Starting A Law Firm: How To Open Bank Accounts

I have always been afraid of banks. ~ Andrew Jackson

The first time I experienced how difficult starting a law firm is happened in a bank. Actually it happened in a bank for four and a half hours. And then in another bank for another four hours.

Our first bank gave me a Real Estate Brokers Account. We are not real estate brokers. They also promised that checks were free. They then charged us $100 from checks and took the money out of our IOLTA account (which didn’t have any money in it). This caused the IOLTA account to be overdrawn. At 5:30 on a Friday morning I was sending an email to the Statewide Grievance Committee explaining what had happened. After several phone calls with the bank, they corrected their mistake. We switched banks a month later.

Dealing with banks taught me the first law of managing a firm: Everything takes forever.

Welcome to Bankland.


If you are starting a firm you’ll likely decide to form some sort of liability limiting entity (pick’em: LLC, LLP, PC. S-Corp). Before you can obtain a bank account for your entity you must first create the entity and properly register it with the Secretary of State. Then you must obtain a federal tax identification number from the IRS. You will need both of those things prior to walking into a bank.

You’re also going to need a firm juris number. You must get that number from the Statewide Grievance Committee.

Getting what you need to open your bank accounts can easily take two weeks. Plan for this.


First you’re going to need to bring money to the bank. Banks have minimum deposits required to open accounts. Find out what that amount is and make sure you have it. Also make sure you have at least two forms of identification (e.g. driver’s license and passport) and a certified copy of your articles of organization.

At a minimum you are going to need two accounts. Your first account is your operating account. The second account is your client’s trust account (IOLTA). You should get different colored checks for each account. One cannot violate the first rule of attorney ethics: Thy client’s funds account is sacred. You can’t violate that by mistake. You can’t violate that even for one second.

On the advise of a very wise law firm bookkeeper, we optedy for a second IOLTA account. We use our second IOLTA account solely for real estate transactions. In real estate transactions, large amounts of money come into the account for very brief periods of time. Having a second account solely for real estate makes reconciling our normal IOLTA account easier. We use green checks for our real estate trust account. Green for grass. The kind you mow.

Extra Points:

Strongly consider getting a credit card with a small limit. Our bank was willing to open small credit accounts in the name of our business. We use these cards to pay all of our monthly subscriptions and for firm expenses. It is an accounting efficiency for us. We look at our credit card statements and then make entries into quickbooks. This allows us to write one check a month for the majority of our expenses.

A small limit will also help you live within your means.  Early in your business life cycle it may be tempting to lean on the card heavily. A small limit on a credit card that you can pay off every month is perfect. You can also earn points.

We love our mobile banking. We’re able to deposit checks to our operating accounts directly from our phones. This saves us trips to the bank. Really investigate your bank’s mobile and online features. Depositing checks without having to go to a bank saves time.

Post Game Analysis: 

Your bank, your bank accounts, and the ways in which you interact with your bank are critical to your existence as a law firm. Ask lawyers in your area what bank they use and if they are happy with their bank.

And plan to be in the bank for four hours. And if you are forming a partnership – it’s likely all of the partners must be at the bank – likely for four hours. That’s after it’s taken you two weeks to form your entity, get your tax id, and obtain a firm juris number.


McKeen Law Firm is a Glastonbury law firm that litigates difficult cases, closes real estate deals, and serves as trusted advisors to individuals and small businesses.

Inspired By Meeting With WNEU 1L Students

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a networking event with 1Ls at WNEU Law and I walked away feeling inspired.

The topic of conversation that always comes up in speaking with 1Ls is what kind of law do they want to practice.  This very topic dominated the function.  I find this very interesting.

In all of the conversations I’ve had with lawyers, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a conversation the centered around “what kind of law do you want to practice?” It’s always, I’m a _______________(insert type of law) lawyer.

Since leaving law school, I haven’t given much thought to “what kind of law” that I want to practice. I’m too busy practicing law to think about what kind of law that I want to practice.

This event left me thinking: “What kind of law do I want to practice?” I’m not sure I have an answer to that but I’m inspired by the question.

What kind of law do you want to practice?

Advice To 1Ls

Your reputation as a member of the legal profession starts now. For better or worse, your classmates will remember you.  To paraphrase from that horrible movie “Gladiator”, “what you do in law school, echoes in your career”.


Seize these early days. Make them count. Study hard, be prepared, and be a good friend to your classmates. If you follow this advice it will bear fruits throughout your career.

Advice For Those Taking the July 2011 Bar Exam

The exam is next week.

It’s going to be hot this weekend. Head to to the beach.

Image From Wikipedia

Either the hay is in the barn by now or it’s not.

Whether the hay is in your barn or not – enjoying a day at the beach is a fine way to spend the weekend before the bar exam.

Or if you’re our friends at Sad City Hartford – go find some pay phones (there’s an awesome one on the second floor of juvenile court in Hartford).

Good luck. Some part of me feels like I should put a legal disclaimer on this post but that’d take effort.  If you think studying this weekend is vital to passing the bar or you’re neurotic – consider reading BarBri materials on the beach.

Be Nice To The Person Sitting Next To You At The Bar Exam

The bar exam experience is horrible. No two ways about it. When I was going through it – I swore I’d only do it once. My motivation for studying hard was so that I’d never have to do it again.

Six years later, I’d still only consider moving to a state where I could “waive in” without having to retake the bar.

PenThe night before the bar exam, I packed my stuff. My bag was filled with everything I was allowed to bring into the exam (things like pencils). The rules on what one can and must bring into the exam are very specific. There was a checklist of items. I was sure I had every item I needed. I must have checked my bag and that list a dozen or more times. That’s what nervous energy will do to a person.

Entering the bar exam was an experience onto itself. I entered the CT Expo center and was confronted with hundreds of  white tables (the kind you see at parties from a rental store). Each table had two chairs. Seating was assigned. The first place most people go when the doors open is to the bathroom and that’s where I headed.  Said bathroom contained more people throwing up than you’d expect to find after a Dave Matthews Concert.

Anyhow as I arrived at my assigned seat, the proctor came by with the exams. I went to write my name.  Our names had to be written in a certain colored ink.  I opened my ziplock bag to take out my pen – only to find there was no pen my ziplock bag. My heart just about stopped. How could this be?!?!?!

I motioned to a proctor and asked to borrow a pen. The proctor  in a very stern voice (think the teacher on the Wonder Years) “This is the bar exam. How do you expect to pass it if you didn’t even prepare well enough to pack a pen? You’re not prepared. I’m not helping you”.  I’ll never forget it.  My heart just about stopped. I was going to be the first student to fail the exam on the account of not packing a pen.

Fortunately, I was sitting next to someone who was so well prepared that she had multiple pens.  She saw what happened and offered me a pen. In all of my years of school, I had never been so happy to have someone loan me a pen. I was grateful. Very grateful. She also offered some words to the effect of “that was rude of the proctor” which help put me at ease.

Over the next two days, we engaged in small talk. We wished each other well and went on with our post bar lives.

Fast forward a few months, and I’m making one of my first appearances in court.  I see the woman who sat next to me at the bar. It turns out she’s practicing at a firm in Manchester. Since then we’ve seen each other a number of times in court.

I have had a few matters where for one reason or another I’ve had a conflict. Twice in areas where she practices and twice I’ve sent cases her way.

Two things here: First, remember to bring multiple pens to the bar exam. Second, the person sitting next to you may be your colleague,  partner, adversary, or may one day wind up on the bench judging one of your cases – even under the stress of the situation – be nice to him or her.

I’m grateful Melissa Donahue was nice enough to loan me a pen. Othewise, I may not be practicing law, this blog would not exist, and someone else may be attorney general.

Tornado Strikes Western New England College School of Law (Video)

Just beyond the trees is the law school. The tornado went right over the school.

I’ve been in contact with administration officials and they remarkably report no damage to the building or campus.

At the time the tornado struck, the school was filled with people. Including students studying for the bar exam. Members of the public along with a dog on his way to a vet appointment were also in the school seeking shelter. In what can only be described as a miracle, no one was hurt or injured.


Members of the alumni board of the law school are presently thinking of ways to help those impacted by the tornado.  Stay tuned.

What Would You Tell A Law School Class of 2011?

For the second time in my life, I will be speaking at a law school graduation. Six years ago, I was selected by my classmates to serve as the student speaker.  Giving that speech remains one of the greatest honors of my life.

When I gave that speech, I asked my classmates for help. I encouraged them to email me their thoughts on law school and graduation. Listening to my classmates was enlightening. Their insights helped me give a better speech than if I had written it by myself.

On May 21, 2011, I’ll again stand before a graduating law school class.  This time as President of the school’s alumni association. Having sat through many a graduation speech, I will keep this one very short. Probably about 2.5 minutes.  No one is there to hear me. Plus, I really like short speeches. Maybe I should tweet it and keep it to 140 characters.

So I’ll ask you, my enlightened readers, what would you say to the graduating class of 2011?

Please comment below or email me at rmckeen at


Save Joan’s House

Joan’s house sits at the bottom of a big hill. It’s a hill that I’ve ran up and down – hundreds of times.

Joan's House. Save it.

Sometimes, I see Joan. She may be sitting on her porch or gardening. We usually wave and say “hi” to each other.  I continue up the hill. She goes on with her life.

Throughout most of human history, we knew our neighbors well. In today’s walled and disconnected world it’s possible never to meet the people living close to us – let alone get to know them.  People could and did help their neighbors.

On the flipside we have tools like Facebook. Where we can keep in touch with lots of people who we either rarely or ever see.

These worlds collided late last week. Bill Childs, Associate Dean at Western New England School of Law and a fellow alumni board member – posted a link urging his friends to “save Joan’s house. Bill’s a good guy so I clicked on the link. The person who needed help, was Joan, my neighbor.

A few hours later, the Dean of the Hartford Blogosphere, Helder Mira posted the same link on Facebook. Joan has good friends.

It turns out that Joan was out of work for more than a year and fell behind on her mortgage. She has a job now, however, needs help in making up the $6,000 deficit.

Click here to read more about Joan and her situation. If you enjoy this site, and Joan’s cause worthy (which I trust you will), please give something to help her out. Any amount would be greatly appreciated. I’ve got miles to run. I hope to be waving to Joan for year’s to come. I ask you to help my neighbor.

ABA Young Lawyers Wrong To Demand More Salary Data Upfront From Law Schools

I kinda get it but I don’t. On one hand, I love transparency. In this instance, however, I think the debate misses the point entirely.

The division’s assembly adopted a multipoint policy resolution dubbed “Truth in Law School Education” urging law schools to improve post-graduate employment information provided to prospective students and ensure that information is prominently featured in communications.  ABA JOURNAL

Law schools have long lied about salary data of their graduates to game U.S. News and World Report Law School rankings system. It’s what amounts to an internet genitalia measuring contest. It’s thought that higher salaries for graduates improve a school’s rankings.

What’s wrong with the information as it is that even if law schools wanted to tell the truth they couldn’t.  Most of the data is self-reported by graduates. A certain number of graduates are going to lie about their salary while others won’t bother returning the survey at all. Such is the nature of self-reported data.

What’s also wrong is that survey is done some months after graduation. I filled mine out maybe 6 months after graduation. My salary now does not resemble my salary then.

There’s no way for a law school to require graduates to complete the survey. Further there’s no way for a law school to independently verify the accuracy of the data a graduate provides.

No matter what happens it’s crap in and crap out.

With the incentive to “massage” crappy data – no matter what the ABA does the information will always be inaccurate. Not by a little but by a lot.

There’s lots of information for prospective students about lawyer salaries available online. There’s no end to well-written articles about whether or not law school is a good investment. Truthfully, students should be concerned about macro-economic trends. For many students the investment can only truly be measured over the course of their earning lives.  Understanding how technology and globalization may impact the profession are far more relevant in the long term than earnings six months out of law school.

In truth, there’s no answer to the question about the economic value of legal education factoring in debt as applied to an individual.  What your salary is depends on a lot more things than just where you went to law school.

While everybody is giving themselves standing ovations over this new transparency resolution – someone in the room should have been shouting that law schools shouldn’t turn over the data at all because the data is useless at best and misleading at worst.

Schools who give false or misleading data to U.S. News should be punished.

Passing this motion does nothing more than to elevate this meaningless data to a position it doesn’t deserve. This resolution just gives more food to the monster.