Meghan Freed Interview for "30 Days - 30 Voices - Stories from America's LGBT Business Leaders" [Podcast]

Meghan Freed Interview for "30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders" [Podcast]

Meghan-Freed-30gayvoices-300x300Storytelling with Meghan Freed of Freed Marcroft Law

Hartford, Connecticut 

Links mentioned in the show:

You can get in touch with Meghan here:

Listen to the episode by clicking the play button below!

Would you prefer to read the transcript than listen to the episode? No problem. Read the transcript below!

AUDIO TITLE:  30 Days, 30 Voices – Meghan Freed

Jenn T Grace:

Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Voices: Stories from America’s LGBT business leaders.

Intro:

You are listening to a special edition of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Tune in for the next thirty days as we interview one business leader per day each day in June to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. That’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month. You’ll learn insights around business and marketing from those who know it best. And now, your host. She’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven, and an advocate for the LGBT business community – Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Hello and welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Information about today’s guest and links mentioned in the show will be available on the website at www.JennTGrace.com/30days-30voices. If you like what you hear in this interview, please be sure to tell a friend. And now, without further ado, let’s dive into the interview.

I am excited to be talking to Meghan Freed, founding member of Freed McKeen which is a law firm located in Hartford Connecticut. In addition to many of her accomplishments, she is especially proud of her estate planning, family and small business legal practice within the LGBT community. Also, her name appears in the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ground-breaking decision on marriage equality which was Kerrigan versus the Commissioner of Public Health. Meghan, I have given the listeners a brief overview of who you are, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your business, and what your path looked like that led you to where you are today.

Meghan Freed:

Sure, hi Jenn. First of all thank you so much for having me; I love your podcast, and I love your website, and I love your Facebook page. So I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you.

Meghan Freed:

I went to law school back in 2000, and after I graduated I went to a firm here in Hartford, Connecticut, Shipman & Goodwin, and then I worked at a much larger international firm called Bingham McCutchen. And then after that I was in-house council for a number of years at a wonderful company, Hartford Steam Boiler. At a certain point in my career I wasn’t sure what to do next. And practicing law has been really a wonderful thing for me but I was ready to sort of take a new path, and work more with individual folks than with the companies I had been working for as clients prior. So I started talking about the concept of beginning my own law firm and a friend of mine from law school, Ryan McKeen, was sort of at the same place and came to me with the idea of forming a firm together. And my initial thought was, ‘Ugh, wouldn’t that be nice? I would really love to do this. But I also have this wonderful biweekly paycheck, and I love the people I work with, and I love the work I do. Am I really ready to take this risk?’ I was sitting on a plane one day with my partner Kristen Marcroft, and we were talking about how I wish I could go into practice for myself and she at the time was looking at graduating from law school herself in a few months. And so she said, ‘Well really why not? What is the risk?’ And we went through everything and thought about our lives and our finances and what we wanted from our careers. And we talked about the worst case scenario. What is the risk of starting a business, and could we handle that risk? And we both have wonderful families and great support structures, emotionally and financially. If we needed them I think we could live in somebody’s basement for awhile. And so we said, ‘What the heck. We think we’re going to be really successful but if we’re not we can handle this as a couple and as business people.’ So we went for it. And Freed McKeen was born in 2012.

Jenn T Grace:

Yay, how exciting.

Meghan Freed:

So exciting, thank you.

Jenn T Grace:

So that’s a really good story. So essentially what you were saying is that there was a little bit of not necessarily fear, but a little bit of- I’m trying to think of the right word, that was just holding you back. And then essentially you just had to take that leap of faith knowing that you had a good support system around you to enable that to happen.

Meghan Freed:

That’s right. And I have been practicing law for ten years, and then I was involved in the securities industry prior to that. And I had always been someone who was in a very secure, large environment; whether it was a firm or a corporation. And I liked working within that structure, and I think that there’s just this- you get used to sort of having all of the administration and overhead and all of that taken care of by the machine that’s your large firm or your large corporation. And there’s an intimidation factor in going out on your own. And I think that the longer people sort of stay in a more traditional, large environment. The harder it can be to envision starting a small business. And so we don’t have children and so we don’t have the pressure of feeding other mouths and providing a really robust college fund or anything like that. So we were able to make a decision that was based on our own career aspirations and really, our desire to work in a different way, on different things, with people that were important and special to us.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s a really exciting story and it’s always exciting to see how the journey unfolds. And we’ll get into a little bit more of that in a couple of minutes, but before we get into the serious side of questions, I would love for you to share a fun fact about yourself that few people know or would expect from you.

Meghan Freed:

Alright. Well I listen to your podcast Jenn, so I could not compete with the woman who was an acrobat. I can’t even come close. I loved her story so much. Something that people don’t know about me is that I’m actually really, really good at origami but I can only make cranes. So I’m actually really, really good at folding cranes. It is something that I do to occupy my mind, when other people knit. Not that knitting isn’t much more productive than folding cranes, but for instance I’ve folded 1,000 cranes and decorated a Christmas tree with them, which I thought was really, really pretty and we’ve talked about doing that ourselves this year for the law firm. But I don’t think I have time with starting the firm to fold 1,000 cranes. But that’s something about me. I’m also really, really good at making paper snowflakes with our nieces.

Jenn T Grace:

That is hilarious. I have yet to have anyone tell me that they’re good at folding origami cranes.

Meghan Freed:

Only cranes.

Jenn T Grace:

Only cranes.

Meghan Freed:

I was so good at cranes I didn’t learn how to do anything else.

Jenn T Grace:

Well why would you? You’ve mastered one, just stick with the one you’ve mastered.

Meghan Freed:

Right.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s hilarious. I had a calendar that somebody gave me that was like 365 days of origami. And it was when I was working in an office environment, and my office mate and I literally every day would struggle and try to make these damn origami things. And to no avail; we would just have like crumpled pieces of paper all around us.

Meghan Freed:

Aren’t the instructions very confusing?

Jenn T Grace:

They are.

Meghan Freed:

Yeah, they’re describing a three dimensional thing in one dimension with arrows.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, as if that’s going to help. Yeah. So it’s actually to the positive that you have mastered the origami crane.

Meghan Freed:

Well we can get together and I’ll show you how to fold a crane.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh that sounds fabulous. Alright, so that’s a fabulous little tidbit. Let’s go into the next section here, which is talking about ‘ah-ha’ moments. And I feel like you touched upon this a little bit in the beginning of your story, but did you have a specific ‘ah-ha’ moment when you realized that this is what you should be doing in life?

Meghan Freed:

Yeah, it was that day on the plane. It was that I had really had a great, very traditional legal career. And I wanted to do something untraditional and start a small firm later into my career. And I really, once I realized that- I knew that I had the legal skills and the business skills and the experience and the benefits of the great lawyers that I’ve worked with over the years. I knew I was ready professionally to take this stand; but it was the idea of letting go of the security blanket of the existing structure. What the benefits were versus what the potential negatives were; I thought, ‘Well why not? I mean I’m in a great position to do this, I really have a lot of people I would like to work with that I know, that I’ve never been able to lawyer for in the past because I was in a much bigger environment where we primarily represented corporations.’ And so this gives me a chance to work for and with people that I’m doing work I’ve always wanted to do with people I’ve always wanted to do it for.

Jenn T Grace:

So why don’t you share a little bit actually about your practice in terms of the LGBT community? Because I know that that’s something you are hanging your hat on proudly, so why don’t you share a little bit more about that?

Meghan Freed:

I would love to, thanks. We love the LGBT community. We’re obviously- my partner and I (who’s my law partner and my life partner), so it’s a little confusing these words. But we love being a part of the community and we are very conscious in our own lives and our friends’ lives about the sort of particular needs that LGBT folks, and same-sex couples have with respect to the legal world. Marriage equality exists in Connecticut and so that is fantastic, but with the uncertainty about the status of our marriages in other states. It’s certainly a national world, it’s a global world, but the things that can happen to same-sex married folks if they were travelling and they were in a state that didn’t recognize same-sex marriage. There are documents and protections that we can try to provide for them that can really make people feel more secure about the status of their relationship in the world. And in addition to that, we also do matrimonial law. What I was just talking about I would fall more in the category of trust and estates work. But with matrimonial law, there are idiosyncrasies of the dissolution of same-sex marriages that we are particularly key to. There are tax implications and there are emotional ramifications, and things like that. So we try and provide as nurturing and educated a portfolio of trust and estate documents and also if it comes to that, for marriage dissolutions, we try and work people through the process in a way that is really focused on issues particular to the LGBT community. But it’s also really sensitive to the emotional needs of our clients.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. I remember when my wife and I went through the process of getting those documents that you were talking about when we got married, and putting together our trust and estates and all that kind of stuff. And it’s unfortunate to a certain degree that we don’t have the same protections that other married couples have. Because having to carry around four separate documents when you travel to Florida on vacation, for example, it just kind of reinforces that state of inequality that we have.

Meghan Freed:

Yeah, it’s terrible; it’s incredibly offensive and it’s upsetting. And one of the things that we find with our LGBT clients is that sometimes they’ve had negative experiences years prior in their relationship with lawyers who were less familiar of the issues, and they felt uncomfortable talking about their relationship with them. It just hasn’t always been a great experience for folks so we want to make sure that we’re as welcoming as possible. In addition to our legal knowledge we want people to feel comfortable that they can say anything. Something that comes up is also that not every same-sex couple wants to get married, and that’s absolutely fine and they don’t have to feel like they have to get married just because it’s an option in Connecticut. But for couples that do get married in Connecticut or in Massachusetts or one of the other states, yeah there are all of these other hoops you have to jump through; or in an abundance of caution we advise you jump through, adopting your children, et cetera. Just in case if you’re on vacation in Florida there is ever God forbid an issue. So another one of the things that we do for LGBT clients that not a lot of folks have to think about and usually think about in a different way, is we do a number of prenuptial agreements. And these agreements don’t really have anything to do with the issues- or it may or may not have anything to do with what happens if the marriage breaks up and the financial matters. They take care of things that are specific to the LGBT community, IE if we happen to be living in Texas at the point where our marriage needs to dissolve; Texas doesn’t recognize our marriage, and so we don’t know how to get divorced because we don’t live in a state that has jurisdiction over our marriage. And so we will do prenuptial agreements that document that the couple’s desire is to have jurisdiction in Connecticut, a state that recognizes the marriage. And so if you do that before you get married in the form of a prenuptial agreement, the hope is that all of that will get recognized and if you need to get out of your marriage you’ll be able to. So there are just a whole host of issues that despite the fact that we live in a tremendously equal state, Vis a Vis the rest of the country, there are legal needs that same-sex married couples have to go through if they ever plan on leaving Connecticut.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s pretty crazy.

Meghan Freed:

It’s also expensive for people. I mean it’s another take on- this whole thing is a terrible situation; having marriages that are really influx is not in any way equal or right.

Jenn T Grace:

No, absolutely not. And one of the things that I want to point out is that every one of these podcast episodes that I have, there is a blog post that goes with it. So I will make sure that for those listening, you have the link to this particular interview. But I want to point out that you did just recently do an interview on NPR, and you talked in great lengths about this stuff, so I want to make sure that I include a link to that for anyone who may want additional information that you’ve already provided out there.

Meghan Freed:

Oh, thanks Jenn. Yeah I was lucky to be on the Colin McEnroe show in March, and I was speaking about- with two other wonderful lawyers, about the state of divorce in 2013. But I was focused primarily on our community.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s very interesting to say the least. And I would imagine that part of what you were just talking about is part of what inspires you. But my next question is what does inspire you and keep you motivated to continue doing this every day?

Meghan Freed:

Oh I love my clients. I am so lucky to get to work with the kind of folks that we work with. We become so close and so invested in the lives of folks that we’re helping; whether they have [INAUDIBLE] or even doing a will can be a great experience for people because they’ve taken care of this thing that they felt that they should have, and they haven’t done yet. And so we’re just really lucky. And frankly the law that we practice is really interesting. So the intellectual part of our practice has been extremely rewarding as well.

Jenn T Grace:

And I would imagine working with a lot of LGBT and couples, that it would be interesting and beneficial for them to be talking with you who, you’ve gone through some of those same challenges, so you do bring that unique perspective to them as well.

Meghan Freed:

Oh thanks Jenn. Yeah, I hope so. I hope that it’s worthwhile for people to talk with us. And another thing that that makes me think about is that a lot of times with small businesses, part of our planning process is that we do both individual planning and small business planning. And we’re lucky enough to have a lot of LGBT clients in both of those realms. And the personal, and the business, specifically in small businesses; they really are extremely interrelated. You and I were speaking earlier offline about the process of doing your small business taxes and your personal taxes. And that’s something that we help folks with too. It’s really sort of a holistic process, these idiosyncratic things that are associated with this state of flux of the law on same sex marriage, can really also impact business planning for LGBT small business owners.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. And this does segway into our next question a little bit because we’re talking about advice essentially, that you are giving to your clients. But I’m curious to know what the best piece of business advice you were ever given.

Meghan Freed:

Ah, okay! I’ve been given a lot of really good business advice. And so I struggle to think of the one piece, but I’m going to go with- actually it’s a piece of business advice from Mark Twain. And in Hartford we love Mark Twain. Mark Twain said, ‘Sell yourself, not your content.’ And for me starting this firm, one of the things that we try to do in every element; our office space and our practice, was to be authentic about who we were. And then if people liked us, respected us, and thought that we were smart, they would become our clients. And so that’s what we’ve done. Our office actually, which Kristen and I designed and which the three of us worked very hard on, is in an 1880’s building in downtown Hartford. It was important to us to be in the city that we live in. Kristen and I actually have a stair commute down to our office, we live in the same building that our office is in. And through sort of the problems that cities have over the years, we had a first floor commercial space in the Linden Building where our office is, that was not thriving. It had basically been largely unoccupied over the thirty years in recent history. And so we had to do a lot of renovations and we tried to do those renovations in a manner that was as green as possible, and that was as true to the building’s Victorian roots as possible. So we tried to be authentic in our practice, in the space in which we practice, in how we constructed that space so that when people choose to have us be the providers of their legal services, they’re really getting a very honest, true representation of who we are and what we stand for.

Jenn T Grace:

I’ve had the luxury of joining you in your office, and it really does seem to reflect your personalities and I know that I have been in many, many other law environments before and there is something about your office that’s just really warm, it’s really inviting, and it doesn’t have that, ‘Oh I’m in a stodgy law firm’ feel. Like it just has a really warm and inviting environment. So I think that that, I’m sure, helps sell yourself and sell who you are, because it makes it an environment where people would want to come and talk versus being overwhelmed. Because a lot of people at the end of the day are overwhelmed when they have to consult an attorney, because a lot of times it’s not necessarily for a good reason. So being able to provide that warm and friendly environment for your clients, I think is probably a really big competitive advantage.

Meghan Freed:

That’s our goal. I mean we’re serious people and legal issues are some of the most serious issues that people will ever face in their life; and you’re right, people aren’t always calling a lawyer because something good has happened. And so in that sense, that adds to the intimidation factor. But though we are doing serious things in a serious manner, we want to make it as real and as comfortable as possible for our clients.

Jenn T Grace:

So let’s switch over to marketing for a minute. And since you do have a good amount of LGBT clients in your practice, I would love to get your perspective on this. And the question is for listeners who are looking to market themselves to the community, whether they are allies to the community or part of the community themselves; do you have any advice around marketing to the community that you feel would help them be successful?

Meghan Freed:

Yes, I do. And this is something that I’m always trying to make sure that we’re doing, again with making sure the leading thing is that we’re authentic about who we are and what we do. And so marketing for us has been really just an effort to let people know who we are. And I think that something that the LGBT community is really good about, is seeking out members of the community when they need to purchase things. Whether that’s legal services or a carpet, because I’ve Googled that by the way. I’ve Googled LGBT carpet installers. But I think that that’s really great. We’re involved in CABO, the organization that you’re affiliated with which has been a wonderful resource for us. But I do find that our biggest source of referrals has been primarily referrals from existing clients, which is wonderful. That’s the greatest source of referrals because it means that the people that you’ve provided service to are happy with that service. But in addition to that we’ve been lucky because of some of the things we’ve done to get some publicity. You mentioned the NPR interview that we did. I got several calls after that from folks that had frankly been avoiding doing their wills. It was actually trust and estate work that I got calls about, even though that was an interview about divorce. But they had had negative experiences with some lawyers that didn’t understand that they were LGBT folks and it had been a negative experience and they’ve been looking for a lawyer, and we got called. And so that to me is wonderful, it means that they heard an interview, they liked me and they called us. That’s fantastic. We were in the Hartford Magazine in April, 2013 and that was an article on green office spaces, and that has been a great source of referrals for us as well, honestly because people liked our office and liked what it said about us. So that was wonderful, too. We also are big users of social media. And one of the things that happened because of that is we received an award within the legal community from lawyers for our use of social media. And social media isn’t something that lawyers particularly embrace. I think that in a sense, our profession is late to understand what social media is, what it does, that it’s not bands on MySpace anymore and things like that. And so I tweet in my individual capacity; it’s largely personal, there’s also some law. We blog on legal issues and we also have a Facebook page for the firm that is we hope again, reflective of our personalities. It is a law firm’s Facebook page that talks about LGBT issues in addition to other things. There’s a lot of Connecticut on there as well. But our interest and our clients’ interest in issues that are specific to the LGBT community are also reflected in our social media presence.

Jenn T Grace:

So you’re certainly being the conduit from the LGBT community to the law community, I suppose, in terms of making sure that your clients are aware of the issues that surround them and that you are there to help them if necessary.

Meghan Freed:

That’s exactly right. And happily, the type of law we practice is deeply related to these issues. Whereas in my practice in my former firms and at my company which was wonderful, but it was a very technical, corporate practice. The issues that LGBT folks are impacted by that have legal ramifications were not largely relevant in that level of practice. And so there are a lot of wonderful LGBT lawyers out there, but the type of law that they practice isn’t necessarily geared towards the community’s issues on a micro level.

Jenn T Grace:

That makes sense. So I’m curious to know as an LGBT person yourself, if you have been able to leverage that status as a business owner?

Meghan Freed:

I think that it goes back to this idea of being authentic. I believe that if you are true to who you are, and your business is true to who you are, your personality rather than your product, then good people will find you when they need things. And so we have a large number of LGBT clients who we provide legal services for. And we’ve gotten to know them because we have a law firm that’s open about the fact that Kristen and I are lesbians. And so yes, I think that it is working but I also think our LGBT clients are wonderful and they’re people that we really want to work with.

Jenn T Grace:

Definitely. And I really like the Mark Twain quote that you had said in the past, and how that really has just resonated throughout this entire interview. And I think that that quote is reflective of how I do my own business as well. So it’s really interesting to see how you’re operating. And I’m curious to know if you have any type of business book or a program, or any type of tool that’s really just transformed and helped your business grow at the rate it’s been growing?

Meghan Freed:

Honestly, one of the most influential books to us was Steve Jobs’ book when it came out. That book was released right around the same time that we were starting our firm, or in the initial planning stages, we were far from opening. As you know there’s a long planning process before you launch your business. There’s another Mark Twain quote actually, and my friend Cindy is the director of the Mark Twain house now, she just came into town, and I love her so I’ve been thinking about Mark Twain a lot lately. But there’s a Mark Twain quote that we used to say to each other while we were starting the firm and it’s that, ‘now and then we have the hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.’

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome.

Meghan Freed:

We actually have a plaque in our office with that quote on it. And it’s this idea that you don’t have to do what you’ve been doing in a large, traditional environment, just because it’s what you’ve been doing. That you can be a pirate; not steal and plunder of course, but that you can go and do something different in a different way that’s authentic to you and the people that you work with, and make a different kind of work and home life through that.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s an awesome quote; I might steal that one. Who doesn’t want to be a pirate, right? So this leads us I guess to the last question and then we will say goodbye. And that question is what is one thing in your business, maybe it’s two or three, right now that is just really exciting for you guys?

Meghan Freed:

Honestly Jenn, it’s what we’ve been talking about all day. One of the most exciting things for us, and our firm hasn’t been open yet a full year, but we are just thrilled when the phone rings and it is someone who is in a same-sex marriage or a same-sex relationship, and they’ve been putting off doing their estate planning because of the intimidating factor of going to see a lawyer or thinking about end of life issues. But something that we have done has motivated them to pick up the phone and call us about it. And every time that happens I think that we’re doing something right and that we will have a wonderful, long, happy practice.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s so great that just one simple thing, like somebody reaching out via phone call because they heard about you somewhere, can really just actually make your day and just brighten your day knowing that even if you’ve only impacted one person today, it was still all worthwhile.

Meghan Freed:

That’s right, that’s right. We saw what we perceived as being a need in the market, it jived with who we were, and that we were right about those two things is the most rewarding thing about this business.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. This has been a great interview so far, you are so authentic and it’s very obvious that you are genuine and you really care about what you do and about your clients. So thank you for taking the time out of your day today. Before I let you go though, I want to make sure that you do give yourself one last plug. So let everyone know where they can find you, whether that’s a website, on Twitter or Facebook even.

Meghan Freed:

Thanks Jenn, thank you so much for having me. It was such a pleasure to talk to you. I’m so excited for you in your new business and I can’t wait for your success and to benefit from your extreme wisdom on how to do all of this. So I thank you. I am on Twitter @MeghanFreed. Our law firm’s website is www.FreedMcKeen.com and our firm’s Facebook page is www.Facebook.com/FreedMcKeen. We try to make ourselves very easy to find, so it’s either the name of the firm or my name, Meghan Freed, which has the sneaky H in it. M-E-G-H-A-N. That’s my name on everything.

Jenn T Grace:

Excellent, and as I mentioned in the earlier part of this interview, there will be a blog post that goes with it, so I will make sure that I link that information there as well. So thank you again for joining us, I look forward to staying in touch.

Meghan Freed:

Thank you Jenn, I do too. And congratulations.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you again for listening to this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. To see a full lineup of the thirty guests featured throughout this series, visit www.JennTGrace.com/30days-30voices. And if you liked what you heard here, consider leaving a review in iTunes or telling a friend or colleague. You can do both of these easily by visiting www.JennTGrace.com/iTunes. Thanks again and stay tuned for the next interview by another amazing LGBT business leader.

Want to see who else is being interviewed for this Pride month project? Check it out here – 30 days – 30 voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

2 comments to " Meghan Freed Interview for "30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders" [Podcast] "

Leave a Comment

Site Design Rebecca Pollock
Site Development North Star Sites