Author: admin

In Praise of the Working Sabbatical

Last fall I packed up my practice, drove cross country and set up shop in Austin, TX for a month.  Subsisting almost exclusively on Tacos, BBQ and tequila, it was one of the best months of my life.

While it started out as a way to kick back and re-charge, I was amazed to find how productive I was on the road.  Days seemed longer, the work was more fun and I had plenty of time to think big picture (both about business and life).  I came back with a revamped business plan and a renewed passion for my practice.   Nothing has had a more positive impact on my business than those days I spent on the road, think and planning with a clear head (and with my phone in airplane mode for days at a time).

Somewhere between Arkansas and Tennessee on the drive home, I decided that it would become a regular and vital part of my business life.   This year, I’m working from San Pedro, Belize for the month of February (and writing this from my patio on an 85 degree day).  Things could certainly be worse and I’ve traded tacos for the local papusas and ceviche. Read On

Why I Love LegalZoom

In 2013, LegalZoom did over $200 million in revenue. Those numbers have surely gone up significantly since. It’s a pretty logical conclusion that, without LegalZoom and others like it, those hundreds of millions of dollars would be going to us lawyers. That’s a lot of marble-trimmed conference rooms. Even the most mathematically challenged lawyers among us esquires (myself included) have to admit that’s a sh*tload of money (legal term).

So why do I think that’s a good thing?

It’s simple.

It forces us all to get better.

Traditionally, lawyers as a profession have been painfully slow to adjust to changing times and markets. That’s not intended to be an insult to our profession. It’s just simply that we’ve never had a reason to adjust or compete. There was no alternative and too many barriers to entry. Just like travel agents had to deal with online travel sites, newspapers have to deal with blogs and new media, we have to deal with advances in legal technology.

New document automation companies and online legal services are popping up every day and taking huge chunks of the legal market. Why does that not worry me?

It’s simple.

Although these companies should (rightfully) create some competition for us, the bar is really, really, really, really low. Like really low.

Think about it. If a surgeon can’t compete with a company that will sell someone a scalpel, there’s a bigger issue. If we can’t do better than an algorithm or a call center employee somewhere in West Virginia, maybe we are in trouble.

It’s our job to help our clients realize why we bring value to the table and why relying on documents without any context, insight, or customization is dangerous (and maybe worse than not having anything in writing at all).

To be clear, I think legal automation services are (outside of very specific situations) potentially dangerous for clients. They can give someone the illusion that they’ve done everything necessary to protect themselves, run a business, protect their estate, etc. when, in most cases, they probably haven’t.

In fact, LegalZoom says very clearly on their website:

We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies”.

Fellow lawyers – That’s where we come in. I am still trying to figure out how I can get paid without providing advice, explanations, opinions, or strategy. It would greatly reduce my workload, but I’m still trying to figure out what exactly the client would get out of that deal.

But LegalZoom is good for our ecosystem. It creates competition. It creates a need for us to be more customer-centric. It requires us to invest in our platform and make the client-lawyer relationship a better one. It makes us think about the value we can add to client’s business and lives. It takes us off autopilot.

It’s not an obstacle for us. It’s an opportunity to do better work. If we don’t, it sounds like LegalZoom will always be hiring.

10 Tips for Co-Founding a Company

(aka avoiding the potential pitfalls of partnerships)

Starting a company is no small feat. While having a co-founder (or co-founders) to help get things get off the ground can be an INCREDIBLE asset, it does increase the number of moving parts involved and the number of things that can go awry if things aren’t aligned. It’s important to really put thought and energy into making sure things start (and hopefully finish) on the right note. Joining forces with a co-founder can be every bit as big of a commitment of as a marriage (and it may be end up being much harder to divorce your business partner). Read On

Ten Practical Tips for Raising Capital

Raising capital is one of the most important, stressful, exciting, anxiety-inducing and (hopefully) thrilling process that a young company can go through.  While every situation is different, understanding the process itself (and avoiding common pitfalls) is incredibly helpful in getting successfully funded.  Having learned plenty from guiding young companies through this process, I wanted to share what I’ve learned and offer as much practical advice as I can (with as little legalese as possible).  It goes without saying that this isn’t intended to be fully comprehensive, but I think the points below have some value for anyone going through the process or who thinks they will be raising capital in the future.  Enjoy. Read On

Ice Bucket Challenges, Robin Williams and Taking Care of Each Other

I went to sleep thinking about the Ice Bucket Challenge and woke up thinking about Robin Williams, the way we sometimes do a great job of taking care of each other and the way we sometimes fall short.

To be clear, this isn’t a criticism of the Ice Bucket Challenge (which is 3000% amazing and I will be doing it tomorrow) or Social Media (which does do a lot of great things).  It’s simply a realization that sometimes there are harder issues that we sometimes let fall through the cracks because they are a little harder to face. Read On