Today marks the 5-year anniversary of our firm, Jason Wiener|p.c., a public benefit corporation. For any start-up or entrepreneur, this occasion is ceremonious and marks a point of reflection and inflection. Many think about the strategic pivots that led to their success (or survival), and the humble ones acknowledge the dumb luck along the way. Some founders start to think about the next chapter and whether they are in it for the long-haul or are looking for the next adventure.
I am more confident and excited by the goings on of our firm today than when I started on this journey.
When I hung this shingle, I was still working full-time as General Counsel of Namaste Solar. I was approaching a transition that would have me go part-time. I recall vividly the evening conversations with my wife about the time and sacrifice to start something new. I worked tirelessly each evening to do things by the book – draft Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Written Consents and the other customary legal documents a start-up needs. I was the jack of all trades, constructing my chart of accounts and keeping meticulous accounting records. I recall spending as much time on Quickbooks as I did performing legal work. In total, I was working 60-70 hour weeks. I held on to this fragile balance and breakneck pace for as long as I could. After 10-months, I left Namaste Solar and dedicated myself full-time to private practice.
I quickly realized the need and benefit to outsource and delegate to specialists. It was scary, but I hired a bookkeeper and accountant. We spent days cleaning up the mess of Quickbooks that I created. I hired a web developer to design and build our first website. I pored over every little detail as if it, alone, represented who I was and what this law firm was about. This vigorous attention to detail was well-founded and suited to a 1-person law shop. It continues to infuse our culture today, in the way we approach client matters and attention to the internal relationships comprising our firm.
Here, and again, repeatedly, I will acknowledge that luck played a big part in making it to 5-years. I’m lucky to have been born with privilege. I’m a white cis man living in America. I’m also a law school graduate and had a solid income from a part-time job. I am married to a loving and supportive partner who has a steady salary from a stable job. This privilege afforded me the opportunity to take the risk of starting a new business. This is an opportunity many Americans don’t have. Most businesses are started and run as sole proprietorships. Many business owners lack the knowledge or resources to hire a lawyer to properly incorporate and avail themselves of limited liability protection. I had both.
I was fortunate to quickly earn the trust and confidence of early adopting clients, who both supported this fledgling practice and entrusted me to resolve complex issues customarily entrusted to much more established law firms. I had the luck of a good reputation; I attribute this at least as much to my privilege as I do to hard work and coveting my integrity.
We were poised to grow from the moment I left Namaste Solar and leaped into private practice on a full-time basis. We hired a law clerk late in 2014 and after she moved on to a full-time job we hired a full-time associate.
By 2017, we had a steady and robust enough client roster to add operational support and grow our capacities. We added one part-time attorney and a law clerk. By the end of 2017, we added another experienced attorney and began the process of merging law practices with a highly experienced and well-respected business and cooperative law attorney, Linda Phillips.
Whew. 2018 came and went. From the start of 2017 to the end of 2018 we grew from a 1-person shop to a well-rounded team of 6 attorneys. Things really started to gel as a team. Friendships have developed. We started putting on family gatherings. We completed two highly effective annual team retreats. The versatility, passion, energy and talent of our team inspired a 4-year moonshot vision. We have payroll, two offices, a group health insurance plan, a 401k retirement plan, a rigorously vetted set of budgets, a fully-fledged annual forecast, a 5-part strategic plan. We have an entire part of our plan dedicated to having fun. We have successfully navigated the transition from fledgling to a mature adolescence.
We more than doubled our revenue from 2017 to 2018. We now serve clients doing business in more than 26 states and 4 countries. The dust has not yet settled and our 2018 Public Benefit Report will be released shortly, but I can safely say that we are much more than I ever envisioned during those late nights in 2014.
I’m honored by clients that place their trust and confidence in us. I’m humbled and proud of the phenomenal work our team produces. I’m inspired by the model of #newlaw that our firm is pioneering. From our first 5-years, to our next, we look forward to continuing to blaze new trails supporting sustainability-minded and socially-responsible companies (See our “#socent” channel), propagating alternative “non-extractive” financing (See our “Alternative Finance” channel), the #futureofwork, and expanding opportunities for shared ownership (See our “Governance and Shared Ownership” channel).
Here is a preview of what’s coming next:
- A meaningful commitment to a diversity, equity and inclusion plan and strategy;
- A transition to shared ownership;
- A commitment to greater depth and breadth in our practice areas and expertise;
- A continued commitment to thought leadership, education, training and ecosystem development;
- More documentary resources to grow our respective fields of practice;
- More and deeper relationship building with our clients;
- FUN; and
- Much more. Just stay tuned.