What Is Your Vision?

You’re thinking about it. Amidst all of the other “stuff” you are thinking about – the practical stuff – your phone, your practice management system, and your business cards. 

You wrestle with the question of what you want your firm to become. It is a question that will never leave you.

Do you want to be a true solo doing everything yourself? Do you want to build a firm with multiple lawyers and staff? Do you want to work on your business or in your business? Do you want to be the best lawyer in your niche? Do you want to run your own shop because you are in between jobs?

There are no right answers. Your answers may evolve.

I think of my practice as version 4.0.

Version 1.0: When I started, I formed a partnership. In doing so, I transitioned from a paper practice to a paperless one. I began building out technological systems. My practice was a general practice. I did personal injury. I did real estate. I did family law. I did housing work.

Version 2.0: I became a true solo. I went to work by myself for a year. I continued developing my technology. I continued my general practice. I plugged along. Making improvements where I could. I added my first staff member during version 2.0. My assistant who worked 6 hours a week.

Version 3.0: Growth. I hit my stride. I added a partner and an attorney of counsel. My phones are now answered by Ruby Receptionists. I build an office in Glastonbury. I start narrowing my focus to personal injury. My systems become more refined. My use of technology explodes.

Version 4.0:  I launch Connecticut Trial Firm, LLC to reflect my commitment and focus on injury cases. I add another partner. I really develop my systems and begin to automate processes. The future is bright.

Throughout the development of my practice I ask myself: “who am I?” and “what do I want to do with the rest of my life?”.

For the first time, I’m working hard on writing down my vision.

I’m reading the book Traction and trying to fill out this form.  Take a look at both the book and the form. My goal this month is to complete the form.

Looking back, I wasted a lot of time by not writing down my vision. I wasted efforts. I wish I had focused early.

If you are thinking about opening or changing your practice – the first thing you may want to do is ask “who am I?” and “what do I want to do?”

Other Posts You May Like:

Starting a Law Firm? Choose Action

Picture Your First Day As A Solo


Ryan McKeen Named A New Leader In The Law

Writing my own headlines….about me…..in the third person…it doesn’t get any lamer. Not for a second.

The Connecticut Law Tribune has named me a 2016 New Leader In The Law.

Ryan McKeen getting an award.
Ryan McKeen getting an award.

I am among 37 winners, who were judged by a panel of four judges for development of the law, advocacy/community contributions, service to the bar, and peer/public recognition.

When I googled “ct law tribune new leaders in the law 2016” I came across a number of press releases from large firms. There’s a story here. I promise.

When the Hartford Business Journal named me “40 Under 40” for 2014, I was seriously asked at a pre-event dinner, “who is your PR person?” I chuckled. I said I do all of my own press.

I was then asked “who nominated you?”. I smiled and said “I nominated myself”.

Many of these awards are bestowed upon folks by their employers. Big firms submit X number of associate names to the Law Tribune. Presumably it is a good sign your firm is submitting your name.

There was a point in my life, probably most of it, that I would have been embarrassed about this. But somewhere in my journey of self employment – I stopped caring about such things.

When you are a solo – awards are nice. At a big firm you’ll get recognition from your colleagues. When you’re a solo, such recognition has a different value. They help boost your Avvo rating. They may legitimize you in the eyes of clients. Having your name in the paper in front of other lawyers may result in referrals.

So if you are solo, have no PR person, no partner to nominate you – consider nominating yourself.

Other meta posts from my PR person:

ABA Blawg 100!!!!!!!!

McKeen Selected For Hartford Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Class

Ryan McKeen Honored By CT Personal Injury Hall of Fame

Audible – The Best Buy In Attorney CLE

It’s a beautiful summer day. I’m on a walk. The weather is perfect. As I make my way down by the river, I’m listening to an audio book. I’m learning from Gerry Spence about how to make a closing argument. Spence is one of the greatest trial lawyers ever. He teaches a college in Wyoming that costs thousands to attend over 3 weeks. For 1 Audible credit, I get to spend nearly 5 hours with Spence. I treasure our time together.

You need to go to a formal seminar if you are someone looking for CLE credit. Audible is the best buy in attorney cle.

If you are dedicated to improving your practice – look to Audible.com. Audible is Amazon’s audiobook service. Audible’s pricing is as follows:

Gold Monthly $14.95 per month – 1 credit each month
Platinum Monthly $22.95 per month 2 credits each month
Gold Annual $149.50 per year 12
Platinum Annual $229.50 per year 24

A single CLE class can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The advantage of Audible is you can listen to your books in the car or on a walk.  It’s a fantastic way to learn when you are pressed for time. Here are some suggestions of books that can’t help but make you a better attorney:

Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail, Every Place, Every Time by Gerry Spence. Spence reads the book. It is fantastic. A tour de force on persuasion.

The E-Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don’t Work and What to Do about It: This book may challenge the way you look at your practice. Are you self employed or are you running a firm?

The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage by Brene Brown. Law, at least most of it, is a people profession. Learn about the shame, vulnerability and courage that are at the core of our practices and cases.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In: We negotiate for a living. This book offers practical advice that will benefit you and your clients.

Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You: Your firm is your systems and the people who manage those systems. Do you have systems? We all need systems. Systems, systems, systems.

There are many other books that are worthy of your time. I burn through 24 credits a year. Reading all sorts of books on neuroscience, meditation, law, communication, and business. What I get is a steal for $229.50.

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


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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