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B2B ID: Peter Irvine

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NAME: Peter Irvine

JOB TITLE, COMPANY: Owner and attorney, Law Office of Peter Irvine, Northampton

WEBSITE: www.peterirvinelaw.com

AGE: 48

WHEN THE BUSINESS STARTED: 2003

WHAT YOU DO: My law firm combines a small-town general practice with an international perspective. I help people buy houses, and I help business owners negotiate contracts. I help clients realize a better understanding of the law, with an emphasis on representing creative people for contracts, copyright, trademark, real estate and other legal needs. I also spend part of my time defending the Constitutional rights of the indigent, primarily through work as a part-time public defender, and sometimes assisting low-income tenants in disputes with landlords.

EXPERIENCE: After a career as a professional musician, I became an attorney to help make legal services more easily accessible to other musicians, writers, filmmakers, designers, thespians and other artisans.

THE MARKET: People and businesses in the Valley and beyond looking for legal representation.

HOW YOU REACH OUT: Word of mouth is key. Most of my clients are referred to me by their friends. I participate in community events and enjoy meeting people.

WHAT FINANCING HURDLES HAVE YOU FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THEM? As a sole practitioner, there is always an issue of managing workload and a question of whether or not the jobs will continue to come in. I’ve addressed this by maintaining a diversified practice — when the real estate business hits a seasonal slowdown, I shift into other areas of law.

KEY TO SUCCESS: Personal contact, commitment, thoroughness and quality work at a reasonable price. I answer my phone and return messages promptly.

CHALLENGES: Learning to sometimes say “no” to those in need. As an attorney, I’m in a position of power and knowledge, but to be most effective, I need to remain focused and avoid taking on more work than I can effectively complete.

MISSTEP YOU LEARNED FROM: Failing to commit clients to the task. The reason to ask clients to make a deposit is not only to ensure prompt payment of clients’ bills, but also to convey to clients a realistic picture of what is involved in pursuing a particular matter. I have sometimes spent too much time on a matter, only to find out later that the client was not nearly as committed as I was.

WHAT OTHERS COULD LEARN FROM YOU: Many new attorneys are reluctant to set up a solo practice. I had a vision, low overhead and went to work right away. My practice hasn’t slowed down since. Have faith in yourself, produce a consistent work product for your clients, and you’ll be OK.

WHO HELPED MENTOR YOU PROFESSIONALLY: I am grateful for the assistance of many attorneys, both locally and elsewhere, who continue to collaborate and share their expertise. I try to pay that forward by welcoming new attorneys and answering questions from others. Two local attorneys who helped get me off the ground were David Mintz and Mikal Weiss.

TOP GOALS FOR 2013: Balance in life and business.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS SEEKING BUSINESS SUCCESS: Consider where you fit in the market, in terms of location, services, personality and economics. With some thoughtfulness, it is possible to succeed. Also, try using a time-management/organizational tool such as OmniFocus, based on Dave Allen’s “getting things done” system.

PARTING THOUGHT: I choose to live in the Valley because it’s a wonderful place, with fascinating people. My grandfather said the key to happiness is to have a life partner with whom you can share your work. You don’t have to work together, but you need an appreciation for what the other does.

B2B ID is compiled by Janice Beetle, owner of Beetle Press in Easthampton. Beetle Press offers writing, editing and graphic design services. www.beetlepress.com. To suggest a subject for B2B ID, email Beetle at beetlepress@charter.net.

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