All throughout the day, and all
throughout the evening, too, Hostetter and
Strent juggle the demands of family and
family law. It is a tough balancing act.
According to a 2014 American Bar
Association report, women earned roughly
48 percent of law school degrees that
year. While in school, the report furthers,
many of them excelled, holding leadership
positions on half of the law reviews.
Yet, “Somewhere between law school,
where women are doing really well, and
the top tiers of law firms, there’s a gap,”
Or perhaps it’s a chasm.
According to the ABA’s website, women
represent 17 percent of equity partners
and 20 percent of partners overall. Only 4
percent of managing partners at the 200
largest law firms are women.
The one bright spot? Family law. Overall,
29 percent of the ABA’s members are
women, but among the family law division,
55 percent are female.
“The population of family law lawyers has
changed from overwhelmingly men to now
more women,” Hostetter says. “I think it’s
because family law firms are smaller, and
smaller firms offer better work-life balance
than bigger firms, and that’s attractive
to working mothers, and hopefully, will
become more attractive to working fathers.
I think if other areas of practice lent
themselves to smaller firm environments,
more women will join their ranks.”
When it occurred to Hostetter and Strent
at the age of 40 that they should start
their own all-women, boutique family law
firm that actually encouraged family, the
challenges of making it happen became
second fiddle to their joint passion to just
get it done.
Hostetter is the product of a six-year
law program at Boston University, where
she simultaneously earned a law degree
and a bachelor of arts in political science,
graduating summa cum laude. Afterward,
she worked for five years at the Maryland
public defender’s office, cutting her teeth
on misdemeanor trials and felony cases.
Strent holds a degree in international
relations from American University,
graduated cum laude from George
Washington University Law School and
clerked for Judge John M. Campbell of the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
They went for it. Hostetter and Strent
began a new adventure that included making
financial decisions, finding office space
and hiring personnel, plus the matter of
bringing in a workload, meeting with clients,
negotiating and getting ready for court.
Tough cases rolled in almost immediately.
Not that they’ll talk about them.
“Our clients trust us with the most
personal details of their lives, as well
as their future financial security and
access to their children,” Strent says.
“They don’t want to be fodder for gossip.
While we represent some high-profile
people, we also, and perhaps more
importantly, represent friends, neighbors
and colleagues. These people deserve our
respect and discretion.”
In suburban Washington, not only does
the duo handle clients with familiar last
names, they sometimes have to navigate
a world of dysfunction, too: children
who need therapists, parents who need
jobs, families learning to navigate a new
normal. Neither Hostetter nor Strent see it
“By the end of my five years as
public defender,” Hostetter says, “I was
representing the same people multiple
times. I even represented a couple people’s
kids.” That, she admits, was discouraging.
Unlike other types of law, success in
family law isn’t always measured by cases
won or lucrative settlements, but by more
“Recently, one of our clients got a job.
We were so proud of her,” Strent says. “It’s
so rewarding to see that our clients have
turned around a bad situation.”
To get to that point, the lawyers figure
out what is gettable and then go. When
the time comes to negotiate or head to
trial, there are no surprises.
They guide clients through the court
system, says Linda Delaney, partner at
Delaney McKinney. “If a client is really
having a difficult time, is really hurting, [the
client wants] all kinds of results that the
system can’t give them.”
Revenge, chiefly. Some want
a settlement or conclusion that
simultaneously provides for children and
punishes the ex. Hostetter and Strent help
“navigate that reality when a client is going
through this process,” Delaney says. “It
takes real work.”
The two met as associates at
Moss, Strickler & Sachitano. They are
contemporaries—both turned 44 in 2015.
Each wanted career and family, but they
went about it in different ways. Hostetter
delayed having her first child until she had
already become partner.
“It was less about the timing of
partnership than it was about the success
of my individual contributions to my firm,”
Hostetter says. “The freedom I felt, and
still feel, to leave the office at 5: 30 was tied
up in the fact that I knew I was bringing in
the majority of the cases and billing a lot
of hours, so why should it matter if I wasn’t
the last one to turn off the lights? It didn’t
matter, anyway—I have only become more
successful since having children.”
Strent had children before she became
partner, and went part time for a period.
The firm where they worked supported
her decision. “It took me longer to make
partner, but I was happy,” she says.
But in 2009, their firm dissolved. Both
women had new offers on the table. They
were 40, mid-career and craving change.
“Our version of a midlife crisis was,
‘We’re not going to have bosses anymore,’”
Hostetter remembers. “We didn’t want to
get divorced or buy a sports car. We just
wanted to own our own business.”
Some of their colleagues warned
them that it would be a lot of work, and
speculated that it’d be easier to let a bigger
institution handle the business of running
their firm. “While there’s truth in that, I also
think people just hoped I’d be daunted and
instead join their firm and bring my book of
business,” Hostetter says. “I also think lots
of lawyers genuinely don’t want the hassle
of running a business. We don’t learn that
in law school.”
Before they made the move, Hostetter
sought out Deborah Reiser of Lerch Early
“[Running a law firm] is running a
business,” Reiser remembers telling
Hostetter. “You need to think about how
that will fit in with your career path. When
you are with a firm, you share the risk. When
you are on your own, you assume it all.”
Hostetter was gaming it out. Reiser, for
her part, wanted to be encouraging, but
didn’t want to give the impression that it’d
be easy. “I felt strongly if anybody could do
it, she could do it,” Reiser says.