Donata Kalnenaite is a business attorney and the owner of LegalDepartment.co, a monthly subscription service that helps protect startups and small businesses with custom contracts and consultations. She loves to educate her clients and the public on the plain language meaning of contracts and is a big fan of keeping things simple yet safe. She has had a very interesting life story and will share some of that with us today. Read our interview with the lovely Donata below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I was motivated to start my own business by my inherent want to help people be protected. From working with clients at the Business Enterprise Law Clinic during law school, I learned that a lot of people do not know that they need legal protections and once they go to an attorney, the process is intimidating, confusing and extremely expensive. And I thought to myself “it does not have to be like this!” I have based my firm on the strong belief that everyone needs protection and that the process for this protection should be easy and affordable.
Tell us about your business.
My law firm, LegalDepartment.co, helps people start and protect their businesses legally. I write customized contracts and help people understand them. Furthermore, I also offer monthly consultations. I learned that startups and small businesses need to budget and understand what the legal costs are so I break down the cost of the services into six affordable payments so that my clients can budget for the cost of the legal protections. I work with graphic designers, marketing professionals, bloggers, startups and small businesses. Furthermore, LegalDepartment.co functions differently than other law firms because I actually explain the contracts to my clients and therefore ensure that they understand their obligations and are actively involved in their legal protections.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Yes! I am currently offering the following to startups:
- Legal entity consultation;
- LLC or Corporation formation;
- Operating Agreement or Bylaws;
- Terms and Conditions; and
This startup package is only $130.00 per month for a six-month contract.
License to practice law in Illinois.
Where is your business based?
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
One of my favorite ways to gain awareness and get new customers is through my existing clients. If you do a good job the first time, your current customers will love you and will refer you to their friends. However, before I had my first customer, a great way that I found new clients is through speaking engagements. It is not easy to get a speaking engagement but there are a lot of outlets that will help you such as meetup groups or startup incubators. If you present yourself well and show people that you know what you are talking about, they will be likely to hire you.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
I have had a lot of challenges in life. I was born into a poor family in Lithuania and we had little to no resources. My parents left me with my grandparents when I was about a month old and years later left to go to the United States in pursuit of better opportunities. I first came to the U.S. when I was 12 years old and lived with my mother and then with my father. After I lived with my grandparents, I lived in a very toxic and unhealthy home, which was extremely difficult. Furthermore, when I was 18, I found out that I have one of the most painful diseases known to man, trigeminal neuralgia. I have spent most of the years since in pretty horrible pain.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I never quit. That was my whole philosophy – never quit and work as hard as you can. As far back as I remember I knew that education was going to be my ticket out of the poverty cycle and out of the bad home situation that I was in. I put everything I could into learning as much as I could. I graduated from college at the age of 19 in hopes that I could move out of my home to go to law school. And I did it! I graduated from law school at the age of 22 and it was one of the best days of my life. I knew that if I just worked hard, my life would greatly improve and it definitely did. Regarding my disease, I tried a lot of different medications until I found something that semi-worked and then I just kept pushing through the pain because to me, giving up was not an option and will never be one.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I keep myself motivated by understanding that I have made it through much worse. For example, if I get down in the dumps about a project that is not going as well as it could be, I remind myself that I have triumphed over things that were much worse before and therefore I can triumph over this as well. Also, if something is not going well, I work harder until I figure out the answer on how to improve it. Finally, when you have an attitude of never quitting, it’s very difficult to quit.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I distinguish myself from my competitors by making legal a pleasant experience for everyone and by keeping my clients involved in their legal protection. I think that some attorneys make themselves out to be more important than they actually are and think they are somehow above explaining legal concepts and contracts to their clients. I think that such an approach is fundamentally flawed and ensure that my clients understand everything that they sign and know exactly what they are getting when they work with me.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
“Do things on your own time.” This is the advice that my grandparents gave to me the other day when we were talking about marriage. I think that this type of advice applies not only to personal life but also to entrepreneurship. If you are not ready to commit to a partnership, wait and think it through. If you are not ready for a particular client, you should also wait. I am all about jumping into the deep end of the pool but I definitely agree that if you are not fully ready to do something, the whole world is probably not going to end if you just wait a little bit.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up just because other people tell you that you cannot do something. There will always be people who try to bring you down. My father used to yell at me for reading books. Yes, reading! But you need to know your own self worth and do not let those kinds of people get to you. Also, get yourself legally protected before you start your business or as soon as you can. Having legal protections will keep your personal assets safe, will ensure that you are protected from bad clients and will also help you set boundaries with your clients.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
My favorite business tool is Hootsuite. Social media can sometimes be a pain for people who do not specialize in it and this tool just makes it so easy for me to schedule all of my posts and saves me a lot of time.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I am currently reading “Breakthrough Entrepreneurship” by John Burgstone and Bill Murphy Jr. The book is amazing for anyone starting a business and really shows you the correct way to be an entrepreneur.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am currently reading a set of articles about corporate formalities and how important it is to have corporate minutes, why and what these minutes should include. I am currently looking for speaking engagements.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
In the next few months, I am going to write a legal guide to starting your own Virtual Assistant business and a legal guide to starting your own consulting business. I am very excited for these projects. I made a plan of what the final product should include and then wrote down a set of smaller tasks with deadlines. I find that this way really helps me to get stuff done on time.