In Love and Law: When Lawyers Marry Lawyers
In his acceptance speech for his Best Picture win for Argo, Ben Affleck caused a bit of minor controversy when thanking his wife Jennifer Garner.
“I want to thank my wife. Thank you for working on our marriage,” Ben said, “It is work, but it’s the best kind of work and there is no one I’d rather work with.”
The controversy centered simply on the fact that he referred to his marriage as work and that some watching the broadcast felt that statement was the wrong way to frame a marriage. Hollywood is notorious for selling the notion of the love at first sight, quick and easy romance. The only work involved is usually overcoming some minor misunderstanding and reaffirming your love with a grand gesture. Spoiler alert, that’s not the average trajectory for most relationships, let alone marriages.
Affleck’s tribute to his wife and his marriage touched on something most couples that have been married for any amount of time will tell you: marriage is work. From the daily grind of work to discussions about paying bills or how to educate your children, or the many unexpected life events that never fail to pop up at the least opportune moments, marriage requires a husband and wife working together, communicating with one another in order to be successful. And that takes work.
No matter the professional, the demands of work can be stressful, and that is most definitely true of the legal profession. What is it like to deal with the stresses that attorneys face day out, while being married to someone who is experiencing the same types of stress? How much work does a marriage take with two attorneys in the mix?
To find out, SB spoke with two different couples, the Hilburns and the Gilleys, about the ways they balance married life and the commitments of a demanding profession. While each couple’s story is unique to them, the theme of working on a marriage is ever present. Working on a relationship doesn’t devalue a relationship; it strengthens the bonds of commitment and deepens the love shared. Relationships might take work, but when couples work at them together, there is no better way to ensure a long and lasting marriage.
HILBURN & HILBURN
Hilburn & Hilburn is a successful law firm in Shreveport that handles a wide variety of issues, including labor and employment law, business law and civil litigation, and wills and successions. The Hilburns behind Hilburn & Hilburn are married couple Cary and Jennifer Hilburn. Cary and Jennifer met while in law school at the University of Tulsa, and even though they started out as friends, Jennifer had a plan to turn that friendship into something more.
“I thought Cary was the greatest thing in the world,” Jennifer said. “He would always come to class wet or sweaty and always looked like he just came from doing something fun.”
Always the outdoorsman, Cary would either be swimming or biking, golfing or playing tennis before class, and when he would walk through the classroom door, Jennifer would take notice. It was in their third year of law school that Jennifer decided to drop a note into Cary’s school mailbox, a note that simply read, “Let’s be friends.” It was an offer that Cary was eager to accept.
“I always thought Jen was out of my league,” Cary said. But that letter gave him the courage to call Jennifer the next day and ask if she wanted to go for a run in the park. A year and a half later, the two were married.
Cary was a Shreveport native, but Jennifer was originally from Oklahoma. After graduation both had job offers that were pulling them in different directions. The first of many compromises took place. The newlyweds decided to start their new life together in Dallas where Jennifer accepted a position as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor and Cary decided to strike out on his own and start a practice.
Life and work in Dallas were going along great when Cary and Jennifer’s first daughter, Samantha, joined the Hilburn team. The Hilburns had intended to stay in Dallas and grow their family there, but the demands of working for the Department of Labor were substantial, and Jennifer realized she wasn’t quite yet ready to leave her new baby.
Cary and Jennifer came together and decided it was time to move to Shreveport where they could rely on support from Cary’s family. It was that same support that allowed Cary and Jennifer to start their professional journey together. The decision to move to Shreveport was also the decision to begin Hilburn & Hilburn.
“We are both fully invested in our practice and our family,” Jennifer said. “It just works. We are there for each other. We support each other, and we have each other’s back.”
In essence, that is the secret to success not only for their marriage but also for Hilburn & Hilburn. Cary and Jennifer rely on one another, and they balance each other out. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
“If we have something really pressing going on, it’s not uncommon for us to slug it out verbally like you would on a football field,” Cary said. “But we make sure we leave it all on the field.”
Hilburn & Hilburn has continued to thrive over the years, while the Hilburn family has continued to grow. Now a family of five, the Hilburns have added two more daughters to their little clan.
“We might let it fly when things get tough, but at the end of the day it’s all about going home together,” Cary said. And Jennifer is quick to add, “Family comes first.”
GILLEY & GILLEY
Patricia “Pat” Gilley and her husband, Harold Gilley, met in college at the University of Illinois in 1968. It didn’t take long, just until the second semester, for Harold to ask Pat out on a date. By date number two, Pat knew Harold was the one for her, and they were married in 1971. College may have been ending, but life was just getting started.
One of the Gilleys’ first challenges as a married couple was dealing with the fact that Harold had committed to joining the U.S. Air Force after college but had since decided that he wanted to pursue a career in law. The only way the Air Force would let Harold postpone his commitment was if he could confirm his admission to a law school.
Neither Pat nor Harold had any connection to the state of Louisiana, but nonetheless, Pat was able to persuade the chancellor of Louisiana State University Law School to not just accept Harold, but to accept Pat as well. In 1974, the Gilleys packed their bags and drove down to Baton Rouge to begin a new adventure together.
Following graduation, Harold honored his commitment to the Air Force and eventually ended up serving in Anchorage, Alaska where the family lived for five years. While Harold worked for the Air Force, Pat’s passion for patents led to her working for the Bureau of Land Management as a land-law examiner. During their time in Anchorage, the Gilleys’ had their first of three children, and for a time, Pat left the legal profession and committed to being a mother and homemaker.
The Air Force eventually transferred Harold to Barksdale Air Force Base in 1986 and the couple’s life in Shreveport-Bossier City began. After a 20-year career in the Air Force, Harold retired, and at Pat’s urging, the couple took a risk and opened their own law firm, Gilley & Gilley. In the beginning, the Gilleys relied on gaining clients through the Shreveport Bar Association’s attorney referral service, but since that time, Gilley & Gilley has grown into a broad general practice that handles a wide variety of legal issues.
Gilley & Gilley has come a long way since its modest beginnings. Harold and Pat’s son, Tristan, recently joined the firm making the practice even more of a family affair. The Gilleys love what they do. They love the law, and they love each other. For the Gilleys, work and marriage are truly a family affair.