Nielsen Miller-McCoy: A Partnership That Works 9/20/17 09/19/17 9:30:04 PM
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Michelle Miller-McCoy and Niel Nielsen believe in a relaxed, cheerful atmosphere at work and it showed during their interview.
By Dennis Friend
The Daily Record
“At Nielsen Miller-McCoy we take pride in applying our comprehensive legal knowledge and experience to the protection of your interests while providing you with personal attention and responsive communication. We look forward to providing you with sophisticated counsel tailored to your needs.”
When you walk into the Nielsen Miller-McCoy office at 9802 Nicholas Street, it’s not immediately evident that it’s a law firm. It seems more laid back, more friendly, more casual than one might expect.
But laid back, friendly and casual are terms that fit both the owners and the firm’s approach to estate planning and it becomes apparent fairly quickly in a conversation with Niel Nielsen and Michelle Miller-McCoy, the lawyers who opened the firm, that the atmosphere is intentional.
Nielsen and Miller-McCoy have been practicing law for two decades and specialize in the intricacies of estate planning. They had worked together for years when they decided to strike out on their own one year ago.
“We were partners at our prior office and we both felt our practice would work well as a small firm,” Miller-McCoy said.
“In estate planning, today’s technology allows us to provide the same service as a large firm,” Nielsen agreed. “It gives us more time for family.”
The concepts of communication and client counseling figure strongly with both Nielsen and Miller-McCoy.
Miller-McCoy has been practicing law in the areas of estate planning and business law for more than 20 years, but “the part of my practice that I enjoy most is working with clients to find practical solutions.” She points out that planning ahead is important and “a lot of problems can be avoided through the use of simple tools such as trusts, powers of attorney, prenuptial agreements, limited liability companies and buy/sell agreements.”
Nielsen said he takes a similar approach and he values the aspect of his work as an estate-planning lawyer that allows him one-on-one contact with a client.
“I’m doing what I always wanted to do,” he said. His father was an estate planner and Nielsen said he decided to pursue a career as an estate-planning lawyer. He began working in estate planning as a first year law student at Creighton University School of Law and worked under his father, an established and experienced lawyer.
Nielsen began his own law practice in 2002, but merged his practice with Carlson & Burnett in 2012.
That’s where he met Michelle Miller-McCoy. When she decided to become a lawyer, she said she had “a glamorous view” of courtroom work but soon came to believe “the courtroom is not my strongest point.”
Miller-McCoy graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.A. in 1994, and received her law degree from Creighton in 1997. She was a partner at Erickson & Sederstrom, and then at Carlson & Burnett.
Nielsen and Miller-McCoy discovered at Carlson & Burnett that they worked well together and clicked as co-workers. They both approach their work with an eye primarily on what the client needs.
“We like to counsel the clients and help them avoid conflicts and problems in estate planning,” Nielsen said. He describes himself as a “focused communicator” who tries to put clients at ease with his relaxed manner and tries to communicate “clearly and simply so they have the information they need to make the decisions that are right for them.”
Miller-McCoy’s approach is similar. There are times in which “I meet clients after the worst has happened and the time for pre-planning has passed. In these cases, the goal is to help them through as professionally and kindly as possible. This might mean establishing a guardianship or conservatorship for a disabled family member, helping a client though a challenging probate or trust administration, or helping transition a business.”
They are so similar in their approach to their work ethic and to client needs, they occasionally finish a thought for each other. For instance, they considered why they decided to open their own firm:
“We are fortunate we do the same things for the same people. We built a client base,” Miller-McCoy said.
Nielsen added, “It was more of a geographic change, like we weren’t starting a new business, just growing to a new location.”
Miller-McCoy jumped in again: “We were hoping to offer a comfortable feel.”
They also agree that their strength as individuals is dealing with clients.
What’s the toughest part of owning a company? Again, they’re in total agreement:
“Billing,” Nielsen said, and Miller-McCoy agreed that while billing is important, the partners have to make a concerted effort not to procrastinate, since they would much rather focus on helping the clients.
Miller McCoy said, “Niel and I have similar practices and appreciate the chance to work together as partners and sounding boards.”
Both are 46 years old. Miller-McCoy has served on the Douglas County Board of Mental Health since 2015, is a fellow of the Nebraska Bar Foundation and has taught business law at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“We occasionally speak [to groups],” Nielsen said.
“Speaking engagements like churches and Rotary clubs,” Miller-McCoy added, or “presentations to church groups, nursing home administrators, residents of assisted living facilities and charity groups,” Nielsen offered.
The two said they rarely disagree.
“That can be a strength and a weakness,” Nielsen mused.
According to Miller-McCoy, “We feel like we’ve known each other for a lot longer than six years.”
The two have their own separate lives, however. They’re both married.
“Happily married,” Nielsen volunteered.
“Both spouses support this partnership,” Miller-McCoy added.
“We both have two kids,” Nielsen said. He has a 21-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter. Miller-McCoy has a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.
When not working, Nielsen and his son like to go scuba diving. Miller-McCoy enjoys art, music and playing guitar. They both characterize themselves as family oriented.
“I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children,” Miller-McCoy said.
And at work, “We get along well,” Nielsen said.
“Except politically,” Miller-McCoy added, “But we don’t fight.”