Thoughts After Six Years

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23 Responses

  1. TJIC says:

    Great points.

    Nine years running a business in the tech sphere taught me pretty similar things.

  2. Ravious says:

    Loved reading this. Gives me hope.

  3. shg says:

    I just got off the phone with the ECF guy from SDNY because my info was wrong. He asked me if I was Meyer & Greenfield, my firm from 1982 through 1992. Poor Meyer died a few years back. I laughed, as I remembered M&G. Meyer had cocktails in the conference room at 1:00, and ocassionally forgot he was expected back in court at 2:00.

    Good times. That firm will exist in perpetuity in ECF and my memory. Happy 6th Anniversary, Ken.

  4. Grandy says:

    2. I'm almost inclined to call this "recognizing a market inefficiency". I suppose it boils down to whether you are getting access to some of these candidates before Big Law because you tossed aside school-bias (the polite term for it).

    It hits home for me because it affects me. I got my 'puter educating done at a school nobody here has ever heard of except by way of my mentioning it. But I got a quality education there that was probably a little more practically focused than similar curricula at other schools. The benefits of that don't paralell exactly to what you hint at (there are parts of compsci theory I never got much exposure to that I wish I had been exposed to, e.g.).

    4. I can't sing it strong enough (as the poet once said). Treating people poorly is so counter productive. My current job stands in stark and better contrast to my old job. In the old the irrelevant minutiae mattered. Here they do not. And yet I'm more productive at my new job. Imagine that.

  5. Patrick says:

    [NOT THE POPEHAT PATRICK, but don't feel like changing my commenting handle… its so original]..

    "Some of our most standout lawyers … didn’t to a top-50 school. But their “second-tier” or “third-tier” school taught them more about actually doing competent legal work …"

    So you have a bias against 4th tier schools, huh? (Full disclosure, I am a 4th tier grad whose alma mater has since skyrocketed to top 100).

  6. Ken says:

    I didn't remember there were four tiers. But one of my star associates went to a school not in the top 100.

  7. Nathan says:

    Happy anniversary! Excellent points all, advice I hope to follow.

  8. jb says:

    As an accounting student at a solidly 2nd-tier school, I hope the same holds true in my field. My goal is to work for, and later head, the accounting version of your firm, for the reasons you describe here.

  9. b says:

    Beautiful, brilliant advice all around. The small consulting firm I work for has earned my loyalty not via stellar salaries but by techniques similar to what you describe–if not as casual an environment, I admit.

  10. Ken says:

    I don't want to OVERSTATE how casual we are. Let me clarify, lest you worry, that I am currently wearing pants.

  11. Dave says:

    Great read, Ken. It's very impressive what you guys have accomplished!

  12. Scott Jacobs says:

    Sounds like a wonderful place…

    Ya hiring? :)

  13. Piper says:

    Congratulations on making it through the first six years in a (more or less) sane state! I think I recall a post from when you were just starting, so it's kind of fun to see how well it's worked for you. Congratulations!

  14. ElamBend says:

    Congratulations on six years. I have a real estate business and the insights of no. 3 and no. 4 loom large currently. Ironically, come September the two years six months I've had this business will make it the longest lasting job I've had since graduating law school.
    Of the jobs I had, one company let me go [with severance!] only to fail a few months later. Another company let me go after only a year in a cost cutting panic after the chaos of the fall of '08 (they may have been making the right move – but the sunk costs from hiring me must have been tough because it included a fee to a recruiter along with a year of salary).

    Working for myself in a business that I didn't choose has been tough, but any fantasies about a regular job with a steady pay check are tempered by my past experience. I learned as much about what not to do as I did good practices. The biggest were: 1) take care of your people, especially those with special skills because they won't be as easy to replace as you might think, 2) always communicate with your partners, especially the bad news, and 3) if something is failing, accept the failure and try to fix it, don't try to paper over it.

    The last two may seem like no-brainers, but I watched one company with a good reputation ignore those rules right into commercial and personal bankruptcy.

  15. Michael says:

    Thanks for sharing this update, truly inspiring and full of wisdom.

  16. InMD says:

    Someone should e-mail this to my former employer. If anyone could stand a lesson in running a law firm it's him.

  17. Linus says:

    I used to work at a small law firm that did not follow your advice. Trouble was,I was wet behind the ears and didn't know there was another way to do things. After several years of bureaucratic nonsense and insane hour expectations, I wised up. Wish I'd read this 3 years ago.

  18. Ansley says:

    Congrats, friend!

  19. RB says:

    Nicely said. Having had a business fail for a number of reasons both micro and macro, my hat's off to you for making it work in a tough business.

  20. Congratulations on six years. One trick in running a small firm is to keep the bureaucracy away as you grow. Getting and keeping good people is a key to that. Congrats again.

  21. Ken says:

    Someone just linked to this from someplace, but I can't tell where the traffic is coming from. Odd.

  22. Robert Clark says:

    TechnoLawyer linked to it.

    Not all people are cut out to be bosses. It sounds like you and your partner enjoy that role and invest your time in it. Being a great lawyer or great anything doesn't correlate into being a great boss/business owner/risk taker. It is a special set of skills that can be learned but probably work best for those that have that natural leadership inclination.

    I salute people brave enough to start a business and cheer when they succeed. As a stickler for rules and the bottom line I can learn from your "take care of the small legal items for employees and their families" etc.

    The only objection I have is that there is a place for firing people. We are not doing society a favor by putting up with "a wrong fit".

  23. Ken says:

    Thanks, Robert. TechnoLawyer must have linked on some secret part of the site, since I don't see it.

    I agree that the skills that make a good lawyer don't necessarily make a good boss. We have some lawyers who make great trial lawyers but whom we would not give management duties. They're happier with that.

    Here's the thing about taking care of those small legal matters for employees' families: often it involves a negligible amount of time and expense, but done respectfully and forcefully, it conveys a team spirit more powerful than a bonus in the same amount those hours would have cost.

    Yes, there's a place for firing. We've done it. We'll do it again. But I was in too cheerful a mood to write about it in this post. Another time.