Editor's Note: Todd Janzen, attorney at Janzen Agricultural Law in Indianapolis, grew up on a Kansas grain and livestock farm and now practices law at the intersection of ag and technology. Todd is chair of the American Bar Association’s Agricultural Management Committee and authors a blog addressing legal issues facing agriculture. You can see more posts from Todd at JanzenAgLaw.com.

Janzen Ag Law is celebrating our first year.  What better way to celebrate than write a blog post about the highs and lows of what it meant to start a business in late 2015. Here are my highs and lows from the past year. 

The Highs:


The Cloud:  It is ironic that so much of my legal work involves helping companies navigate contracts dealing with the Cloud, because the Cloud was instrumental in making our first year a success.  Almost every software we use runs on a cloud-based platform.  This has frightened lawyers for years, but I believe the security is better on many cloud platforms than than traditional IT systems with local servers. Thanks to the Cloud, starting a business today does not require a heavy IT budget, expensive servers, or a full time network administrator on payroll.  For law firms, this is huge. 

The Mobile Office:  I cannot believe that there was a point in my legal career when I debated whether to upgrade my flip phone for a smartphone (many years ago).  Today, my iPhone and MacBook are my office. I can do anything, from nearly anywhere. This means I rarely have to tell clients I am "out of the office" because the office goes where I go. We maintain a regular office too, but getting work done does not require being "in" the office.  

The Ag Industry: It is so much fun to wake up every morning and serve the ag industry. Will today's issue involve an ag technology license agreement, crop lease, or livestock permit? Every day is different, but the theme of each day is the same--supporting farmers and the businesses that help farmers. When clients walk in the door, they know they found the right place.

The Lows:


The Post Office:  Starting a new business is not always fun. Making the bottom of my list is the US Post Office, which contrary to the old saying, the mail does not always get through. I once received two letters from the USPTO post-marked the same date--three days apart.  The mail arrives in our office somewhere between 10 am and 7 pm. We use the post office only when necessary.

Paper Filings:  Unfortunately, our state courts have not yet fully embraced electronic filing. That means many court document still must be printed out in multiple copies, mailed to court clerks with self-addressed stamped envelopes, and mailed to opposing counsel. The end of paper filing can't come soon enough.

Wrap Up:

I can't help but think that starting a business in 2015 was dramatically different than it would have been even 10 years ago. Technology has really improved the practice of law, making it easier to research, store, and transfer information. 

Still, the best thing about starting a new law firm is the inner personal reward:  Many lawyers spend their careers letting the work decide where they are going. The business planning leading up to launching a new law firm caused me to ask why I get up each day.  As a result, I knew on day 1 that we would focus on agriculture. This singular purpose energizes me every day, no matter the challenge. My advice to anyone starting a business--figure your "why" before you begin. Your business is never going to find it for you.