Friday, August 27, 2010

Why I Moved to Kittitas and Signed the Legal Rebels Manifesto

Last week we moved to our high visibility corner in the very small town of Kittitas from our more elegant office on Dolarway in Ellensburg. We had previously had a satellite office (presence) in Kittitas right next door in Suite B. It's taken a lot of work to convert the former Korner Kuts beauty salon into something more lawyerly and we are still not done. However, it is beginning to feel like home. I really needed my main physical location in my home county to work harder for me in terms of yielding name recognition and advertising.

Our old office on Dolarway was beautiful and was nothing short of heavenly in terms of nature and peace and quiet. Everything was just the way I wanted it. Unfortunately, as a business presence we were lost. About 15 months ago, I started thinking about whether another location might be better. And, that's when I found the first Kittitas office.

I rented the office in July of 2009, put a banner up and nearly immediately people started remarking that I had an office in Kittitas. Or, that I had moved to Kittitas. Three days after that first banner went up in 2009, an incoming client actually went out there for an appointment. Many new clients indicated that part of the reason they called was because of the sign in Kittitas.

I will not say that it was a no-brainer to move to Kittitas, because it wasn't. Kittitas is further from the local courthouse, and, while I do practice statewide and have an office share arrangement in Issaquah, the conventional wisdom is that lawyers should be located close to the courthouse. There is also the thought that you isolate yourself from the main cluster of the business community, but realistically with the local chambers consolidating, that should be less of an issue now as well. Things are primitive in some ways in Kittitas, some aspects of infrastructure are not what they should be, but then again there were no functional sidewalks on Dolarway either.

Needless to say, cost was also a huge factor in the decision to move. I've heard that many larger firms in Seattle are moving and that there are great offers being made on office space. Said offers include lower rates and 3 years of no lease payments on ten year leases. It's not that kind of buyer's market here in Kittitas County, but nevertheless EVERYONE is now looking for ways to cut costs, and we are no exception.

Originally, I had hoped to practice from the front of my Ellensburg home which was built in 1912. I successfully up zoned the property so I could have a visible sign and see clients and have employees at that location. However, the city also imposed a few other requirements which I won't go into in detail about, which made in quite costly to actually have the office at home, so off to Dolarway I went for three and half years. I needed that money for start up and operating costs on the practice. In the course of fitting into the new Kittitas space, I actually set up another office at home, where I will work without meeting clients or having employees present. Hopefully, some day having an office where I can meet clients in the "Historic F_________" house will be an option.

Theoretically, Kittitas and towns like it in Central Washington are underserved. I've also thought about adapting the idea of mobile restaurant kitchens and taco wagons to law practice. This would be the Law Mobile, a recreational vehicle adapted to seeing clients and providing work space. I could do a day in Issaquah, a day in Kittitas, a day in Mattawa, and so on. We joke about that, but I suspect someone is already doing it somewhere. And, with modern technology and mobile Internet service why not?

In our office, we have worked hard to try to stay up to date with technology. I know there are others who are much more aggressively embracing technology than my office, but my general sense is that as a profession we are lumbering Luddites plodding slowly into the technological future. I've also found that I don't like some technological innovations. Not all social media outlets work for me. Others do.

Which brings me to the Legal Rebels Manifesto. The Legal Rebels are/is a creation of the American Bar Association. At first, I saw this as a marketing ploy, but over time, I've softened. Whatever it started as, it does have the possibility of encouraging new ideas as to how law should be practiced. With the drastic downsizing of so called Big Law in the last two years and the economic downturn which I believe has impacted most practices both in Kittitas County and throughout the state, more lawyers need the work that could be derived from alternative models of practice. And, more clients than ever cannot afford legal services. Theoretically, some of the ideas put forth by the Mark Brittain's (Avvo.com), and Nicole Black's of the world, can make a huge difference in remaking the way law is practiced.

With the move to Kittitas, I feel as though I've bucked the status quo a bit. And at least on some fronts, we've been doing that for a while in our office. We were early adapters in social media (see my facebook page here and the law office page here) and have made our avvo profile a key part of our presence. We've worked hard to try to incorporate alternative billing arrangements such as flat fees into our practice. I am also adding employment and tax law to the mix of cases we have as they are underserved here. I don't know how "rebellious" I feel, but we are definitely, in this solo practice, trying to shake off some of the unnecessary perceptual fetters of the status quo of law practice and be part of the future of law practice whatever that looks like five and ten years from now. You can read the Legal Rebels manifesto, which I have now signed, here.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our move to Kittitas

Like many businesses this past year, we've been looking for ways to cut costs. A year ago, I tested Kittitas as a potential location by renting the teeny tiny office on the corner of Main street and the Kittitas Valley Highway. Our presence in Kittitas has been beneficial over the past few months. When the opportunity opened up to move next door to the former Korner Kuts salon, I jumped on it. We get quite a bit more square footage at a much lower cost. While I will miss the beautiful Dolarway location where I had everything just the way I liked it, I'm excited about new opportunities in Kittitas now and in the future.