Meet Esse Tuke

Meet Esse Tuke

as published on CanvasRebel.com

We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Esse Tuke a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.

Esse, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Please tell us about starting your own firm and if you’d do anything different knowing what you know now.

In my journey to start The Tuke Firm, Michigan based Divorce & Family Law firm, the first thing that happened, before I even left the prior firm I was working for, was to believe in myself and my own professional abilities. At the core, you need competence to get results for the clients you are asking to trust your firm to help. You must have discipline to plan out the steps to start and execute. Making a realistic budget for initial investments is key. Networking, networking, networking via social media, local attorneys, judges, clerks, mediators, bar associations to find your legal tribe—people you can lean on for questions, referrals, send referrals, support, and guidance.

In late 2008, when I was planning to leave my firm, I spent time forming my vision for how I wanted to deliver legal services, my way. I created my LLC, then the EIN#, opened a business bank account. I didn’t have money for a lot of overhead. I was a married mom of 4 kids: 7-year-old, 6-year-old, 2-year-old, and 1 year old at the time. I had to find a secure way to meet with my clients at low cost, so in 2009 I explored the mailbox/virtual office option with a center that had multiple local locations. I was able to work from my home office when I needed to. I was also able to receive my firm mail at corporate address I could access daily. Most importantly, I was able to meet potential or existing clients in any of their 7 beautiful and well-staffed offices, as needed. So, I was able to control the office costs. This set up worked for many years and I handled huge cases, striking great deals and creating great results at Trial.

I kind of felt like an underdog professionally as I was relatively young, black attorney, who did not go to a Michigan law school, and didn’t have a huge family or friend network in Michigan. I had to build it from scratch. I got out there, did excellent work, joined bar associations, attended events, volunteered, hustled, etc. I have developed a reputation for legal/business excellence and sharp fashion sense. Find YOUR way to set yourself apart and build a brand around that.

For the first 10 years, these great results were accomplished with just me on board– no secretary, no legal assistant, no paralegal, no answering service. Keeping overhead down in the early years is KEY, but it means you wear all hats—lawyer, business manager, advertising, drafting, responding, emails, calls, paper jams, etc. This can be draining and distract you from growing your business, lots of treading water. You need to delegate all the parts that weigh you down as soon as your business can afford it. It’s important to reinvest in your business. That’s how you scale your business.

An important piece, I would be remiss to not mention, is that I started my business while I had a spouse building his business. We paid for a Nanny and pre-school for about 4 of those first years. It was very expensive, but having a 3rd hand on deck, safe in our home, was invaluable. I was able to come home from work to my kids home from school, dinner made and kids who had started or finished homework, laundry done, groceries purchased, had my little ones all ready for me to run them to soccer practice, etc. These integral domestic duties, and the costs of them, can never be overlooked in the climb to “success”. People often do not see these people, but they were part of the team that helped me build The Tuke Firm. My kids are now 21, 19, 16, and 14—striving and achieving.

Now in 2023, The Tuke Firm is technology forward and always adding to and tweaking our systems. We utilize a client portal as a primary communication and document exchange tool and it’s very effective at reducing endless emails and phone calls from clients. The client wants to know that we are making progress in the divorce or family law matter at hand, they don’t really want to be trying to coordinate a call for two days–which can happen during busy periods. I have hired an outstanding team of dedicated people who keep things flowing while I’m giving my undivided attention to a particular client’s issues. You must be very intentional about hiring, payroll is often the largest business expense. You want to make sure this large expense, who is a whole human, is treated fairly, set up for success and given proper training to execute at the level you need them to. Hiring well truly frees your mind up to work on growing the business and your revenue.

I also learned to outsource the things that are just not my strong suit. I have a great IT guy and web guy who are quick to help with tech and equipment issues that are bound to pop up. Early in my business, I would delay paying for help, now I can discern early when I am out of my expertise and would be better served to have a professional in that area help me execute my vision faster.

 

Esse, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?

I’m an East Coast girl who moved to Metro Detroit, Michigan after I completed law school at Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan, NY. I’ve lived and worked in Michigan for the past 18 years. I’ve been building and growing The Tuke Firm for the past 14 years [founded January of 2009].

I have been immersed in litigation my entire legal career. I was a Judicial Attorney for the local Circuit Court. I have successfully litigated employment discrimination cases at the State and Federal Court level. I have negotiated, reviewed, and challenged pre-nuptial agreements and I have mediated cases as a domestic mediator.

Today, The Tuke Firm handles primarily divorces—from the simple and agreed upon to the complex and conflicted— we got you! We also handle pre- and post- nuptial agreements, custody and support issues and litigation consulting/co-counsel for large estates; sometimes the team approach is best. After 18 years, I’d love to say we’ve “seen it all” but nope… every week it’s a movie and we fight the good fight for each and every client. I can honestly say that after all these years I’m still ready for the next negotiation or battle, if need be, along with a competent legal team, 2K Team.

What sets the Tuke Firm apart from other divorce firms?
 Esse Tasha Tuke- Her litigation savvy is fine tuned. She fights for her clients (litigation)… she can bring calm to chaos (negotiations)… both aspects are essential for a broad practice, like The Tuke Firm. Each case gets what it needs. Divorce with dignity.
 18 years of varied litigation experience- Esse can spot your issues, your exposure; she is strong at assessing where you need discovery
 Focus and energy on every case, regardless of case size
 Years of experience with asset valuation, income discovery, business record analysis
 Clear firm-client communications all along the way
 Mostly paperless, online document sharing/review/approval via client portal
 Online Communication Portal/Application
 E-signatures for our on-the-go clients
 Team of competent legal staff to keep you informed and your case moving toward resolution
 Access to Client Resource List- realtors, therapist, mortgage lenders, mental health evaluators, other attorneys, appraisers, co-parenting applications, co-parenting classes, QDRO preparers, estate attorney, resources etc.

In my ‘free’ time I adore music, writing, creating, and designing clothes. #EsqLewks.

I am currently actively involved in the Macomb County Bar as the Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chairperson for 2022-2023.

We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?

I’m first generation Nigerian American. Born in Philadelphia while my dad was in medical school. I was literally born into education. As many children of immigrants can attest to, I was taught that education was the only way to make money or secure a good life in America. So, I poured myself into education from a very young age. I often got straight A’s, from elementary school through college and into law school hoping some firm or corporation would —pick me.

No one around me was a business owner, so I was never exposed to entrepreneurship as a kid. I didn’t start learning about the innards of running a business until I started dating my ex-husband while I was in law school. I watched him start and grow a business and all the ups and downs included in that. I was very intrigued and helped him in some aspects of his business. As I started to grow The Tuke Firm, I did my research and figured out what I need to open my own law firm. I was very competent as a practicing lawyer and wanted more equity in the cases I was bringing into my prior firm and to set my own rates/hours. Any useful skill can be systemized and built into a business model. It took a lot of trial and error. I went through seasons of being broke, I had systems not doing what they were designed to do, and I had to go back to the drawing board. I also had Stressful cases that take up lots of time and paid advertising that yields nothing. But you journey on and do better as you know better.

START RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE… what does that mean?

– It costs close to $0 to sketch out an idea in a notebook
– It costs close to $0 to draft a business plan
– It costs close to $0 to start compiling an email list of contacts
– It costs close to $0 to research grants and business funding options
– It costs close to $0 to scout locations for a pop-up shop/office space/store front/outdoor location for future shoots
– It costs close to $0 to start drafting your manuscript/screenplay/autobiography/novel
– It cost closet to $0 to plan your social media content for the next 12 months

Life be lifing, just start. Lesssgooo.😊

Have you ever had to pivot?

When you are building a business or anything in life, your partner matters. So often in business circles we don’t mention this. Especially for young entrepreneurs just starting adult life, your dating/marriage/partner/situationship can greatly affect how you are able to show up in your business day.

Think about it, your person has regular and consistent input on how you think about yourself, how you spend your free time, how you spend your money, whether you attend a conference, etc. In the early years, these things matter so much because resources are finite, challenges are new. If your partner is not supportive of your dreams you are fighting battles each day to sustain your business from 9-5 and then fighting to sustain your belief in your business/dreams from 5-9. It’s not sustainable. If the person you’re with has unreasonable expectations about your “free” time as an entrepreneur, it can add more stress to your plate. If the person you’re with is not feeling the growth in you or time you’re investing in you and your business ideas, you may need to make some tough choices.

I got divorced in 2015 and had to start over in many ways. My firm held strong through my tough years. It was kind of like a personal re-birth that resulted in me finding the best version of myself. I rebuilt my foundation, brick by brick, confronted traumas, continued therapy, rocked it being a single mom of 4 amazing humans + business owner of The Tuke Firm. I’ve helped many divorce clients successfully walk through incredibly rough situations, while I too was just barely hanging on behind the scenes. I still showed up for each and every client, regardless. Those days are long gone, but I vividly remember my dreams for The Tuke Firm and beyond carrying me along those hard months.

A nurturing and supportive partner AND inner non-romantic friend circle is ideal. Realistically, it is not the situation most people find themselves in when they decide to grow into an entrepreneur. However, you have all the power you need within you to push through any obstacle to your business dreams. Someone else, a little less scared than you, is already doing it… join them. 😊

 

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.thetukefirm.com
  • Instagram: @thetukefirm
  • Facebook: @thetukefirm
  • Linkedin: @essetuke

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