For Suzann Moskowitz and Josh Fuchs, 2020 didn’t just mean managing their small firms from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also meant getting married on Oct. 20, 2020, and combining their households and firms, with three children into one home in Shaker Heights.
Now months later, Moskowitz, of The Moskowitz Firm, and Fuchs, of The Fuchs Firm, have hit their stride, but not without the expected and unexpected hiccups. Moskowitz practices trademark, privacy, copyright and new media law, while Fuchs practices business and commercial, labor and employment, consumer protection, contracts, arbitration and mediation law.
“It was a challenge, and almost immediately, we realized that we would need a second office in the house,” said Fuchs, 37. “So, we hired an architect to draw us up some plans. Suzann built out another office, which was done right before the pandemic, so we could both run independently at home. With the wedding, we had been talking about moving in together for a while. That was planned.”
But the biggest challenge for the couple is managing their six crazy calendars – one for each child’s schooling, a family calendar and one for each firm.
“Neither of us can have an important meeting at the same time because one of us needs to be available to make sure things are running OK in the house and that noise levels are OK,” Fuchs said.
Moskowitz, 44, added, “Neither of us can leave the house at the same time either. Fortunately, we never go anywhere so we never need to leave. But, when we do, that will be an issue. So, there is a lot of communication required to make sure that the combined schedule is running smoothly.”
For Moskowitz, 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of her firm, where she was already working toward functioning exclusively from home, aside from occasional trips to the office to visit her in-house counsel. But Fuchs had just launched his firm in downtown Cleveland in 2019 before the pandemic forced him to make the at-home switch.
“I did have some experience working from home because before that, as lawyers, you never really leave the office even when you physically leave,” he said. “Whether it is in your car, or you’re in a hotel or whatever, you’re still working. But once the pandemic hit, the access to conference rooms, office spaces and working at coffee shops came to a screeching halt.”
Since the firms offer very different things, the couple said it takes coordination to keep everything running like a well-oiled machine.
“Josh is the one who is putting on a suit and talking to judges via Zoom, so it is kind of a different practice in a way,” Moskowitz said. “For me, I would say things are a little less formal usually. I do tend to have many short meetings every single day, which I can move around. But Josh is sort of dealing with more of the formalities of courts.”
Fuchs added, “I could have never imagined that I would be mediating and settling cases via videoconference while three kids are attending virtual school and Suzann is running a firm, all on the other side of the wall. But, the only thing that has changed for me is where I perform tasks. There are still pre-trials, evidentiary hearings, mediation-arbitration and even trials. So, I just go find a quiet corner of the house, put up a virtual Zoom background and go.”
The pair joked the biggest issue right now is that one of the children has an affinity for the trombone. But if they need the kids to quiet down, they can send them to a nearby park or log them onto Minecraft, which is “the best baby sitter around,” Fuchs said.
But both Fuchs and Moskowitz said practicing alongside each other from home has its notable benefits too.
“One of the benefits of Suzann’s practice being very different from mine is I have access to someone who has different views on things,” Fuchs said. “If I were in an office, it would be full of litigators who all do the same thing over and over. So, it’s nice to run over to Suzann and bounce ideas off of her, asking if something sounds crazy to her or if I’m taking the right path.”
Moskowitz noted, “Even though I’m not a litigator, neither of us want our clients in court if they don’t need to be. We want to resolve problems together. And so, we do spend a lot of time talking about what is a good resolution, all within the lines of client confidentiality. I find it harkens back to my time with Ulmer & Berne and I could knock on someone’s door and ask for advice. So, there is that collaboration still, even if what we do is different.”