When I graduated from law school in 2012 and couldn’t find the job I was hoping for, I decided to take matters into my own hands. That’s the short version of how I found myself operating both a successful web design company and a growing legal practice.
Even though I actively practice law, I consider myself more of an entrepreneur than a lawyer. But I didn’t always think I would end up where I am today.
I majored in music as an undergraduate. That’s right, my main ambition through most of highschool and part of college was to become a band director. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in music, and I can play a mean trombone solo.
But my desire for a career in music changed after I spent two years in Argentina on a full-time mission for my church. It’s hard to place my finger on exactly what changed, but I knew when it was time for me to come home that band directing wouldn’t cut it any more.
When I got back to BYU I got a job through a friend who was an entrepreneur. He and his partner ran a technology company that provided services to Fortune 500 companies. In addition to the tech company, they also dabbled in other money-making pursuits—everything from app creation and design to large-scale international business deals.
Because I spoke Spanish they even let me setup an international business deal between a U.S. client and several Mexican companies on one project.
This work experience was huge for me—I learned a ton about how to develop web sites, how to work with Fortune 500 clients, and how to structure international business deals. But more than that, it was the first time I had even conceived of the idea of making money on my own. I had always thought and planned to work for someone else.
Working in an office with a couple of entrepreneurs opened my eyes to all the possibilities, to all the different roads that I could take to forge my own future.
Law school had been in my plans when I came back from Argentina, and working that job with the entrepreneurs didn’t slow down my momentum. I got married in 2008 when I was applying to law schools, and my wife and I wanted to leave everything we knew behind and go off on an adventure. So instead of applying to schools near family, we talked about cool places we had visited where we would like to live.
We chose Virginia.
I applied to all the law schools in Virginia, and I accepted an offer to attend law school at the University of Richmond in 2009.
When I started law school I planned to make a career out of international business law because my international work experiences had gone so well. While I still dabble in international business law—lately I’ve been working on an interesting EB-5 foreign investment project—I ended up taking a lot of classes in the law and technology arena.
International business projects are fun; technology is addictive.
During my law school years, my wife and I decided to start our family. My first daughter was born during finals of the spring semester of my second year of law school. Because my wife left her job to take care of our newborn full-time, I had to jump in and figure out a way to go to law school and support my family at the same time.
Coming from a web and technology background I quickly became aware of the poor state of the web among the legal profession. I found a large number of low-quality web design and maintenance services directed to attorneys at a very high cost.
Ultimately, I saw opportunity and decided to launch my first company, Pixel Pro Quo, LLC, to make websites for lawyers and other professionals. While I didn’t have the overnight success I naively expected, it did the trick and helped me support my family through the last half of law school and beyond. Pixel Pro Quo is still active today and provides web sites to a growing clientele.
Sometimes I’ll blog here about new features we offer at Pixel Pro Quo.
Graduating Into a Recession
Eventually (Finally!) I graduated law school and passed the bar exam. I had made attempts to find full-time work as an attorney, but couldn’t find anything locally—turns out we like it here in Virginia and we didn’t want to leave just yet.
I thought I would try doing some document review work on an e-discovery project at one firm, but it was disappointing.
I had published a paper about using advanced search technologies to improve the reviewing process in electronic discovery requests, so I knew a ton about the technical side of the legal work I was doing. The problem was, the firm I worked at didn’t seem to use any of the new technologies I had studied and the project was bogged down in constant technological glitches that, frankly, I probably could have fixed if it had been in my job description.
To make matters worse it didn’t take me long to realize that to them I was just another temporary worker who wouldn’t have a job once the project I was working on had ended.
That’s when I finally decided I would start working on my own and get some valuable real-world legal experience.
Starting a Law Practice
I reviewed documents during the day, came home and put kids to bed in the afternoon, and stayed up nights doing web design projects to make ends meet. In the little time that remained I started prepping to launch my own law firm.
My first efforts were overly ambitious. I posted on my website that I would practically do everything—I was going to host a Legal Q&A forum to answer questions across a wide range of practice areas, I was going to provide free legal documents online, and I was going to publish regular e-books on various topics.
I quit document review in mid February, 2013 and officially established my law firm, Tingen & Williams, PLLC. Since I still didn’t have any clients I actually had time to write up some contracts that I made available on docracy.com and I published an e-book on Trademark Law at amazon.com. My first clients came from those two projects.
I was still having trouble getting enough clients to make any money, so I reached out to a local nonprofit and asked if I could help with some pro bono immigration cases to get my name out. I remember thinking, “I’m fluent in Spanish. How hard could it be?”
Shortly after I reached out, the attorney in charge of the pro bono work called me back and told me that he was changing firms and wouldn’t be able to manage the pro bono work moving forward. He asked if I would be willing to take on his caseload and he told me that if I did I could switch some of the cases over to a fee-paying basis.
And that’s how I went from about 10 clients to 180 clients in one day.
Managing Clients Through Technology
I became very busy and I had to figure out how to juggle a giant caseload while learning about immigration law and learning to be a lawyer. Because of my technology expertise I was able to setup an online client and document management system that helped me make a smooth transition from ten clients to hundreds of clients. I used the same tools I had developed for my users at Pixel Pro Quo; it was exciting for me to use tools I had created for other attorneys and see how well they worked for me personally.
Without the technology that I use, there’s no way that I would have been able to do what I did. After a year I had resolved more than half of the 180 matters. And now, after having served more than a thousand clients, I still use the same tools to manage my caseload today.
Where I’m at Now
Even though I’ve spent a lot of time with immigration law, I’ve continued to grow and develop my client base for trademark law, internet law, web development and practice management. Because of my multidisciplinary interests and skill set, I’ve started to reach out to see how I can help other business owners achieve success by leveraging technology in their business.
And that’s what this blog is about.
My hope is that by sharing my story and my experiences I can help people like you start your own business (or grow your existing business) and be successful by building a strong brand with the help of both law and technology.