Solo and Small Firm

The Practitioner Winter 2014, Volume 20, Issue 1

International Practice as a Small Firm Practitioner

By Brook Meakins

Brook Meakins is the principal at Meakins Law, a thriving Family Law practice in Berkeley, California. Brook is a passionate advocate for her Family Law clients and is committed to seeking creative resolutions to her clients’ divorce matters. She is very involved in environmental climate-change advocacy work. Brook is a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law and hails from Eugene, Oregon. She and her husband live in Oakland.

When I started my solo practice in 2010, my primary motivating factor was the desire to grow a thriving and dynamic pro bono practice in the area of international climate change advocacy. Climate change litigation was a relatively new practice area at the time, with strong potential for burgeoning. In addition to focusing on climate change litigation, I was even more interested in developing a pro bono practice that utilized both traditional (litigation) and alternative (mediation, negotiation, and non-litigation assistance) legal approaches for inhabitants of low-lying islands around the world that suffer impacts from rising and warming seas. I had wise mentors who were business owners, including both attorneys and lay people and they supported my idea to build a successful law practice that funded my pro-bono work.

Since the ability to travel internationally was going to be one of the most crucial aspects to climate change work, I knew that it was important for me to develop deeply-rooted skills in virtual communication along with prompt and organized responsiveness. Books like the 4 Hour Workweek, The Lean Startup, and Remote: Office Not Required were essential practice management tools. I learned to embrace quick responsiveness as a way of building client trust. In my prior experience, clients rarely heard back from the attorneys in 24 hours, despite the fact that they were, in fact, in the office. As long as I made responsiveness to my clients a priority, I learned that they were comfortable communicating with me while I was abroad. Furthermore, email communication makes teamwork on client matters measurably more efficient with staff and independent contractors, resulting in a true value for the client. Soon I was embracing some of Silicon Valley’s finest non-legal technologies, as well as embracing a spirit of experimentation in my office. As we added staff, we ensured they were comfortable with our core competencies of technological adeptness and efficient, reliable communication. My lean, communicative, friendly staff and co-workers created the consistency and support I needed to offer clients during my international business trips. It took about two years to get it absolutely right, but because the international work created the need for better efficiency and reliability, my firm is stronger than it would be without my travels.

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