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Best Practice Tips: Should Spouses Be Invited to Law Firm Retreats?

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. Our firm is a 25-attorney firm located in Austin, Texas. I am the firm administrator. We are planning on having a firm retreat in February and are wondering whether we should include the spouses. Some of our partners think we should include spouses while others think that we should not. We have had retreats in the past and have not included spouses. I would appreciate your thoughts.

A. Having spouses attend law firm retreats varies from firm to firm. The majority of the retreats that I have facilitated have not had spouses attend. The decision to have spouses of attorneys attend the retreat depends on the retreat program and goals. Firms do not generally invite spouses when the retreat is devoted primarily to firm business and little time is available for recreation and informal socializing.

If social programs are planned, some firms do invite spouses and design special programs (e.g., sightseeing tours, tennis/golf games, lunches, special sessions) for them, with couples joining each other in the evening for dinner and evening programs.

Some firms will set up special sessions during the weekend to orient spouses to the firm’s organization, operation, and culture. In these special sessions, spouses are introduced to the firm’s history, culture, pecking order among the lawyer ranks, why attorneys work after hours and on weekends, and how career advancement works.

When spouses occupy positions in the firm, special day programs are often created that deal with any problems that the firm may be experiencing as a result of their employment. Problems such as conflict, differences in compensation, and work production are just a few examples of issues that can occur when spouses are employed in a law firm. Special pre-retreat consideration needs to be given to how the presence of family staff members would influence the retreat proceedings.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC, ( is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics and author of The Lawyers Guide to Succession Planning published by the ABA. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at

Posted on November 8, 2017 by Sara Anderson
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