Meet Kristen, who after a diverse career path has found purpose and meaning by counseling small businesses & helping others become their best selves

Name: Kristen Belolan

Location:  Genesee, CO

What do you do?

I guide small business and startup founders on the road to building and running their dream companies. I help people buy companies, start their own businesses, grow and scale with the right legal protections, and I help them sell or exit their businesses in other ways. I serve as outside general counsel to small businesses and startups, too.

From a legal perspective, small businesses are an underserved market and historically there have been few affordable and creative options for them. Oftentimes small business owners think they must either break the bank for a fancy firm or do it themselves. I love offering an alternative to my clients and being part of a larger effort to increase access to legal services for them. I offer fixed fee pricing, subscriptions, and I’ve productized the most popular services. I learned about productizing services through my website developer Sarah Moon. She’s really good. You should check her out!

What’s a typical day like for you?

I like to focus on my business and do the quiet client work, such as drafting, in the morning, and then in the afternoon I like to do client strategy sessions or consultations. I like the mix of solitary working time in the morning and interactive time in the afternoon. I then also attend committee meetings and do other things that round out my professional life.

What do you like most about what you do?

It’s definitely the counseling aspect of my work. I love the collaboration that I get to participate in with entrepreneurs and being a source of support while they work to execute on their vision. I enjoy lending them help in an area which is foreign to them and often is seen as a nuisance or roadblock to innovation – but I don’t view it that way at all! I love seeing them learn that good legal support and guidance will allow them to serve their clients and employees better and with a new sense of freedom and flexibility. Lawyers don’t need to be the Debbie Downers to innovative companies! We can foster creativity and growth.

What other activities or organizations are you involved with?

I’m involved with MLPI (Modern Practice Law Initiative) through the Colorado Bar Association and the CWBA (Colorado Women’s Bar Association), and Colorado WOLF (Women Owned Law Firms). Most recently, on behalf of MLPI I collaborated with Ryann Peyton, Executive Director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) to create a new Mentoring Circle for attorneys who are launching or growing their modern law practices. We had our first session today and I am incredibly excited and grateful to be part of this awesome group.

What inspired you to join the legal profession?  

I am not one of those people who always thought they’d be a lawyer. I thought I’d be a writer and go to journalism school or get my MFA. Upon graduation from college, I worked a few years in business development for a financial firm – something I fell into and NEVER would have planned, but I enjoyed many parts of it. Eventually I was drawn to the intellectual challenge of studying the law – helped in part by the fact that many people throughout my life encouraged me to be a lawyer. I went to Brooklyn Law School in New York and I’m one of the odd ducks who really liked law school. I was surprised to find that I was really drawn to business law classes like Corporations and Contracts – and even Federal Taxation (!)

How do you define success?

I define success as being an integral part of something bigger than myself – contributing to a larger purpose that resonates with me – and having happiness, balance, and freedom in my life. I feel that I’ve achieved success according to this standard, but currently I’m seeking more meaning in my work and career. It’s taken me some time to really define “meaning” for me and I’ve come to realize that I find meaning through serving others – particularly by helping others to become their best selves and seeing them succeed in whatever way they define success.

What is an example of a big challenge you have had to work through and how did you do it?

For me, a big challenge has been finding my purpose professionally. My career path has not been a traditional one, and I’ve undertaken many different roles so far – something I’m very grateful for and proud of now, but at one point I struggled with fear that some people might view my path negatively. It’s great to have moved past that J  After graduating law school, I worked as a Corporate Associate for about 2 years at a mid-sized, very old-school firm in NYC. I felt very restless and unsatisfied with my work and the culture and eventually I resigned – a move that had many of my friends and family baffled and a bit worried! I just knew I needed to do it and I was driven to forge a different path for myself. 

I stayed within the legal profession, though, and found my way into the legal tech world eventually, working in business development roles. I talked to lawyers all day long about how they worked and whether different tools could help them practice smarter, faster, and serve their clients better. And I liked that very much. 

After several years in that space, I went a little rogue and worked as a real estate broker in NYC for 2 years. I was at a point where I knew I wanted to move west and wanted some flexibility and space to be my own boss while I planned things. Working for myself as a broker facilitated this very well and I had a very smooth cross-country move to CO in the summer of 2017. And yes, the NYC real estate world is as crazy as it looks on reality TV!

What has been your proudest moment professionally?

Getting admitted into the CO bar 14 years after being admitted the first time in NY and NJ. I did not qualify for reciprocity and had to take the bar exam. Despite many people saying it was nearly impossible to get back into law after taking a long break, I just went for it and then started my own firm.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I really like animals of all shapes and sizes. I have one dog, a little spaniel named Max, and one cat – an interesting guy named Murray who is the biggest cuddler I’ve ever known (who made an appearance during our zoom chat). Max and I do a lot of walking and hiking. Where I live, I am blessed to see elk regularly and I see deer all the time. I’m really into birdwatching, too. I enjoy standup paddle boarding at Evergreen Lake and I play tennis every week. Tennis has been a great COVID activity. My goal next year is to get into a league and play more seriously.

What’s your go-to wellbeing activity?

Meditation and journaling, which I do every morning – preferably on my porch with coffee and the fur babies. I am a big fan of Tara Brach, a psychologist and meditation teacher. Her podcasts are amazing – her guided meditations really helped me to get started at a time when I could barely be still for a few minutes. I just finished her book Radical Compassion and I highly recommend anything and everything that she has to offer.

The best book you’ve read or podcast listened to recently? 

Podcast – definitely this TED interview with Frances Frei. She’s a Harvard Business School professor and she’s consulted at Uber and WeWork to improve company culture and leadership during very tough times for both businesses. Actually, watch her TED Talk first. I’m so inspired by Frances and her work right now. She and her wife Anne Morriss wrote a book that I’m dying to read (I just ordered it ) called Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You. Her definition of leadership is so wonderful – “true leadership is about making other people better as a result of your presence – and making sure your impact endures in your absence.” Just awesome stuff.

Books – oh dear I have so many books floating around my home and floating around my head. I just adore books. Lately I’ve been rereading favorites like Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (I didn’t think I could fall in love with this even more than I did years ago, but I did) and The Art of Happiness. A new, more recent favorite for me was The Book of Joy.

What is one thing about you that you think people would be surprised to learn?

That I’m from New York and not the midwest:) 

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the legal profession, what would it be?

I would eliminate the billable hour!

What is one new thing you are hoping to learn from others in this community?

I’m looking to learn different ways that people find purpose and happiness in their work and beyond. I can never get enough of this topic.

And what is one thing you are looking to share with others in this community?

I would love to share with people how to find their footing in the legal community if they’re new to Colorado – I’ve been there! Also, as I shared earlier, I’ve had a diverse and unusual career path – come talk to me if you could use some support or an ear on this topic. You’re not alone if you’ve done things differently (or you want to!) and it can really enrich your life and