Madison Oberg, a business attorney and partner at Oberg Law Group, believes her superpower lies in her caring nature.
Attorney Madison Oberg is often tasked with helping people work through some of the most difficult times in their lives, such as bankruptcies. “For me, it’s my compassion,” she says. “I’m a deep feeler.”
Love of the “Pupperonis”
This compassion is consistent in all aspects of her life. Madison is a dog lover (she refers to them as “pupperonis”) through and through. In addition to volunteering at her local animal shelter, she’s brought her adoration of four-legged creatures into her professional life as well. She deemed her dog Sophie (full name Sophie Guernsey Sparkle Oberg) Chief Wellness Officer of Oberg Law Group. While the promotion was made in jest, she firmly believes that animals have a place in the workspace as a source of stress relief and mental support.
A Family Business
Madison makes up one half of Oberg Law, the other half being her father, David. On the podcast, Madison discusses the advantages and challenges of going into business with her dad. Balancing work and home life is already a difficult task, but when the two begin to blur, she says drawing clear lines and compartmentalizing is crucial.
“I think the catchphrase of my life right now is boundaries,” she says.
Listen to Madison’s story here.
Click here to read the transcript
Intro Speaker 0:00
From Los Angeles, this is the Echelon Radio Network.
Jerri Hemsworth 0:13
So this is Jerri Hemsworth with the Echelon Radio Podcast and I’m sitting here today with Madison Oberg of Oberg Law. How are you doing?
Madison Oberg 0:24
I’m doing well, how are you?
Jerri Hemsworth 0:25
I’m doing fine. So you are an Echelon 2 member and that is the Echelon associate level membership. How do you find E2? We call it E2. How do you find that so far?
Madison Oberg 0:40
It’s been good. So, you know, I grew up with my dad always being involved in Provisors and things like that. So I had sat in on a couple.
Jerri Hemsworth 0:49
Lots of networking.
Madison Oberg 0:50
Yeah. So much networking. Yeah. Dave’s always been a great networker. So it’s one of those skills that I kind of never had the option of not being good at. So when we first heard about E2, and that opportunity, Dave and I were both really excited because now that I’m a partner at the Oberg Law Group, building my own book of business is really important. But you know, it’s hard as a younger professional trying to have the confidence to step out there, or have those spaces to be heard. You and I were just talking about that, you know, creating spaces for people with who might have less experience in years but still offer a lot and creating those spaces where we feel empowered and confident to be able to kind of tap into that side of ourselves. So I’ve had a really positive experience with it. I’ve actually gotten some business out of it already. So you know, 10 out of 10 would recommend.
Jerri Hemsworth 1:43
Thanks. I love that. Well, you bring up Oberg Law Group, you are a partner at Oberg Law Group, and your partner is your dad, David Oberg. What is it like working with dad for you?
Madison Oberg 2:01
Yeah, I think that at first, you know, there were some bumps in the road. But you know, we were really committed to making it work and finding, I think the catchphrase of my life right now is boundaries. And for us, you know, finding that balance of okay, when, you know, now it’s dinner, we’re at dad-and-daughter mode or like, Okay, now we’re working.
Jerri Hemsworth 2:25
Shut the office door.
Madison Oberg 2:26
Exactly. We’re business partners now. And so, and, you know, working for ourselves, those lines are already very much blurred, right? You know, we’re always on. So trying to, like really pay attention to when he’s providing feedback, you know, I’m giving this to you as a professional. It’s not me being a dad, like scolding my kid. You know, this is just feedback to make you the best professional you can be, which I would hope from any mentor, you know, whether or not we’re related. But also making him feel comfortable enough that he knows he can give me that feedback without fear of me, you know, breaking down like “my dad hates me.” So it goes both ways. And really kind of, I think the foundation is very much like a respect. And I really look up to him as a professional. So it’s been great, because he’s been practicing for quite some time. I think he’s a great attorney. I’ve only, you know, had positive reviews from people around me. So it’s really nice that we have that close relationship that allows us to really kind of lean into it more.
Jerri Hemsworth 3:27
Do you have family occasions where the other family members have to shut you down because you’re talking shop? “Timeout. This is not the place.”
Madison Oberg 3:38
Not too much. I’m pretty good about turning it off. Maybe that’s my generation, but the self care is really important to me. So I’m pretty good about being like, hey, you know, we’ll pick it up in the morning. He’s been pretty good about it, too. He’s been very respectful. You know, if “I’m like, hey, Dave, I’m not having a great day. We need to pick it up.” He’s like, “okay.”
Jerri Hemsworth 3:59
That’s fantastic. So tell me about the practice areas. What is it that you and David do at Oberg Law?
Madison Oberg 4:07
Yeah, so we’re a business attornies. So we have our general transactional practice area where we do everything from, you know, just corporate advisory work, entity formation, annual compliance, mergers and acquisitions ,deals like that. And then we also have the bankruptcy and insolvency practice.
Jerri Hemsworth 4:24
And you and I were talking the other day about what, you know, we playfully called superpowers, and what brought you to this area of law? What is it that you bring that is very beneficial to your clients? What do you know is your professional superpower?
Madison Oberg 4:47
Well, yeah, so based on our conversation, and really thinking about it a lot, I think we realized that for me, it’s my compassion. I’m a deep feeler.
Jerri Hemsworth 4:58
Madison Oberg 4:59
You know, one of my strenghts and also one of my weaknesses. So I found a way to kind of tap into it at the right times, I think. And I think it’s been really helpful because, you know, as we were talking about a little bit earlier, in law school, I clerked at the D.A.’s office as a volunteer clerkship, and I was really focused on more public interest-focused practice. And, you know, it was really easy for me to be really passionate about it and want to help people. And I’ve always thought I wanted to use my legal degree to help people and not just make money. You know, if I was in it for the money, I would have just gone into business, I would have skipped the debt, you know. So while I realized that public interest wasn’t the best path for me, and I find business really interesting, I think of myself as a pretty practical person. So, you know, I find that very helpful. And I like the unique problems that come up with just a general business operation and finding solutions. And so being able to tap into that part of me that was so motivated to just serve and help people in the business sphere, I think can be pretty unique, where at times, it can be very, “okay, it’s all about the numbers.” And like, yeah, but behind every business is humans who are running it.
Jerri Hemsworth 6:17
And you and I were talking about bankruptcy. We were saying how clients come to you when they are really down and really scared and freaked out. And your ability to put yourself in their shoes and the desire to help.
Tilly Hemsworth 6:58
Jerri Hemsworth 6:17
Well, we have a guest on our podcast today. Her name is Tilly and you might have just heard her input, but she’ll help with bankruptcy. And this will play into the podcast in just a minute because you’ll learn a little bit more about Madison and puppies and doggies, but we do have a puppy with us today, which is really fun. She’s actually sitting in Madison’s lap practically right now.
Madison Oberg 7:00
I’m pretty sure she’s bigger than me.
Jerri Hemsworth 7:07
She doesn’t want anything to do with me, which is kind of funny, but quite fun. But yeah, are you bankrupt, Tilly? Never bankrupt of toys. So coming back to when a client comes to you, and they’re really down. How do you approach somebody like that right off the bat? Is it your heart first? Your brain first? What would you say?
Madison Oberg 7:31
Yeah, I think it has to be a gentle balance. Because, you know, it’s still important as a lawyer to be able to maintain that objectiveness. Áou can’t allow your feelings to guide it too much. Because sometimes it’s like, you know, you feel for the person. You know, the number of times, we have to say, “this is what we think, but we’re not the ones to be able to help you with this.” And so we want to be able to do everything we can, but we also, you know, want to be really mindful of like, what would be the best for you. So you have to be able to feel and like be present and look at things from their perspective, but also still maintaining enough of that ability to kind of take a step back and still have a clear understanding of the situation. So I it’s a gentle mix, I think. But you know, the first thing, especially in a bankruptcy situation that I really take pride in, and I think Dave does a really good job of this, too, is just kind of creating a welcoming, comfortable space in which people feel comfortable having those conversations. Because you know, very rarely is someone like, “oh, I’m thinking of considering a bankruptcy. That’s great! I can’t wait to shout that to the world!” You know, there’s so much shame and stress.
Jerri Hemsworth 8:49
Well they’re so vulnerable. And it’s embarrassing to have to say “I’m in trouble. I need your help.”
Madison Oberg 8:56
Exactly. Yeah. And so, for me, having that background understanding and approaching the conversation really makes a difference. And then you can have those honest conversations and you can really look at the situation and see, you know, does a bankruptcy makes sense? Maybe this other solution makes sense. How can we like figure out what really would be the best for you? And that’s what it’s about. It’s like working with someone. And you know, not judging. Just being there. And that’s part of it, too, is you know, so many people, when they do call us, I had one client who called me and they were having some issues with a business partner. So she just called to vent about the business partner, which like, the person who loves trash TV and in me was like “oh my gosh, like Tell me! Like, what’s all the drama?” But also still being professional. You know, not so “Oh my god, tell me more.” You know, you’re just acknowledging they just need a person to vent to too, and being able to be that can be really helpful.
Jerri Hemsworth 9:59
Oh god, that’s really funny.
Madison Oberg 10:01
Whenever she calls, I’m like, “oh, I’ve got to sit down for this one.”
Jerri Hemsworth 10:07
“Let’s take a powder.” So I want to go back a little bit. Where were you born?
Madison Oberg 10:11
I was born in Los Angeles, but I grew up in Calabasas.
Jerri Hemsworth 10:14
Okay. And then you are one of three children?
Madison Oberg 10:20
Jerri Hemsworth 10:21
Where do you fall in line with the three kids?
Madison Oberg 10:23
I’m the middle child,
Jerri Hemsworth 10:24
The middle child? Did you always feel like a middle child? Or did you ever think about that and go, “what the heck?”
Madison Oberg 10:30
I don’t know. I feel like a lot of people who are middle children will. But all of us were so unique. And I think we all ebbed and flowed in terms of who was the temporary favorite. Yeah, I never, I don’t know if I ever had middle child syndrome. Like what does that mean?
Jerri Hemsworth 10:46
And that’s interesting because your father has had a couple of different careers and he talks about them in his podcast. But what made you, out of the three of you, want to go to law school? I mean, was that like, something your dad had that influence? What made you say, “you know what, I want to be an attorney”?
Madison Oberg 11:07
Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m sure Dave probably had a tremendous amount of influence over that. But I kind of went back and forth with things. When I was a kid, I thought I was going to be a coroner one day when I grew up.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:20
Madison Oberg 11:21
Yeah, I know, really uplifting stuff. But I really like problem solving and puzzles.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:29
Madison Oberg 11:32
Yeah, I wantd to live my Agatha Christie fantasy. But then I realized I suck at science.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:42
That’s like me wanting to be a marine biologist. And then I found out how much chemistry was involved.
Madison Oberg 11:46
Yeah, it kind of puts a damper on it. But it was actually funny, because when I was at the D.A.’s office of the woman I worked for, she was like, a DNA master. So I got to go to the crime lab all the time, and I got to go to the coroner’s office. And so I became really familiar with it. You know, I’m not a DNA expert, but I really understand it so it’s cool to tap into that childhood. Like I thought I was going be like, coroner or CSI or something. Oh, my gosh, like, I’m doing it. But you know, I think it just kind of ultimately made sense. Because, you know, I love writing, I love the reading and I like old things. I studied Renaissance literature in college. So I like to say l like old things. Um, but you know, I think law is like a great way to tap into kind of, you know, I’m a creative person, and you have to really be able to think outside the box to be a good lawyer. And so it tapped into my love of writing and language and looking at things and how can you read it differently and spin it because that’s what it’s all about. You know, the law is not black and white. It’s very gray. And so you can read something and four different people will tell you mean something differently. So I think Dave definitely was an influence because I grew up around it. So I knew that was an option for me. And you know, I was helping update his books and stuff from the time I was a kid. So I always kind of had my toes in the legal water. So it was just kind of a natural progression.
Jerri Hemsworth 13:12
Because your siblings didn’t go into law, just you. Interesting.
Madison Oberg 13:15
Danielle is our scientist. She’s a paleontologist.
Jerri Hemsworth 13:18
Okay, there’s where the science genes went. Exactly. Did not go to me.
Madison Oberg 13:25
Yeah, but you got the humanities part.
Jerri Hemsworth 13:27
Exactly. And Nick’s a musician. So he’s still trying to find his final career path.
He’s the artsy one. Okay, that’s cool. That’s very cool. Growing up, what kind of animals and pets did you have?
Madison Oberg 13:41
Well, my first pet ever was a toad named Benjamin. He was a fire-bellied toad. So that’s where it all started. But apparently I accidentally killed him and didn’t know. And bless my mom. She kept buying me more Benjamins.
No. no. You had multiple Benjamins?
Yeah, apparently there was a bunch.
Laughs What were you doing to them?
Apparently, I would give them baths. The toads don’t do well in warm water. I feel like I shouldn’t say this. I’m never going to be allowed to adopt a dog. But so apparently, yeah, my my mom’s like, “Oh, yeah, it’s actually Benjamin #5.” And I’m like, oh my gosh. So that was my first pet experience.
Jerri Hemsworth 14:30
How long did it take her to fess up?
Madison Oberg 14:33
I was definitely in high school or something. I lived my whole life thinking I’m such a good toad mom. At a certain point, she’s like, “Okay, we got to move on.” But yeah, it was so funny. I went through all these years thinking like “I was so good at raising this toad.” Turns out I guess I’m better with dogs. So we grew up with a black lab named Shadow. We had her for 14 years. And then when Shadow crossed over the rainbow bridge, at the time, I was volunteering at an animal shelter.
Wait, wait, wait. So what made you want to go volunteer at an animal shelter?
Yes. So I love the pupperonis. They’re my favorite. So I always wanted to, but when I was in college, I went to school in Wisconsin. So the requirement for the county shelters was that you had to like commit to at least six months, but during that time, I was never in one place for more than three months. So it was one of those “one day, I’m going to volunteer at this animal shelter, and it’s going to be magical.” So the summer going into law school, because I graduated and went straight into law school, I was like “I’m going to fill out the application and I’ll see” and I kind of forgot about it. And then they did the county volunteer training. And so I did my training the summer going into my first year at law school, so I did that all throughout law school. I took a little time off when I was studying for the bar, but I did that right up until the pandemic.
Wow. Wow. And I know Shadow is on the other side of the rainbow bridge. Did anybody fill Shadow’s paws?
Yes. She is our Chief Wellness Officer now. Her name is Sophie. her full name is Sophie Guernsey Sparkle Oberg.
Jerri Hemsworth 16:25
So appropriate if you haven’t met Sophie.
Because she’s a diva.
I believe she’s on your website.
She is. So you can check her out and look at her glamour shots. Yes. But yeah, Sophie was my shelter crush. And so when Shadow passed away, my dad made it about 10 days. And he was like, “I can’t I can’t do it. We need a dog. Do you know anyone that’s like really great at the shelter?”
So she was at the shelter where you were volunteering in Agoura?
Yeah, yeah. She was there for a couple months. The nice thing about Agoura is that they don’t have an issue with space. So dogs have more time there than they would at a different county shelter. They call it the Ritz-Carlton of the county shelters. At least it’s a nice one.
Yes. And so Sophie comes into the Oberg family. And how does she change the Oberg family, especially with working at home?
Madison Oberg 17:32
Hmm. Well, coming from growing up with a dog that we had from the time he was a puppy, you know, Shadow, he was a great dog. But you know, he grew up with a magical life. Sophie, we adopted her at seven,
She was seven. So an older girl.
Yeah. And I don’t know what her history was. But, you know, I like to say if she had a memoir it would be called triggered because she’s a very anxious girl. So I don’t think her original home was the best. And we were actually I think the third or fourth family to adopt her. She kept getting returned at the shelter, because she had separation anxiety. So these people would adopt her and then leave her in their apartment for like, a weekend. And she’s like, “hello. Don’t you see I’m amazing? Come hang out with me.” And so when she came into our home, I think having me there really helped her kind of settle in right away because she was like “oh, I know her.” So it was good. But you know, rescuing a dog. It’s just a completely different experience. She’s so grateful. She’s so eager to love you. And so it was really special.
Jerri Hemsworth 18:34
So I noticed something and and I’ve been to the Oberg home. I’ve experienced Sophie. She is a pit mix, as are our dogs. The most misunderstood breed ever.
But I’ve noticed that around the Oberg home. There are there’s a bed for Sophie and every damn room. Every room.
Well, she can’t sleep on the floor. She’s not an animal. She’s a Goddess.
So I’ve been on zooms with Dave and Sophie’s always in the background. I know that Dave and your family had moved homes. And I noticed Sophie wasn’t always in the background now. Sophie is also in your mother’s office. How is Dave handling that? Because suddenly I get the feeling he’s not the favored parent anymore. Because she’s spending a lot of time in the other office.
Madison Oberg 19:45
Yeah, I mean, I haven’t asked Dave so I can’t firmly answer that, but you know, I’m sure he’s working through it.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:56
I’m curious. Your love of puzzles and your compassion for clients and animals, and you said you’re a very feeling person, emotional. And talking about your superpower again, I think what what I hear is, somebody is going to have a very long career in law and holding on to that compassion. Where do you see yourself in 10 years, would you say? Have you thought about that? Have you thought about if you’re going to stay in business law and bankruptcy? Or is it adding on to that? Because there’s so many areas of law where you can take that same passion. Do you have any dreams? Or is it right now, bankruptcy and business is it for you?
Madison Oberg 21:10
Yeah, I think you know, for now, I’m really happy where I’m at. I know, you know, Dave and I have talked a lot about, you know, over the next several years, really kind of stepping into more of a leading partner role. So I see that in the future, but I rarely do the “where do I see myself in 10 years?” Because if you asked me that four years ago, I was going to be an FBI special agent. Which it’s still an option, so I never say never. I’m going to sound like a hippie when I say this, but every time I kind of have a plan, the universe has a different one. And so the number of times I’ve gone, “I’m going to do this, I’m just going to push forward with it,” the universe is like, “not today.” And so I have ambitions. I see myself with several dogs, and hopefully yard for them and all these great things. And I see, you know, taking the firm and maybe growing it to the point that we can have another partner or an associate or something. That I’m very open to. So I see myself rolling with over a law group, and hopefully just continuing to help people and do good work. But in terms of, much more substantive than that, I try to just kind of focus on today and see what opportunities come. Every time I thought I knew, it’s always shifted. And so I found that kind of leaning back and just being more present, like watching where the world’s taking me has worked out better for me.
Jerri Hemsworth 22:48
Extremely wise for somebody at your age. I think that is not common. And your ability to identify that is really, really fun. And I love hearing that. So one last question. We believe having animals in the workplace is extremely valuable. And I know there’s a lot of people that believe the same thing. Stress relief, staying in touch with what’s important. How do you feel about animals in the workplace? And having Sophie be the chief wellness officer, and the plan to have more animals in your future? How did they play into your business? Because our business is named after our animals. You know, and we’ve identified that. I’m curious what your take is on it.
Madison Oberg 23:49
Yeah. Well, I think, you know, we know that happier people are more productive. I think having pops around or if it’s cats or if it’s an iguana, I don’t know, I don’t yuck your yums. Yeah, whatever it is, I think, you just, for me, wellness is really important. And I think animals really tap into that. And so, I think from a business standpoint, it makes you more productive. But I also think for us, we are more casual affirm, you know, just because we’re casual people doesn’t mean we’re lazy with our work, we still do high quality work, but we’re not suit people. We obviously have them for when they’re necessary, but with us, if you’re coming to a meeting with David and Madison, it’s going to be at a coffee shop, it’s going to be a lunch. It’s much more of that casual, you know, you’re really kind of joining our family. And so for us, the way we see it is, if you’re weirded out by our dog being on the website, there’s a lot of other firms and that’s awesome. If you’re offended by Sophie chiming in in the back of a conference call—
Or Tilly on a podcast.
Exactly, they add a lot and so you should listen to them. Sometimes they say more intelligent things than me. I think it really just taps into, you know, we are a family business and we treat our clients like they are family. And with that comes, you know, the pupperonis.
Jerri Hemsworth 25:30
Well, it’s interesting because I started our firm when I was 30. And being a young professional myself, we talked about how there’s not a lot of outlets for young professionals. But going back, once I was able to work at home and start our firm out of the house and have the animals with me, I realized the power, their superpower. So that when we did move into office space, we had the dog written into the lease, and that we could bring the dog to the office because we did have a dog treat company as a client. But it was that important to us that we were able to bring, at the time, she was Gracie )Newman Grace), golden retriever, to the to the office. So we’re on the same page with Oberg Law Group, that the power of of the pups is tremendous. Absolutely, and I’m sure your clients appreciate them as well.
Madison, thanks for being with me today. It’s so fun.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Oh, you’re welcome. Take care.
Intro Speaker 26:47
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