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Compton & Duling: A Different Kind of Law Firm

By Tracy Shevlin | Photo by Rob Jinks

Of the hundreds of law firms in the local area, there are several qualities that make Compton & Duling L.C. stand out from its peers. One milestone setting the firm apart is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. Founded in 1968 by C. Lacey Compton Jr., the practice specialized in real estate transactions for many years and was instrumental in some of the most significant land deals that have shaped the landscape of the greater Prince William area, including the development of Potomac Mills and Potomac Town Center in the Woodbridge area, [email protected] Prince William in Manassas, and Braemar in Bristow.

Over time, the practice has diversified, and real estate and land use, domestic relations, litigation, business law, and estate planning are among its specialty areas. They have also launched several attorneys into judgeship. However, it is their culture and their commitment to community service and work–life balance that truly sets them apart and has landed the firm several awards.

Prince William Living spoke to Jason Hickman, the managing partner, to learn more about Compton & Duling and its longevity in a profession that is subject to higher than average rates for depression, substance abuse and suicide.

Community Service and Work–Life Balance Are Key Values
The firm began to change its character when Hickman became the managing partner in 2011. Having moved from a larger firm in Ohio where billable hours and stress ruled daily life, Hickman has made community service and work–life balance key values at Compton & Duling. To reinforce the values, the firm has instituted a community service requirement for all attorneys.

They are encouraged to follow their passion in their community service, whether it is coaching soccer, volunteering with schools, or serving on community or nonprofit boards.

According to Hickman, “Community service serves multiple purposes. When people engage in activities that they are passionate about, they are truly happier and less stressed. Their community service helps restore balance and helps to counteract the day-to-day stress of work and the burnout rate that many
firms face.”

One of the reasons that attorneys are susceptible to burnout is due to the adversarial nature of the business itself. With the arguable exceptions of real estate law and estate planning, people who retain attorneys generally do so because they have a problem and need help. Attorneys spend much of their time listening, resolving complicated issues, and absorbing stress of the workplace. They need to have balance and positive outlets for de-stressing.

Hickman said, “It is also important for the attorneys to be active in the communities that they represent.” Community service connects them to people in a different context and helps them to better understand the needs of the community. “In the end, community service helps the attorneys both personally and professionally. It helps them personally to enjoy giving back, do what they like, and de-stress,” he added. “Professionally, it helps them to provide better representation for their clients.”

Non-attorney staff at Compton & Duling are also encouraged to be active in the community, though it’s not required by policy. Some staff members have participated in Leadership Prince William and others have served on community boards.

Office Culture and Collaboration
In addition to their commitment to community service, Compton & Duling is also committed to maintaining an office environment where people want to come to work. Many of the staff at the firm have been employed there for more than 15 years. The newer employees have come along as they have grown.

Hickman said, “We really don’t have a lot of turnover.” He explained that the office culture is based on respect and valuing the work that everyone does. He also believes that the social aspect of the office adds value in subtle ways. Knowing their co-workers helps people feel more connected and provides the
backdrop for a more collaborative work environment for both staff and attorneys.

Collaboration is important at Compton & Duling. The attorneys discuss cases amongst themselves on a regular basis to understand them from multiple perspectives. For example, a client of one of the family law attorneys may have business or real estate interests that should be considered in their domestic matter. “Having diversified specialties among attorneys is extremely useful. It helps us to represent our clients’ best interests,” said Hickman.

To continue the social and family-type connection, the firm also sponsors several events per year to allow everyone to connect and relax outside the office. In the past, their firm-wide events have included evenings at dinner theaters, Potomac Nationals games, and even entering a float in the Greater Manassas Christmas parade. Hickman said they are looking forward to being in the parade again this year.

Growth and the Future
Hickman is proud of the growth and diversification of services at Compton & Duling. Offering additional services allows the firm to serve many of its long-time clients for a variety of needs. He prefers to think of his clients as friends and work as a way of helping his friends and neighbors solve their problems.

Additional information about Compton & Duling L.C. can be found at comptonduling.com.

Tracy Shevlin ([email protected]) is a native Virginian and long-time Manassas area resident. She is a graduate of George Mason University where she is also an office manager. Follow
her on twitter @nvalady1. 

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