Schaffer Law Firm PLLC | Nashville’s SCORE on Business FeatureJune 9, 2016 / By Rachel in Uncategorized
The great unknown leads to great reward
In 2010, the United States was three years into one of the worst recessions in history. Rachel Schaffer was among thousands of students who graduated at that time, wondering what awaited them — if anything at all — in the workforce.
The results were dismal: Very few places were hiring and those that were happened to not be in the field of law. After sending countless resumes and attending numerous informational meetings, Rachel was at her wits end.
There was a saying that had always stuck with Rachel throughout difficult times: “If the fear of doing something is why you are not doing it, that is not a good enough reason.” With that in mind, she leapt into the unknown realm of entrepreneurship and launched Schaffer Law Firm PLLC March 1, 2011.
Rachel remembers that first year as a business owner as the scariest, while at the same time, the most exciting year of her life. Within the first six months, the business was profitable, virtually unheard of, then and now. Five years in, business has grown 25 percent each year and has expanded to serve clients in the hospitality, entertainment, and nonprofit industries. And of course we would never forget about our fellow entrepreneurs.
Different from other law firms
It’s not often you find a lawyer who understands, truly, what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. But it’s because of that very fact Rachel Schaffer Lawson is pretty darn good at her job.
Rachel grew up in an entrepreneurial family — both her mother and grandfather owned their own businesses — so it seemed quite natural that their offspring found the study of business alluring. Rachel triple majored in marketing, entrepreneurship and music business at Northeastern University in Boston. After graduating, she attended Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans, studying business law, intellectual property law, and entertainment law (as well as the occasional beignet). Her stint in the “Big Easy” also included an internship with the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints.
When she decided she wanted to pursue entertainment law full time, she knew there was no better place than good ole’ Nashville. In 2011, one year after her move, she launched Schaffer Law Firm PLLC. She quickly discovered her passion and the firm’s mission; to provide quality and accessible legal services to innovative entrepreneurs, budding restaurateurs, impactful nonprofits, and the wide variety of arts and entertainment the city has to offer.
Rachel never realized just how much she would love her job, but some of the best surprises often happen that way. She loves helping local entrepreneurs succeed in their business ventures and delights in seeing her clients open their doors for business for the very first time.
When she’s not striving to help business owners succeed, you can find Rachel training for half and full marathons, trail running, power lifting at her favorite CrossFit box, cuddling one of her five “fur babies,” and enjoying a local craft brew with her husband, Tyler.
But to get to know Rachel a bit better, give her a call. Her infectious laugh and get done attitude will brighten your day.
There are two things Nashville native Kelcy Morris loves most: music and entrepreneurship. Kelcy spent most of her childhood finding her voice; bringing life to words through the microphone. So it was no surprise when her passion for music never dwindled, but rather blossomed into a lifelong admiration for the music industry and its artists.
At Belmont University, Kelcy found herself drawn to the school’s highly praised music business program. It was during those years of working alongside artists, managers and publicists that her love of the entertainment industry grew. It was also during that time that she explored her interests in learning about other cultures, studying in Australia, South Africa, Botswana and later moving to Hawaii. Her goals were clear, to work closely and learn from individuals and organizations who could show her the ropes of social entrepreneurship and the entertainment industry.
Soon after, Kelcy, with suitcases worth of new experiences, found herself back on the lush grounds of Belmont University, this time as part of Belmont College of Law’s charter class. Her intentions were clear, to learn as much as she could to help entertainment industry professionals and entrepreneurs thrive.
After graduating from Belmont College of Law and passing the Tennessee Bar, Kelcy became an associate at Schaffer Law Firm in 2014. She focuses on entertainment and intellectual property law and brings a refreshing perspective, using her colorful experiences to bring a much-needed energy to the firm and our clients. She dedicates her days to assisting local entrepreneurs and entertainment industry professionals.
When she’s not assisting clients at her office in Edgehill Village, you can find Kelcy running, paddle boarding, spending time with her miniature dachshund, Snoop, and traveling.
Hop on a call with Kelcy and very quickly you will see why she is an asset to our work.
Five years ago today, I “officially” started Schaffer Law Firm. I use quotations because, like most entrepreneurs, I had been thinking about it nonstop and preparing relentlessly for the day. I was a brand new baby lawyer at the time, having just been sworn into the Tennessee State bar only four months earlier, and I had just returned from New York fresh from taking that bar exam. It was time. I had no other viable choice back then, if I wanted to make a living being a lawyer, this was my only option.
So on March 1, 2011 I woke up, made some coffee, sat down at my computer in my pajamas and got started. I honestly can’t recall what I did on that very first day as my own law practice, it certainly wasn’t momentous and it passed without any kind of fanfare, but it was the first, and every day since has led me to today.
Looking back on the past five years I can say they have been the best years of my life thus far. I worked for some incredible clients, and some not so incredible ones, I took on cases outside my comfort zone, I built this law practice from nothing in the midst of this country’s worst recession in years and have grown steadily each year, I hired my first employee who I can say I have no idea how I lived without her and I discovered a passion for an area of law that I had no idea existed.
But most importantly, I have figured out who I am as a person, an attorney and a business owner. But it took time and effort – sweat, some blood and lots of tears at times. And so I give you what I have learned in five years of business and practice of law, may it bring you some hope and guidance for when you reach your five-year milestone.
This is probably the most valuable lesson I have learned. The first year of any business is absolutely terrifying and ridiculously exciting, every day all day. You are constantly afraid of screwing something up for a client, what if they fire you?!?! It seems like every decision you make, the potential consequences are horribly crushing. But I’ll save everyone the suspense: you are going to make mistakes!!! Last I checked, we are all human and not a single one of us is perfect. It is important to put everything in perspective: you lose a case or don’t deliver a product perfectly on time to the customer, is someone going to die? No? Then you can fix the problem and move on. Don’t dwell on your mistakes, focus on how to fix them. I tell the story of one of the first court cases I took on about two months into starting the practice. I had NO IDEA what I was doing, but I was going to do everything I could to figure it out. I failed spectacularly, and publicly! It was really the first time in my life that I had ever failed. It was the most uncomfortable feeling I have ever experienced. But guess what, I LIVED!!! And more importantly, the client was not upset with me. The facts were the facts, we lost because we had a losing case. In fact, they were extremely appreciative and grateful for my representation. They were satisfied that I had given my all and that I cared, plain and simple. So don’t be afraid to make decisions, be informed of course, but know that if it doesn’t work out, shit is not that big of a deal!
I think in a way you need to learn this lesson before you graduate to number 1 above. Big decisions, small decisions, it did not matter, I was regularly rocking back on the floor humming like a crazy person. That was my process, and surprisingly, it was the process for many other entrepreneurs as well. While there are MANY books, blogs and articles about starting a business, not many people talk about how it FEELS, or when is the “right” time to make some of these crucial decisions. I wish I could say that the path was illuminated before me for every decision as if it came from heaven above, but alas, that was not the case. Take for instance the decision to rent my office space. My rent is definitely the largest expense my business has ever incurred and when I found this space, I wanted it badly, but I was terrified, I didn’t think I could afford it! After many hours of rocking back and forth about it, my mother (who is one of my mentors and an entrepreneur herself) said that there was no way this was going to be a bad decision. I needed a place to meet clients in a confidential environment, it was clear that the coffee shop thing was no longer working for me. So I jumped, and there has never been a time where I was unable to pay my rent or other office expenses.
This one has to do with the money. As an entrepreneur, we worry about money constantly. At this point in five years I still worry about it, but either not as much as I did when I first started, or the same, its just not that big of a deal. I know that it will work out in the end. Money is one of the biggest barriers to entry for someone wanting to start their own business, and I do understand and respect that fear. But perspective is everything, and I believe strongly in two things when it comes to money and entrepreneurship. First: you can’t fire yourself. Sure your clients can fire you, and some of mine have. You have some of the best job security in the world in my opinion because it is on your own terms, not someone else’s. Second: you get to determine how much you are worth. You do not have a boss sitting above you dictating your salary, bonuses, etc. There is no limit to how much you can earn. If you work hard, you will make money. You could say I am looking at that with a glass-half-full mentality, and yes I am, but it has definitely worked for me over the years.
This lesson is still a work in progress and frankly, I think it should be for every entrepreneur! Things change almost by the minute in many businesses, and you need to have the flexibility to change with it. I believe doing the work to figure out your pricing makes you much more confident when you ask for that price from a customer. If there are questions about the price, you have data to back it up. And yet, for all your hard work, clients will try to undervalue you and your product or service. It can be a hard pill to swallow. Many entrepreneurs will cave and give the client the price they wanted, even if it means operating at a loss because they don’t want to lose the business. I truly believe if you set good, fair prices and have a rock solid explanation for setting said price and someone STILL wants to undercut you, walk away! That is usually a red flag for more difficulties with that client to come. For those of us in the intellectual service industry, this can be difficult as we sell our time and expertise, and someone trying to undervalue us can feel like an attack on our person. I’ve been there, and I have caved to the client before, almost always to my detriment. Now my law firm policy is the price is the price, I am happy to negotiate on payment plans to pay it, but I do not negotiate on the total amount. This became a POLICY when I hired my first employee. I realized that it would be unacceptable for her to accept a lower price than what the firm sets so what kind of example am I setting for her if I am going to do that? I need to hold myself to the same standards as I would my employees, and honestly it is tougher to do that with myself than with my staff!
This is one of the golden rules of entrepreneurship. You have started your own business because you want to be in control of your destiny, from designing your own product/service and marketing strategy to deciding which clients you want to work for. Guess what: you don’t have to accept EVERY client that walks in the door anymore! Those days are over! So why are you still doing it? We all have had the client that when we see their name on our phones, we start to break out in a cold sweat. For the love of God WHY?!?! You have the power of choice! Fire that client! There simply is not enough money on earth to justify working for someone who is difficult, demeaning, ungrateful, etc. But I know that is not that easy every time. The difficult client comes in many shapes and sizes, sometimes they do not show their true colors until you have been working with them for some time, and some of them have this nasty habit of paying you well and on time, but at the same time they make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a pen! Cut them loose, it will be the best decision you ever made!
Last but not least, this is a life lesson as well as a business lesson. I started my business when I was 26 years old. I had no idea who I was or what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. But I looked around and saw what all the other lawyers in town were doing, acting, dressing, etc. and I thought that was what I needed to do to get ahead. Wrong, very wrong. I am not from the South. I am not a girly-girl. I am a New Yorker who likes to drink beer, swear and dresses in jeans, Chuck Taylors and t-shirts. Trying to wear skirt suits and heels made me extremely uncomfortable and I am sure made me act just as uncomfortable. I am an eccentric, semi-creative person by nature. It was important for me to realize that I work best when I act as myself, and if someone doesn’t like it, they can find another lawyer. As soon as I started being myself, the right types of clients started walking through the door consistently. It is part of my marketing and my brand. I don’t want every client out there. I want the eccentric, creative, slightly crazy small business owner who has a big dream and maybe a small budget but who really needs my help.
Owning my own business has been a blast so far, and I am so excited for what the next five years will bring for me, my family and the firm. I literally wake up every day for work and don’t feel like I have worked an hour I enjoy the practice I have built so much. I want to thank everyone who has helped make this day possible, my wonderful family: mom, dad, my husband Tyler. My staff past and present: Kelcy, Samantha and Landon. And finally all of the many clients and referral partners I have met along the way, this day is just as much for you as it is for me, bon anniversaire!
I’m sure many of you are wondering what on earth being pregnant has to do with business or legal issues. Surprisingly, quite a bit! Before I dive in, a caveat: I do not have any children of my own at this time, although I am the proud mother of six (yes, 6!) fur children.
But more importantly, I am the “mother” of a business. And while my business was not conceived the “traditional” way (i.e. the birds and the bees), it is my baby, my almost six-year-old child. And I love it as such. I have poured my heart, soul, sweat, blood, tears, and finances into this business. Anyone who has ever owned a business knows exactly what I am talking about. You spend all your time with your business, and, when you are not spending time in your business, you are still working on your business.
And yet, through my practice I have seen time and time again many entrepreneurs trying to start their business while still working for someone else. And the truth is you can’t be a part time entrepreneur, like you can’t be half pregnant.
So before you go getting pregnant, literally or figuratively, let’s talk through what to consider.
This is the most important question you will ever answer! “Am I really ready?” Well, the truth is you will never be totally ready but you can take the steps to get best prepared.
A business is a BIG commitment, and for many, a big change. For most, the financial change is the most significant. I won’t sugar coat it, businesses will cost you money, lots of money. But with some prudent planning, most entrepreneurs can create a forecasted budget of expenses. After the sticker shock and constant empty pockets you have an exhaustive list of questions constantly swirling through your head like “do I need a website?”, “how will I get customers?”, “what should I charge?”, and so much more. Your brain will always be thinking of your business so the question is, “are you ready for the next however many years to be hands on, exhausted, tired, while experiencing your greatest joy?” If you cringed and shook your head, you may not be ready.
So just like when you are pregnant and expecting a child, you have to be prepared for the onslaught of uncomfortable and overwhelming questions. When are you due? Will you be working part time at another job? How will you be funded? Do you have your office set-up? Do you have an accounting system? What legal structure will you be under? Will you have employees? And the list goes on. But there will come a point when you must anticipate and be prepared to answer these questions, and so many more.
It is my belief that an entrepreneurial venture, once “born” is so much like a newborn baby that in order to ensure that it grows up right, it requires the parent to dedicate as much time and energy as possible to its growth.
Congratulations on your new baby! Now how do you raise said child? How do you help it grow up, mature, and exceed expectations? I’m certain all new parents lie awake at night pondering these very questions. The same goes for business owners. How do you continue to innovate your products and services? How do you differentiate from your competition? What milestones do you hope to achieve? How do you continue to grow your bottom line year after year? Continuing to stay ahead of the trends in your industry is key to growing a successful business. Being sure to make time for continuing education, networking events in your field and even seeking out opportunities to show your expertise in your field will ensure that your business grows up the right way.
While you may never be “ready” to have a baby or a business, it begs the question “are you ready to fully commit?” If you are willing to put in the work and diligence to be as prepared as possible, jumping in won’t seem as scary as it could be without a plan. After all, you can’t be half pregnant (or half an entrepreneur).
I hear “I need to get my shit together” often. Of the myriad of reasons clients come to see me, I think that phrase pretty much sums it up. Clients want to get their business affairs legally in order. Some of them come to see me when they are just getting started. They want to start things off right.