Matthew G. Karr, Esq.
I began my career at a big law firm in downtown Boston. However, almost immediately I realized that the practice of law in a traditional setting was not how I had envisioned it. I went to law school wanting to come out and making a difference in people’s lives, but in reality, practice in a law firm was usually cold and transactional.
First of all, everything we did was billed on an hourly basis. And, as you can imagine at more than $400/hour, my clients wanted me to do everything as quickly as possible with as little communication as possible. Clients were actually afraid to call because they didn’t know how much that call would cost them and whether it was worth it. Not a good way to build a solid relationship with someone. And, then when they did call, I was unable to as responsive as I wanted because we simply had too many clients competing for our time and mountains of corporate bureaucracy to navigate through.
Finally, what I noticed is that clients would come in, we’d prepare some documents for them, they’d sign the documents (most often not having a clear sense of what they were signing) and then take the documents, stick them in a drawer and not look at them again.
That’s just what the typical estate planning experience has become. There was nothing abnormal about it, but it didn’t feel right to me. We didn’t have a mechanism for following up with our clients, making sure their assets were titled properly, or communicating over time. Estate planning is something that affects every area of your life – you, your assets, your family and all of those things will change many times before your death. Not to mention, we know the law will change many times. Your plan has to keep up with those changes.
And I knew from personal experience just how important family estate planning is and the consequences of failing to plan. Prior to law school, I saw my grandmother decline in health until there was no alternative but nursing home care. Since no asset-protection planning had occurred, her assets were eaten away by long-term care costs until there was almost nothing left. Even so, because she didn’t do any estate planning, my family still ended up having to deal with the probate court for years after her death, trying to settle disputes over long forgotten assets.
I wanted to do something different that would be more meaningful both for my clients and personally, so I decided that I would open my own law firm, which I did in 2011. I opened this firm with the idea of bringing back the Personal Family Lawyer relationship – where planning is just the beginning of the relationship. So, here are some of the things we do differently based on my experience with the traditional model of estate planning.
First of all – nothing we do is billed on an hourly basis. Everything we do is billed flat fee, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. Our clients really like it and we do too. It doesn’t feel good to keep track of time in 6 min. increments.
Second – We take the time to get to know our clients personally. We listen to your concerns and goals and design an approach to meet your specific needs. We take the time to explain your options in plain English, and welcome your questions before, during, and after our project is complete.
Third – we see planning as just the beginning of the relationship whereas in the past the plan was viewed as a one time transactional event. Once you sign your planning documents, that is when the relationship really begins. At no additional charge, we review your plan at least every three years. And, we have two levels of membership programs that almost all of our clients participate in – either the gold program which provides you with a yearly plan review and unlimited changes to your plan or the gold plus program that includes an annual meeting with your attorney, CPA and financial advisor, plus ongoing legal guidance throughout the year. These are just a few of the things that make our firm different.
Our firm is the best fit for people who want the peace of mind of knowing their family will be taken care of when something happens to them – that we will be here for their family throughout their lifetime and then afterwards.
On a personal note, I received my Juris Doctorate from Boston College School of Law, where I was co-chair of the Community Economic Development Group. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Hofstra University, where I graduated cum laude with Phi Beta Kappa distinction. I’m licensed to practice in both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Federal District Court of Massachusetts and am also a licensed Massachusetts Real Estate Broker and Notary Public. I’m a lifelong Massachusetts native, having grown up on the North Shore and now reside in Boston with my wife Annette (also an attorney).