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”.

Ryan McKeen is a trial attorney at Connecticut Trial Firm, LLC in Glastonbury, Connecticut. In 2016, he was honored by the CT Personal Injury Hall of Fame for securing one of the highest settlements in the state. He is a New Leader in the Law. ABA 100. Avvo 10. 40 under 40 for Hartford Business Journal. He has been quoted in Time Magazine, the New York Times, Hartford Courant, Wall Street Journal Law Blog and the Hartford Business Journal. He focuses his practice on Connecticut Personal Injury law. He loves what he does. Contact him ryan@cttrialfirm.com or 860 471 8333