Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Appearance Attorneys: Why You Should Use Them Often

A great way to gain experience if you are looking for a job as an attorney or looking to go out on your own is to be an appearance attorney.  An appearance attorney will go to court and handle a case for another attorney who couldn’t make the appearance for a multiplicity of reasons.  An appearance attorney can make between $75-$250 for each appearance.  Being an appearance attorney is valuable experience.  Not only do you not have to worry about the day-to-day client interaction, but you get the opportunity to go into different court rooms in different cities and meet different court staff.  This is certainly more experience than you would get as a first year associate in a large law firm, plus those large law firms look at real life court experience as a big plus.

             Young, new attorneys do not realize how valuable appearance attorneys are.  Now that our law firm has been up and running for close to a year and we have been growing at a moderate pace, we understand the need to use appearance attorneys.  Having only Taylor and myself to do court appearance, sometimes the need arises for someone else to cover an appearance, especially if it is merely to request a continuance.  While we have a group of close friends that we rely on to handle appearances on a favor basis, we do not want to over-use this option, especially if we aren’t able to return the favors quickly for our friends. So, we are started to put together a list of reliable appearance attorneys to hire for appearances we cannot go to. 

           As part of our business vision, we strive to give back to the community.  Therefore, the type of attorneys we hire as appearance attorneys are ones that want to gain experience and get their foot in the door.  In college and while waiting for my bar results, I remember the feeling of reading job descriptions that already required work experience to apply. I remember thinking how am I supposed to get work experience if no one is willing to give me a chance to work for them? Now, as a result of that experience, I will only hire new attorneys for appearances -unless specialized knowledge is required.

            So the moral of the story is: Use appearance attorneys. They can save you so much time! Take a chance on a new, young appearance attorney. If they do not have a plethora of work experience, it does not mean that they are not capable. Give them a chance, you'll be impressed!

Friday, August 31, 2012

You Can’t Do Everything, So Why Even Try

"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." 
--Theodore Roosevelt

It is extremely important to learn early on that there are going to be certain tasks that you just cannot do on your own if at all.  Designing a website and creating one that is not only user friendly but possesses the correct effective “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) is one of those tasks that you just have to source out, either in-house or to a well reputable company.  But it certainly is not one that you want to try and take on yourself.  This little known fact was extremely elusive in the begin for Taylor and I, at first we were of the mindset that we just needed to get one up, but then we quickly realized we didn’t want a run of the mill template website we could build over night.  We did not want people’s first impression of us to be negative based on our website, so we held off until we could afford a professional version that would better represent who we are and what we want people to remember about our firm.

You hear it time and time again, first impressions are everything and I cannot stress it enough that your website is no different.  You don’t want it to look too cheesy or people will not take you seriously, you don’t want it to look too stuffy or people will get the wrong impression and look elsewhere.  It is extremely difficult finding the happy medium between professional and approachable, but it is absolutely necessary.  As I searched hundreds of websites for ideas I found myself judging people and their firms without really even realizing it, but once it hit me I couldn’t help but think if I was a client looking for a potential lawyer that I wouldn’t even call some of the lawyers I found purely based on my perception of them from their website.  It isn’t until you find yourself in the same situation as your potential clients that you realize that every little thing, picture, slogan, color scheme, and layout counts.  It could be the difference between running a successful law firm and just getting by.

So by now you’re thinking, wonderful I’ll hire someone to do my website because it isn’t worth the headache, but what you’re forgetting is that even if you have an experienced web designer working for you, you still have to come up with the content, concept and design and help steer the way into production.  Your website is a time consuming task, but if done correctly it will be worth it, but if done incorrectly you’ve wasted not only time but money and that is never good.  So start thinking early and often about your website because it is not an overnight task and even once you’ve hired someone to take the lead, your input is crucial.  Remember, first impressions are everything and your website will often be the first glimpse into what your firm can do for potential clients. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Websites I Love

Nolo –

Nolo is probably my favorite website for quick information on different areas of law.  It is also an excellent resource for law books.  If you are a new lawyer or just a person looking for some quick and free legal advice, this is definitely the place to stop.

Rocket Lawyer –

Rocket Lawyer is not only a great place to market your firm, but also to learn some basic information on various legal topics.  This website is great for finding a lawyer or just asking some advice.  Also, you can be a member of Rocket Lawyer and have access to the legal forms and can make calls to an attorney for some free advice. 

Avvo –

Along the same lines, Avvo is an excellent place for quick advice.  It is also a website for advice from other professionals.  You can ask quick questions at and have a lawyer respond.  It is also another excellent place to look for reputable attorneys.

Lawyerist –

This website has information on technology for lawyers, tips on starting a law firm, various practice management tips, and other great advice.  I love reading the articles when I have some down time at court or between meetings.  Bristol, Haynes & Associates has used this website in determining what practice management tools to use and what technology to purchase.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Make A Difference

-Make A Difference-

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
-         Mother Theresa

            “Why did you start your own practice right out of law school?” is a question I often get asked by friends, family, and even clients.  There are some obvious answers people are looking to hear, but I believe they are pleasantly surprised when they hear my first answer.  I started my own practice right out of law school because I want to help people and make a difference in my community.  It may sound like a cliché answer, but it the honest truth.  I am a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean that I am above people, it means that I have attained the knowledge that is necessary to help people in their times of need. 

            I was lucky enough to find a partner that believes in this same philosophy.  When we first sat down together to start putting together our business plan, one of the first things that we discussed was what type of law firm we wanted to be and what type we didn’t.  We first started talking about the experiences we both had had working for other lawyers and discussing what we wanted to take away from those experiences and what we did not.  We both agreed that we didn’t like firms that treated clients like case numbers, we wanted to actually care about our clients and advocate on their behalf with the necessary information.  We wanted them to feel comfortable coming to us with any of their legal needs.  We wanted to build a community law firm, a one stop shop in essence, we wanted to be able to assist them with whatever need that may arise.  And if we personally could not help them, again going back to the importance of networking and building a strong and reliable network, we wanted to be able to point them in the right direction to someone who would treat them in the same manner.

            From the inception of our law firm and now in practice with a heavy case load of clients, we still know our clients first and last names, the name of their children and the gist of their case.  We don’t have to refer to the case file for basic information.  It is a wonderful feeling knowing that we’ve taken a personal interest in their lives and that we are doing everything in our power to help them out.  So, so far so good on living out the first mantra of our firm and as long as we continue to stick to it, I believe we will continue to reach our goals and remain successful.

            I think it is really important to establish from the beginning what is most important to you and what you want to be known for in the industry, because it is the beginning stages of your career and business stature that will stick with you for a lifetime.  If you come out guns ablaze with no regard for human nature, you will not crawl out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself for a long time, if ever.  Your reputation and your word are what will determine your success, especially if you’ve decided to go out on your own, so from the very beginning you’ve got to decide what will propel you and hope that the world views it positively.  I’m lucky enough to know that each and every day, the work that Taylor and I, and soon our new hires, produce and put out into the world commands respect, as does each appearance, meeting, and filing that our firm does. 

Whether you decide to go out on your own or not, remember either way to make a difference.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Worth of a Smile

The other day I was at the Norwalk Courthouse filing a Motion. It was about 95 degrees outside and there was no air conditioning in the tiny little filing room.  It was unbelievably hot and ridiculously crowded. 

I probably waited 40 minutes just to get up to the window.  And… of course, I forgot a local form!  For those non-lawyers out there, some counties have specific pieces of paper that you need to have with whatever you are filing with the court and for some reason, I always forget to add that form.

The filing clerk was really rude… probably because she was hot and had been dealing with really frustrated people all day.

I was so frustrated because she told me that I would have to go get the form from another window and stand in the line ALL OVER AGAIN.  I wanted to die.  But, instead of getting really frustrated, I just stayed really calm, kept smiling, asked her a few questions {to make sure I never made the same mistake again}, and thanked her a couple times. 

Right before I walked away from the window, she said, “You know what, you don’t need to wait.  Once you are done filling out the form, just come straight back to my window.  I can help you.” 

And, so, I did not have to wait in the hot and smelly room again!  I filled out the form as quickly as possible and went back up to the window.  She helped me immediately and I was out of there!

Keeping a smile on my face saved me almost an hour.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's OK to look Stupid, in Fact it's Encouraged

You can’t be afraid to look stupid, just get used to it.

No one would have imagined, especially after graduating from law school and passing the bar, that on a daily basis that I would feel stupid and lost.  But guess what? That is exactly how I feel most days.  This is a new experience and no matter how comfortable I feel in court, or calling new clients, or filing out court forms, not a day goes by that something or someone does not seem to get the best of me.  I’ll sit in my cave of an office and twiddle my thumbs until a lifesaver comes my way.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having great friends in the industry that you feel comfortable enough with to talk to and ask the “stupid” questions.  On at least three occasions per week I will call one of my “phone a friends” and state, first and foremost, “I know this is probably a stupid question but…” and then proceed with my question.  Sometimes they are in fact the dumbest questions in the world and I already know the answer, but I need reaffirmation, or sometimes they are pretty good questions that make my friend and I think. 

The law and practicing are tricky things.  No two cases are going to be the same, rarely are two hearings in the same case going to be the same, so you’ve got to be quick on your toes and when you think the walls are caving in on you, you’ve got to pick up the phone and find an answer.  It is out there, and you’d be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to find it, once you swallow your pride and ask for help.  And most likely the person you ask for help won’t even think twice about your competence, they’ll just be glad to help out.  They’ve been there, or down the road they will need the favor returned.

And one thing about returning favors, actually do it or your “phone a friend” realm will start to dwindle.  Don’t burn the bridges you’ve made because you think a question is in fact “stupid” or because you think you’re above answering a question like that.  Talk through it with them, because when you’re in a bind, they’ll do the same. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sometimes you have to spend money to make money...

Every decision you make in the first few months of opening a new business, especially a law practice which you’d like to grow into a law firm, seems like it is always a catch-22.  You don’t have enough money to pay yourself-- let alone buy everything you’d like to have to make your business amazing-- yet you don’t want to make hasty decisions based solely on cash flow.  So, like I said, you seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.  This predicament has arisen many times throughout our short history as a company, but the decision about our office takes the cake.

Our first thoughts on an actual office were that we would be able to operate effectively without an office, to keep costs down, for a total of six months.  HAHA!!  We were so wrong.  It was next to impossible to get anything done without an office and without office supplies.  The trips to Fed Ex were expensive and time consuming, so something had to budge, and it was going to have to be our budget. 

We managed to get along without an office for six weeks, mostly because we could not decide on where or what type of office we wanted.  Another money saving strategy we played with was the idea of just getting an office anywhere so that we would have somewhere to go to work every day for as cheap as possible.  You’d be surprised how cheap office space can be, but like the saying goes, you get what you pay for.  I looked at all sorts of cheap office space and eventually Taylor and I decided those spaces weren’t the first impression we wanted to give people when they came to our place of business.  We wanted to give off a professional appearance and you can’t get that in any empty office building.

So after hitting another hiccup in our office journey, we decided to re-work our budget and figure out how we could swing an executive suite.  An executive suite comes with a receptionist and includes all utilities and amenities you would find in a large office such as a kitchenette, indoor bathroom facilities, and some usage of boardrooms and day offices.  This type of set up was appealing to us because it would provide a professional appearance and we could still fit it into our budget.  The only downside of the decision to go with an executive suite was that to fit it into our budget we had to go with a “cave” office instead of a window office.  Neither Taylor nor I want to indefinitely be stuck in “cave” offices, but it was a good trade-off.  A “cave office” for an executive suite, but we made sure to enter into a month-to-month lease, so that when we are ready to grow we can at anytime. 

So in the middle of March after weeks spent looking for a place to call home, Bristol, Haynes & Associates landed at the Executive Suite at Haven.  It is an added monthly expense, but in order to make money you’ve got to spend money.  The advice I can give when it comes to making decisions that can and will affect your future, always choose the high road, even if it is more expensive and find other ways to make your budget work.  Planning for the future is the only way you’ll get there in the fashion you’re dreaming about.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Make friends!!

Our practice has been officially open for about 1.5 months, depending on the way you look at it.  We started working on the "business" aspect of the firm mid-January.  But, we really did not retain clients until the beginning of March.  Then again, we did not move into our office until mid-March.  That is when work really started moving. So, I will say 1.5 months.

However, in the last 3.5 months of working on the "business" side of the law practice, we have learned A LOT.  I will say it again... A LOT.  There is no course in law school, or anywhere, to prepare you to start your own law firm. I wish.  Maybe Crista and I will write a book one day :)

As we have said before, we want to share our journey with you.  There are a few reasons.  First, because we look like idiots on a daily basis and it is hilarious.  Second, our legal/justice system is interesting, ridiculous, perfect, and obscene, all at the same time.  And, finally, because I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME THIS STUFF!

So, anyways, Crista and I will take turns writing.  We are choosing topics randomly, but if there is something you wish to see, give us a comment!

So, I will begin with my substantive blog: MAKE FRIENDS... REAL FRIENDS!

You hear it in law school and even before: "Don't burn bridges... you never know who is going to be on the other side one day."  Not only is this advice completely {and terrifyingly true}, but I want to add to it.. "Don't burn bridges... you never know who is going to be on the other side one day... and YOU WILL NEED OTHER LAWYERS TO GIVE YOU ADVICE."

I am serious. I can't tell you how many times I have called classmates for advice.  Not only do I call classmates, but I also have called other lawyers.  I have called lawyers I have never even met.  And {for the most part} they save my life... and my pride... and a ton of time... and my sanity.

There is a community feeling in the post-bar world.  We help each other out {or at least that is how I feel so far}.  Of course, there are "those attorneys" who are total jerks; but honestly, I have been pleasantly surprised.  I am so grateful for the professional friends I have made thus far and want to give you advice: MAKE FRIENDS, REAL FRIENDS! You will not regret it and, I promise, you will need them.

In the spirit of gratefulness, I want to thank Patrick Santos, Danielle Mittskus, Miguel Tovar, Kelsey Mezzanatto, Ashley Clinkenbeard, Cory Freberg, Adam Hussein, Andre Alatorre, Krystal Rodriguez, and Sagi Schwartzberg for the help so far.  I always know that I can call you with a "dumb question" and never feel dumb! 

What does it take to be a “Networking Queen”?

You hear constantly in law school that you should get out and start marketing yourself, yet very few people listen to the advice and I sure didn’t.  I joined the Beverly Hills Bar Association, but I never bothered to attend any of their events.  This was a big mistake, and I realize that now.  I missed out on the opportunity to make, cultivate, and appreciate new contacts.  I could have made the connections I am now making and could have a much larger attorney network; but NO I was too scared to get out there.  I didn’t think I would have anything relevant to add to the conversation, and I didn’t think it was actually necessary... boy was I wrong.

Bar Associations and other professional groups welcome new members and their ideas and their members are surprisingly friendly.  They make you feel at home in a very uncomfortable situation.  They listen when you speak and make meaningful conversation with you.  So a huge tidbit of advice: GET OUT AND NETWORK AND START AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.  

It really is who you know in this business and not necessarily what you know (even though this is important too and will be discussed in a blog to come).  Having those crucial connections in times of need whether it be a special appearance, a referral, or just an answered question is imperative and a great way to expand your circle of people to call is to get out there and get involved in the bar associations.

But it takes special people to become “Networking Queens”, and our friends have deemed Taylor and I just that.  We have joined as many bar associations as we can and we are attending at least one event at each bar association before judging them and deciding on whether or not to stay on with them in the following years.  We didn’t want to judge a book by its cover or be limited in the areas we could meet people so from the Los Angeles Bar Association to the Beverly Hills Bar Association to the Orange County Jewish Bar Association to the Western San Bernardino County Bar Association to the Orange County Barrister and many more.  You will find Taylor and I there meeting new people, getting involved with the organizations, and attending as many social events as possible.  We learned early on the importance of attending these events and they continue to pay off.

And as an ending note I’d like to squash any misconceptions of these “networking” events.  At first glance or opinion people might be turned away from attending because they think they are going to be overly boring but that is anything but the truth.  It takes a little researching but fun events exist and they are actually the norm.  There are differences between socials and MCLE events and annual meetings, so ease your way into the networking world and start at a social where you can sip a glass of wine to take off the edge and curb those butterflies, because it’s definitely worth it.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I decided to go to law school.

My name is Taylor.  I went to law school because I was not sure what else to do after college.  I had two great law teachers in college and both talked to me about going to law school.  They told me that with a law degree, I could either become a lawyer, or if I decided it was a bad idea, I could always work in a non-profit. I decided to go to law school. 

Law school was fun for me.  I loved the difficulty of the subject and the hours.  I thrived in the competitive environment and also tried my best to get involved.  I made Law Review after my first year and eventually became the Chief Managing Editor.  I also started a student organization called the Public Interest Law Foundation, which raises money to grant to students who work in non-profit jobs over the summers.  Surrounded by excellent professors and opportunities, I realized that law was the perfect field for me.

I have always been a highly organized, driven, and assertive person.  I am also a person who easily sympathizes or empathizes with others.  I make friends easily and can talk to almost anyone.  I find purpose when I am able to help someone with a difficult issue or through a difficult time.

Being a lawyer is a convergence of all of these characteristics.  To be a successful lawyer, I believe you need to be an organized to a fault and have the ability to go head to head with other lawyers or parties involved, but always with civility.  Further, I believe you need to be willing to take on a client’s issue as if it were your own, maybe not emotionally, but with enough zeal and passion to represent the client competently.  Also, I believe you have to relate to clients on a personal level and seek their best interest in finding a solution.

My beliefs about being a lawyer encouraged me to start my own firm.  I did not want to work for a firm or an attorney unless I truly saw my values or beliefs in that firm or attorney.  So, instead of waiting around for the perfect boss, I just decided to become my own. 

Also, I eventually want a family.  I am getting married in July and want to have children.  Being a lawyer and having children will definitely take some juggling, but as your own boss, schedules can be more flexible.  Finally, I want to live my life… I don’t want to work 80 hours a week and never go on vacation and know the four walls of my office better than my family. 

I have always loved traveling and have been to over 15 countries; a few of those countries, I have traveled to multiple times.  I took my first trip at age 14 and since then have always wanted to spend my extra time and money on an adventure, rather than on material things. I try to go on a new trip at least once a year… even if that is exploring the United States.   

Thankfully, I found a partner who shares my vision and supports my dreams.  This is the story of building our law firm…

Can being a Lady and a Lawyer go hand in hand?

Hi, my name is Crista Haynes and I’m a lady and a lawyer.  I try to represent both as best as possible.  I decided to go to law school after graduating from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in Criminal Justice.  I chose Criminal Justice as my major because I liked the underlying education about the law.  However, I knew I did not want to be a police officer or a probation officer, both of which are options for Criminal Justice majors.  So, the only reasonable thing to do was to sign up for the LSAT and see what happened.     

I studied for the LSAT while working full time and enjoying life full time, for goodness sake I was 21 years old and living life to its fullest in Long Beach.  I took the test and received a respectable score so I decided to go to law school.  I uprooted my life again and moved to the Inland Empire to be closer to school.  Moving closer to school allowed me to get involved in activities which helped me appreciate the journey that law school is; it also kept me sane.  I got involved with the Society of Legal Studies in Business and the Journal of Law, Business & Ethics.  I also befriended several of my law professors, whom I now consider family.    

After finishing law school and attacking the bar exam, as if I could never endure that kind of stress again, I began thinking about what kind of life I wanted for myself that would allow me to continue living and enjoying life.  I didn’t want to end up at some big law firm slaving away for hours on end never seeing the inside of a courtroom, always passing up my vacation because I wanted to become partner in five years; but I did want the opportunity to make big law firm money.  I didn’t want to go to work for the government; I already decided against that option when I went to law school in the first place.  So I thought to myself what route would enable me to live the life I’ve always envisioned for myself?  Opening my own firm and being my own boss.

So that’s what I did.  After swearing into the California Bar on December 1, 2011, I talked to Taylor, my current partner, and we decided to take the journey together.  We both had the same ideas for what we wanted out of life and out of work.  We want to work extremely hard when we are at work so that when we take time out to do the things we love.  We can really experience those things without the stress of an overbearing partner.  I can work 20 solid days a month; however, I want to spread the workdays around my crazy schedule and take time to go snowboarding, to go to the river or on a hike, or to be spend time with those that I love.  I couldn’t have imagined a better life plan, and this is the story of how it all plays out as we build our law firm.

Just a little humor…  Why won’t sharks attack lawyers?  Professional courtesy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who We Are!

My name is Taylor and my business partner is Crista.  We went to law school together and, a few months after graduation and the Bar Exam, we found ourselves creating our own future. 

We decided instead of spending time looking for jobs, we would make our own.  And, we would help each other...

After many conversations about how our new "partnership" would look, we have a clear and complicated vision.  We intend to use this blog to bring people with us on our journey to fulfill that vision... If you have any advice or just want to share your opinion, please do!  We welcome all of it... the good and the bad. 

Please check back in with us and see how we are coming along!

Also, please "like" us on Facebook:
Or "follow" us on Twitter: @BristolHaynes