How She Got Her Start with Jerri Hemsworth—Meredith Sesser

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How she got her start with-Jerri Hemsworth

Jerri Hemsworth, CEO of Newman Grace Marketing, interviews Meredith Sesser, Attorney at Sesser Law. Meredith shares her story of how her journey into pension law began. What is ERISA and what impact does it have on business mergers? Why did she venture out on her own? Did she always want to be a lawyer? Listen to how Meredith got her start.


More About Meredith Sesser
About Jerri Hemsworth
About Echelon Business Development Network  


How She Got Her Start 

How She Got Her Start is a podcast devoted to the stories of women business owners and women executives. Listening to their stories, their challenges and their successes is meant to inspire other women while they maneuver the world of business. Whether they are attorneys, accountants, marketing and public relation execs, or IT specialists, every woman has a unique journey with shared threads of commonality. Hearing how we are a community of common goals and dreams hopefully inspires those on the journey with us and those coming after us.

Listening to other women business owners and executives allows a listener to tap into a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and support. Actively seeking out and engaging with our community, one can accelerate their own growth. One may also overcome obstacles, and find inspiration and guidance along the way. 

Women business owners and executives can bring diverse perspectives and insights to the table. By listening to How She Got Her Start, one can gain a broader understanding of different industries, markets, and client segments. This diversity can inspire fresh ideas, creativity, and innovation in one’s own business approach.


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Announcer 0:01
And now from the Echelon Studios in Los Angeles, California its the How She Got Her Start podcast. So let’s all get started with your host Jerri Hemsworth.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:15
So this is Jerri Hemsworth. And this is the How She Got Her Start podcast. I’m sitting here today with Meredith Sesser. And Meredith is somebody I’ve known for a number of years and watched her grow in her career. She’s laughing, but it’s a it’s very impressive, her journey, and I wanted to bring her in and share her story with you. She’s with Sesser Law, or Meredith J Sesser Law. How’re you doing today?

Meredith Sesser 0:45
I’m great. How are you?

Jerri Hemsworth 0:46
I’m doing good and doing good. So tell us about your law firm? What is it that you specialize in?

Meredith Sesser 0:52
So my law firm is a boutique law firm that specializes in one area of law, known as ERISA. And people go, what is ERISA? ERISA was something passed in 1974. So it’s quite old now. And it’s the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. So what this is, is a big group of rules that govern retirement plans. And the purpose of the rules is so one people can save for retirement. But two, we don’t have people stealing money from other people, or people being too greedy or saving too much. It’s a way for the government to monitor what people are putting away.

Jerri Hemsworth 1:33
Gotcha. And then when do I was just thinking when firms merge is, is that a time when a client will call you or when when should a client pick up the phone or a potential client and say, I need some help here?

Meredith Sesser 1:52
Mergers absolutely is a huge area. In fact, today I closed a sale of a company that’s supposed to have being announced this week, publicly, but it was a huge company. And the the retirement plan played a role in it, what’s going to happen to the benefits when we sell what’s going to happen to the employees when we sell those types of issues? And for whatever reason that people forget about it, forget to ask or discuss it, I would imagine because it’s they’re just concentrated on selling or merging their firm’s right, and the money.

Jerri Hemsworth 2:27
And the money.

Meredith Sesser 2:28
No one’s thinking about a 401k. Unfortunately, it has to be addressed.

Jerri Hemsworth 2:34

Meredith Sesser 2:34
And it’s better to do it before you close an acquisition. So we know what’s going to happen. And also, sometimes a retirement plan can be a liability.

Jerri Hemsworth 2:44

Meredith Sesser 2:44
So sometimes, if it wasn’t operated, right, or the employer wasn’t depositing the money to the plan properly and timely, that could be a liability for a buyer. So it could actually impact the value of a business if you have a huge liability with a 401k. Big time. Absolutely.

Jerri Hemsworth 2:44
I remember when I had a 401k for my, my team, years and years and years ago. I remember the dreaded 5500 form.

Meredith Sesser 3:14
Oh, yes.

Jerri Hemsworth 3:15
And the penalties for filing that late. were huge, huge, even a day late. And I would lived in fear of that sucker.

Meredith Sesser 3:24
And it got worse. It used to be $50,000, that we would get assessed if you filed it late. Now it’s $150,000 for each one that’s late. So I have clients come to me with like $600,000 in penalties for failing to file this form, which by the way, is not a tax return. It’s an information return,

Jerri Hemsworth 3:46

Meredith Sesser 3:47
It’s two pages.

Jerri Hemsworth 3:48
It’s nothing. It’s not hard.

Meredith Sesser 3:49

Jerri Hemsworth 3:50
I remember, it was very easy. I could file it myself being a business

Meredith Sesser 3:53
But you have to remember.

Jerri Hemsworth 3:54
But you have to remember and God forbid you were late.

Meredith Sesser 3:57
And that’s part of my practice of getting those penalties waived for people who just forget or didn’t know, a lot of times they don’t even know that they have to file the Form. Right. So I got a thank you yesterday from a client who said I saved him, because he got that originally $150,000 penalty letter, and yesterday got the $0 one. And we got the whole thing written off. He was so thankful. Yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:22
I bet. Would you rather pay Meredith to clean it up? Or would you rather pay? You know?

Meredith Sesser 4:28
Absolutely. And that and it’s that’s another part of my practice is fixing mistakes, like those and also advising before the mistake. What can we do before you get the penalty letter? So the IRS has created programs to help people file those returns late for a small sanction. It was something that I fought four years ago in probably the early 2000s for the government to set up a program for sole practitioners who forgot to file that form.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:58
If the penalty is more than what the assets are in the plan,

Meredith Sesser 5:03
which it could be. If there’s a problem that

Jerri Hemsworth 5:06

Meredith Sesser 5:07
And so my goal is to help small companies to deal with those penalties because it could put you out of business.

Jerri Hemsworth 5:12

Meredith Sesser 5:13
It could bankrupt

Jerri Hemsworth 5:14
in a heartbeat. Yes. In an absolute heartbeat.

Meredith Sesser 5:17
Yeah. And those are the people I want to protect are these small companies who don’t have in house counsel telling them to file it, but they’re just regular businesses like yours and have a 401k. In California. If you have five or more employees, you have to offer a retirement plan.

Jerri Hemsworth 5:34

Meredith Sesser 5:34
So now you’ve got all these retirement plans out there, but a lack of guidance. And so mistakes happen, and I don’t want anyone going out of business over a 401k.

Jerri Hemsworth 5:47
Thank God, thank God, and it’s such a niche area of law.

Meredith Sesser 5:50
Yeah. And there’s few of us. Unfortunately, it’s not you don’t go to law school and say, I want to be a pension lawyer. It’s just not sexy to say that. So there was a market I could go into, because, number one, there’s very few woman pension lawyers. And number two, there’s very few lawyers at all in this area. That I think in 1974, when ERISA passed, a bunch of lawyers got thrown into this area.

Jerri Hemsworth 6:18

Meredith Sesser 6:19
So they’re working in a big law firm. Sure, they’re an associate, they say, Okay, we need someone to

Jerri Hemsworth 6:25
look at this little ERISA thing,

Meredith Sesser 6:26
you go figure it out. Yeah. Because we need a lawyer who does it. Those guys are all retiring now. Because it was 1974. They’re getting older, they were in their 20s, maybe back then 30s. And now they’re retiring. So it’s an opportunity for me, given that I’ve done this 23 years to jump in, and to become the younger ERISA lawyer that’s out there. And also a female lawyer that out there, because there’s very few of us.

Jerri Hemsworth 6:54
Your name gets bandied around a lot in meetings, you know, that you’re not even there. And people who say, yeah, do you know Meridith Sesser? I hear that probably a couple times a month.

Meredith Sesser 7:07
I appreciate that.

Jerri Hemsworth 7:09
No, it’s true.

Meredith Sesser 7:09
Well, it’s it is interesting, because I sometimes get clients that came from three different people. Maybe it’s from a CPA or a financial planner, because there’s just so few of us, right. And yet, there’s so many retirement plans. And there’s such a need, gosh, such a need for it. And also, because I’m a boutique, I want to tailor my prices for a boutique firm that can afford me.


Not everyone can afford these massive law firms that charge so much. And so they need a boutique person like me who can handle it. So that’s my market to help companies like my own to be able to survive, comply with the law and not pay millions of dollars in penalties.

Jerri Hemsworth 7:50
Thank God.

Meredith Sesser 7:51

Jerri Hemsworth 7:51
I mean it’s wonderful that you have specialized in this area because I as a as a woman, business owner, it’s it’s admirable, and it’s so smart, just so stinking smart.

Meredith Sesser 8:04
And you also have to I think, have some sort of compassion for your clients.

Jerri Hemsworth 8:08
Of course.

Meredith Sesser 8:09
Yeah, I have clients come in sometimes crying. I had IRS agents sitting next to me and the poor wife sitting across just thought she did everything right and completely did it wrong for 20 years. Oh, and she’s crying saying I did the best I can. And he’s telling her, you’re going to owe all this money

Right? So part of it’s like calming them down, letting them know we’ve got this handled. And I feel like being a woman, it’s kind of like talking to a child. You know, and and because it’s so complicated this area of law, you do need to speak in English and almost like as a child to explain it.

Jerri Hemsworth 8:45
Absolutely. Otherwise, it’s over your head. It’s really, really complex. And, and it’s taken me a long time to even just understand employee law, employment law, shall say, Well, you got employer and employee, and then you throw something like pension and benefits into it.

Meredith Sesser 9:04
Yes. Complicated.


And also, when you start, I have clients who have multiple companies. They started getting, you know, confused there. Well, I’ve got this company and I’ve got that one. And my wife has one and, you know, my housekeepers on my payroll, all these complexities to it and people don’t really think about it when they set up a 401k.

Right? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:30
I want to switch gears a little bit. Where’d you Where’d you grow up?

Meredith Sesser 9:33
So I grew up in the San Fernando Valley,

Jerri Hemsworth 9:35
another valley girl.

Meredith Sesser 9:36
Another valley girl. Although someone said to me last week that it didn’t sound like a valley girl.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:40
No you don’t.

Meredith Sesser 9:41
So that that was a plus I outgrown sounding like a valley girl. I always been in Los Angeles, which is actually been helpful to my profession, went to UCLA for undergrad and Loyola law near downtown LA when I went there a building Staples Center. So I watched thatbe built. Loyola is right near there. And I’ve always practiced in LA. Originally, I was in Westlake Village practicing, then went to the city. And now I’m back in the valley.

Jerri Hemsworth 10:15
So did you go to school like you said, Nobody goes and says, I want to be a pension lawyer so I’m gonna go to law school. How did how did pension and ERISA come to you?

Meredith Sesser 10:25
So it you’re 100%, right, no one says they want to be a pension lawyer. In fact, in law school, they don’t even teach it.

Jerri Hemsworth 10:32

Meredith Sesser 10:32
So they had one class every three years, if they could get enough students to enroll. And my year, they never got enough to cancel the class. So not something you learn in law school, although Tax Internal Revenue Code, you would learn that in tax classes. But most of this is learned on the site and the job trained by another lawyer. So I went to law school and my first year I took a estate planning, loved it. It was so much fun. And I said, I’m going to be an estate planner. Okay. So I went to work for an estate planner. And I would go to school at night and work during the day. So Loyola offered five days a week night school. So I did that, still graduated in three years and was doing estate planning. When I was there, it was it was in the late 90s. And there was a bunch of new tax legislation that came out regarding retirement plans. So the estate planner I worked for she also was a pension lawyer, and also a corporate lawyer

Jerri Hemsworth 11:33

Meredith Sesser 11:34
And she said, You know what, we’re so busy with these retirement plans and all the law changes. Can you work on that instead?

Jerri Hemsworth 11:41
Oh, okay.

Meredith Sesser 11:43
I knew nothing about this. She would give me these files. And she would say, write down everybody’s tax ID. I didn’t even know what that was.

Jerri Hemsworth 11:52
Yeah. What is that?

Meredith Sesser 11:53
Right? Where do I find that? She says, write down what kind of retirement plan they have. And I’m like, I have no idea. I thought it’s just a 401 K.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:01
What’s a 401k?

Meredith Sesser 12:02
Yeah. What’s a profit sharing? What’s a pension? And so I actually had to read through these files and figure it all out. Then we had to rewrite everyone’s retirement plans. Because you have to do this every six years. And it happened to fall right when I was working for her. So I learned it and she trained me on it. And another female pension lawyer who has since retired. And I said, You know what, when I finished law school, there’s a lot of estate planners. Yeah, I’m going into pension law. Wow. So I hired a headhunter to find me a new firm to put me at. And I said, print all the pension lawyers in Los Angeles,

Jerri Hemsworth 12:40
how many were there?

Meredith Sesser 12:40
There was like, one little tiny paragraph, maybe eight, maybe eight lawyers. So I started at the top of the list. Yeah, which was B,


And I and there was a lawyer named Brucker and I called him up. And he hired me and I worked for him for 17 years.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:56
17 years you were at Brucker.

Meredith Sesser 12:58
Because he was first on the list.

Jerri Hemsworth 13:00
Oh, my gosh lucky guy who had be I mean, it could have been, he could have been, you know, Wallace down at the bottom and ever, never have met you.

Meredith Sesser 13:09
‘So that’s where I landed. And he also trained me for many years. As I said, a lot of this is hands on.

Jerri Hemsworth 13:16
Yeah. How long had he been in business when you came along?

Meredith Sesser 13:20
So he started in 1974 in ERISA when it was passed?

Jerri Hemsworth 13:24
So he was one of those originals?

Meredith Sesser 13:25
Yes, there’s a few men that were originals, and a lot of them has since retired. So it was I got trained by the starting lawyers in the field, but I’m one of the continuing lines that still around. Wow. Yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 13:39
So would you say they’re still eight in the LA area?

Meredith Sesser 13:43
It’s a good question. Not that do what I do. In the LA area boutique, small pension lawyer. It’s me. There’s otherwise people are part of larger firms.

Jerri Hemsworth 13:55

Meredith Sesser 13:56
They don’t want the small clients. They want the big clients. So I’m able to take the small ones.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:01
Isn’t that interesting? There’s so many people that say they want the big clients, I want big clients, but there’s far more small business clients than there are large clients.

Meredith Sesser 14:11
And they need that help. Yeah, they need a lawyer too.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:14
Right. So I always kind of laugh a little on the inside when people say, oh, you know, I only take middle market or larger clients. And I’m thinking you don’t have a lot of clients.

Meredith Sesser 14:24
Yeah, see, I actually have a lot of clients, but they’re smaller ones. Could be husband and wife.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:30

Meredith Sesser 14:31
Could be small doctor’s office. It could be a small lawyer’s office. Those are the ones who need a lawyer and can’t afford the big firms.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:39
And Meredith, I don’t know how you are with this, but doesn’t that allow you to connect a little bit more with your clients?

Meredith Sesser 14:45
Absolutely. And I pick up the phone, I talk to them.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:49

Meredith Sesser 14:50
They’re not dealing with associates. They’re not dealing with five lawyers looking at one matter.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:55

Meredith Sesser 14:55
They get me.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:56

Meredith Sesser 14:56
And that’s why I did what I do. I like that connection. When my father, my brother were both dentists, and they had small practices, so I have it in my heart to help small businesses that need it as well.

Jerri Hemsworth 15:10
I understand that, I understand that a lot.

Meredith Sesser 15:12
And their problems are the same as the big firms.

Jerri Hemsworth 15:15
Of course.

Meredith Sesser 15:15
It’s the same problems. Of course, the laws, the law. Yeah. But it just might be a smaller scale, although I’ve had retirement plans from as small as one person up to $40,000. So, but the issue is the same.

Jerri Hemsworth 15:28
They’re all, yeah, I understand that, too.

Meredith Sesser 15:30

Jerri Hemsworth 15:33
So you were with Brucker for 17 years? Did you always want to have your own firm or had,

Meredith Sesser 15:41

Jerri Hemsworth 15:41

Meredith Sesser 15:43
I never wanted to have my own firm. It just kind of evolved? I would say,

Jerri Hemsworth 15:47
How did you strike out on your own?

Meredith Sesser 15:49
So working for Brucker? At one point, we were probably six lawyers, maybe seven, and people started retiring. And as people started to retire, we didn’t have a lot of new lawyers coming in to replace them.

Jerri Hemsworth 16:02
Yeah, you weren’t the pension lawyers weren’t banging down the door?

Meredith Sesser 16:05
They weren’t banging on the door for us, I don’t get it. It’s so hard. And we did get maybe one or two new lawyers may be someone who moved from out of state or somebody who just graduated law school. But typically you don’t find younger people. So our firm didn’t really have much of a succession plan. We didn’t have people in there that we could train and you know, take over the firm. So in 2018, as the last partner was there, he was getting older, I thought he was going to retire. And I said, you know, I need to market my own name. Because all the people that knew my firm name are also retiring. Right? It kind of goes together, the referral sources are the same age as the founding partners, and then they retire. So I, people know me, they know Meredith, and I wanted that in my marketing materials. I wanted people to know I’m calling Meredith. It wasn’t about the old firm name. So I do the exact same thing. I was very fortunate that when I left, I took all my clients they all came with. And then I just kept going.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:13
You just it was never missing a beat.

Meredith Sesser 17:16
Now I just had one day had, I kept the phone number. One day, I had one email and the next I had the other.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:22

Meredith Sesser 17:23
So for me, I was very fortunate. And although I didn’t ever intend to be on my own, I’m very lucky that it was seamless. And everything continued. I was trained for it. And I was working on my own pretty much within a firm. So it was an easy transition. Being part of a firm is great, but I still luckily have so many colleagues that either work in the area, or I can call and ask things and run things by. I’m in two study groups and meet monthly and we run things by each other.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:56
So smart.

Meredith Sesser 17:57
So I do have that support, even though it’s not a big firm.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:00

Meredith Sesser 18:01
So it was not something I said when I was growing up. I want to be a business owner. Yeah, yeah, I did say I want to be a lawyer.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:09
Oh, really? So you knew you wanted to go into law.

Meredith Sesser 18:11
6th grade graduation speech. It’s on VHS tape when they recorded it?

Jerri Hemsworth 18:15
So it’s a little grainy.

Meredith Sesser 18:17
Yes. But I did say I stood up and said I want to go to UCLA. I want to be a lawyer. So I hit that.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:25

Meredith Sesser 18:25
And then the business owner came with it at some point that’s gonna say

Jerri Hemsworth 18:28
and I bet it wasn’t pension lawyer. And it was not

Meredith Sesser 18:31
action lawyer. It was probably criminal or something. Because that sounded TV. Very cool. Yeah. But definitely not pension lawyer. But I found my niche. And I like to say I’m an expert in my niche.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:44

Meredith Sesser 18:44
But I don’t know anything about other stuff. I know when to refer it out.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:48
Sure. Were you nervous going out on your own at all?

Meredith Sesser 18:51
I think I was. I think I was scared. Like, what’s gonna happen if people say we don’t want to use you because you’re on your own. Or you’re not a big firm. I want a big firm, but it didn’t happen. It all worked out. I got very, very lucky.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:06

Meredith Sesser 19:07
Yes. And it took pushing. I will tell you that. My lawyer pushed me Meredith, you need to pull the plug. You need to go on your own. Yes, I did not. I wasn’t ready. And he’s like, I needed that talking to him telling me Meredith you need to do this. Just you got it. Go get,

Jerri Hemsworth 19:26
You can do it.

Meredith Sesser 19:26
He said get a website. Get get a phone line. Get a computer .

Jerri Hemsworth 19:31
Business card. Be done with it.

Meredith Sesser 19:32
Your done. Yeah. And that was it. And I did it. And as long as you have that stuff and your resources, you can do it. And you’re a mom of three, a mom of three boys.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:44
Three boys.

Meredith Sesser 19:45
Yes. So when I started in this area, I had just gotten married, married 22 years. I didn’t have any,

Jerri Hemsworth 19:52

Meredith Sesser 19:53
Thank you. Didn’t have kids. But luckily, I’ve been able to work them in two My work life. Oh, they probably have absolutely no idea what I do. They know mommy’s a lawyer.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:05
That’s it.

Meredith Sesser 20:06
No clue other than that. Yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:08
Yeah. Why confuse them at this age? Meredith? I mean, honestly, they’re like

Meredith Sesser 20:12
Mommy’s a lawyer. Bring it. Bring home the money. Yeah, they say, no idea about anything else.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:17
And what’s for dinner Mom?

Meredith Sesser 20:18
And what’s was for dinner? Yeah, yes, that’s it. And we make it all happen. I make them dinner. They’re happy. Yeah. And I’ve always been able to go to everything for them. You know, last night was open house for school. I’m there. So I’m very involved. And then it fits in between my work schedule.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:36
Isn’t it’s interesting, because I was able to do the same thing with our daughter.

Meredith Sesser 20:40

Jerri Hemsworth 20:42
And now as she’s launched. She’s a year, in a year and a few months into a career in advertising, which is interesting, because I didn’t see that coming. Seriously. I didn’t see that coming. And she saw mom and dad doing marketing for her own firm. That was all she saw. And I sometimes wonder if now she’s getting, you know, her eyes are wide open now and going, “Holy crap. This is not what I expected.”

Meredith Sesser 21:13
Oh, wow.

Jerri Hemsworth 21:14
You know, this is this is not, I mean, I know mom was running a firm dad was their dad was doing this that they both taught. But also there’s that, “Whoa, this is this is hard.”

Meredith Sesser 21:30
a lot harder than you made it look.

Jerri Hemsworth 21:31


Right. And I wonder if your boys, when they are out in their careers, will turn back and go?

Meredith Sesser 21:38
I think they will. Yes. I think moms can make things look easy. Yes, I really do. Yeah. And they see that mom can work. And I can stay up till late at night and get the work done. And do it in the weekend. So I can make sure everything’s done. And also go to their basketball games. So they know mom can do it. Women can multitask.

Jerri Hemsworth 21:59
Yeah. Yeah.

Meredith Sesser 22:00
I don’t know a lot ofmen that can.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:01
I’m not sure that they should. But we can.

Meredith Sesser 22:03
We can. We’re built that way.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:05

Meredith Sesser 22:05
And so I think my boys may not be able to multitask the same way. You know, it’s a lot of work. I think maybe one of my three will be a lawyer. I’m hoping. Maybe that will be my succession plan. But it’s a hard sell. How do you tell someone, Yeah, go be a pension lawyer. That’s just not cool.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:25
Like, No, it isn’t. Sad. It is. It isn’t. It isn’t, you

Meredith Sesser 22:28
You know not for a teenage boy. Yeah. You know, maybe they want to be an entertainment lawyer. And for some rappers or sports. It has sports agents. And yes, that’s cool.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:39
Right? Until they get in and they realize that mom’s in a in an area that there aren’t a lot.

Meredith Sesser 22:46
That’s right.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:47
And oh, there’s opportunity here.

Meredith Sesser 22:49
A lot of need.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:50

Meredith Sesser 22:50
So I picked an area that I know people need me. That’s why I did that.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:57
Are you able very easily to turn it off when it’s family time? And just like or is it tough for you to just, you know, Oh, I gotta go do this. I got it. It was interesting. I was at a luncheon yesterday and we talked about guilt of family versus working and stuff. Do you? Do you have any of that or your pretty easy.

Meredith Sesser 23:16
It depends who you ask. My husband will say I don’t turn it off. I’m always got my cell phone always doing that. But I did start to have guilt, like you’re mentioning, because my 18 year old would go to college next year out of state. And so I felt it was the first time I realized I’m gonna come home one day, and he’s not there. He’s all grown up and gone. And I said, Oh, my God, I’ve missed out on things or what if I miss out on things. So first time in 20 plus years, we did go on a trip over the summer to Italy for two weeks. And you have to turn it off because the time difference.

Jerri Hemsworth 23:53
Yeah true.

Meredith Sesser 23:54
All my emails were at night, but I couldn’t make phone calls. And I had to tell people, I’m on vacation, right? First time I ever put an out of office over my because I always work from vacation.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:05
Did you feel anxious about doing that?

Meredith Sesser 24:07
The first couple days was hard. Yeah. Then you get used to it. Yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:11
And then you’re like, Oh, yes.

Meredith Sesser 24:12
It’s actually really nice.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:14

Meredith Sesser 24:15
And I’ve never done that. I’ve worked from Costa Rica and the monkeys in the background closing deals, you know. But I did it this time to be with my kids. And now, since school started again, my son, he starts at 1030 we go hiking three days a week together. So I’m able to just talk to him. And it’s early enough in the morning. The phone’s not ringing yet. Oh, that’s fantastic. Honestly, it’s the best thing ever, because I get that time with him. And he’ll be gone in college soon. And I don’t want to miss out on it.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:45

Meredith Sesser 24:46
Because once they’re all out of the house, it’s just me.


And the Internal Revenue Code and my husband, you know, it’s just us, and I’m gonna miss all of a basketball and the lacrosse games and all of that stuff. So I definitely want to do it. As much as I can now


Before they’re gone.

Jerri Hemsworth 25:03
Yeah, Libby, our daughter moved out a couple of months ago. She doesn’t live too far. But it is, it is a change. It definitely is. And she went up north to school. So we had a little bit of, you know, run up. When she was there, she wasn’t there. And then she lived at home for a year. But she wasn’t really there much. But you know, she’s still, you know, you’d walk into room and see her laundry and everything. And then when, when she moved out, and the bed was gone, and

Meredith Sesser 25:37
Then it really hit.

Jerri Hemsworth 25:38
And then you’re like, Oh, my.

Meredith Sesser 25:39
she’s gone?

Jerri Hemsworth 25:40
Yeah. Yeah.

Meredith Sesser 25:42
And I don’t want to miss anything during their life because I was working. Yeah, because it’s just, that’s not the way it should be.

Jerri Hemsworth 25:49
And yet, you did make it to all their games and all the stuff that’s so important. And many parents don’t get the opportunity to do that.

Meredith Sesser 25:56
That’s right. And I really try not to travel for work. I most my I have clients across the US, but it’s all by phone. And that really the only time I’m traveling is to go speak somewhere.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:07

Meredith Sesser 26:08
Because I do get asked to speak. And so I like in October, I’ll be in Washington to speak at a conference. A pension conference.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:17
Of course.

Meredith Sesser 26:19
But other than that, I’m always around and there for them. And it to me I have to be I feel like that’s my job, too.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:25

Meredith Sesser 26:26
I have two jobs, right? You know, are three, a mom, wife, and a lawyer.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:30

Meredith Sesser 26:31
And so I have to make it work. And now that they’re older, and they get around easier with cars, and they don’t need me to drive as much anymore?

Jerri Hemsworth 26:38
Thank God.

Meredith Sesser 26:39
Yes, thank God.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:40
I don’t miss that part.

Meredith Sesser 26:41
Now, that part I do not miss. But at least I can sit and watch them play a game or, you know, go to back to school night and meet the teachers do those types of things with them. Yeah. And it’s different as a mom than a husband because my husband will golf with them. I wouldn’t even know how to do that. You know, or he’ll go surfing with them. And I’m like, I am not going in the water. It’s too cold. Yeah, it’s like, really we have what he does. And when I do. Yeah. And even though they’re boys, they don’t have to get their nails done with me. We can go hike, I hike or go workout together or something like that. Sure. Yeah. So that’s what we do.

Jerri Hemsworth 27:16
You have you mentioned something that you have clients across the states. And it occurred to me you don’t, the laws are federal laws.

Meredith Sesser 27:25
Yes. So I practice federal law. So I do have clients in New York, I have them all over the country. And it’s still Internal Revenue Code. It’s federal,

Jerri Hemsworth 27:34
That’s fantastic. Unbelieveable

Meredith Sesser 27:35
So I’m lucky believe it. And that’s why I have a steady group in New York with 20 actuaries on the East Coast

Jerri Hemsworth 27:40

Meredith Sesser 27:41
And then one locally as well. So I do get business everywhere. And it’s great. Because it just opens up and even outside of Los Angeles, there’s not that many pension lawyers.

Jerri Hemsworth 27:55
Wow. You know, that just kind of baffles me now that we’re talking about it? And you think you would, I would think somebody would say, Whoa, we could have a large, very large firm and handle a bunch of this.

Meredith Sesser 28:07
When I go to these conferences, like in Washington. So it attracts people from the whole United States, there’s maybe four or five law firms represented there across the US.

Jerri Hemsworth 28:19
Is that, do you get a lot of clients when you speak?

Meredith Sesser 28:22
Well, the people that are there are other people in my industry. So I do. They get to know me. And if they need me, they’ll call me. They’re like consultants and actuaries and administrators and financial people. But it gets my name out there. And then they asked me to come back, which is very nice. So I’ve done that every year for a while now. And then locally to I speak, you know, I’m speaking in October to their business agent or business managers, group of business managers, clients are usually hot people in Hollywood writers and producers, but all those people have retirement plans and have issues. So while I’m making them aware of law changes, and letting the managers know, so they can make sure their clients are in compliance. So

Jerri Hemsworth 29:09
I I’m thinking about your referral sources, attorney, other attorneys, accountants, I have to believe the TPA is a third party administrators

Meredith Sesser 29:25

Jerri Hemsworth 29:26
Like that is that,

Meredith Sesser 29:28
Well I represent them as well, too. I have multiple TPAs, who I represent, so that if they’re being sued or in trouble by one of their clients, I represent them. And also sometimes they make mistakes. You know, I had a couple TPAs pay participants too much money.

Jerri Hemsworth 29:46

Meredith Sesser 29:46
And as the lawyer I represent them to try to get it back.

Jerri Hemsworth 29:49

Meredith Sesser 29:50
Because they’re on the hook. If they pay one of their clients, if they tell their client, you should pay John Smith. I don’t know $50,000 and they calculated that wrong John Smith got 5000 and extra zero. The company is going to say, Well, you told us the wrong amount you’re on the hook. Yeah, it’s it’s my job to try to get that back for the TPA. So I’ve had that a few times as well.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:11
Got it.

Meredith Sesser 30:12
So they’re a great referral source.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:14
Employment lawyers?

Meredith Sesser 30:15
Employment lawyers preferred me as well.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:18
You got quite an array of possibilities.

Meredith Sesser 30:20
Estate planners when someone dies and someone gets a retirement plan that’s out of compliance. Divorce lawyers when we’re splitting retirement. M&A when we’re selling a company. So it kind of comes from all over I have a lot of referral sources. And since I only do one thing, a lot of people for me to refer out to.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:20

Meredith Sesser 30:22
Yes. Yes.

Meredith, thank you so much for sitting with me today.

Of course. This is so good to be with you. I’ve known you almost I think 20 years. Yeah, yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:50
Yeah, that’s a long time when you were at the other firm.

Meredith Sesser 30:52
Yes, absolutely. Well, I’m

Jerri Hemsworth 30:53
Well I’m so glad you’re apart of Echelon

Meredith Sesser 30:56
Thank you.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:57
but also of this podcast.

Meredith Sesser 30:59
Thank you so much. Take care.

Announcer 31:03
You’ve been listening to the How She Got Her Start podcast. Brought to you by Echelon Business Development. More than just networking. Way more!

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meredith represents employers in Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) controversies, including investigations, audits, and voluntary compliance to prevent or correct plan disqualification and fiduciary breaches (EPCRS, VCP, DFVCP and VFCP). She counsels clients on inadvertent filing errors, resolves inaccuracies, and works vigorously to successfully abate IRS penalties charged to employers with late or negligent filings of Form 5500 (Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan). In addition, she advises employers on employee benefit claims. Meredith provides advice on business structuring and employment relationships, including how to determine and analyze controlled and affiliated groups as well as leased and staff employees, to ensure that a business owner’s retirement benefits are not subject to scrutiny by the IRS. She is the “go-to” lawyer for many third-party administrators.

As CEO and Creative Director at Newman Grace, Jerri leads one of Los Angeles’ most respected marketing firm and brand communication firms. Newman Grace has been providing marketing, brand and advertising consulting, graphic design, and social media services to growing companies since 1996. Newman Grace serves the professional services, manufacturing, sports, publishing and non-profit markets. Jerri is an adjunct professor in the School of Media, Culture and Design at Woodbury University. She is also a co-founder of Echelon Business Development Network. Learn more about Jerri here at Newman Grace.