The Who and the Why behind “TimsLaw.com Missouri Employment Law”, with a Timeline of site development
Who is behind TimsLaw.com?
Phil Willoughby, Attorney at Law
(Licensed in Missouri and Kansas)
Contact info at bottom of page
(Please don’t send me a fax unless you’ve called me first and I’ve agreed to accept your fax)
Why: The evolution and purpose of the
Timslaw.com Missouri Employment Law website
The Timslaw.com Missouri Employment Law website is the manifestation of founding attorney Tim Willoughby’s desire, stemming from 1994, to have a legal clinic.
In Tim’s early days of law school in 1994, he developed a desire to somehow find a way to open a legal clinic for people who could not afford a lawyer.
In his original conception for such a clinic, he was going to rent a storefront in the poorer area of St. Louis, and maintain periodic hours assisting people with their legal problems. Back in 1994, his goal was to open such a clinic within 10 years of entering law practice.
Tim wanted to give something back. He was, and remained until the time of his death, grateful for having the opportunity to obtain a legal education, an opportunity that was assisted by various government programs that helped with financial aid. So Tim felt he owed something to the general public.
After Tim completed his legal education and got some experience, he became aware of how unrealistic his original conception for a legal clinic truly was:
- First, he explained he would have to be competent to advise people about the most common kinds of legal problems, like landlord-tenant, family law, wills, bankruptcy, credit and collection matters, consumer law, property law, social security, and other areas. But Tim said he did not know very much about those areas of law, and was not practicing in those areas. So he asked him self how was he going to assist people with types of law he didn’t know well?
- Second, it was just too expensive to open a storefront, without major financial backing. His practice field, employment law, is not a particularly lucrative area of law. That’s why there are only a relative few employment lawyers – see the article What an employment lawyer is and how to find one for more info. So opening a storefront was not really going to be a viable option.
- Third, poor people in other parts of town would be unserved by a single storefront. In essence, Tim felt he could only serve a neighborhood, not a community.
- Fourth, the internet began to explode as a communication medium, accessible to everyone through the public libraries.
A website about employment law seemed to be a reasonable alternative to a clinic, for the foreseeable future:
- First, Tim knew quite a bit about employment law, since that was the bulk of his practice.
- Second, nearly everyone in Missouri works, so an employment law information website could be a great public service.
- Third, almost no one knows much about employment law and the traps.
- Fourth, everyone can access the internet with the help of their local librarian.
On combining public service with business interests
In the very beginning of my website building experience, Tim looked at a lot of websites that lawyers had put up. Almost exclusively, the websites were sales brochures for the firms.
Tim could have put up a sales brochure-type website himself. But that’s not the type of site he wanted. Sales brochure sites do not provide any meaningful public service. Even the State of Missouri’s websites do not provide much useful employment law information.
So Tim wanted a website that aspired to be the premier destination for people to seek out when they wanted to learn about their Missouri Employee Rights.
When deciding what to write about, and how much to say, Tim tried to be guided first by the public service goals behind the website. He told it like it was (from his perspective), and give sufficient details so that laymen can comprehend how the system works and learn about their rights.
He was also sure many people think they have their questions answered on this website and he might lose their business as a result.
But he also gained business from the site, because many thoughtful people appreciate the complexities of employment law and chose to trust a lawyer to do a better job of sorting out their problems than they can themselves. So Timslaw.com took off.
The goal of Timslaw.com was to demystify employment law and teach people about their rights, and hope that in the end the business will continue to take care of itself. That’s what has happened so far.
There is nothing unusual about mixing public service with a desire to conduct business:
- Providing public service is a time-honored method of growing your business.
- Many lawyers (and businesspersons of all types) give their time to charitable organizations, and as a result make contact with people who become customers.
- Ever see those invitations to Estate Planning Seminars? Estate planning lawyers give free seminars where they provide a lot of useful free information, in the hope that you will contact them if you decide you need estate planning. Financial planners do this all the time, as well.
- Business lawyers serve on boards and committees of charitable organizations along with other businesspersons, and thereby develop new clients – in fact, if you desire to be promoted to partner in a business law firm, you’d better be doing some charitable work to develop new clients.
- You can bet that lawyers who provide limited free legal services to the public (other than lawyers employed by the formal “Legal Aid” organizations) are probably always on the lookout for that fabulous fee-generating case that might arise from the free legal services they provide. There’s even a book about this phenomenon, called “The Rainmaker”.
Does altruism really exist when businesses are involved?
Tim recalled an argument he had with one of his professors in an undergraduate business class. The professor argued that businesses often do good works for the public out of a sense of “altruism”, meaning that the businesses do the good deeds purely out of a sense of service and do not hope for, nor expect, any benefit whatsoever.
Tim vigorously disagreed that businesses “often” act altruistically. He said that businesses do good deeds (at minimum) in order to be known as good companies, to improve their reputation and public relations profile, and that such things are tangible benefits to the company that the companies intend to derive from their good deeds. He and his professor agreed to disagree, but he still thought he was more correct than his professor. Pure altruism is a very rare thing where a business is concerned.
So Tim developed Timslaw.com, which took a lot of his time, but fulfills its goal of educating the public about employment law. Yes, it has a strong public service component, and yes, we hope every day to get some business out of it.
Tim published his Timeline of the development of www.TimsLaw.com:
Starting in 2002
- April – Started playing with HTML packages, beginning the learning process. See How I learned website building for more details.
- June – Rudimentary site put up on internet, with 10 to 15 articles, and announced to the Missouri Bar’s Solo Small Firm Internet Group (SFIG) for feedback.
- August – I started telling my callers about the site.
- October – My web address appeared in my Yellow Pages ad.
- November – Google search engine found my site.
- December – Other search engines began to find my site.
- Ongoing during 2002: Writing new articles periodically, ongoing tweaking of articles and code.
from 2002 up to date
- Periodic major coding changes. See How I learned website building for more details on the development problems I faced.
- Ongoing – Writing new articles periodically, ongoing tweaking of articles and code.
- Ongoing – Growing popularity of site.
- March 2006 – Began re-coding TimsLaw.com into a PHP-based WordPress site.
Possible Future Projects
- Continue to work on new designs for the TimsLaw Front Page, such as developing a graphics banner for the masthead at the top of the page, to look slicker than the HTML tables I currently use. (My sister is an artist, and is helping me on this project, which is far bigger than you imagine — This is 2012 stuff).
- Building a database summarizing important and new employment law cases. (This might be more doable with a PHP-based site rather than an old fashioned HTML site). (I am now a PHP-based site, which is much more susceptible to breaking down)
- Build an online discussion forum for employment topics using one of the PHP-based packages available. I’ve been playing off and on with Xoops and PHPbb since about May 2005. (But people cannot seem to resist the temptation to tell their unique personal stories — So this is not likely to ever be a reality).
- Convert TimsLaw.com to a PHP database site (done)
Phil is a Missouri employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Kansas and Missouri, and primarily takes cases in Saint Louis and Kansas City.
He is a member of the Missouri Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association.
Additionally, he has practiced in the United States Federal Courts of Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City.
He has also practiced in the Kansas Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.