Startups, Deadlines and Commitments

Present May 7, 2022 Front Royal, VA

In my last blog, I told a story about a basketball game that got me jammed up on a deadline. Some memories are forever linked in your mind. For me, a late night spent writing summons the specter of time, which has always seemed a variable thing to me. I move fast almost all the time, so like any other marathon runner, I know when I have to keep a pace and stick to it for a certain length of time. For my marathons, that time was about five hours, nothing to brag about, but I didn’t care after I finished each one.

For the past ten days, time has rushed past at light speed. I think it’s relative. I’ve been running nonstop. 

Anyone who has started a business knows what it’s like to go from bell to bell, from the moment you wake until you sleep, and right on through sleep, because you dream about your fledgling business. When it comes to a law firm startup, you need to do even more before you sign your first retainer agreement. Everything must be legal. As in your filings with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), your malpractice liability insurance, your law firm’s setup with the Virginia State Bar, your trust fund account, your operating account—everything must be legally sound. 

Several yellow legal pad scribbled checklists later . . .


In four days, I got those things done, and that’s when I looked at the calendar and realized it was Saturday, April 30th. I’ve hit my first wall: my website. Any business owner knows you must have a good website. Add to that—good content. I like content. I like words. But I won’t lie. SEO-anything gives me a headache. And it turns out I’m rusty on designing. I’m not a newbie but today, it’s going all wrong for me. 

I’m on WordPress. I’ve got a logo; colors; widgets; sidebars—and my brain is turning fuzzier by the minute. I drag and pull, design and revamp, with two teenagers circling, a third teenager calling every hour on the hour from William and Mary, and nothing to show for all my work. No kidding, whatever I build on WordPress looks like the rambling musings of an eleven-year old. I can’t do this myself, I realize. 

My mind can’t assemble a picture of what I want to build, and as humbling as it feels, I need to ask for help. 

From who? Why, the Matrimont guys. That’s the company my husband has found through his searches online. Matrimont was formed by two local boys. I call anyone under 30 a “boy” or a “girl,” no disrespect meant to Declan O’Reilly and Joe Sladky. Brilliant young men. They understand the Shenandoah Valley market, our blue mountain world, our small town nestled in the ridges so close yet so far from D.C.

I left the big city for a new life and a new home situated on the highest mountain in Warren County: High Knob. No regrets. Each morning, I drive down my “hill” as we call the mountain, and I give thanks for the beauty that surrounds me. The upslope fog, to borrow an aviation term, the turkeys and the deer, the sloped sides of our colorful mountain, the sun streaming through the ash and the oak and the evergreen trees—this is my home.

Back to work. More scribbling on yellow pads. 

From 12-3 PM, I write content for the website. The content will form the basis for different pages on

At 3 PM, I call Matrimont from the car as I wind down the hill. We agree to meet on Tuesday.

I drive around Short Street and Chester Street trying to find Comcast. Waze leads me back up Prospect Street and past the Courthouse on Main Street. I head over to Commerce and realize that Comcast is closed. Frustrated. I pull into the Rural King parking lot and try to get ahold of Comcast. Bots talk me into a phone circle that only leads back to other bots. I need a human, but Comcast will not supply one. I give up on the cable robots and decide to visit my trusty friend at Verizon. 

I walk in and smile.

“What you doing here?” Jessica Cruz is dressed in a natty outfit, and she’s grinning at me. She’s my favorite vendor in Front Royal. She’s with a client, so I wait. I work on my laptop until she’s free. It’s maybe 4 PM when she sits down with me. We talk and work through my options. I ask about her family. She asks about mine. After we talk and pick out phones and plans, I purchase a business mobile, two “burner” flip phones that scream nostalgia, and I start thinking about going home. 


Jessica from AT&T

6:45-7:30 PM. The route home takes me over the bridge from the town of Front Royal to Route 66 westbound.  As I drive, I switch from call to call on Bluetooth, and then I stop talking and just drive. The clouds sparkle in the “golden hour” before sunset. 

Apple Mountain sidles up to High Knob off to my right as I speed along 66 West from exit 6 to exit 13. To the left stands Blue Mountain, and with the way the sun hits it, the blue folds of it shimmer and wave. 

I recall the time I visited the Monastery on Blue Mountain with my daughter. We saw a black bear running through the grass, and I climbed up on a rickety wood fence to get a better camera angle. A voice rang out from the walls of the Monastery. “Please get off the fence.” I laughed, took a picture of the rambling bear, and jumped off with an apologetic raise of my hand.

Over the next week, I keep working. By Friday May 6th, I have operating and IOLTA trust accounts set up with Truist, an office space picked out, an agreement to purchase equipment and furniture from the previous occupant of the space, a Vonage contract with four lines for the office, software set up and a database uploaded with all my clients on MyCase, a handshake agreement for leased space, and by Friday afternoon at 3:18 PM, keys to 29 Crescent Street. 

There’s much to do, so much to do still, but I’m on the way and by Monday May 9th, surely Tuesday May 10th, I might even be—officially open for business. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Amanda Chaillan

Senior Adviser, Business

Amanda Chaillan earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in English from Chapman University in 2008. Her collegiate study focused on intercultural and global relations, including a research semester at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic and a semester of study at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. She also completed an Executive Certificate in Strategic Management from the Harvard Extension School in 2017.

Amanda’s career has always been at the intersection of nonprofits, business and government. Focused on delivering positive impact, she has helped build organizations, develop business strategies and craft messaging that advances the work of visionaries and leaders that are shaping the world. She played a critical role in marketing and practice integration for the energy sector group of a global law firm, led engagement with legal counsel and the Board of Directors to establish and facilitate strategic planning for the launch of a water-focused nonprofit, and has led program teams addressing a range of corporate social responsibilities (CSR) issues.  

Amanda brings her business acumen and operational expertise to every engagement, drawing on her particular strengths in stakeholder engagement, program development and storytelling. She is committed to continuing to build a career of service and working to make a positive impact on the world.

Tarra Smeltzer

Office Manager

Tarra Smeltzer has constructed a career that builds on her passion for personal wellness and strong business ethics. She brings a big heart and incredible attention to detail to every role she takes on. Whether it’s supporting customers or working with colleagues, she is a doer and fixer, helping manage cases, fostering a collaborative culture and trouble-shooting operational and legal issues.

With more than 30 years of customer service experience, Tarra manages the trial and team schedules and coordinates office operations to deliver the best outcomes for Jarvis clients. She also brings research skills and issue experience in the areas of real estate, consumer and family law.

Tarra is a vital member of the Jarvis team, and a caring champion of clients. In her free time she enjoys hiking in the Shenandoah Valley, reading and spending time with her loving family.

Madeline Farris


A student at the College of William & Mary, Madeline Farris is a Classics Major who plans to follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Jarvis as a lawyer and an author. Ever since the age of 12, Madeline has been writing: with six complete novels, Madeline is determined to publish her work, but she loves her work at Jarvis Law, where she is able to crack fascinating cases and help good people. Madeline figures in a leadership position in her campus’s Unitarian Universalist ministry, and also works at the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist Church as the Childcare Coordinator.

Madeline has experience in the nonprofit and legal aid sectors: she worked with Mrs. Jarvis as Mrs. Jarvis’s intern while Mrs. Jarvis was still a staff attorney at Blue Ridge Legal Services, and also worked with Valley Assistance Network from 2019-2020 as an intern, where she was able to help connect struggling people with necessary resources.

Madeline is also the stepdaughter of a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), so she is studying to obtain her light sport pilots license, for as Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

Madeline’s favorite areas of law are family, consumer protection, and business law. She enjoys finding odd solutions to difficult problems, and assisting wonderful souls in a world that is sometimes unforgiving and cruel. Madeline’s hobbies include playing the clarinet, taking long walks in nature, and talking to her vivacious pet goldfish, Bertie.

Joshua Smeltzer


Joshua Smeltzer obtained a Bachelor of Science in Philosophy from James Madison University in 2022, following his service with the U.S. Army. He is a compassionate and committed public servant building a career that draws on his strong communication, research and management skills.

Josh seeks out opportunities that require critical thinking and creative solutions to address the complex challenges faced by clients. As a lead researcher, he dives deep into an issue to inform the legal strategy of the Jarvis team. He has led research on legal issues including consumer law, real estate, family law and estate planning.

Josh is a dedicated family man and proud member of the Shenandoah Valley community. In his free time, Josh enjoys physical activities and indulging in a new book.

Elaine Jarvis

Elaine Jarvis obtained her law degree from the Marshall Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in 1997. She practiced law in D.C. and Northern Virginia for several years, obtaining experience in litigation, antitrust, mergers & acquisitions, bankruptcy and contract law. She put the practice of law on hold for a bit to raise three children and run multiple businesses, with a focus on publishing and helping non-profits. Over the course of a decade, Elaine wrote ten novels and built a social media following of more than 50,000 people with her page and blog, Running from Hell with El. Her first two novels, Ripple: a Tale of Hope and Redemption and I Run: a Novel won awards and hit Amazon bestseller’s list at #1 and #2.

In 2015, Elaine moved from Fairfax County to the mountains of Front Royal and found her love for the practice of law rekindled. She joined Blue Ridge Legal Services, Inc. (BRLS) in Winchester, where she helped low-income clients in Frederick County, Clarke County, Front Royal, Shenandoah and Page County–and all parts in between. These clients faced legal issues in consumer law, bankruptcy, landlord/tenant, and estate planning. At BRLS, Elaine counted success as roofs kept over heads and clients saved from overwhelming threats to their survival. Leaving BRLS and her office mates was hard, but being able to help folks in Northern Virginia, Manassas, Winchester, the Valley and of course Front Royal while also focusing on complex fact patterns, small businesses, and aggrieved consumers makes for a journey into an exciting future. Elaine’s outside interests include writing, flying airplanes, hiking, adventuring, gardening and piloting things that go fast and land gently. She enjoys running and traveling from mountain to ocean and just about anywhere in between—as long as she can escape the city. She welcomes people from all faith traditions, ethnic backgrounds, genders, and personal belief systems to her practice.