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.