Founder Spotlight: Harry Margolis of ElderLawAnswers.com

Introduction

Success leaves clues.

Harry Margolis, founder of ElderLawAnswers.com. He shared his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the business, as well as the insight and wisdom he gained along the way.

Who is Harry Margolis?

Q: Who are you and what’s your background?

I’m a longtime elder law and estate planning attorney in Boston. In addition to practicing law, I’ve always written extensively in my field and 20 years ago started ElderLawAnswers.com. The site provides accessible consumer information and a directory of over 700 participating law firms (including those on its sister site, SpecialNeedsAnswers.com) around the country.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?

My parents, who always tried to merge making a living and leaving a positive impact on our world and the people we interact with each day.

Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?

Be careful in hiring. Charge enough to sustain your business. Financial stress is neither good for you (of course) nor for your employees, who depend on you as much as your clients do. Don’t get distracted by ancillary projects that don’t support your main goals.

Business

Q: What is ElderLarAnswers.com?

ElderLawAnswers.com is an internet business that hosts a consumer-friendly website and a directory of over 700 participating law firms around the country, including those on its sister site, SpecialNeedsAnswers.com. It provides other services to its members, including an email newsletter that they can send to their clients and referral sources.

Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?

On the elder law side, it’s the leading consumer site in this legal field. There is a competing organization on the special needs side, but we are much more expansive, including financial planners and trustees as well as attorneys. While MailChimp and Constant Contact offer platforms for creating and managing email newsletters, ours is the only service that also provides prewritten content.

Q: What led you to start ElderLawAnswers?

Back during the first internet boom I had a national reputation in the field of elder law due to my publications aimed at attorneys and my active role in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. My brother had started and successfully sold a website. Perhaps it was simply brotherly competition, but I was looking for a way to participate in the excitement of the internet and leverage my existing connections and client base in my field. ElderLawAnswers.com was the result.

Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?

I’ve built two successful small businesses: my law firm and ElderLawAnswers. They’ve both stood the test of time. But neither have grown to be world-beaters. I think that takes a level of salesmanship and risk taking that I don’t have. Those who are more entrepreneurial have the opportunity to grow much faster and much bigger. On the other hand, they have the opportunity of flaming out quickly. I perhaps have been too hands-on, concerned too much about the quality of our product, but taking my time away from growing the businesses.

Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?

Personally, I am withdrawing from the practice of law by not taking on new clients. I have launched a new website, AskHarry.info, where I answer consumer questions about estate planning issues at no charge. I’m also looking for other ways to “give back.” I’m doing a lot more writing for consumers, having published Get Your Ducks in a Row: The Baby Boomers Guide to Estate Planning two years ago. A second book, Trusts: The Swiss Army Knife of Estate Planning is in production.