Choose Your Own Success

One of the ways you can lose your mind in this business – any business – is to compare your success to others. This is a scarcity mindset. The feeling that no matter what we do that it is not enough.

Scarcity is deeply rooted in the legal profession. Success looks something like go to a big law school, make law review, land the posh summer associateship, get hired at a big firm, toil for a few years and then do the next thing – inhouse or partnership. That’s the path.

When you start your own practice there is no path. It is more like being in an open field. There are lots of ways to go.

My two cents: be bold in choosing your success and let no one else define it for you.

Maybe you are a working parent and you define success as being able work enough to make enough extra money that it makes a difference in your life. You are not trying to win Supreme Court cases. You are not trying to dominate part of the market. Your success is working in a way that makes a difference for your kids.

Success could be leveling a playing field for someone.

Define your own success. And then embrace it.

Change One Thing

The only thing that has been a constant in my life the past 4 years is change. I left a good job. That was the first change. The change that started a lot of other changes.

I have committed to improving my law practice by joining a community of some of the finest lawyers in the country – The Rosen Institute. These lawyers are the cutting edge. From them I learn and share ideas and processes that have immeasurable impact on the services I am able to provide to my clients.

One of the things that I am doing at the institute is an accountability group. The group is comprised of 5 lawyers across the country. We meet bi-weekly and commit to doing some task to improve our practice. We then report back.

Last week, I committed to doing a relatively small task. When I looked under the hood and made the change – I found other changes and then other and then others. I became consumed by my side project. Going to bed way past my bedtime for the past 10 days.

I have also found myself more energized in everything I do.

Whatever improvement you are thinking of making in you practice – make it. Make the small improvement. Once you change anything you may find yourself changing everything.

Lawyers Taking Credit Cards. Put This In Your Fee Agreement.

Lawyers taking credit cards – read this – put this in your fee agreement.

Credit cards can be all kinds of good for you and your clients. They may allow your client to come up with a retainer that may otherwise be difficult for them to do. It may allow them to pay more quickly. It may net your clients some Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. There are many, many, reasons from convenience to expedience to take credit cards.

At some point along your journey you will be hit with a chargeback. Chargeback is the ultimate 4 letter word.

You won’t have done anything wrong. Yet a decent chunk of change will come flying out of your operating account.

Resolving a chargeback takes many hours.  Way too many hours. For purposes of this post, just know that a chargeback can happen even when you take every precaution.

If you are accepting credit cards, it is essential that your fee agreements contain language that says you will only refund money on the card that you were paid on.

Imagine a client gives you a $10,000 retainer. You’ve set up everything properly so the $10,000 goes into your client funds account and the fees come out of your operating funds account. The client then cancels the card the paid the retainer on. The client then fires you. You go to refund the money on the card but you can’t but it is closed. Your client insists on being paid immediately. You cut the client a check from Client’s funds. The client then makes a chargeback instantly resulting in $10,000 out of your operating funds. This is the way it happens. Without warning. Without anything the money is ripped from your account until the dispute is resolved.

This could happen. You could be left holding the bag.

It is possible to have the a chargeback 4 months after a charge.

You can dispute the chargeback. It can take months to resolve. In the meantime, you are out $10,000. You can show the credit card company your check. You can stand on your head. Good luck talking to a person.

You do not want to be in this position. Not for a second. Save yourself a headache and insist on refunding directly to the card so there’s no issue with the credit card company. Write this down. Put this in your fee agreements.

First 3 Things To Do When Starting Your Law Firm

When I started my firm there were a lot of ideas. Lots of ideas.

I know the feeling. This.

My moment of inspiration occurred when I was on vacation. I was reading the Steve Jobs biography. It spoke to me. It spoke to my desire to build a firm. To make the transition from working in the business to working on the business.  The ideas were intoxicating. I could do this or this or this or that. There were many this and that’s. It was all kind of fun.

The scary part was acting on those ideas. Acting felt like treason (I was employed at the time). Acting was scary. Acting limited my options.

Figuring out where to start was a tough nut to crack. This post is about translating your ideas to action.

Here are the first 3 things you should do:

1.Register Your Domain: Before you file your incorporation documents – register your domain. So enterprising person somewhere in the world has a bot scanning corporate name filings in hopes of cybersquatting and making a quick buck. Don’t pay their ransom. Register your domain. If you are working at a firm and wish to keep you registration private – register your domain privately. Pay the extra fee. You can register your domain at sites like GoDaddy or Register.com

2. File Your Articles of Organization: Incorporate. For many reasons, a law firm should incorporate. Do this. File your articles of             organization

3. Obtain Your FEIN: You are going to need a Federal Tax Id. Get this for free online from the IRS. 

These are the first 3 things you should do. This is where you start. It is unsexy. It is practical.

Thing 4 – read this post on opening bank accounts.

 

Starting a Law Firm? Choose Action

action

When you are starting or running a small practice there is no shortage of decisions to make.

What is my firm name? What is my url? Who is going to host my website? Should I have a logo? There is endless advice on all of these topics on the internet.

My advice to you is to choose action above all else. This will save you time. Don’t worry about having the perfect website. Get a website up. Build on it over time. Change it. Scrap it.

In everything you do – have a strong bias for action.

You’ll make mistakes. You’ll redo things. But all of your mistakes won’t add up to what it costs waiting to do something. I promise.

Go out there and do whatever it is your thinking of doing. Now. Don’t wait.

MileIQ An Essential App For Your Law Practice

It’s the small things that make all of the difference.

When I started my own firm, one of the things I was very bad at was keeping track of my mileage. Come tax time, my accountant would ask for my mileage log. I would then look back at my calendar, open google maps, and calculate mileage based on what was in my calendar. Things like trips to get supplies or to the bank never made my spreadsheet.

As of March 30, 2016, the current IRS mileage rate is $.54. That adds up quickly.

Last year, I installed MileIQ on my phone. It was a decision that saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in mileage expenses and hours of my time. You can save yourself 20% on the premium version of MileIQ by clicking here. Full disclosure I save some money on my account if you buy.  I would recommend this product even if there was no benefit to me.  You can try MileIQ for free.

 

3 Reasons You Need A Law Firm Juris Number

Going solo?

You have a personal juris number. It’s perfectly fine. I mean, it works. You can file appearances, sign pleadings, and appear in court. It does all of the things you need it to do. cropped-DSCN0938.jpg

One of the rules of building your own practice is to build for success. If something is worth doing it is worth doing right – from day 1.

Here are 3 reasons you need a law firm juris number:

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10 Rapid Fire Answers About Opening Your Own Law Practice

Here are 10 rapid fire answers about opening your own law practice:

1. What websites should I read? 

In no particular order: Lawyerist, Solo Practice University, Above the Law’s Small Firm Page.

2. Do I need an iPad?

No.

3. What kind of scanner should I buy?

Scansnap

4. Where should I locate my office?

Near your clients or the clients you want.

5. When should I hire someone?

When doing so makes you money.

6. What should I ask my accountant?

Read more

10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Going Solo

Deciding to hang your shingle is tough.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before going solo:

1. Am I better off working for someone else? Some very good lawyers benefit from the corporate structure of a firm and would be lost without it for a variety of reasons including support, money, and things being done for you.

2. Can I be my own boss? Being your own boss is hard. Sometimes you’ll be too hard on yourself. Other times not hard enough. 

3. Where am I going to get clients? Clients are the lifeblood of any practice.

4. What is my support system? Oh you’ll need help. Who in your family or circle of friends will be there to support your decision?

5.  Do I have enough money? Surviving the first year is tough. Undercapitalization will lead to loads of stress and bad decision making.

6. Does a partnership make sense? One the plus side having a partner feels like the safer decision and it can be. Having someone else to split the work with is great. However, entering into the “wrong” partnership can take a toll on your business and well being.

7. Is my spouse on board? Your spouse is your partner in this. Is she comfortable with going without a paycheck? Does she understand the risks/rewards?

8. What can I outsource? I built my firm’s entire back office, website, and social media presence. I knew I could do those things. Setting up quickbooks, figuring out taxes – I hired an accountant.

9. Am I prepared? You shouldn’t just go from idea to shingle. You should study, execute, and then hang your shingle. Follow good advice.

10. How am I going to deal with success? You will succeed. What’s your plan for dealing with it?

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