….is about to get better. New Britain Superior Court has a nice garage located very close to the court. Making it one of the more convenient Connecticut courts to park at. The only problem s the garage only accepts cash or checks.
Dear Mayor Stewart, I am impressed with your initiatives in New Britain. I am not a resident of New Britain, however, I am an attorney who travels frequently to court in your city. There is a problem with your parking garage – unlike any other in the state – it does not accept credit cards. It only accepts cash or check. Often in the morning, the cashiers struggle because they don’t have enough change since the lowest bill most folks pay with is a $20. Lines often back up as folks have to back up because they aren’t carrying cash. Further, I haven’t been able to find an ATM close to the court. The garage fees are amongst the highest that I pay anywhere to park for court. Please make it easier to take our money. Please let attendants accept credit cards. – Ryan McKeen
The good Mayor had the following response:
Good Afternoon Ryan, I actually just had this conversation about a month ago with our property management department and we are working on a solution to fix that in all of our garages. Thank you for sharing it with me…
(These messages are being published with Mayor Stewart’s permission).
Good towns and cities get the small things right. Good on Mayor Stewart for working to fix this small problem.
“We’re constantly adding more shelf space. Consumers have many options right now. So many that it’s confusing. We’re going to sell a lot of these for Christmas” said the helpful Best Buy employee to me. He’s right there really are a lot of fitness wearables on the market ranging from cutting edge to fairly low tech.
We are witnessing Act 1 of the wearable revolution.
What happens outside of the courtroom eventually finds its way into a courtroom. Newton’s 28th law of thermodynamics or something.
We represent folks who are injured as a result of others violating safety rules. Sometimes our clients suffer life altering injuries. We’ve represented a cyclist whose riding was limited. A musician who was unable to play and the dancer who can’t dance. And many more folks who are simply unable to move as they once did or unable to do the things they loved to do.
The very things, like running, that make us human.
Frequently, insurance defense lawyers accuse folks who have been injured as a result of their insured of faking their injuries. They try to undermine reports of treating physicians. They may hire surveillance and video tape our clients at family functions. They do this because they are looking for any discount possible on the harms and losses that their insured has inflicted.
We fight these lies with truth. One of the things we do is subpoena gym records. We call fact witnesses who can testify of our clients activities before and after a wreck. We fight back.
Fitness trackers are going to be on the front lines of this fight. Engadget reports:
Insurers couldn’t force you to wear a smart band, but they might compel you to hand over data….In that sense, fitness data is a double-edged sword. While it might save your hide in certain legal battles, it could be a smoking gun in others.
There is not question in my mind that the data that wearables collect will become one of the most significant pieces of evidence injury cases. In order to be successful in prosecuting a claim, lawyers must know both the law and the technology.
So when you put on your new “FITBONE” for the New Year do so knowing that you may one day be subject to cross examination on the data.
“Always plan your day around lunch.” – Judge Smith
One of the great blessings in my nine years of practice has been the willingness of experienced lawyers to share their insights. The practice of law is literally that. It’s a practice. Practice is best with coaches. I’m writing this to share Judge Smith’s advice about lunch.
Why am I writing a post about lunch? Because, when Judge Smith told me to plan my day around lunch – I initially thought he was kidding. I’ve come to learn that he wasn’t. I met Judge Smith at lunch with my bosses.
Lunch is a special time for me. Often, I eat lunch at my desk while working. But at least once a week – I try and get out. Being a father of two young children – I do everything I can to be home for dinner with my family. My days of Young Lawyer networking Happy Hours are long gone. The only professional commitments that I make in the evening is to Inn of Court which meets once a month. I otherwise avoid evening commitments if at all possible because reading “Goodnight Moon” to my son and daughter means everything to me.
Lunch is my opportunity and I try to seize it.
In September, I had a meeting in New Haven. A place I only venture to a handful of times each year. My meeting got out at 11. I texted my brother who works in New Haven and asked if he wanted to grab lunch. He said “sure”. On a perfect September day, we walked to a Mexican restaurant and had lunch. It was a time to connect and reconnect.
There have been lunches with classmates, friends, and colleagues. The life of a practicing lawyer is often a moving target. Hearings run long. Closings get rescheduled. Cases settle. A lawyer’s calendar is always in a state of flux. Clients always take priority. Sometimes the first thing I do when I get in after checking my schedule is ask myself “what am I going to do for lunch?” Time permitting I’ll email or text a colleague and schedule a lunch meeting. We catch up, we discuss cases, and we discuss practice. I can’t tell you how many of these conversations that I’ve cherished over the years.
This summer after wrapping up closing arguments in hotly contested trial in New London – I grabbed lunch with co-counsel and opposing counsel at a deli near the court. The pulled pork was outstanding. The company was better. Being able to sit down with adversaries after a hotly contested trial where both sides were vigorously represented was refreshing. We talked little about the trial. We mostly talked about our kids and summer. It was great.
If I have a meeting in the northern part of the state, I try to time it in order to have lunch with parents.
At home my meals can feel rushed. My son is 16 months and my daughter is 4. My son needs his food cut. My daughter wants something. It is often loud. My son gets tired early in the evening. DInner feels like the thing we do before bathing, changing, reading and putting our kids to bed before we start getting ready for the next day.
Why am I mentioning dinner in a column about lunch? Because when possible I try to steal a quick date with my wife. Grabbing a 45 minute lunch feels like spending hours together. We’re not cutting food or answering questions about giants. We’re able to talk…..in peace. It feels vacation.
Oh and Chilis. My daughter loves Chilis. My office is a short walk from Chilis. On school vacations she often comes into the office with me. We go to lunch at Chilis. I love this time with her. Someday she’ll have lunch plans with colleagues, friends, and maybe her husband. But for now, going to Chilis with her Dad is awesome. Never miss a chance to do awesome.
Lunches with clients are critical. Getting to know a client and build a relationship over a meal can yield countless dividends.
This summer I went to Cafe Mantic with my wife for our anniversary. I read about it in the New York Times and decided to make the trip on the way home from Watch Hill. I’m glad we did because it was outstanding.
Yesterday, I had a mediation in Willimantic with Judge RIley from 9 to 1. A few weeks ago, I received a call from Manchester Probate court looking to schedule a hearing. I looked at my schedule and asked that the hearing be scheduled for 3. I did this because sometimes a mediation, particularly if it is productive can run long. But I also hoped that a 3 o’clock hearing would give me time to enjoy lunch at Cafe Mantic.
My mediation ended at 1:00. The case resolved. My client was very pleased with the result. I headed down to Cafe Mantic. Opened my laptop – caught up on the emails and messages that I couldn’t get to during the mediation. Prepared for my 3 o’clock hearing. And I quietly celebrated the successful mediation with a salad and some of the best coffee that I’ve ever had. Connecticut is full of great places to have lunch.
Eighteen years ago, on October 1, 1996, REM’s “Monster” tour rolled into Hartford’s Meadows Music theater. Opening for REM that evening was a far lesser known band called Radiohead. On that warm early fall evening, I bought my first concert shirt. The shirt was a drawing of a bear in the woods with a question mark over its head. Below the picture was the following quote:
I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. – Jack Kerouac
If I still had the shirt, I’d wear it to UConn Law School on Wednesday night. I’m serving on a panel of three lawyers for UConn’s Business of Law class. I’ll be discussing building a law practice and offering about 30 students my own confusion.
I’m extremely fortunate to have the clients that I have. Law is about community and people. Focusing a practice on representing individuals and small businesses presents a lawyer with an extraordinary opportunity to connect, improve, and grow relationships with clients.
The process of growing and building a practice is just that. It’s a process. Really it is many processes. At it’s core, building a practice is about letting people know what you do and doing great work for clients.
I hope that sharing my various struggles with the confusion that can come with building a practice can help someone else land clients as good as mine and enjoy the adventure that is small firm practice.
McKeen Law Firm, LLC turns one today. It has been an amazing year. We’ve championed causes at trial, on appeal, and before the General Assembly. Many of our victories have occurred in resolving matters favorably for our clients in ways that don’t grab headlines. We’re proud of our work.
This year I’ve spent a lot of time and money improving my trial advocacy skills. I’ve attended national seminars and have developed an extensive library of the most cutting edge trial materials available. I’ve invested time and resource into putting technology to work for our clients both in the courtroom and in our office.
The investments have and will continue to pay dividends. This summer, I took a matter to trial 6 days after I was hired, and three days after I filed suit. I squared off against 3 lawyers and a small army of assistants from one of Connecticut’s largest firms. Ultimately, the judge found in favor of the defendants on a question of law that no court had ever addressed. While the result wasn’t what I had hoped for, I’m proud of the fight we put up at trial. Opposing counsel – ever gracious – couldn’t believe that I was able to pull off this kind of trial on such short notice.
There have been victories at trial as well. I’m proud of those but wise enough to know that strong advocacy has little to do with result. We’ll continue winning cases in our second year.
We’ve also invested significant resource into streamlining our real estate closings. The goal is to have the client’s walk out saying “that was easy”. The processes that my team has in place continue to yield satisfied clients and have allowed us to lower our fees on closings.
As my workload has increased my blogging has suffered. I’m aware of this and working on ways to expand the presence of this site and others.
I’m actively exploring ways to grow and better serve my clients. This next year is going to be big. To reflect this, I’ve changed the cover page of several social media accounts to the lion pictured above.
In year two, “we’re running to roar”. We’re ready to hit our stride.
Many thanks to my family, friends, and clients who have placed their faith in my. I could not operate without you. I am forever grateful.
Happy Labor Day! Labor Day marks the end of summer. And for many Connecticut students it means back to school. Here’s a little school law post for your holiday weekend.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 1-4 is one of the more interesting statutes on the books. Check this out:
When any such holiday, except holidays in January and December, occurs on a school day, each local and regional board of education may close the public schools under its jurisdiction for such day or hold a session of the public schools on such day, provided, if a session is held, the board shall require each school to hold a suitable nonsectarian educational program in observance of such holiday. If a holiday in January or December occurs on a school day, there shall be no session of the public schools on such day.
A local school board can decide to hold school on Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, and Memorial Day so long as there is an educational program in observance of the holiday.
However, there can be no school on Martin Luther King Day and Christmas. Educational programs won’t suffice.
It’s an elaborate tap dance by our legislature to avoid the appearance of endorsing religion (yes, I know Christmas is a secular holiday) and at the same time insure school is not held on Christmas.
Have a wonderful school year and a happy and safe labor day.
A year ago yesterday, I began building McKeen Law Firm. I didn’t know where my office was going to be, what my firm was going to be named, or when I was going to open. Life had given me a blank slate.
While my name makes the Hartford Business Journal – my success wouldn’t be possible without the support of many people. I’m most grateful to my family for supporting me. When I needed it the most they were they helped and believed in me. Thank you, Allison and Mom and Dad.
None of what I do would be possible without the assistance of Ruth Deslauries who capably assists me on litigation files and Jackie Pentalow who makes smooth real estate closings possible.
Most of all this wouldn’t be possible without my clients. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to earn your trust.
Being selected is great. Now time to get back to work. Thank you.
“You’re going to look back and think this was one of the best things that’s happened to you professionally.”
It surely didn’t feel that way at the time. Those were the words of a partner to me in my first year of practice. I was in the middle of one of the nastiest and most difficult cases that I’ve encountered in my nearly 9 years of practice. It was a commercial eviction.
I am representing the landlord. The tenant is represented by two law firms. The tenants lawyers file every motion in the book seeking to delay and/or deny my client possession of their property. I obtain judgment for my client but the case isn’t over.
It’s the day before Christmas Eve. It’s supposed to be an easy day in the office. I plan to have lunch with the partners after exchanging gifts. Except I get served with an injunction, ordering me to refrain from serving a writ of execution. The fax machine starts spewing out paper – motion after motion appears on my desk.
The clerk calls – the Judge wants argument on a Writ of Audita Querela at four o’clock. I’ve never heard of a writ of audita querela. The judge wants a brief in 90 minutes. I frantically research the the issue and respond.
Ultimately, I win a dismissal of the tenant’s case on appeal and gain possession of the premises for my client.
Going through the process was terrible. There were all sorts of motions, hearings, discovery, and challenges. My comfort zone as a young lawyer was being tested every day for months on this case.
Landlord-tenant law has been a part of my practice for 9 years. It is a quirky area of practice filled with pitfalls for the unwary. The very nature of summary process has helped me improve my trial and litigation skills – deadlines are quick and trials happen. I’ve represented both residential and commercial landlords and tenants.
About five years ago, I stopped taking foreclosure defense cases. Defending a foreclosure action is always both frustrating and time intensive – banks lose documents. I made the decision to focus my practice on other areas of the law.
I’ve never lost my desire to help homeowners in a time of crisis. So many people are an illness or job loss away from being a defendant in a foreclosure action. Those who find themselves facing foreclosure are confronted with overwhelming stress.
In 2013, I signed up for the Hartford Judicial District’s volunteer attorney program to assist those facing foreclosure. I signed up in November and the first available date was in July – a testament to the generosity of the Hartford County Bar.
When I arrived at court, I was nervous. Nervous that I wouldn’t be able to adequately help those in need in a quick consult.
In two hours of volunteering I assisted 5 people. Most of them had very simple questions. Others needed basic guidance. For example, a mother an a daughter sat across from the table. A relative had passed away and taxes hadn’t been paid on the property. There was no mortgage. The home had been in the family for 60+ years. The tax liens had been sold to a private party who was foreclosing.
The family didn’t know what to do. I asked if an estate had been opened. They told me one hadn’t. I assisted them in finding the probate court in their jurisdiction, told them that they needed to be appointed as administrators of the estate, and then outlined some options for them in the foreclosure process.
The advice was what I would consider to be very basic.
The barriers that confront pro se litigants are many. Making a difference doesn’t require undertaking a significant amount of litigation for a party at great personal sacrifice. It can be found in lawyers providing the most basic of legal assistance.
It’s easy to overlook the small things. I spent two years designing and improving on my paper-less firm. Yet…..just last week, I purchased a low tech piece of equipment that makes a big difference. A power cord.
Taking notes on my laptop is great. However, until battery life significantly improves or wireless charging hits the market – power will always be an issue. While you are busy deciding on hardware and software it is easy to forget about power on the road.
Watch the video below for a $4.99 low-tech must buy tool for your paper-less law office. I carry one of these with me when I know laptop battery may be an issue. Great for your practice, cheap, and it may help you make friends at a conference, coffee shop, in an airport, or at court.