All life is an adventure – a brief history of our first year as a firm

All of life is an adventure. Our current adventure – which is celebrating its first birthday today – started off ominously.  After Mike and Kim gave notice at our former firm, we needed to find office space.  On the first day our tenant rep scheduled property visits, we first looked in our own building and literally, just as we got to the offices we were going to look at, the entire building’s power went out!  Thinking that was a little odd, we trudged on.  A few days later, on our second office visit, we noted that shortly before we walked in, that buildings entire power had also went out! (and that building had multiple redundant generators that somehow also had failed). At this point we had to wonder if someone was sending us a sign.  But we trudged on . . . .  Time was not on our side and we knew that we could not get into new offices by the date of our departure, so we rented two temporary offices for 3 months at 100 West Road.

The week we started our firm was tough – Mike was leaving an 18 year career and Kim was leaving even more time there, as she was a paralegal when that firm first started.  We worked the first 2 days of that week at the old firm, woke up the next morning (Wednesday May 1, 2013) and came in to temporary space at 100 West Road.  Unfamiliar surroundings – no support staff.  A complete reboot of our lives.  At least Mike was able to get in a few days earlier and set up the computers and phones.  On our first day we had received wonderful welcome plants from our former firm’s receptionist Jean and from Tina and Lisa – the staff we had worked with closely.  A good friend, Leslie Ries, also sent us some wonderful tea from New York, and to our amazement, a retainer check from one of our clients was delivered our first day.  Many clients congratulated us by phone calls and email.

Consistent with the first 2 power outages, wouldn’t you know that as Kim arrived at the temporary office on Day 1, her iPhone was dead – literally dead as in would not power on!  A sign?  Heck no, we trudged on . . . ran over to Verizon, and got Kim a new phone.  We also went to Staples and bought our first office supplies, and grabbed a quick lunch out.

Needless to say, the first few days and weeks (and really at least the first 90 days) were a blur.  In the middle of trying to keep up with client work, we had to learn a new accounting system, phone system, organize documents, set up accounts at the USPTO, buy computers and furniture, rent new offices, upload trademark files into our new trademark system, obtain insurance – and do so many other things that it seemed like we just worked and worked.  Kim and Mike regularly talked on the phone on calls that would start at 10pm or 11pm and go much later.

Mike did not want to have a lot of maintenance on computers so we elected, with Kim’s consent, to adopt Apple as the main computer system.  Apple computers have their plusses and minuses – but the main issue for us was overall cost to own, when you add in the maintenance and support issue.  Everyone here but Mike had not really used MACs before – but everyone smiled and learned a whole new way of working with computers, and never complained once – despite I am sure a number of frustrations – and Mike not being the best trainer (think Jimmy Fallon in his SNL role as computer guy Nick Burns 😉

We had expected to be less busy with client work – not knowing who would come with us.  However, it very quickly became apparent that we needed help at least on the trademark side.  We reached out to our good friend Ellen Feldman at Special Counsel and she filled our need with a short term paralegal, Delrose.  In the first month we only had two offices, so we “office shared” – on some days Mike would work from home and Delrose and Kim would work in the office, and on others, Kim would work from home.  We knew we needed to design the firm to be able to operate from anywhere, so we used laptops, VOIP, and cloud based services for accounting and documents.

Somehow we managed to stay awake, bill a little time, and start slowly working on client matters.  We also knew we wanted a complete IP, corporate/business and technology based firm – so we decided to ask Pamela, Larry and Tina to come over.  All of them were friends in addition to being professional colleagues – and a critical part of our IP practice.   We knew that what we were asking them was a huge risk – they had great jobs with an established firm.  Nevertheless, you have to ask – or you may regret it for the rest of time. The worst that could happen was they would say no – and then at least we would know we made an effort.  Somewhat to our surprise they agreed to join us, and by June 1st, we had grown from 2 lawyers to 4 lawyers and an office manager / paralegal (though the only smart one of us, Pamela, took some time off before starting full time).

We had signed a lease for what would become our permanent offices in mid-May, but we had not yet selected the carpet, paint, finishes etc.  So, this was the first test of how we would work together on simple decisions (you know, its always the small things that cause the biggest problems).  The landlord gave us the paint chips and samples – but the carpet did not thrill us so we scheduled a meeting at the flooring place.  The day we went it was pouring rain.  We got down there and as better omen than the rain, we rather quickly picked a carpet and hardwood laminate for the outer offices.  The rain was a signal though, as you will see later in the story. We then did what we do a lot together as a firm – went to have sushi!   Later we had to pick the paint color – we are not traditional in the least, so the consensus was (with Mike abdicating ;-)) we picked a yellow color – something to brighten up the offices. (After the offices were done, Mike did get to pick the gunmetal titanium grey refrigerator color – at least one item here had to be more masculine in color)

As the build out was being done Mike would periodically review the progress, because we have learned from past cases that you really have to bird dog that to make sure it is right.  Our landlord’s staff were great though, really almost no issues at all.  However, the first day Mike got over after they had done the paint . . . well that was quite a surprise – that yellow really grabs you, especially with nothing else on the walls!

As luck would have it (remember the rain omen…) the flooring people installed the wrong floor – and thanks to the actual floor style being on the order form, our first big break was we got the hardwood part of the floor for no cost – though there was some debate about whether to replace it with a closer color than we had picked.  Turns out the color worked well.

With the leased space coming together we were getting busier.  It seemed unfair to ask Tina to support all of us lawyers, so we decided to advertise for an administrator.  At this point we had several applicants, including Lisa, the admin we had worked with at our prior firm.  After several interviews we hired Lisa and she started in August.  By this time we were in our current offices and things started to settle in.  Though worried we would not have enough work for her, Lisa is always busy – and she is a critical part of our team now.

We decided to have an office warming party, which we scheduled for November 14, 2013 – we love a party and everyone enjoyed planning it (though Mike claims it was really Kim, Pamela, Tina and Lisa that did everything that made it a success).  One rush – the walls were bare, so we engaged in a brief art buying spree – not being able to afford a real interior decorator.  ETSY is your friend.  But even with that – we were still missing art, so Mike asked his Philosopher and co-professor friend, Richard Wilson – an avid art collector, for help.  Richard delivered – literally – he came over and loaned us some beautiful artwork from his vast collection. He was hanging much of it just a few hours before the party started!  Many of our clients helped us – several of us visited our client Bloomery Plantation Distillery  in West Virginia where we bought their wonderful aperitifs for the party – we also had food from our client Birroteca, and drinks from clients Sandy Bottom, Evolution Craft Brewing Company and IndiBlue.  The party was a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun, and our clients and friends seemed to enjoy it.

We survived end of year, and made it through tax season with the help of our accountant and our clients, and funded our first retirement contributions.

We have so many people we are grateful to and need to thank for making it this far – our clients – for trusting us with their legal issues and paying our bills, our families – for putting up with some odd work schedules, and our friends that we leaned on for help, advice and assistance.  If given the opportunity to help someone – even in some small way – we will, because we will not forget the help we received.

All of us are looking forward to our second year!

Best regards to everyone,

Mike, Kim, Pamela, Larry, Tina and Lisa.