02 Jan #mattthelawyer: Of Blogs, Branding, and a New Year
So, a New Year has arrived and 2016 is bid adieu. As many people do at this time of the year, there are resolutions to be made, plans to be hatched and goals to be defined. I am not immune from that effort.
I spent a not insignificant amount of time in 2016 thinking about my law practice, thinking about this blog, and thinking about my professional image. I spent some money on the effort as well. This post is the first of that effort, an explanation as to what my thinking was and is, as well as what you will see in the coming months.
The team who helped create my new branding appearance calls me Matt the Lawyer and the least lawyery lawyer they know. (these are just two reasons I chose to have Worx Graphic Design help me with my re-brand). Other colleagues introduce me as Matt, “he’s lawyer but we still like him.” Still others often refer to me when speaking to others as a lawyer who doesn’t talk like a lawyer. One colleague says I am the only lawyer she likes (but her ex-husband was a lawyer and he was a jerk, which are not always synonymous, so her experience is a tad tainted).
Many of these introductions have been ongoing for a while and may have started the thinking about #mattthelawyer. There have been other clues that said to me that I need to embrace more who I am which I tend to think of as a somewhat unconventional lawyer. For example, I made some conscious decisions to not operate my firm like many attorneys and I work at Cowork Frederick rather than a “traditional” law office. I am far more likely to show up to client meetings in jeans and a polo than in a suit (I generally meet new clients in khakis or similar pants and a polo.) I wear a suit to court and that is pretty much it and I try not to go to court too often. I don’t mind talking about the law, I don’t treat it as some sort of sacred text available to a select few, and don’t feel the need to charge people $500 an hour to do so. I certainly try my hardest to speak about the law in terms that don’t require a Black’s Law Dictionary be handy.
So, over the past three or four months, I have come to embrace me as a lawyer. Like Popeye, I am what I am. So what am I? It might help to frame it by talking about what I am not, because a fair number of clients and potential clients I have met with express surprise at the fact that I am not what they thought a lawyer should be. I know that many lawyers (but by no means all of them) like to create an air of superiority…that is not me. I am not disparaging other lawyers’ style, but it is not me. I don’t work hard to change that image, it happens when I meet people. Like Popeye, I am what I am.
I am not a lawyer who likes to wear suits. Actually, I own three suits and I am pretty sure one doesn’t fit properly (gotta hit the gym more frequently). I like jeans and khakis and polo shirts. I like boots and my Adidas Samba shoes. If I could get away with wearing shorts and flip flops in client meetings and Maryland winters, I would (but I do have some sartorial standards, I would still wear a shirt with a collar). So, if you want a fancy suit wearing lawyer–I am not your guy.
I don’t have a fancy office. In fact, I don’t have a dedicated office of my own at all, I work out of Cowork Frederick and I like it that way. My home “office” is second-hand, Target furniture department desk in a corner of the sunroom. I like going to client offices, not making clients come to me. I don’t want to have to charge my clients an extra $100 an hour to support a fancy office. I like the charm of downtown Frederick. If you want marble floors, hardwood paneled walls, plush carpet, and mahogany conference room tables at your lawyer’s office–I am not your guy.
I am an adviser, not your business partner or your spouse. I listen and I advise, but you decide and in the end, you thrive because I am not going to tell you how to run your own business. Truth be told, many lawyers are terrible business owners (outside of running their own law firm and some don’t do that well either). Some lawyers may learn an industry and learn it well which is invaluable as an adviser, but few have ever worked or owned a business outside of their own firms. That is not a bad thing, but just because they have a law degree doesn’t necessarily make them qualified to tell you how to run your business. I help you solve problems, I help you avoid problems when possible, but I won’t pretend to know your business better than you. I help you identify options and the legal consequences of those options, but I won’t tell you which option to choose. If you want a lawyer who is going to tell you what to do in your business–I am not your guy.
The law is my profession, but it is not my life. I work hard for my clients, but I don’t live for my clients. I have hobbies and interests (ask me about soccer, space flight, or Revolutionary War era history, and we could talk for hours). I intentionally chose a practice area where very few things require 24/7 contact with clients. I work as a solo because I can work when I need to and be with family and friends when I want to. If you want a lawyer who is at your beck and call 24/7–I am not your guy.
When I started in solo practice, I thought I needed to be something a little more professional in my choices in how I presented myself, hence the layout and appearance of this blog. I choose things like blue colors and a fancy suit for my profile picture. I chose a tone in my posting that seemed professional. And here is the thing…
It isn’t me. Well, it is not exactly me now, but may have been many years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I take my work very seriously. If I have to research a question of law for 20 hours or spend 10 hours reading a mind-numbing and poorly written vendor contract, or be writing and preparing documents for a client at 5:00 a.m., I will do so happily (and yeah, bill you accordingly-this is still a business). But that doesn’t mean I can’t be me when I am lawyering.
I am what I am, #mattthelawyer.
So, you will start seeing some changes.
First, as you can see, the tone of these blog posts is going to reflect how I think and how I speak much more.
Second, you will start seeing some of my new branding, logos and similar things appear on here. Sadly, re-branding is an expensive process and frankly this website will be the last thing to get done, but it will get there.
Third, I like to teach and I hope that this little corner of the internet will be instructive. But nothing gets me more excited than working with a client on a problem they are having and then helping to solve that problem, in turn helping their business grow. I have told many a client with big goals, that the happiest day I will ever have for them is when they get so big they have to fire me because they are hiring an in-house attorney. No one has gotten there yet, but maybe.
I would love to hear from you, my two or three readers what you think? Are there some changes you would like to see, either from me or from the legal profession? What can I do to be more approachable or make the law a little less mystifying? What do you think about when you think about lawyers? Would you be okay with me showing up to your office in boots, jeans and a polo?