After building a career in commercial litigation that included stops at a couple of large local firms, Janet Stellpflug was ready to live the dream of launching her own firm. One of the first steps: signing a 10-year lease in a downtown Minneapolis office building. The only problem? This was in March 2020.
“We were trying to start on June 1,” she says. “They couldn’t get the office built out the day it was supposed to be because the furniture manufacturer was shut down, carpet was delayed, that kind of thing. And I was trying to hire people. That was a little bigger obstacle, because anytime you’re starting a firm, you’re just basically taking a leap of faith.”
Despite all that, Stellpflug Law opened just a month later than planned, although most of its work has been done from home offices. When they do need to go to the office, Stellpflug’s staff of two lawyers, law clerk, paralegal and office manager follows CDC guidelines on how many people should occupy the space.
“It’s kind of surprising how everyone adapted,” she says. “A few things have changed legally, like certain things can be done remotely now that couldn’t be before COVID. But if you would have told me we’re all going to be working from home a year ago, I would have said, ’No, it’s not possible, we need to be here. We need the photocopier, we need the notary stamp, I need to have my mail every single day and I need to be here with my people.’ It’s just not true. I don’t need to smell them.”
But she does need to see them. As with many other firms, Zoom is the go-to venue for business meetings and happy hours.
“I do only litigation, so it’s a really high-stress environment for everybody, not just the lawyers,” she says. “Part of that is you come back to the office after a hard day in court or a deposition and everybody chats around the water cooler and you have that collaboration about what’s going on in the case. Sort of like, ’This is my home team.’”
Then there’s her at-home team. Her husband, Tom, also works from the couple’s home in Minneapolis.
“It used to be, ’Welcome home,’” she says. “Now it’s, ’Welcome to downstairs.’”