I began my career in 2011 at the height of the recession. Very few law jobs were available in any field. A few years earlier, law firms had laid off attorneys for the first time in history. I luckily found a job and started off practicing criminal law at the public defender’s office. Many of my law school classmates didn’t find work for months.
As soon as I got there I was unhappy because there was a huge disconnect between what I had dreamed about when I went to law school and the reality of being a lawyer. I had dreamed about going to law school and coming out and making a difference in people’s lives, but in reality, practice at the public defender’s office meant a huge caseload with very little time to meet with clients let alone find out what would make a difference in their lives.
After 9 months at the public defender’s office, I learned that my wife was pregnant with our first child. At that time, I decided that I needed to leave my first job and start my own law firm. I didn’t know exactly what kind of law firm I want to have so I just took whatever cases came through the door. I got a mentor and ran my practice by just stabbing in the dark. I billed hourly just like all law firms do.
As you can probably imagine at $300.00 per hour, my clients wanted me to do everything as quickly as possible with as little communication as possible. They didn’t want to talk about their kids and my kids and they were afraid to call because they didn’t know how much the call would cost them and whether it was worth it.
When they did call, I wasn’t able to be really responsive because I didn’t have a whole team of people supporting me. It was just me. I did everything from meeting with clients to researching their case, going to court, and keeping up with their file (which was always kept in my office and not with me when clients would call). And finally, what I noticed is that clients would come in, I’d do some legal work for them, and then I wouldn’t ever hear from them again.
That’s what the typical attorney experience has become. There was nothing abnormal about it, but it didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t have a mechanism for following up with my clients, making sure that whatever legal work I had done for them was satisfactory or still working for them. When you hire an attorney its usually for something that affects every area of your life – you, your assets, and your family. All of those things will change many times before your death. Not to mention we know the law will change many times.
So I thought long and hard about the law industry and whether I could bring change to the way law business is conducted. I decided that I would open my own law firm focusing on estate planning. I chose estate planning because after my mother died in 2006 without any written estate plan, I watched my father and 9-year-old brother deal with the emotional loss of my mother while trying to put together the financial pieces over a three or four-year probate process. Every time my dad had to go to see the probate attorney or report to the judge, it opened old emotional wounds.
I opened this firm with the idea that I would prevent as many people from experiencing the nightmare of a loved one dying without an estate plan while working to bring back the traditional idea that a person could consult with one professional to guide them and help them make many of the life decisions they need to make. A relationship built on the foundation of trust. Where estate planning is just the beginning of the trust relationship. So, here are some of the things that we do differently based on my experience with the traditional model of estate planning.
The first thing we did was to eliminate billing on an hourly basis. Every single thing we do is based on a billed flat fee. All communication is included. We agree in advance about what the fee will be and there are no surprises. Guaranteed. Our clients really like it and so do we. It doesn’t feel good to track time in six-minute increments.
Next, we’re constantly building a team to support our clients. If you are at the bank and call our office to get a quick answer about how to title your account, you won’t have to leave the bank and return on another day because there was no one available to answer your question for hours or days. You get your questions answered right away.
Finally, we see estate planning as just the beginning of a life-long relationship. In the past, the plan was looked at as a one-time transaction. Once you sign your planning documents, this is when the relationship really begins. At no additional charge, we review your plan at least every three years. And, we have two levels of membership programs that almost all of our clients participate in either the gold program which provides you with a yearly plan review and unlimited changes to your plan, or the gold plus plan which includes the benefits of the gold plan plus an annual meeting with your attorney, CPA, and financial advisor plus ongoing legal guidance throughout the year.
Our firm is the best fit for people who want the peace of mind of knowing that their family will be taken care of when something happens to them — that we will be here for their family throughout their lifetime and afterward.
On a personal note, I’m a dad — and, what my children bring to this experience for me is the awareness that planning is something you do for the people you love the most. You won’t be the one to benefit from the plan we are going to design for you today — the people who will benefit are the people you love the most who will be dealing with things after you’re gone.
State Bar of Georgia — 2012
American Bar Association — 2012-Present
Cartersville-Bartow County Bar Association — 2013-Present
J.D. — Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law — 2011
B.A. — University of Georgia — 2007