America’s Newest Superhero: “Mamattorney”

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

By Nelson P. Miller

Recent reports indicate that mothers are now the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of American households, a long-term demographic trend that the Great Recession accelerated.  Over 60% of those breadwinner moms are single parents.  Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law, notes how one particular Cooley graduate, Tamsen Horton, has in a very creative way developed a means to deliver legal services to working mothers. 

Breadwinning mothers face unusual time and resource challenges as they take on greater responsibility for the economic security of their households.  Social norms do not necessarily change as quickly as household demographics.  Working mothers must balance new financial and legal responsibilities with the rewarding but time-consuming demands of traditional child-rearing and household roles.

The multiple demands on working mothers and particularly single moms can leave those households in precarious position when challenged by common crises.  The breadwinner’s short-term illness, a child’s special needs, an elderly parent’s disability, or a motor-vehicle accident or home fire threaten those households with severe disruption and even complete demise, especially when the working mother did not prepare for crisis.  What can we do for these fragile homes?  Who can possibly help? 

Mamattorney to the Rescue

Cooley J.D. and Tax LL.M. alumna Tamsen Horton operates her burgeoning law practice Vuja De Law specifically to serve 25 to 40 year-old working mothers.  Tamsen is herself a working mother, married and with a preschool child.  She knows what she calls the “pain points” working mothers face trying to maintain and promote a stable and prosperous home. 

Take as an example a temporary power of attorney for guardianship of a minor.  Some families need such powers of attorney for school programs, family travel, and the like.  Or take as another example a financial power of attorney for an elderly parent.  These common legal documents can help a working mother manage a household and avert severe crises.

“How though, is my working-mom client going to consult with me to get the documents prepared and signed?” Tamsen asks.  “Her job keeps her from seeing me until after work.  But if she is not home at 5 p.m., then no one gets fed, and no homework gets done.”

Mamattorney’s solution?  “We just arrange a Google chat from home to home.  My virtual law practice solves her pain point.  The documents get done, and my working-mother client has the critical household-management documents in place.”  Mamattorney to the rescue.

Mamapreneurship

Tamsen also calls herself a Mamapreneur. Entrepreneurial she is, following entrepreneurship’s rules that you must know your clients, create value for those clients, reach sizeable client populations, and communicate value to those clients.  Tamsen knows her paradigm client mom so well that she says she even pictures her features.

Entrepreneurship involves personal and professional identity.  Tamsen knows her gift for seeing paradigms and then shifting them.  She connects those gifts to her law practice.  The name of her law practice Vuja De is a twist on deja vu, meaning not to experience something over again but instead to take a new perspective.

Tamsen indeed finds new perspectives.  In addition to her concept of pain points, her virtual practice, and her innovative use of home video-conference capabilities, she developed the concept that her working-mom clients each have a life footprint.  “Carbon footprints?” Tamsen asks rhetorically, continuing, “My working-mom clients care most about their life footprints.  My family law, business-planning and estate-planning services help working mothers discern, organize, enrich, and protect the multiple intersecting dimensions of their complex lives.”

Tamsen gladly shares her law practice insights with Cooley students and graduates.  In fact, she developed a website and consulting service My J.D., My Terms to help students and recent graduates discern their distinct career paths, drawing on their unique personal and professional identity.  She uses the same entrepreneurial principles that inform her law practice to guide students and recent graduates in their own paths.

My Kid, My Plan

True to her law firm’s name, Tamsen is always searching for the fresh paradigm to communicate new value to her clients.  When she was trying to help her working-mom clients connect early estate planning with their commitment to their children, she borrowed her My J.D., My Terms concept to come up with My Kid, My Plan.

No service or identity detail is too small for Tamsen to consider or re-consider in improving her law practice.  Logo design, website colors, the location of her pricing information—Tamsen thinks constantly of how her clients react as sophisticated consumers to the way in which she offers them critical law services.

For Tamsen, it is Vuja De all over again, in itself a constantly fresh paradigm.

For more information on serving emerging client populations, see the Cooley law practice books Entrepreneurial Practice:  Enterprise Skills for Lawyers Serving Emerging Client Populations and Lawyers as Economic Drivers:  The Business Case for Legal ServicesCooley’s four Law Practice courses in Business Development, Technology, Finance, and Management help students sharpen their entrepreneurial skills.

28 Comments

Filed under Alumni Stories and News, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, The Value of a Legal Education

28 responses to “America’s Newest Superhero: “Mamattorney”

  1. melissabolton

    Congrats, Tamsen~ way to change the landscape and blaze a trail (or several!) ~All the best~

    • tamsenhorton

      Thanks Melissa 🙂 I never thought I’d be a “landscaper” but it is so rewarding and fun knowing that my experiences can help others change their lives in amazing ways!

      All the best,
      Tamsen

  2. Jo

    I think it’s great that you are finding new ways both for lawyers to connect with their clients and for moms who are also lawyers to find a way of working that really works for them! Great job!

    • tamsenhorton

      Thanks Jo 🙂 I just had a mamattorney send me an email the other day that her life path is forever changed — her kids get to grow up watching her live out her dreams — that made my day!

      All the best, Tamsen

  3. It’s thrilling to read about a woman trailblazing in this way. Figuring out what’s right for her and her family – and what would best serve other women – and then making it happen. Kudos to you, Tamsen!

    P.S. LOVE the name of your practice!

    • tamsenhorton

      Andrea — Thanks, I love Vuja De too 🙂 I never pictured myself as a trailblazer but when faced with a traditional trail that would’ve taken me in the wrong direction — I guess a “trailblazer” was born! I love contributing to solutions to the problems that so many mamattorneys are facing.

      All the best, Tamsen

  4. This is amazing and it shows how much flexibility technology has provided us. Now we can work in our dream careers without compromising the most privileged role of all: being a mom!

    • tamsenhorton

      Paola,

      You are so right — living and being a mom is the most privileged role I’ve ever had. I am so thankful that the courage, innovation, and hardwork of so many “geeks” has created products that allow so many people to realign and adjust lives to curate robust and rewarding careers and lives.

      Here’s to living the dream!

      All the best,
      Tamen

  5. I love that Tamsen is finding a new twist on bringing her services to her clients. What a SuperMom AND SuperAttorney!!

    • tamsenhorton

      Sarah — Thanks!
      It’s definitely been a “twisting” path but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Isn’t life better on the scenic route?

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  6. Julie London

    Vuya De is a timely and invaluable resource for families. Attorney Horton’s practice is innovative and will reduce preventable suffering through proactive, and time efficient services.

    • tamsenhorton

      Thanks Julie,

      Preventing suffering and providing access to legal services to an entire segment of the population that is not currently being serviced is one of the goals of Vuja De. I really hope to use my education, passions, and creative thinking to help more and more families and businesses.

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  7. Anonymous

    I love the idea of a lawyer’s apt from home! So much better than dragging the kids to a stuffy office with smokers hanging out at the front door! – my past experience…

    • tamsenhorton

      Hello 🙂
      Wouldn’t it be great if our dentists could do at home appointments? I totally here you on the “not so great” appointment experiences — I’ve had more than my fair share. And now with a toddler in tow my entire outlook on where I spend my time and dollars has completely shifted.

      When my son was younger and I had the stroller life going — I went to an upper end children’s boutique and couldn’t get in the door without an incredible struggle — I so wanted to ask the owner if HE had ever tried to get into his baby store with a stroller! Instead I left and have never returned.

      It is so important to me to really think about what I can do to give my customers the best experience possibly imaginable.

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  8. Anonymous

    Tamsen Horton’s business model of adapting to families and their schedules is not only forward thinking, but provides such relief for many trying to maneuver their busy family and work lives around old paradigms. So hope other service professionals will follow her model.

    • tamsenhorton

      Thank you! Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly) I caught such grief and eye rolling from other attorneys when I developed my business. But I knew what I wanted to provide. And what families and businesses NEEDED — and it’s so encouraging to hear that you affirm what I have done — THANK YOU!

      I think it’s hard for many professionals to remember that they are in a profession of serving. For me it is how I make every single business decision.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment — you made my day!

      All the best,
      Tamsen

  9. There should be more professionals like Tamsen!

    • tamsenhorton

      Amen!

      I am definitely doing all that I can through myJDmyTerms.com

      I know for a fact that attorneys are searching for ideas and information that can help them curate their own path — happy attorneys changing the world is my personal mission in life!

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  10. Tamsen is a true inspiration. She has an incredible drive and passion to help students achieve their greatest potential in law school and beyond. Within every successful lawyer are behaviors and habits that make them successful. Tamsen knows how to teach these behaviors and habits so law students not only perform well in school but are well-prepared to take the bar exam (and pass with flying colors!) and do what they love.

    As Dean Miller suggested, Tamsen is an innovator because she recognizes that all attorneys are entrepreneurs. She uses technology to her advantage and applies business principles to her practice. She understands that clients want more than an attorney – they want a partner. Tamsen is an amazing example of how everyone can enjoy success as a lawyer on their terms.

    • tamsenhorton

      Thank you Laurel!

      You hit the nail on the head — I want to see and help others succeed. And succeed beyond what I have done. There is nothing more awe-inspiring in life than to walk alongside a law student or attorney and see that moment when they realize that they can do anything! I’ve watched countless students and attorneys come into my “office” frustrated, depressed, hopeless, and then leave with light in their eyes and a bounce in their step — ready to implement what they learned and develop the habits and behaviors that will give them a happy attorney life!

      Clients not only want more, they deserve more. I love being able to really provide the solutions that they want and need when they need it.

      My work (fueled by my passions) is to help every family, business, law student, and attorney realize that they have a voice and can make purposeful choices to create a life on their terms.

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  11. Fantastic article, love the innovate solutions to help working moms!!!

    • tamsenhorton

      Thanks Anna 🙂

      Working moms need all the help we can get! Thank goodness for all the geeks in the world! But most of all for all the moms and women that have blazed the trail that allows me to release my voice into the marketplace.

      Forget the glass ceilings — now working moms can head to the playgrounds and beaches and change the world in the process!

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  12. It’s great to see someone out there helping out working moms. This is an awesome way to still get the help you need, but on your time and your terms. It makes me wish I lived in Michigan!

    • tamsenhorton

      Thanks Mary 🙂

      Helping working moms is a daily goal of mine. As a working mom I so wish there were more companies that would realize how many of us are out there! But I am so encouraged that so many moms have realized they can just create the solution they need. It’s what I did.

      I needed a solution for myself and I knew that my solution was far more important for my clients. I love being able to ensure that working moms have what they need, and get it to them in a way that makes it as easy as 10-minute pizza delivery 🙂

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  13. Congrats Tamsen! Showing that you can have a career, and be a mother helps empower women through seeing role models who are truly managing it all. Best of luck!

    • tamsenhorton

      Thanks Kristi! I hope that I can do for other women what so many have done for me — show that it’s possible and pave the way as best we can. If I can make even one life better, easier, more rewarding — than I consider that “success.”

      All my best,
      Tamsen

  14. A friend posted a link to this article on FB and I HAD to check it out! Great job Tamsen! More and more moms are stepping up and starting businesses. You are a great example to us fellow mompreneurs of how to toss out the norms and find a business that serves us as well as our clients.

    • tamsenhorton

      Kelly,
      I’m so glad you got to read this! In the world we live in I think tossing out the norms is becoming the new norm 🙂 I get so excited when I hear about other moms (or anyone for that matter) realizing that they have everything they need to develop a life that works for them.

      All my best,
      Tamsen

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