Brian + Liz Dillon

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As a firm with a long family tradition, a wide range of relationships are represented throughout the offices of Gray Plant Mooty—siblings, cousins, parents and children. However, if you were to ask the GPM staff if they could see themselves sharing a workplace with their spouse, you might encounter more resistance. Yet for Brian and Liz Dillon, both principals at the firm, they’ve made the uncommon arrangement work.

Brian and Liz met in law school at the University of Wisconsin, two weeks before Brian’s graduation. Liz, a year below Brian at UW, was on her way to a summer associate position at GPM, while Brian had secured a position at a law firm in Madison. The two remained together for the next year as Liz completed her final year of law school, but they knew they faced a difficult decision; GPM had extended an offer to Liz after she’d finished her summer there, and once she graduated, she and Brian would be living and working four hours away from one another.

Despite this, Liz and Brian continued their relationship long-distance for two years. Looking back, they describe it as a competition to see whose situation would win out: which one of them liked their job—and their city—the most?

They married in 2006, and by then, Minneapolis had emerged victorious. Brian went to work at the Attorney General’s office for the state of Minnesota, while Liz continued her practice at GPM. In the meantime, Brian found himself getting to know Liz’s coworkers at the firm, serving as her “plus-one” at firm gatherings, and even joining the firm’s basketball team.

Brian appreciated the work he was doing at the AG’s office, but it was Liz’s GPM colleagues with whom he could relate: young professionals, attorneys, many of whom—like Liz and Brian—had moved to the city without friends or family in the area. More than just peers, they were Liz’s and Brian’s friends.

Yet when GPM posted a listing for an opening in its Litigation Practice Group, Liz didn’t even think to mention it to Brian. By now she had a good thing going at the firm—better to keep the couple’s eggs in separate baskets, she figured.

Their friends had other ideas. One of Liz’s colleagues brought it to Brian’s attention, and Brian came to see it as a great opportunity—not just because it offered a chance to grow professionally, but also because, thanks to Liz, he already knew what he was getting into. “My first thought was, ‘that sounds crazy,’” Liz says. Despite Liz’s initial trepidation, she quickly came around to the idea.

The secret to the Dillons’ harmonious relationship is the wall erected between their work and home lives. The Dillons practice in different areas, and from day one, they’ve pursued separate projects; while Brian focuses on litigation, Liz’s practice centers around transactional franchise work. It helps them support each other as spouses and partners, without coming to think of each other as coworkers—at least on the same files.

And since having kids—Anna, born in 2011, and James, born in 2014—Liz and Brian have found the shared workplace to be a boon in tackling the myriad logistical challenges faced by working parents. From coordinating daycare drop-offs to tag-teaming sick days when their kids fall ill, the Dillons are able to reduce the stress of parenthood. Their coworkers are able to help out, too. When business heats up for Liz, Brian’s colleagues will lighten the load for him to accommodate the shifting balance of parental responsibilities; when Brian’s slammed with cases, Liz’s coworkers can do the same.

For Brian and Liz, none of it would be possible without a firm that lets them put family first. With some simple boundaries and the support of their colleagues, they’re able to make it work.