How You Can Successfully Navigate Business Divorces in Small Family-Owned Businesses with Margeaux Thomas


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Are you thinking about becoming your own boss and starting a law practice? In this podcast episode, Jim and Tyson interview Margeaux Thomas, a seasoned lawyer who specializes in business divorces. Margeaux shares her transition from working in a large firm to establishing her own practice.

Margeaux provides some insights on establishing her own practice and some things she had to consider beforehand. One thing was connecting with other lawyers in her circle who provided some tips and tricks to getting started on her own and what was needed to become her own boss. Another thing was understanding that as a lawyer, you can always pivot and work at another firm if starting your own doesn't work out. This mentality helped Margeaux in becoming more confident in her ability to succeed.

Margeaux shares her thoughts on how to partner up in a law firm and what to focus on. Looking at a business partnership like a marriage is something Margeaux tells people that come to her for advice. It is important to communicate to a potential business partner about the roles each person will have, finances and each other’s risk tolerance to decide if it is something to move forward with. It is also crucial to get a prenup or operating agreement to ensure both individuals are on the same page.

Listen in to learn more!

Jim's Hack: Read the book “Already Free” by Bruce Tift. It is about the intersection of psychotherapy and Buddhism and talks about the value of therapy.

Margeaux Tip: Read the book “Domestic Assistant Advantage’' by Steve Riley. She learned to hire a personal assistant to help with personal tasks to expand her reach.

Tyson's Tip: Use TEMU to order office supplies.

Episode Highlights:

  • 2:17 Discussion of learning curves 
  • 9:24 Insights on partnering in a law firm 
  • 14:26 The importance of building a team earlier when starting a business

Connect with Margeaux:


Transcripts: How You Can Successfully Navigate Business Divorces in Small Family-Owned Businesses with Margeaux Thomas

Jim Hacking (00:01.23)
Welcome back to the Maximum Lawyer Podcast.

Tyson (00:06.974)
You're Jim Hacking.

Jim Hacking (00:08.334)
Oh, sorry, I forgot.

Margeaux Thomas (00:10.427)

Jim Hacking (00:11.47)
I've been doing too many. This is our fourth one today. Let me try that again. Thank you. Actually, we should just keep that. That would be good. Welcome back to the Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I'm Jim Hacking.

Tyson (00:20.894)
And I'm TastyMutrix. What's up, Jimmy?

Jim Hacking (00:23.598)
Well, once again, I screwed up the intro and surprisingly, you let me re -record it, so I appreciate that. How are you doing, man?

Tyson (00:30.14)
That was That was funny. I don't know if you've ever done that where you just didn't say your name. You just said, welcome back to Max Miller podcast and you just stopped. That was good. So, yeah, that's good. No, I'm doing all right. What about you?

Jim Hacking (00:40.59)
I think I was having a brain fart.

Jim Hacking (00:45.326)
I'm great, you wanna go ahead and introduce our guest?

Tyson (00:47.614)
I absolutely do. Our guest today is Margo Thomas. And Margo is an experienced lawyer and speaker with 15 plus years of experience representing individuals and small businesses in commercial and real estate litigation, including class action cases and numerous trials on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants. We'll get into the rest of this in a little bit. Margo, welcome to the show.

Margeaux Thomas (01:10.779)
Thank you for having me.

Tyson (01:12.22)
Before we go any further though, so Margo is not spelled the normal way. It's M -A -R -G -E -A -U -X, which you might say is the normal way. Are you from Louisiana? Like where does the E -A -U -X come from? That's fantastic. I love it.

Margeaux Thomas (01:26.907)
It has a French origin, but I'm not. My parents just like the spelling, but it throws a lot of people off, believe me. People mispronounce my name everywhere I go.

Tyson (01:32.894)
I love the spelling.

Jim Hacking (01:36.334)
Well, Tyson's name and Tyson's last name is M -U -T -R -U -X. So he probably gets a lot of the same mispronunciations that you do. Margo, why don't you tell us a little bit about your journey, where you started from as far as law school and where you are now.

Margeaux Thomas (01:51.611)
Well, first let me say, like, I started my firm in 2016 and this was one of the podcasts that I listened to when I started my firm and I took so many tips from you guys. I feel like you guys are like the OGs. So I'm really honored to be here and there are so many things that you talked about back then that I implemented that I'm really happy that I did because it really changed my small firm over the years. So yeah, so I started my firm eight years ago.

Jim Hacking (02:04.43)
Oh nice.

Margeaux Thomas (02:19.099)
And before that I was practicing in a medium to big law firm with hundreds of attorneys and mainly representing banks, defending them in commercial litigation. And then, you know, I just always felt like, you know, there was something else behind the curtain and something else that I wanted to do. And I took a very big leap of faith, you know, eight years ago and here we are. So.

Tyson (02:46.654)
I mean, how's it been? I just want to kind of check in. What's the journey been like for you?

Margeaux Thomas (02:53.723)
It has been amazing. Like I really like the business of law and I didn't realize that I'd never run a business before and…

There's such a learning curve from working for somebody in a big firm. You don't have to deal with the marketing or the HR or the management or any, none of that was second nature to me. And I felt like there was so much of a community that I wasn't even aware of until I went out on my own. And there were so many people who were like, here's this resource and talk to this person. And I just feel like I never would have experienced that type of community had I not switched gears a little bit and went in a different direction. And I hear.

people say they go back into a law firm because they hate these things but I really enjoy them you know I feel like it's it's interesting it's thought -provoking you know it's always it's very challenging and you know I feel like the practice of law is one thing but the business of running a law practice is a whole nother thing and you know you either love it or you hate it and you know I think I'm fortunate enough that I got out here and I really like that piece of it so.

Jim Hacking (03:57.07)
What were the discussions that you had with yourself before you actually went out on your own? And then what did you think those first 10 days after you started your firm? What were you thinking?

Margeaux Thomas (04:09.307)
They had a lot of mental back and forth about whether I could do this. And I originally was going out with a partner who was in the firm that I was at. And right before I was supposed to start, he dropped out and said he couldn't do it and he was staying. And at that point, I was like, you know, I'm not sure if I can do this on my own. So that was a big part of it. And whether I had the confidence, whether I could do it, I just catastrophize the whole thing as to I'm going to be like.

desolate and homeless and jobless and you know, no money like and my husband was just like listen You can just get another job like it's not that big of a deal like, you know It's not the end of the world if it doesn't work out pivot. So, you know, just stop, you know over that catastrophizing the situation. So that was certainly

you know, the thought process going into it. And then, you know, I just had to take a look at the mirror and tell myself a lot of positive affirmations that I could do it. And then it was crazy. Like after I was like, I really quit my job and I really liked my job and it was a very lucrative job. And I was sitting at my dining room table, like I have no job and I don't know. I didn't have a lot of clients. I didn't have a book of business. I was like, this could have been the worst decision. But I was there at that point and it's, you know, sink or swim. So, you know, it worked out.

Tyson (05:23.87)
How long did it take to get your feet under you where you're to the point where like, okay, I can do this. This is okay. You know, like did. I mean, did it hit right away or did it take some time? Talk about that a little bit.

Margeaux Thomas (05:35.355)
A few days after I quit, one of the biggest cases that I was working on, that client decided to come with me. And I didn't know that was gonna happen until I left. In fact, I was just like, yeah, I'm leaving everything, because these aren't my clients, but they were like, we wanna continue to work with you. And that was, I mean, that made my first year. That one client, that one case made my first year, and those people were…

you know, small business owners who would, you know, build a franchise, you know, that was very successful. But I think they saw a little bit of themself when they started in me, which I'm very fortunate for. I didn't know that they were going to do that at all. But, um.

you know, it really changed the trajectory of that first year. And it gave me some like some time to reach out to my network and build a pipeline. And, you I was just really fortunate that that happened. So, you know, that one case and then, you know, just telling everybody, everybody that I knew this is what I do. If you know anybody who needs it. And at that point, I would literally take any case. So it didn't even matter. I mean, I would drive an hour to speak to somebody to get a case because I didn't have, you know, I didn't have a lot of

boundaries as far as any. I just wanted to bring in money, I wanted to bring in cases, I figured I'd figure it out. So at that point I would take anything and I was telling anybody I would take anything and people would call me and you know I would take the cases.

Jim Hacking (06:57.358)
What areas of practice have you focused on?

Margeaux Thomas (07:01.755)
Oh, I consider myself a business divorce lawyer. So that's what I do. We do business divorces. Businesses that are breaking up. There are a lot of small family owned businesses, you know, partners, spouses, children, a lot of family disputes that.

Unfortunately, there's some larger communication issue or personality dispute that is causing them to go their separate ways. So we help them sort that out and move forward and purchase the rest of the business or sell their part of the business and move forward. So that's what I do.

Tyson (07:39.134)
Have you given a thought to maybe like in the next 10 years, like what that looks like, 20 years, the shape of the firm? I'm just curious how far you've dreamt and how far you've gotten into that goal.

Margeaux Thomas (07:55.771)
So I think the future looks like me moving out of the more, the legal work, the day to day and really focusing more on the management and the growth of the firm and the…

you know, retaining talent, finding talent, training talent, that type of thing, marketing the firm. Because those are the things that I've really grown to love a lot, you know, and I thought, you know, I really had an internal conflict about that for a long time because, you know, I like practicing law, but I really do enjoy the business side of things. And, you know, I'd like to, I've had younger lawyers who have, you know, started here and went to law school and I, you know, I'd like to see them grow, you know, with the firm. And I want to be a part of that. And I just want to kind of hone.

those leadership skills so that I can build a firm that I love that other people can prosper in.

Jim Hacking (08:44.59)
I really like your niche and I'm wondering content wise, it just seems something that would be really.

to content that regular people could consume. I mean, just the idea of business divorce. To me, you summed up your entire practice in two days, in two words. And I just think that, you know, you could keep an eye out on news stories about business breakups. I think that you could tell your own stories. What kind of content creation strategy have you had around that? Because I just think there'd just be, there's probably stuff in the news every day.

Margeaux Thomas (09:18.587)
I do a lot on LinkedIn. That is our major platform. So we post a lot there about.

you know situations that people find themselves in and how to navigate that and just the emotional part of it because you know a lot of these people have underlying relationships they've known you know they've been friends since grade school you know and then they decided to go out on their own and they built a very successful business but they can't get past this roadblock with their partner so our whole platform is talking about you know what it feels like to go through that situation and you know the tools that are out there and resources and you know just to tell people you know we've

We're business owners. We've been there. This is what we help people with.

Tyson (09:59.518)
So given your experience with what you do, and then also you were about to partner with someone and then they decided not to do it. I do wonder, have you given any thought to maybe adding a partner at some point? And then also on top of that, what advice would you give to people considering partnering up with someone else? I'm really curious what your advice would be.

Margeaux Thomas (10:27.195)
I think that I would partner with someone at this point. I mean, I like the autonomy of not having a partner. I realized that about myself. And, you know, I'm…

I love the personality test. I'm a very high D, like, you know, when it comes to disc and the dominant profile. So, you know, I enjoy that and I understand that about myself and I don't, I don't honestly want to share that with anybody, but I do want to grow the firm and bring in people who can prosper in this environment. So for me, I don't think, you know, I think that that worked out in my favor at the time. It didn't seem that way, but after years of, you know, reflecting on that, I think that was the best possible thing that could happen because it made me develop a lot more self -confidence and what I could do that I might.

not have been able to, you know, who knows what would have happened if we had went forward. But, um.

You know, and you know, I just had somebody contact me yesterday and they're like, I'm considering a partnership. What would you say? You know, you deal with all the ones that fail, so you should have a great idea. I was like, you know, it's very much like a regular marriage. Like, you know, I could write the prenup for you and get all the legal stuff in order. But like you need to go to premarital counseling. You know, you need to talk about the the financial things like do you want to grow it? Do you want to pocket the distribution? Like are you guys have the same risk tolerance? Because, you know, those are things that come up in every marriage that create

people going through divorces. You know, it's the exact same thing, especially in family businesses or spouses that go out of business or really good friends. They have the exact same issues that you have in your marriage that you just feel like you're not heard. You feel like you're alone. You feel like you're doing it all. Those are the same things that people repeat in a real marriage. So my advice to them is, yes, get an operating agreement. That's going to help you. There are ways to…

Margeaux Thomas (12:12.283)
protect yourself financially in this situation. Get a prenup, yes. But you really need to figure out whether you like this person, whether you can work with this person. And that's gonna determine, you can have a very successful business, but hate each other. And that can affect your mindset and a lot of other things that cause you to be very unhappy in this business situation. So I tell people, there's a lot of business coaches out there who can talk both of you through that process of getting to know whether you are on the same page before you go into this marriage.

business marriage together.

Tyson (12:43.806)
So Jim is a big believer in like the Colby score. Would you recommend, because you mentioned disc, I mean, would you recommend potential partners doing some sort of testing before they get involved in a partnership?

Margeaux Thomas (12:57.371)

I told you know that I said I had the exact conversation yesterday because it was like, you know, I know I'm a high D and if I were to meet my husband took this too because I'm his proponent. He's an S and a C, right? We balance each other very well, you know, and if you are both very high D's and that tends to be the person who goes out and starts their own law firm, there can be a lot of conflict there with, you know, law firm, you know, solos coming together because they both have this very dominant trait and want to do things their way. So yes, I think that's something that's a conversation.

started for you know a lot of things.

Jim Hacking (13:32.174)
I'm wondering if you've had any situations involving law firms in particular, whether there are things that you've learned in those cases involving law firms. Because I would think that just like lawyers can be extra nasty to their spouses when they go through a marital divorce, that's probably true in a business divorce. So what advice do you have for everybody who might find themselves in a partnership they're not so happy about?

Margeaux Thomas (13:56.987)
Yes, I've certainly had law firm breakups and those tend to be even more contentious because there are lawyers involved. So they say that lawyers make the worst clients. I wouldn't say that about the ones that I've represented some great lawyers, but you know, they want to be involved in all the details and even if it's not their, you know, practice area, it just makes it very contentious and difficult. And, you know, those are particularly difficult, I will say, to unwind, even if the financial part is not.

difficult. There's a lot of emotional, you know, there's just a lot of emotional issues that have to be worked through and…

You know, I think that I've represented people in all different fields, you know, doctors and lawyers, and you know, they have a lot, like I said, they have a lot of the same traits. There are a lot of different things, creative things that people can do to hurt each other. But, you know, in all of these cases, the underlying issue is, you know, this is a business decision. And I know you know this person and I know there's some emotion involved, but you know, this isn't about your children. You know, this is about money. This is about a business and you have to put on the same hat that you put on.

to come into this business to make it successful to get out of this business and try to just get them to focus on that aspect.

Tyson (15:10.782)
Yeah. Some of the advice I got was before, you know, partnering was a couple of things like don't expect to be friends with them after the partnership ends. Oh, that was one thing. And then always when you draft your operating agreement, you make sure that you do it with the end in mind. So I don't know if that's good advice or bad advice. I know that's good advice that I received. But if you were to go back to 2016, would you have done anything differently from

from how you've done it and if so, what advice would you give yourself?

Margeaux Thomas (15:47.323)
I did everything on my own for a very long time. I was listening to some of your podcasts about…

no unscheduled phone calls. I used to answer the phone. People call and just, I'm the first person on the phone. Like, how can I help you? There's no consult fee. There's no anything. I was like, why am I doing this? I gotta, you know, I gotta stop doing this. But, you know, I did that for a long time. And I think that if I had put some of those things in place, the process in place a little bit earlier, it would have saved me. You know, I just, I worked way too much.

I mean, I was doing the business of law, I was doing the law, I was working weekends, I was working holidays, vacations, weekends, and that wasn't good for my mental health. I had two small kids, I had twins, they were two at the time I started this firm. It wasn't good for my marriage, it wasn't good for my kids. I I learned a lot doing that, that that's not sustainable. So I think that if I had put more faith in my ability to build a team earlier on, I could have taken some of those things off of my plate earlier.

Jim Hacking (16:53.742)
So what do the next couple years look like? What's your plan? What are you going to do as far as developing more business or growing and stepping away from some of the practice? What are your goals?

Margeaux Thomas (17:05.659)
bring in some more A -Team members, work very closely with my recruiter to find some great talent, train them, retain them, and spend some time working on marketing, which is really what I love to do.

Tyson (17:23.678)
You know, we've been talking about A players quite a bit and we've mentioned on the podcast quite a bit lately too, but I do have noticed a little bit that sometimes the not so A players think that they're A players, which makes it a little bit more difficult in the hiring process. And so like the salary expectations and things like that, whenever they're applying, we have seen sort of a weird phenomenon going on right now. But I wonder…

What's it like for you for hiring? Because it's interesting because PI for us, it's just weird. It's just a different, I feel like this is just a different breed of attorney that wants to be a PI lawyer versus like a criminal defense lawyer versus like real estate. So I wonder what the market is like for you all in hiring and if you find it to be like good market right now, bad market, what are your thoughts?

Margeaux Thomas (18:18.875)
It's a good market right now, but I just think hiring in general is so difficult. It is so difficult. I mean, I've hired so many people that were like, you know, I want to be a paralegal and then they get in there and then they're in…

school in two months and I was like, you know, and they're leaving and I was like, I asked that question five times during the interview and you're like, no, I'm a career paralegal and you're at the same time filling out your law school LSAT and all that, you know, so it's very hard and people, you know, change their minds and they're multifaceted. They have a lot of needs and, you know, just dealing with people is a very difficult part of, you know, keeping them happy and, you know, giving them what they want and, you know, allowing them to feel heard is a huge part of the process.

figuring out who is a good fit and…

quickly so that you can get them out of there if they're not a great fit, which is something I have definitely, that is a mistake that I've made, kept people that I knew that were not a good fit way too long because I just didn't want to have the hard conversations. So yeah, I think it's a good market. I'm optimistic. I have a recruiter that I work with very closely and I'm optimistic that we'll bring in some great talent this year and we'll see what happens, but I'm trying to look at it optimistically. So we'll see.

See you soon.

Jim Hacking (19:34.702)
Do you do much for referrals like from attorneys or from maybe the attorneys that work on, you know, setting up these companies? Does that, does any business come that way?

Margeaux Thomas (19:44.475)
Absolutely, we get a lot of referrals because a lot of people don't want to touch these type of cases or you know They're just transactional attorneys. One of the first attorneys I met when I started this firm was like I do transactional law I don't want to go to court. I was like

We are matchmaking heaven. Great. You know, he sent me so much business and I don't know what he was doing with those cases before he met me, but it worked out very well for me when I was starting my firm. So yes, I try to align myself with a lot of transactional attorneys who are in small firms who, you know, set up businesses and you know, those businesses, they call them back and say, I have a contract dispute or I have a dispute with my partner or a vendor or client. And we take those cases and it is a great referral relationship.

Tyson (20:26.238)
I love it.

All right, so we are getting up against time. So I'm going to start to wrap things up. I just, there's something about you, Margo. I just like talking to you. You're just like so pleasant and to talk to you. So I love it. And I like to have some, I like to have people on that are not in the same practice area sometimes so we can kind of, we mix it up. So it's really cool. I agree with Jim. I think it's a very good niche. So that's awesome. But I'm going to wrap things up before I do. I want to remind everyone, if you want to join us in the guild, we would love to have you go to maxlawguild .com. If you've not yet joined them,

big Facebook group, do that, that's free, just search MaximumLawyer on Facebook and you'll be able to join us there and if you've gotten something from this episode or any of our other episodes, if you give us a five -star review, we would greatly appreciate it. Jimmy, what is your hack of the week?

Jim Hacking (21:13.87)
I was listening to Benjamin Hardy talk the other day and he mentioned a book and the name of the book is already free. And it's about the intersection of psychotherapy and Buddhism. And my therapist is Buddhist and my coach is Buddhist. And so to get that book from a totally sideways way, I feel like I'm understanding the work that we've been doing together so much more fully and differently. And so my therapist was teasing me like, ah, now you got the playbook. Now you know what I'm doing, but.

It's the explanations of why you go to therapy in the first half of the book are probably the best distillation of the value of therapy that I've come across. And so I'm just like a third through the book, but I'm really enjoying it.

Tyson (22:00.382)
I like it. You love that therapy, baby. You're all in on it. All right, Margo, so I'm going to put you on the spot in a second. So I'm going give you a second to think about it. In a second, I'm going to ask you what your favorite episode has been or topic of one of the episodes. So just give you a second to think about it. But before we get to that, and by the way, if you can't come up with something, we'll cut that part out. But…

Jim Hacking (22:02.912)

Tyson (22:25.886)
But if someone wants to get a hold of you, let's say that they're thinking about a partnership or getting out of a partnership and they want to consult with you, what's the best way of reaching out to you?

Margeaux Thomas (22:35.739)
Thomaslawplc .com is our website. 703 -957 -2577 is our phone number. So give us a call or there's a ton of resources on our website and ways to contact us.

Tyson (22:49.214)
We'll put that in the show notes too so that people don't have to write so fast. All right, so before we get to your tip or hack of the week, do you have a favorite episode? I'm just curious because you've been listening for a long time. Can you think of one?

Margeaux Thomas (23:01.839)
Excellent. I honestly think it was the note unscheduled phone calls and you know just putting a barrier between myself and you know just being interrupted constantly and that extended to emails you know just turning off that

dinging emails so that every time an email comes in, you don't react and get distracted. And, you know, that was a huge shift for me because, you know, when I was in a big firm, the phone would ring at my desk, right? But it was very different than going out on your own and, you know, everybody having your number and potential clients calling. I mean, we were representing banks. So, you know, it wasn't like my phone was ringing all day. So it took me a little bit. I heard that episode and I definitely was like, you know, I need a call service or intake person or something so that I can focus on the deep.

work and I really think I still do that today I don't even have a phone that rings on my desk anywhere so I like that.

Tyson (23:58.142)
Alright, do you have a tip or a hack for us?

Margeaux Thomas (24:02.107)
So a book, Domestic Assistant Advantage that I read a while ago, it's by Steve Riley who started Atticus. And, you know, I just having someone when I was.

In my law firm, I spent a lot of time in the firm and I was like, you know, my kids, I couldn't keep up with their, you know, dress down days and bring this to school day and blah, blah, blah. And, you know, just hiring someone just as a personal assistant to deal with all that calendaring has allowed me to expand my reach and I can be on boards and I can coach a team and I can make sure that my kids are in the right outfit when they get to school because I have somebody who deals with all those details, which I was completely not able to do. So just having that domestic assistant, not a legal assistant,

assistant but somebody who just deals with the personal stuff has been a game changer for me.

Tyson (24:51.518)
That's a really good one. All right, we get to my tip of the week. Jim, do you like to save money?

Jim Hacking (24:57.454)
I do.

Tyson (24:58.302)
Okay, so I don't know if you've been on this. I'm sure a lot of people have heard this, but something I had not thought about until fairly recently is using Tmoo for office supplies. You can get super cheap stuff on Tmoo for like, I'm talking like super dirt cheap. So before you go and buy something for your office, whether it's equipment, it could be a power cable, whatever, like you name it, go to Tmoo first and you like something that might cost you like $20 on Amazon.

is like $2 on T -MU. It might take you a couple weeks to get it, but I'm telling you, it is a way like saving like a lot of money. So just my two cents, T -E -M -U. But Margo, thank you so much for coming on. Really appreciate it. It was definitely a pleasure talking to you.

Margeaux Thomas (25:44.155)
Thank you, appreciate it.

Jim Hacking (25:46.094)
Bye Margo. Thanks.

Margeaux Thomas (25:47.673)

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