Going Solo: 4 Unexpected Expenses

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. – Don Rumsfeld

Going solo?

When you start a law firm for the first time, one of the hardest things to get a handle on in the planning phase of your firm is your monthly expenses. What’s this going to cost? How much do I have to make in order to bring money home?

When you start your law firm there are going to be a lot of expenses that fall squarely into the “things we know that we know” bucket. You are going to know a lot of your expenses. For example, you’re going to know your rent is $______ or your phone service is $_______. These are easy numbers to know.

Then there is “there are things that we know we don’t know” bucket. You don’t know how much paper you are going to use in a month. You don’t know how many times the shredding service is going to come. There are many of these kinds of expenses. But most of them are of the small variety assuming you are a solo or small firm.

The last category is the killer. It is the unexpected bill. These are bills that take you from having a great month to breaking even – the “unknown unknowns”.

In this post, I’ll share with you some unknown unknowns of the early part of my practice. Plan for these four expenses:

1.  Deposit For Electricity

Both times, I’ve opened accounts for electricity, my provider has required me to pay a 6 week estimate of usage as a deposit. A deposit that is refunable after a year of on time payments. Last week, I cut a check for $600 for my deposit.

2.  Commercial Eletricity Can Be Spendy

It is hard to make any blanket statement about electrical rates. But I’ve paid significantly more for commercial rates than I have for residential rates in the same area. Check with your supplier before opening. See what the difference is in price per kwh. It can add up. The first commercial electricity bill that I received was shocking.

3. Malpractice Premium Jump

When you first hang your shingle, malpractice premiums are relatively low. They are a claims made policy and the world of possible claims is small. Between years 1 and 2 of my practice my premium jumped 35%. I had planned for a 5 to 10% jump.  Speak with your broker about this. Plan for it throughout the year. It is much easier to save a little every month than get hit with a large bill all at once.

4.  Sponsorship Expenses

Local businesses sponsor all sorts of things and you will too. When you start you’ll be out and about. Meeting all sorts of folks. You need to do this. It is vital to the success of your business.

But maybe even before your first fee comes in, you’ll get asked to sponsor something. It will be some worthy cause put forth by some worthy contact. You’ll feel bad not doing it.

My advice on this is to pick one cause and focus your sponsorship on that cause. At McKeen Law Firm, our biggest sponsorships are to “The Race To Fill The Pantry” and “Achilles CT“. For every other cause, I basically buy the small ad in the program.

There’s no right answer but have some plan to deal with this pressure. When you are starting out $250 here and $500 there really adds up.

 

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Ryan McKeen is A Connecticut Attorney. He can be reached at (860) 471-8333

 

 

A Full Day, A Heck of Day

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day, a heck of a day. Jim Valvano

I get in the office about 7:30. The day is going to be a busy one. This morning, I’m getting a client divorced, testifying as an “expert”, and trying a breach of contract case in the afternoon. 

I begin making sure that the documents for the divorce are in perfect order. As I’m working on this, I get an email notifying me of this review.  I break down in tears. The burden of representing a family who has sustained such a loss is heavy. Most of the time I repress this burden. But it’s there. And sometimes it hits me. This is one of those times.

After everything is in order, I talk with another lawyer in my office suite. We work through a problem that he has in one of his cases. Helping another lawyer makes me feel good.

I drive to court. It’s going to be a long day. I shun street parking in favor of the lot near the court. The lot isn’t paved. There are rocks.

As I get out of my car, my phone falls out of my pocket. Right on to a rock. In the game of rock v. phone – rock wins. My phone is smashed. Worse it starts malfunctioning. It’ll be a day without my lifeline.

I head into court and finalize the divorce documents with my clients and opposing counsel. We head in before the judge. As I start questioning my client my phone rings. Before the hearing – I had set my phone to mute. But the rock not only beat my screen it beat my mute button.

The judge is not pleased. “Counsel…that’ll be $25 to the charity of your choice. You have 7 days to get proof of payment to the judge’s sectretary.”

I’m thrown off my game. I bumble through an easy uncontested divorce hearing. Suddenly finding myself unable to pronounce “irretriveable”.

But the divorce gets finalized. My client is happy.

I dust myself off and head over to housing court. For the first time, I am taking the witness stand in court. I’ve questioned dozens and dozens of witnesses. Never taken the seat next to the judge. Never sworn an oath.

I’m nervous. The testimony I’m about to give is not complicated. But I’m still nervous. I’m being asked to testify about housing law. I know I’m going to be cross examined. I try to be the witness that I want as a lawyer. Clean and crisp answers to questions.

I give about 15 minutes of testimony. It is uneventful. I head off the witness stand and out of court.

It’s about 11:45. I walk over to the Kitchen at Billings Forge. Their curry chicken salad is all kinds of awesome.  I order it. I enjoy it.

Over lunch, I access the Kitchen’s wifi on my Macbook. I login to Achilles CT‘s site and make my $25 donation. Because my phone rang, an athlete will get a paid entry fee. This makes me happy. I fax my receipt to the judge’s secretary. Penance has been made.

As I’m sitting there in the Kitchen. I think of my life. My practice. The richness of it. The blessings in it. Eating lunch by yourself is underrated.

There’s still some time before my 2:00 hearing. I head over to criminal court. I meet up with a friend who is a public defender. We talk about the futility of the system. Seeing a friend is always nice.

Then I head into Superior Court. I meet my client. We review the documents for the hearing. In a few minutes the defendant joins us. We talk about the case. Civilly. We reach an agreement on what is owed. Everyone is happy. A hearing will be avoided.

We go into court. There are about 40 cases on the docket. I stand up at the call and tell the court the word’s it likes to hear “we have an agreement, your honor”. Our case was number 32 on the list. We jump to the first position. The judge calls us up and we enter a fair and just settlement as an order of the court.

We leave the court together. Making small talk about children, schools, and weather in Southern California. Meeting folks is one of the great joys of this job.

I head  back to my car. Two cases resolved. Testimony given. Lunch eaten.

Using the time that would have been spent trying my case – I do something far better. I head to Toys R Us and pick up my son’s birthday present. It is a Big Wheel. Lil guy is going to be thrilled. He’s two.

I buy him this helmet.

I contact my wife, Allison. We decide to meet for an early family dinner. There is much laughter at dinner.

It is a full day. It is a heck of a day.

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Ryan McKeen is A Connecticut Attorney.

This Review Moved Me To Tears

This review moved me to tears. Representing a family of a loved on who has died tragically – carries with it a heavy burden. All I’ve ever hoped is that I can bring some measure of comfort to the family by representing them with dignity, compassion and respect.

These cases take a toll on me. Reading this review of my work moved me to tears on Friday. I will carry it with me forever.

Ryan handled the wrongful death suit related to my dad’s death in a motor vehicle accident. When we were trying to decide which lawyer to go with, he was the only lawyer that took a real interest in us as people, and did the research before we even told him that we had selected him. All through the case, lasting in total almost 3 years, he catered to our family, always sensitive to our loss and our emotional needs. He was tireless in fighting to give us peace, working non-stop with the state troopers, private detectives, mechanics, accident reconstructionist, doctors, and various other experts to foresee and anticipate all eventualities and ensure a successful case. Today I am very pleased with our selection and I stand sure that my dad would have been too. Avvo.

I firmly believe that in wronful death cases it is not the death of a member of a family. It is the death of the family itself. And it is my job to understand that. That means getting out of the office and spending time at the family home, at the place the person worked, and with the family.

I am blessed to have worked with this amazing family. I am forever grateful.

Fly Solo But Not Alone….Join Us In Glastonbury

I open my office door. I turn on the lights. Put my brief case down. Make some coffee. And then I get to work. That was pretty much my life for over a year working in an office by myself. It was isolating.

There was no one to talk about the latest news. No one to share a coffee with. No one to bounce ideas off of. There was also no coverage. If I wasn’t in the office the office was closed. This makes things like receiving Fed Ex deliveries difficult. On numerous occassions I would pick packages up at Fed Ex near Bradley Airport.

And for witnessing things, I’m so lucky my parents are fantastic and retired. And wiling to drive 20 miles to witness and notarize documents for me.

I enjoyed being solo. It was fun to chart my own course. To make the calls. To not have to worry about anyone else. That part, I loved.

When I started thinking about buying an office, I started thinking about a legal collaborative. A space where folks had there own individual offices but shared resources such as law books, technology, and most importantly ideas. Ideas on cases. Ideas on the practice of law.

Ideas and also support. Support that there would be witnesses when needed. Someone would probably be there for the Fed Ex man.

Another idea that I’m in the early stages of developing is law firm consulting. Specifically advising folks looking to start their own firms or practices. I have spent and continue to spend a lot of time and resource developing my practice. The idea, my idea, is that sharing these ideas with office mates will boost everyone’s business. Things like: use this vendor, try this software, avoid doing this at all costs, and this is really working for me.

If you want to learn how to save yourself time and money by going paperless – I’ll show you how to do it.

One of the pieces of advice I would always give to folks looking to start their own firms is – go to a place where there are other lawyers in the building. It can be a great way to start building referral relationships.

Those ideas converged to form the basis for the design of our new office. We are fortunate to open with two like minded, kind and progressive solo firms with us. We are also fortunate to have an opportunity for a third person to join us. We have one office left.

The office is 127 square feet. It includes access to a storage loft. Common areas not included in the square footage calculation but for your use are a reception area, a conference room, a break room, a bathroom (with a shower).

Utilities are included (electricity, internet, water, heat). You bring your own phone.

We are open to  the possibility of sharing administrative staff.

You will have your name on the door. Common areas are neutrally decorated and do not reference any one firm.

Amentities include a shower, dishwasher, coffee maker, microwave, soda stream, an electric hot water heater for tea (Allison loves tea – we also have some sort of fancy tea press that I won’t try to describe) refrigerator, conference room tv, apple tv, HDMI wiring in the conference room, a cable hook up in your office if you want cable and parking.

In addition to your private wireless router there is a guest network for your clients.

We also have silverware, plates, bowls, forks, knives, spoons, coffee mugs, tumblers, wine glasses, and regular glasses. All for your use.

The office is in a prime location in the heart of Glastonbury’s business district. It is less than a half mile from Max Fish, Max Amore, Starbucks, Chipolte, B Goods, J Gilberts and Fed Ex Office. Staples and Home Depot are about a half mile in the other direction. We have easy highway access to Route 2 and Route 3.

The office was built in 2015. It is new construction. We have hardwood floors throughout. Each office has wainscotting. It looks amazing. Your clients will love it.

Rent is $950 a month. This is not triple net. There are no hidden fees. The office is move in ready.

And there’s always someone to bounce ideas off of or talk about the issues of the day.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please let me know and we can talk further. All inquiries are confidential.  Call me (860) 471-8333.

Recent Results

Conservatorship

We were hired to represent a husband in a conservatorship hearing against his wife filed by the State of Connecticut. The State was seeking to have our client’s wife conserved. In the process of doing so, it recklessly (in our opinion) made allegations against our client. We met with our client. We made a second trip to his home. We learned his story. Their story. The story of their marriage. And we told their story in a contested probate hearing. Our client didn’t want his wife to be conserved. After we told our story, the judge agreed and denied the State’s application.

Involuntary Commitment

Client was involunarily committed at a pyschiatric hospital. We assisted our client in a probable cause hearing. In less than 24 hours, we met with the client, reviewed the client’s records, and listened to the client’s story. We walked into a room with about a dozen healthcare professionals testifying against our client. We didn’t back down. After telling our client’s story, the judge ordered our client to be released on the ground their was no probable cause for the commitment.

Personal Injury

We continue to open files in this area. We also recently closed one at a mediation for $300,000. We’ve put some cases in suit recently. Some more to come. And we are preparing for a jury trial in August. Very active on this front.

Real Estate

Closings have been coming fast and furiously. Allison takes great joy in helping folks by or sell their homes.

Appeals

We just finished a reply brief in a very high profile appeal on a case that has gained national media attention. On seperate issues, Allison is handling 5 land use and tax appeals.

Litigation

We obtained judgment against a contractor on behalf of a homeowner. The contractor did terrible work. There were also defects in the contract.

Those are just a few of the things we’ve been working on in recent weeks. We are grateful to our clients. We welcome new clients. Please let us know if we can help you. (860 471-8333).

Moving

Moving. That’s what I’ve been doing since leaving court on Thursday morning.

Thanks to the help of my parents and the assistance of a two person moving company – we have fully moved into our new office at 437 Naubuc Avenue, Suite 107 in Glastonbury. By fully I mean – we still need some things for our walls, our bathroom needs a mirror, and we have a trip to Ikea to make. But if you walked in, you’d never know the space was empty on Thursday morning.

For the first time since 2008, Allison has her very own walled office. She is happy about this. I am too.

I have the best parents in the world. I’m so grateful for all of their help and support in getting the office online. It wouldn’t have been possible without them.

There were only a few problems with the move. The fridge that the big box store delivery guys insisted would fit – doesn’t. Fortunately, the big box store has been surprisingly awesome to deal with and a new fridge will arrive on Tuesday. Thank you, Becky at big box store.

The moving company smashed the glass on a twin cities marathon poster. They didn’t tell me about this. I found out when I went to vacuum out my old office this afternoon. I also found out they left their dollys as parting gifts. I’ll get a new frame. They’ll get their dolly.

Oh and the dishwasher wouldn’t turn on. I wouldn’t bet against user error but as of now I can’t get it to work.

But those things aren’t the story of the move.

The story of the move is about closings and openings.

Moving into my office on Main Street was hard. I hadn’t planned to go solo. I had left a partnership that I had formed just over a year prior. I was sad. I knew I had to move forward and I did.

And the work showed in my new office. Furniture was purchased and placed where I wanted it. Wires were tucked away. Ikea trips were made. Homegoods, too. In just under the two years I occupied the space nothing really moved.

More folks joined me. Stuff was added. But nothing really moved. Until the move.

Moving brought back a lot of feelings that I had let rest or forgotten were even there. This was Thursday night.

Life can turn on a dime. – Stephen King 11/23/1963

Friday was different. In between trips in the moving van, I received two unexpected and much appreciated emails. Those emails helped me move forward. Those emails helped me to move without baggage. Heavy baggage. They were a gift.

Tomorrow, 437 Naubuc Ave. Suite 107 is ready for business. I have my daughter’s “step up” ceremony tomorrow morning – so proud of her.  After that the builder is coming over to look at the dishwasher. A client is coming in at noon. Then I’ll meet with Becky to make sure the new fridge will fit in the space. Andrew and I are meeting with a new client later tomorrow afternoon. And at some point the movers will get their dollys and my frame will be replaced.

And I’ll do so in a new place. A better place in every way than I was in on Thursday. For this I am grateful.

Recent Client Review of Ryan McKeen

I have worked with many lawyers in my career so I have a large comparison set for judgment. Ryan McKeen truly ranks as one of the best. My family had a very difficult house closing, which ultimately fell through. Ryan helped us get back on our feet, find a fabulous new real estate agent and get us a to a second close just a few months later. He was generous with his time, exceedingly fair with his billing and gave us confidence in the process. He is as straight forward and honest as they come. And will go the extra mile to help his clients. My family and I feel very fortunate to have worked with Ryan.

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We love what we do. We love helping folks. Please let us know if we can help you. (860) 471-8333. Call today for a free consultation.

McKeen Law Firm Announces $300,000 Settlement In Car Accident Case

In September of 2013, we accepted a referral of a case from a Springfield firm. The case involved a rear end car accident in the HOV Lane of 91 south.

The defendants initially denied liability and only admitted it weeks before trial.

Our client suffered injuries to her neck and back.

Prior to suit, the defendants offered $50,000 to settle the claim.

When we were brought aboard, we first listened to our client’s story. We began to understand the impact that the accident had on her life. The secret to case preparation is no secret at all. It all begins and ends with listening.

We referred her to one of the nation’s leading experts on life care plans in New York City. Our expert was able to develop and quantify a plan of care for our client. We then hired an economist to provide a present cash value of our client’s future medical expenses.

The defense hired an expert who essentially called our client a liar. We blew that nonsense out of the water.  We polarized and exposed that hooey for what it was.

We settled the claim after a lengthy mediation. Other lawyers told us we wouldn’t get more than $100,000 on the claim without a surgery or broken bone. We didn’t listen to those folks.

Ultimately we resolved the case for $300,000.

Injured? We can help. Contact us for a no charge consultation. We’re the lawyers who listen. (860) 471-8333.

Closing Time

Ryan and Allison McKeen

Today we closed on our new office (pictured above). We will be moving just around the corner from where we are now in Glastonbury. Our new address will be 437 Naubuc Avenue, Suite 107, in Glastonbury, CT. We will begin working from our new office on June 15th.

We are very grateful to a number of folks for being able to pursue this opportunity. First and foremost, our clients for making this all possible. We are blessed with some of the best clients that one could possibly hope for.

Many, many, thanks to Jeff Sawyer and his team at generation2 inc. We have been working with Jeff since December to make this happen. At every step of the way, Jeff helped guide us into making the office what it is. Working with him was seemless. His attention to detail and perfectionism is reflected in all of the details of the space. We wish Jeff well on his new venture.

Our attorney, Peter Van Dyke helped us navigate the wickets of a commercial real estate transaction. Pete is a longtime friend and one of the truly good guys in the legal community.

We are very excited to be working in the space collaboratively with Andrew Garza of the Law Offices of Andrew P. Garza and Ryan Gritter of The Gritter Firm. We are thrilled to be office mates with Andrew and Ryan.  They are kind and smart. We believe that the collaboration between our respective firms will enable all of us to better serve our clients.

In the very near future, we anticipate we’ll be adding a third office mate. We’ll keep you posted.

We are grateful for the support of our parents. Having a dad who is willing and able to build networks for the office is a major help. Having a dad who is willing to wait in the office for things like furniture deliveries is priceless. We are grateful for this and all of the support our families have given us over the years. And their encouragement of our ventures.

And we are tremendously grateful to our employees for helping with our transition to the new space. A number of my old paper files are being scanned and will not be making the move. Files don’t scan themselves.

The purchase, design and move have been a major undertaking for us over the past 6 months. We are doing this because we know the office will help us better serve our clients. We are in a prime location. We have easy access to Route 2, Route 3, and 91. In terms of amentities, Starbucks, Max Fish, Chipolte, J Gilberts, B Good’s and Max Amore are all a short walk away. We will have ample parking for our clients.

The conference room has been specifically wired to allow us to expand our use and scope of cutting edge focus groups. Doing focus groups inexpensively and efficiently gives our clients and cases a major advantage.

Our office reflects the ideals of our firm. It is an extension of our values. We value efficiency, transparency, and quality work. We do not have a waiting room. We don’t like waiting. We don’t want our clients to wait. Being paperless allows us to use our office in ways not possible as recently as 5 years ago. It is consequent to the last detail.

The office is warm and inviting. We understand folks come to us in their darkest hour. We designed the office to maximize light.

And most of all, we believe being able to share ideas, resources, and support with like minded attorneys will help us to innovate and improve our respective practices.

We look forward to seeing you.

Doing Some Good With Achilles CT

We love Achilles International CT.  Ryan serves as General Counsel.

We were very happy to co-sponsor Achilles CT’s first annual Pub Night Fundraiser at the Hooker Brewery on May 22nd. We contributed some amazing BBQ from the good folks at Bears.

It was a fantastic evening filled with inspiration. The work Achilles CT does changes lives.

The event raised $5103.00 for Achilles CT. Go Team Achilles CT!