job search lasted a year, and while I was looking, my dad’s practice took off and he needed the extra help.


“Anthony’s appellate experience was helpful and needed,” says David. “But I still wasn’t interested in a partner, so we set up two firms that worked together. Eventually, explaining that to people got to be too complicated and we decided, in December 2007 to make them one firm.”


Since then, the firm has grown to be one of the area’s most active tax resolution firms, help over hundreds of clients a year with the issues they have with state and federal tax authorities.

As the two look back at their experiences, they have some advice for fathers and sons considering going into business together:


  • Make sure you’re bringing different strengths to the business – Like any successful partnership, you need complimentary skills to make it work. “You don’t want both partners to be too much alike or they’ll end up reinforcing the weakness each has,” says David. “In our case, I’m very procedurally oriented. My background includes work for the city of New Haven and a stint in the military. That gives me a keen understanding of how bureaucracies like the IRS work. Anthony, on the other hand, is not afraid to take an unpopular position and even rock the boat if necessary. That helps with our advocacy work on our clients’ behalf. Anthony’s not afraid to be told no and it doesn’t stop him from coming back with another idea. He takes a more aggressive stance on things and I’m more of the collaborator. The different approaches complement each other.”


  • Look at your personal history of working together in partnership – Not all fathers and sons can and should work together collaborative. “You really need to look at the relationship to see if you have a track record as partners,” say David. “Ever since Anthony was small there have been things I could not do without him and other things he couldn’t do without me, so we were already accustomed to working as partners. “As a kid, I’d have a tendency to start a project and bite off more than I could chew, recalls Anthony. “Eventually, I’d just get stuck and couldn’t figure out what to do next. My dad would see what I was up to, analyze the problem and tell me ‘This is your next step here ‘. Then, we’d sit down together and get it done. Today, that’s one of the strengths of this practice. We can do together what neither of us can do separately. I have the ambition to make changes to the practice and my dad has the stamina to make them happen.”


  • Choose a business that both of you see as interesting and varied. “We really love doing the tax work,” says Anthony. “It allows my dad and me to use our strengths as both bureaucrats and advocates. It allows for very varied activities day-to-day. If both of us had to come to work each day and do the same tasks over and over, neither of us would find that enjoyable.”


  • Make sure both of you want the same thing from the business – “Neither of us have a sole focus on money, we value having a fun staff and interesting clients” says David. “Because our financial goals are the same, we make better decisions on the direction of the practice. “If one guy just wants to to make a lot of money and not so interested in filling each day with tales of new adventures that can destroy a partnership. Of course, you have to have trust in each other all around, but especially on matters that have to do with money. We don’t have to worry about splitting profits up. Both of us just want to see the business grow so the good times can continue.” Anthony adds. “The advantage of us being a father/ son business is that the success is mutually beneficial. If the practice succeeds we both win.”


  • Value the strengths each brings to the business. “In any partnership you have to respect each other,” says Anthony. “You have to respect what each person brings to the partnership. In addition, you’d better have a tolerance for the other person’s weaknesses. It’s like a marriage. You are not going to get along unless you have respect for each other. I really believe my dad’s knowledge is bigger than anyone else’s in the world. For me, he seems to have the answers.”


  • Avoid being competitive with each other. “The point is that you’re in a partnership with one another, not a competition,” says David. “This will only work as long as both partners realize that one’s not going to be the dominant partner. Otherwise, when one partner leaves the business is bound to fall apart. If one functions as the worker bee and the other as the decision-maker that’s a formula for a failed partnership. You don’t want where one partner to be the entire show or the partnership will die without him.”


In the end, the recipe for a successful father/son business seems to be the same as it would be for any parent/child relationship: one part variety; one part collaborative history; one part shared interest; one part mutual respect; one part confidence and one part tolerance. Seems like a recipe that would make anyone’s Father’s Day sweeter.


About IRS Medic

IRS Medic at Parent & Parent LLP is a practice of tax attorneys that works to resolve tough tax problems for businesses and individuals. These issues can range from unfiled taxes to audits, liens, penalties, offshore issues, and other federal and state agency tax actions and business recovery. Attorney Anthony Parent founded the firm in 2003 to help clients deal with difficult tax problems. He combined an academic background in finance with a law degree to develop the foundations of the practice.





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