Starting a Law Firm…How Much Should I Spend On Web Marketing?

This post is written for folks starting a firm on a tight budget. That’s more folks. If you have a trust fund, a massive existing client base, or like to light money on fire – please stop reading this post.

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We live in the age of Uber and Amazon delivering goods within one hour. The web has transformed life.

Think getting a piece of this pie is essential to your new firm? As of right now it’s not.

Web advertising can be very expensive. It has to be to either get in front of the audience you want to be in front of or for market saturation. There are lawyers out there in whatever area who can and will outspend you. Money talks.

My advice is to build your web presence over time. It is very important. I’ve done a lot online. I rely on the internet for roughly 15% of my new business. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong but I don’t think so – I’ll get into this in another post.

The first thing you should do is learn WordPress. Head over to WordPress.com, buy your domain, some hosting, and pick out a theme. The total cost for a professional theme, a year of hosting, and domain registration will run you approximately $250.

From there, get to work. WordPress is fairly easy to use but be prepared for a lot of trial and error. Every six months or so I spend a full day tweaking my sites. Sometimes the improvements are small and other times they are substantial.

In addition to this site, I have created www.mckeenlawfirm.com and more recently www.ctrealestatelawfirm.com.  Both sites were done by me without technical or graphical assistance.

The first rule of starting a practice is to: Keep. Overhead. Low.

Don’t be a voice in the crowd. Don’t dump thousands of dollars into online marketing and a website. Focus on networking, building client base, doing good work, and generating revenue. As you grow, re-invest in infrastructure including an expanded web presence.

Using A Smart Watch in Your Law Practice

Apple’s Watch is going to be a hit. A big hit.

You see, smart watches are old news to us Android fans. I’ve been using a Moto 360 for 5 months.  I love it.

Moto 360
Moto 360

The first thing about a smart watch is that it is a complimentary device. It replaces nothing. It will not replace your smart phone. It’s usefulness is extremely limited. For almost every task, your phone is going to be your go-to device.

For most of the day, my Moto 360 has a blank screen. This is fine. There’s no need to display something I’m not looking at.

If a smart watch isn’t going to replace your phone, why get one?

The answer is that it is a fantastic complimentary device. I don’t receive all messages on my watch. I receive priority messages from contacts. Listserv chatter can wait. My wife telling me I have to pick up a sick kid from school – can’t.

Parts of my week are spent in meetings, in court, and at depositions. Places and times where it would be rude to check my phone. I won’t take my phone out of my suit pocket in court. But I will glance at my watch.

The ability to quickly respond to messages with voice from one’s wrist is really useful.

I also regularly set reminders using my watch. Things like “remind me to send a check to so and so when I get to work”. When I walk into my office the watch vibrates slightly and reminds me to cut the check.

It’s also useful for traveling. It regularly alerts me to traffic accidents or heavy traffic and suggests alternate routes. It also alerts me as to when I need to leave to be at a destination in time.

At the airport it tells me my gate, whether or not my flight is on time, and the weather in the city I’m going to.

The downside is that you are always connected. You receive that message from a client instantly. You really feel like you’re always on.

If you’re considering a smart watch you should understand it is a complimentary device. It is cool. It can be useful. But by and large it is a luxury item as opposed to the necessity that has become the smart phone.

If you’re on a tight budget, I wouldn’t buy one. If you’ve had a good month and you’re a gadget guy or gal – buy one.

Starting a Law Firm? Your Second Legal Malpractice Premium

You’ve made it. You’re nearing the end of that all important first year in business. You’re a success. Things have gone better than you’d hoped.

You know your monthly expenses. Every month you’re working within your budget. You’re able to anticipate bills.

Your legal malpractice premium is going to come due on your first anniversary. Happy Anniversary!

My second year premium jumped 30% over the premium I paid the first year I was in business. Virtually nothing had changed on my application other than I was in business for a year.

The price increase felt significant. I hadn’t budgeted for this. After talking with my agent, this kind of jump in premiums in common.

Be prepared for this anniversary gift.

Starting A Law Firm? What To Do First

You’ve identified the dangers. You’ve deployed Revis Island level coverage to neutralize them. The dangers aren’t getting you.

You’ve even walked through some spiderwebs.

It’s now time to put your plan into action. You’re faced with a problem that I call “everything has to happen simultaneously but can’t”.

Folks often ask, where do I start? The question invariably involves entity formation, bank accounts, and funding. The only way to tackle a problem like this is one step at a time.

Here’s a question, a budding solo asked me:

Do I file the paperwork for the LLC before anything else? If so, how do I pay for those charges without using my personal bank/funds?

If I start the business bank account first so I can capitalize in order to pay necessary start up costs, how do I open that account as an LLC business account without having filed the LLC forms and without a business address?

Do I sign the lease for my office space as a personal debt so I can get an address/PO Box and then get the bank account and then file the LLC paperwork ?

Not sure the proper timeline to proceed in. Any advice is much appreciated.

Been there. Here’s what you’re going to do:

1. File your incorpration paperwork.

2. Once you are incorporated get a FEIN from the IRS. This is easily done online. Takes about 10 minutes to do.

3.  Once you have your certificate of existence and FEIN head to a bank and open an operating account and any IOLTA accounts that you need. Bring these documents with you. Fund the account and pay expenses from the account as soon as possible. Here’s a post on the nuances of opening law firm bank accounts. 

4. Of course, you’ll have to advance costs to start the company from other funds (including personal funds). There is no problem doing this. Just account for them. This can be done via spreadsheet or in quickbooks. Save receipts. But the sooner you create and fund your business account the better simply for accounting purposes.

5.  If your landlord will lease to your company then sign on behalf of your company. Many landlords will require you to sign a personal guarantee. When you’re starting up, you as a member are going to have to personally guarantee most if not all debt.

Follow these steps and you’ll be good. Anything else and “that dog won’t hunt”.

Injured In A Car Accident? Justice Is More Than Money

It’s August of 1997. Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” is on the floor of my car. My car is a 1986 Honda Accord hatchback Lx-i.  Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” is on the radio. It’s about 5 o’clock.

Allison is sitting in the passenger’s seat. Her brother, Dan is sitting behind me. We’re heading westbound on Hazard Avenue in Enfield. We pass McDonalds. Then we pass Stop and Shop. We’re in the left of two lanes. I’m going to take a left turn onto Palomba Drive.

We approach the light. My left signal is on. There is traffic in the right hand lane.

Then time slows down. There’s a truck darting out of the Mobil gas station. It’s going to strike us. I slam on my brakes.

Then there’s the noise. The noise I’ll never forget. The impact. There is confusion. There is pain.

I ask Allison and Dan if they’re okay. They respond that they are. All of us are disoriented. We exit our mangled Accord. The driver who hit us, a guy named Willie, isn’t doing well at all.

Willie wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. His skin and hair is caught in his windshield. Police, fire, and ambulance arrive. Willie goes to the hospital.

My neck and back start tensing up. I decline an ambulance ride. My parents pick us up. Allison and Dan get dropped of at their house. My pain continues to get worse. I go to the emergency room. X-rays are done. Fortunately nothing was broken. The doctor gave me some muscle relaxers and sent me on my way.

The next day, Willie’s insurance company kept calling me. Adjusters wanted to speak to me. I was home. I was hurt. The situation was overwhelming. I ultimately retained a lawyer.

Over the months that followed, I did physical therapy. The pain would come and go. Though to this day, I’ve never felt the same. Fortunately, things did get better. My claim was paid without having to initiate suit.

What caused the accident? Look at the map above. The green arrow represents my car. The red arrow is Willie’s car. The orange arrow represents where Willie is trying to turn.

Willie was trying to make a left hand turn out of the Mobil station on to Hazard Avenue (westbound). Doing so required him to cross 3 lanes of traffic in order to make his turn. Someone stopped in one of the eastbound lanes had waived Willie on.

The Mobil Station just recently went out of business. But given its prime location, some other business that benefits from high motor vehicle traffic will come in.

In the 18 years that have passed since the day of the wreck, I can’t drive through the intersection without getting mad. Mad at the Town of Enfield.  Mad at Mobil.

While Willie was responsible for the wreck, he was but the last domino to fall. My accident was caused by a systems failure.

In the months after the accident, I met with the Town Manager. I voiced my concerns about the intersection in writing to the town. My argument was that vehicles should not be able to make left hand turns onto Hazard Avenue from that parking lot. The Town Manager tells me “it’s a very dangerous intersection…we see this kind of accident a lot there….I’ll see what we can do.”

Nothing ever got done.

What I wanted more than just compensation for my harms and losses was for this never to happen again. Willie’s car stuck the front of my car near the front tire on the passenger’s side. The impact bent the frame of my car – totaling it. My dashboard was cracked in half. Had the accident happened a split second later – he would have struck the passenger’s door where Allison was sitting.

Over the past year or so, I have invested heavily in my training as an injury lawyer. It has changed my life and the lives of my clients.

My case was more than Willie striking my car. My case was a systems failure case. A failure on the part of the Town of Enfield to properly zone the Mobil station and institute proper traffic controls for the safety of us all. It is a failure on behalf of Mobil for designing and profiting from this kind of vehicular access to Hazard Avenue. No mistake about it – Mobil profited from cars like Willie’s being able to cut across three lanes of traffic to make a left hand turn.

My commitment as a lawyer is to identifying these systems failures where possible and holding those who benefit responsible for the consequences of their actions.

My other commitment is to transformative justice.  So many of my clients don’t want whatever terrible thing happened to them to happen to anyone else. If there’s something we can do in addition to compensating you for your harms and losses we’re going to work to try to do it.

McKeen Law Firm, LLC will work with you to make positive change in the community.

If you have been injured, contact us for a free consultation.

INJURED? TELL US YOUR STORY

The Lawyer Parent Thing

I’m sitting down to right this post. My son runs up to me. My son is 21 months old. He brings me his cup. He wants “more”. More water. I get up. I fill my son’s “pup”. “Pup” is my son’s word for “cup”.

My son drinks some from his “pup”. I run payroll for the week. My son pours some of his water on the floor. I make sure he’s okay. Then I clean up his water mess.  I respond to an email from a client regarding a hearing date. My son runs to go bother his big sister in the bathroom. She is screaming “Daddy…get him….I need some privacy!”

MCKEENFAMILY492This is the last ten minutes of my life. This is pretty much my life all of the time.

The thing is that I’m better for it.

I was a lawyer for 5 years before becoming a parent.  I’ve been a parent for 4.5 years.  I had a lot more time before my children were born. What I didn’t have was priorities.

Children force priorities on me.

If I get invited to join an organization, go to a networking event, or speak somewhere – I ask myself “is this worth time away from my kids?” Viewed from this perspective it makes saying “no” a lot easier. This is because saying “yes” gets made harder.

I love my children. Spending time with them is the highest of priorities in my life. So when I decide to travel to Atlanta for 5 days of seminars, I’m only doing so because I really believe there is a significant benefit to me and my clients.

When I get to work, I pack as much work into the day as I can. I do this because I pick up my kids at 5. I’m rarely in the office until 7 or 8 at night. Sometimes I am. Sometimes it’s much later. But that’s out of necessity not wasting away a work day.

I work a second shift from home. After I put the kids to bed, I usually work for about 7 to 9 or 10.  I’m able to do this because I’ve built my office in a way that allows me to do this.

And there are days when kids make practicing a lot harder. One day I’m driving to court which is near my daughter’s daycare. We’re about to pull into the parking lot and she gets sick. The kind of sick you never want someone getting in your car.

I call court. I call opposing counsel. I head home with my sick daughter and wait for my parents to come over and watch her for a few hours so I can argue a motion. Tough morning. Can happen any morning.

Practicing law is hard. It is hard in part because your client’s problems become your problems.  Its obligations are not for the meek.

But more than anything having children has helped me prioritize everything. Clear priorities beget efficiency.

My son loves “Uptown Funk”.  He dances around like Bruno Mars. Well like a two year old trying to dance like Bruno Mars. It’s great. Time for an “Uptown” dance party.

How has becoming a parent changed your practice? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

Starting A Law Firm? The First Challenge

It is January of 2012. I’m sitting outside. It’s warm outside. The breeze is cool. All is quiet except for the waves crashing on the beach. The air smells of salt. You know that smell. The beach smell.

In my hands is my Kindle. I’m in the Bahamas. My cell phone doesn’t get signal in the Bahamas. Wifi is sporadic. I’m alone with my thoughts. I’m reading the Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson.

Vacation is giving me the distance to examine my life. The Jobs Biography is inspiring me to change my life.

I’m confronted with the question of what’s holding me back? I’m 31 years old. I’ve created a conservative and comfortable world for myself.

As I sit there on that beautiful night with the lights of Atlantis across the bay I chew on this question.  I struggle mightily with this question.

All of my other answers are non-satisfactory. Amounting to nothing more than political dialogue in my head. I’m telling myself things I want to hear. Things that keep me in place. Things like “I like where I am and I’d be sad to leave.” Things like “I’m lucky to have a job.”

Sitting there that night, self employment looked a lot like unemployment.

It’s not the ideas – I have them. I have definite ideas on how I can improve my practice and better serve. I even have ways that I think I can execute on those ideas.

I decide to be honest with myself.

I’m fearful.

The fear takes many forms. The fear that I’ll fail. The fear that I’ll end up bankrupt. The fear that I won’t provide for my child. The fear that I’ll lose the respect of my friends and colleagues.  The list of fears is long. Endless spiderwebs.

Danger is completely different than the fear. Danger can actually ruin you. Fear is what keeps you in place. The thing that keeps you from experiencing life in its fullest.

One danger is taxes. The IRS can destroy you.  However, the danger can be mitigated through work and planning. I know nothing about accounting software. I can learn it or I can hire someone to manage this task for me. Through preparation my taxes can be done properly.

If you’re thinking of starting a firm the very first thing you must do is separate your fears from real danger.

This winter I’ve made some bold decisions to grow and improve my firm. I’m working on McKeen Law Firm 4.0. And I have to tell you, the fear doesn’t go away. It just changes. Spiderwebs abound. It’s part of the deal.

If you haven’t seen this video, watch it:

Hadfield is brilliant. To overcome one’s fear of spiderwebs one has to identify what’s really a harmful spider and then walk through spiderwebs. Very few spiderwebs are dangerous at all. Certainly not the ones you can walk through.

At our firm, when fear sets in and it does, we remind each other that “we’re walking through spider webs”.

Over the last three years, the single common denominator in all of my worst decisions has been fear. More specifically failing to identify fear and instead reacting to it as danger.

If you are thinking of starting a firm. Step one is identifying your “spiderwebs”. Step 2 is walking through those spiderwebs. If you’re thinking of sustaining a firm, Step 3 is repeating Steps 1 and 2.

There’s no secret. Just “constantly walk through spider webs”.

Connecticut Injury Attorney Andrew Garza Named Of Counsel To McKeen Law Firm

Attorney Andrew Garza has it.

He is a tenacious advocate for the injured. I’ve seen him work tirelessly for his clients. Andrew wears his commitment to his clients on his sleeve. He gets results for his clients. 

Andrew is committed to learning and developing the very best trial and advocacy methods available. Unleashing these cutting edge techniques has yielded and will continue to yield results for folks who have suffered harms and losses as a result of someone else choosing to violate safety rules. We’ve traveled long distances together to attend national seminars taught by the finest lawyers in the country.

On January 1, 2015, Andrew moved his main office in with McKeen Law Firm, LLC in Glastonbury. Our respective clients will now yield the benefits of having two of the National Trial Lawyers “40 under 40″ for Connecticut under the same roof. Andrew will retain his office in Hartford.

At this time, we are operating under two separate firms. Andrew will continue operating the Law Offices of Andrew P. Garza, LLC and I will continue operating McKeen Law Firm, LLC.  However we have formed an alliance to better serve injured clients. For example, Attorney Garza practices in the area of workers compensation which I do not. Attorney Garza will allow us to keep our workers compensation cases “in house”.

And their are larger alligators we hope to wrestle. Prosecuting catastrophic injury cases is often difficult as a solo.  Andrew and I will be working collaboratively on some cases relying on each other’s resources, skills, and expertise to better serve both of our clients.

Most importantly, Andrew is a good guy. I’m learning a lot from him. I believe our alliance will yield dividends for all stake holders, most of all our respective and joint clients.

On my side of the coin, this addition reflects a commitment to growing my injury and wrongful death practice areas. Joining forces with Attorney Garza will yield many benefits to those injured as a result of negligence in Connecticut.

We share a common vision, a commitment to best practices, and the drive to fight diligently for our clients. To that end, I will be serving as Of Counsel to Andrew’s firm as well. This will enable us each to assist each other.

McKeen Law Firm Launches Real Estate Website

Real estate is one of the areas our firm is growing in. Allison McKeen will focus part of her practice on residential real estate while I continue to grow my civil litigation and personal injury practice.

To reflect this renewed focus, we’ve launched www.ctrealestatelawfirm.com. It is a site dedicated to our real estate practice. We will blog about Connecticut real estate issues.

All websites are works in progress, and this one was created and launched over the weekend. Check it out.

Need a Connecticut Real Estate Attorney? Contact Allison McKeen below. We will respond to your inquiry. Please be advised that sending an inquiry does not create an attorney-client relationship. In order for us to do work on your behalf, we must enter into a signed fee agreement. Only then is an attorney-client relationship created.

Allison McKeen Joins McKeen Law Firm, LLC

“What should I name my firm?” That’s one of the first questions any new solo attorneys asks himself.

In the summer of 2013, I toyed with a number of names including “The Law Office of Ryan McKeen”. Ultimately, I decided against it because I didn’t want to have to redo the letterhead in the event it made sense for my wife, Allison McKeen to join the firm. I decided to leave a door open. McKeen Law Firm, LLC was born.

Over the past 16 months, the firm has grown to the point where it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage both the caseload and administrative burdens. Fortunately, I had some outstanding help by way of colleagues, independent paralegals, family, and my assistant Ruth.

But in order to take the next step for the firm – I needed a partner.  And luckily for me, I just had to look across the kitchen table. Allison has been my partner for the past 18 years. She is one of the smartest, toughest, and kindest people that I’ve ever met.

Looking back, McKeen Law Firm, LLC was born in a run down apartment in the Forest Park neighborhood of Springfield. Allison and I were 1Ls at Western New England College School of Law. We were in the same section meaning we had all of the same professors. We supported and pushed each other throughout law school to be our best.

At the end of our third year, Allison was selected by our professors for an award honoring the student who best exemplified academic success and community leadership. She was Senior Note Editor for the Law Review. During law school, she received an offer to join Shipman and Goodwin as an associate.

Following law school, our career paths diverged. She practiced land use and municipal law at a large firm. I was fully engaged in the general practice of law at a small firm across the river. She then accepted a position as an attorney for the Legislative Commissioner’s Office at the Connecticut General Assembly where she wrote bills and legislation pertaining to land use, municipal law, housing, and banks.

Throughout our respective careers, we dreamed of working together, at a shop of our own. For many years working together seemed impossible. The dream was tucked away. Some opportunities presented themselves but they weren’t the right opportunities.

Right now is the right opportunity.

Professionally, I’m thrilled to add such an outstanding lawyer to the firm. Allison is a gifted writer. She has written petitions to the US Supreme Court, Appellate Briefs, Statutes, and her novels have been published on 3 continents. Her addition instantly increases both the quality and scope of work the firm can handle.

Personally, I’m excited for the flexibility this gives our family and for the opportunity to spend more time together.

Allison shares the firm’s vision. She helped craft it. She was there when I was looking for office space, working with Hartford Prints on designing business cards, and is my constant go to for advice on both legal and business issues. She has spent countless hours with me watching David Ball “Opening Statements” and “Voir Dire” videos on Saturday nights. CTLA videos are also a hit in our house.

More than that Allison has supported both me and the firm in taking risks and serving my clients. Whether it is staying home with our children while I’m listening to David Ball teach in DC or encouraging me to take and try different cases – she has stood by my side, encouraged me, and provided me with countless insights.

Allison is leading  McKeen Law Firm’s real estate, land use, legislative drafting, and appellate practice. She will also be handling the bulk of the briefing and research for the firm. We’ll have more on exactly what she’s doing over the coming weeks and months as things settle in. Allison is a significant asset to all of the firm’s existing and future clients. 

The move allows me to further narrow my practice areas and really focus on civil trial work while allowing Allison to further grow the firm’s real estate practice. It’s not that I’ve done my last closing or anything it’s just close to impossible to be in court as much as I am and cover closings.

You will be hearing from Allison on this site. Look for her posts about land use and municipal legislation pending before the General Assembly this session.

On January 5, 2015, Allison simply begins working as a partner in the traditional sense of the word. She has been part of McKeen Law Firm since it opened on a humid July morning in our kitchen right after we had reserved a vacation at Sesame Place.

 

You Can Contact Allison Through The Form Below: