PRESS: ABA Perspectives magazine

I received a surprise call from a writer for the American Bar Association recently. That conversation lead to an article which appears in the ABA’s Perspectives magazine. It is always interesting to me to see how people shape their lives and careers. The portion of the article about me is copied below, but I encourage people to read the complete article here.

MelissaSayer (5 of 6)

Have you ever made an offer on a 23-acre citrus and avocado ranch as a lark, fully expecting rejection? And then your offer was accepted?

“I thought, ‘I guess we’re doing this!’” recalls Melissa Sayer, who fell into ranching exactly that way. She operates a general business law practice in Ventura, California, and then heads home to her ranch.

“My husband’s family has been in agriculture since the 1800s, and he always wanted to go back to it,” she says.

When the couple made the offer on the ranch, Sayer was figuring out whether to stay on a partner track at a Palo Alto, California, firm.

“I figure it turned out the way it was supposed to,” she says. “I think I’m a better lawyer because I have another business. And I have a much closer connection to my clients than I did in the Bay Area.”

She’s also more connected to her community. There’s a farm lab at the ranch for school-age kids, and California State University sends its students out for hands-on learning as the Sayers experiment with various grains. That can lead to unexpected outcomes, like a partnership with a distillery making moonshine with the Sayers’ experimental sugar beets.

“This was a really good move,” Sayer concludes. “I feel much more centered. It’s twice as much work, but I’m much happier.”

The cost of new carpet

Remodeling my new office has reminded me of a lesson in business. Most notably the cost of new carpet. I tried to cost out all my tenant improvements, and for the most part my budget came out on target. But my carpet estimate was terrible. Why?

It wasn’t because of the price of my new carpet. My estimate was off because I forgot about the cost of the carpet already there. It turns out that the most expensive part of new carpet is actually the removal and disposal of the old carpet.

I should have seen that coming. Not because I remodel commercial spaces on a regular basis. I don’t. But I do help clients again and again who are refreshing their business by expanding distribution channels, adding new partners, new equipment, or new products. The most difficult part of these projects is rarely the exciting new enterprise. It’s rewriting the existing terms and conditions or partnership agreement. Changing filing statuses. Dissolving the old company. Settling matters with the partner who wishes to cash out. In short, the demolition of the old corporate structure often costs more than the replacement.

It can be frustrating to spend money on something that’s no longer needed. But sometimes that’s simply where most of the hard work is hidden. You have to remove the old carpet before you can reap the benefits of the new one. 

“Read it on the internet”

The internet brings all of mankind’s knowledge to your desktop or smartphone. It’s a wonderful thing, and at Matilija Law we seek to make the best possible use of it as a research and communication tool. But it isn’t always a great place for advice, because it is home to all the bad ideas and misinformation known to mankind as well.

Please be very skeptical of anything you read on the internet.. even this! By including a blog in our website, we hope to provide some ideas, small business tips, and lessons gathered over twenty years of practicing corporate law and advising clients from small to large. But anything you read here is not specific advice for your business or situation. If something here catches your interest, be sure to ask your legal or tax adviser if it is appropriate for you.