Another year passes as quickly as the last – it seems they come and go more rapidly the older we become. Kim and I embarked on this adventure 6 years ago to the day – literally, it was a Wednesday – a typical work day for most people. Back then it was nothing even close to a regular work day for us. Looking forward back then there were a lot of unknowns – office space, staff needs, what clients would come with us?, what software would we use?, what 401k provider, payroll processing, accountant, insurance firms? and on and on . . . it was one thing after another we forgot or did not realize or had to scramble to fix. By us going through all the pain of a true new business startup it has helped us understand the obstacles and issues faced by our most typical client, the entrepreneur.
Six years in, of course, all of that uncertainty is gone, we have firm operations down to a science so to speak, and at this point we are just tweaking and making small adjustments. Our practice has grown but not in giant increments, more in steady increments (our trademark practice has grown significantly however). Our goal has never been growth, but rather finding ways to be as responsive as we can to clients, who ever more frequently want faster and more efficient service.
While we do not set formal goals, every year we look forward and back and see what we did well and not so well, and ask how can we improve in the future to do more things better, and avoid our past mistakes. This has been a challenge because our practice focus – intellectual property, data privacy and security, and corporate law all change as fast as technology is changing. It is just a lot of work.
Rapid legal changes and our general workload explains why we have been busy working, and not really able to do much in the way of blogging, marketing or sending email newsletters. Our patent practice, however, has recently opened a new site at www.baltimorepatent.com where we will make an effort to post more content in the patent law area to help our clients and referral sources better understand the benefits and costs of securing patents.
We again thank all of our clients, referral sources, employees and our family and friends – without all of you we could not have made it this far, and without you we would have no future. We truly do look forward to many years to come helping our clients navigate in these complex and challenging areas of law.
Our team at Oliver & Grimsley, LLC recently celebrated our 5 year anniversary at Basignani Winery in Sparks, Maryland.
The owners, Bert and Lynne Basignani, opened the winery in 1986. Having grown now to three vineyards, Basignani Winery features a variety of dry red and white wines as well as deliciously sweet wines.
We enjoyed our anniversary celebration in the winery’s outdoor pavilion and patio area while enjoying a lovely view of the vineyards. The winery host events throughout the year such as Pizza Class, Friday Night Cafe (featuring live music), and Movie Night, and is open Wednesdays to Sundays for wine tastings, from 11:30am to 5:30pm.
A special thank you to Bert and Lynne Basignani for allowing us to host our special event at the winery and for letting us enjoy Basignani Maryland wine!
5 years ago today Kim and I started this firm. It is a cliche to say “it seems like just yesterday” – but time spent being as busy as we have been has a funny way of making the cliche a reality, and so it has become a truism!
I thought about listing our accomplishments here . . . but a 5th year anniversary is a time for less marketing and more introspection.
In that vein – I sometimes think whether, knowing what I know and have learned over the last 5 years, I would ever tell someone to try and do what we have done. When I was younger (14) I had to meet with an attorney – and my mother told him I wanted to be a lawyer (this was not true, in fact I wanted to be in a profession that had a code of ethics, but I digress…) and he was very negative and advised me not to do it, and said I would be miserable. Now, I think he was miserable because he just did not like his job and probably that was because he was dealing with clients in distress all day long (divorce). The lesson I learned that day however was never to try and dissuade someone from a path just because I personally would think it ill advised or to be a poor choice for me. Always look from the perspective of the person you are working with or advising – what do they want? what are their goals? So, I would never tell anyone not to start their own firm – but I would say that when you reflect on why you choose a path, the reason has to be a genuine one or you probably will fail, or be miserable, or both.
In my mind Kim and I started the firm primarily for two reasons – and here comes cliche number 2 – because we genuinely care about our clients, and because we wanted to work in a positive family oriented and family friendly working environment. And that is how we measure success – do we provide a positive benefit to our clients and do we provide a good work environment for our staff? By those measures we have been very successful. We love working with small business owners, inventors, creators and entrepreneurs and helping them succeed, and many of our clients have been very successful, and we are very grateful to have played even a small role in that success. And we are looking forward to the future now, having just renewed our lease for another 5 years.
So, were someone to be about to embark on a similar adventure as we have, I would say to them – if you start with the right motives, and you genuinely have an interest in helping others, then by all means, starting a new law firm is a grand adventure and I highly recommend it!
We also again want to thank and express our sincere gratitude to all the people – family, clients, our friends and everyone who has done us the great favor and honor of referring us work – without you we would not have made it the first 5 years – and we will still need your support and assistance for the next 5 years. We feel very lucky to have the clients and practice we have and are very grateful to everyone who has helped us and we look forward to the future.
Very truly yours, Mike, Kim, Pamela, Larry, Tina, Karri and Malissa – the team at Oliver & Grimsley, LLC
The greatest compliment we receive are referrals from other lawyers, professionals and clients. Those are the most meaningful recognition in our view. However, a whole industry of “legal awards” has grown up in our profession, and each year it grows in apparent importance to younger lawyers entering the professions, and even more veteran lawyers. So we here again present some of the awards for which we have recently been recognized. For the 5th year in a row, and for all years of our small firm’s existence, we are again honored to receive recognition for 2018 as a US News and World Reports Best Law Firm in many areas, including Tier 1 in Baltimore for Copyright Law and Information Technology Law and a national ranking for Information Technology Law. In addition, we are pleased to report that Michael D. Oliver has been recognized as US News and World Reports Lawyer of the Year (Baltimore) for 2018 in the field of Copyright Law. Mike has previously been named Lawyer of the Year in Baltimore as follows: 2016 – Information Technology Law, 2015 – Trademark Law, 2014 – Copyright Law and 2012 – Trademark Law. The Lawyer of the Year recognition is made for only one lawyer in a specified field and geographic area.
We again want to thank and express our sincere gratitude to all of our clients, referring sources and the many friends and family that have helped us along the way.
It was 4 years ago today that we started our firm. A lot has happened in those four years – we started just Kim and Mike, and have brought on three lawyers and three staff (and we are still looking for another lawyer) as part of our work family. Our trademark practice has grown exponentially. We have successfully applied and had issued many patents including patents that have overcome the harsh Alice Corp Supreme Court case. We have helped many clients buy and sell businesses – in an estimated total of over $100 million dollars across all deals. We have also done some pro bono publico cases where we feel our talents can assist those in need, though we want to do more in the future.
We feel very lucky to have the clients and practice we have and are very grateful to everyone who has helped us. We hope that we can be a continuing part of your success in business in the years to come.
Very truly yours, the team at Oliver & Grimsley, LLC
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.