Innovation and Trailblazing in the Legal Sector with Keith Lee
What started as a law student’s blog in 2010 has evolved into a business that has allowed Keith Lee to transition out of the practice of law and meet the needs of a new set of clients. In Episode 10 of Lawyerpreneur, Keith tells us how a non-traditional career has provided a different kind of fulfillment and has continued to evolve into new roles and opportunities over the years.
Associate’s Mind has been providing valuable information to lawyers for a decade. Then in 2016, Keith launched LawyerSmack, an online community for lawyers to have a place to talk shop and hang out together. Most recently he’s taken on the role of Chief Marketing Officer for Case Status.
Today’s show is sponsored by ALPS, the nation’s largest direct writer of lawyers’ malpractice insurance. Right now you can get 25% off one CLE seminar from ALPS. Go to alpsinsurance.com/cle and use promo code LAWYERPRENEUR upon check-out.
Innovation and Trailblazing in the Legal Sector with Keith Lee
Jeremy Richter: Welcome to Lawyerpreneur, where we discuss the alternate paths that allow lawyers to engage their entrepreneurialism and distinguish themselves from others, because being a lawyer doesn’t have to mean doing business as usual. I’m your host, Jeremy Richter.
My guest today is Keith Lee. You may know him as the founder of Associate’s Mind, LawyerSmack, or or most recently as the Chief Marketing Officer for Case Status. Keith, welcome to Lawyerpreneur.
Keith Lee: Good to be here.
Jeremy Richter: Alright, so you and I met in the fall of 2016. And you meet a lot more people than I do. So I’m not going to ask you if you remember the circumstances of that.
Keith Lee: We ate at Newk’s.
Jeremy Richter: Well done. Alright. So I’d launched my blog in June of 2016. I was looking for a landing spot for a guest post that I had written or what I wanted to become a guest post somewhere. I emailed you about it. And you told me that you don’t have guest posts on Associate’s Mind?
Keith Lee: I do not.
Jeremy Richter: And having done this now for a few years, I totally understand why. You get a lot of solicitations. Most of them by not the — I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s really weird. It’s random companies that are saying, hey, this lawyer didn’t write this article but we want to put it under his name on your blog.
Keith Lee: That pretty much that describes it pretty well. The amount of times I’ve gotten a good personable customized professional pitch, I mean, I can count and I’ve been doing this for 10 years I can literally count on one hand and most of the pitches are just such garbage it’s not a good fit obviously they have done no research. Someone somewhere, to borrow a phrase from Eric Turkewitz, says has outsourced their marketing and therefore outsource their ethics. They’ve they said, hey, I’ve hired some marketing company, go for it and they’re just spamming literally — somewhere they got a list of law blogs off of ALM or the ABA or something and just spam contacting everyone and half the time it will be like,” Hello, [first name here] that like they didn’t even bother to do you like the barest bit of correct activity. It’s sad.
Jeremy Richter: So after you shut down my guest post idea, I asked if you wanted to have lunch.
Keith Lee: Always.
Jeremy Richter: Yeah. So we did at Newk’s. And at that point in 2016 you’d been running Associate’s Mind for six years. You started it when you were in law school?
Keith Lee: Yes, during my final year of law school, I started Associate’s Mind.
Jeremy Richter: When you started it, did you have a purpose or a goal in mind?
Keith Lee: I’ve talked about this a little bit before. In law school that final year, I had read a book written by Ari Kaplan, who now is a friend and I used to see him on the conference scene, not anymore during our current environment. But like I saw Ari maybe six months ago somewhere, and you know, I’ve said this to him multiple times, and I repeat the story, he had written a book called The Opportunity Maker. And the book was — it kind of highlighted and reinforced a lot of things I already believed. Namely that to stand out in this environment, as a lawyer, you need to create your own opportunities. You can’t just sit around and wait for opportunities to come to you. You can’t just sit there and be like a bass at the bottom of a dam going ahhhh, the stuff like flowing through your mouth. That’s not how it works. You’ve got to go out there and get after it.
And, you know, I think I credit Ari because it was the first book I had read, like, specifically within the context of me becoming a lawyer that really laid it out there like that. And so I looked at it, I was like, okay, you know, no moot court, no this that or the other. And at the time, this was 2010. That was kind of like probably peak legal blog time. You know, that was when legal blogs were like full tilt. It was like pre social media, or social media was just becoming a thing. But blogs reigned supreme. And they were all these just amazing blogs out there by all these lawyers who had used them to build name recognition reputations, and connect and get business and do all this stuff. And I recognized it as a new opportunity avenue. And so I looked around and at the time, there were a lot of other lawyers, people in my shoes who were kind of, you know, in law school or had just graduated and we’re trying to look to blogs as some type of avenue to make a name for themselves in a different way. So that was the original genesis of a starting Associate’s Mind.
Jeremy Richter: So That kind of leads into this. This podcast is about three groups of lawyers who I’ve created little type names for, and what I call the Innovators, which is not a super innovative name. But it’s lawyers who have a practice and are doing new things within that practice to either attract a new market or have a niche market or what you’re describing. That was the purpose of Associate’s Mind. It was the purpose of when I started my blog in 2016. And you’ve actually, there’s two other categories that we’re going to get to because you have over the course of the last 10 years managed to fill all three of those different roles in your various things here that you’ve done. Alright, so with the law blogging, same here, you worked for an insurance defense firm out of law school that does a whole bunch of workers comp defense in Alabama. You started for them a law blog that meets many of these same goals or had the same goals that you’ve been describing here as was going on in the law blog scene at that time. Tell us a little bit about that.
Keith Lee: Sure. Yeah. And I don’t I don’t want to take full credit for that. I mean, definitely it was the the managing partner of the firm had been paying attention to the legal industry and recognized that blogs were this way new means of displaying expertise and wanting it done. And so that began to happen. And I assisted in a variety of ways of getting the blog up and blog posts out and getting it submitted, you know, around to various spots on the internet, got it a couple awards. And that was all around the same idea. So like, the traditional, I mean, advertising marketing rules for attorneys really only got relaxed. You know, just a few decades ago before, you know, lawyers could never really advertise. It was seen as not an appropriate thing to do.
So the only avenue for lawyers was to display expertise and in the traditional sense that meant writing articles, going to conferences, speaking, sitting on boards, just being out there as a competent, learned professional, and putting your expertise and knowledge and demeanor on display in front of everyone just to observe because that was a good way to generate business. That’s still all blogs, even to this day, and at the time, 10 years ago, it was still kind of new and just coming on. But that was the genesis of it. That whatever your practice area, and now I mean all the AML 250 have blogs, they’ve all got multiple blogs, they’ve got a dozen blogs, they’ve got, you know, product liability, pharmaceutical, blah, blah, blah — there’s all these different blogs because it’s just the fastest, easiest, smoothest way to display expertise, particularly for the workers comp firms. So what do they do? When the Court of Civil Appeals issues any opinions around the workers comp cases in Alabama, what do they do? They write up blog posts summarizing the opinion what it means. Here’s their two cents. There it is. And so they just are constantly I mean, they still do it to this day, like every week, they turn it out, because that’s the easiest way to show that you’re an expert on something.
Jeremy Richter: So do you feel like it’s still a good use of firms time to engage in blogging and have those resources available?
Keith Lee: Oh, yeah, for sure. You’ve got to do something. Look. So let’s take any type of insurance work, for example, because that’s a good one because a lot of people are like, well, what does that mean for insurance defense work? I get it if you’re going to be a Wichita DUI lawyer, right? Okay, so if I’m in Wichita, Kansas, I’m going to generate a bunch of content about, you know, drinking and driving and the criminal laws and punishment. What happens if I get a DUI in Wichita and all this stuff, and that way, it’s all optimized. So when someone gets on Google and searches, I got a DUI in Wichita, and they hit enter. The whole point of all this is just to try to show up in Google and just be there your relevant content that when people are searching for it, you show up.
Keith Lee: Same thing for, you know, on the defense side of things — business development. Business decisions are far more relationship based, right. This is why people go to insurance conferences. To meet people, have conversations, sit down, do dinner, really feel each other out and try get an idea of people. Because there’s more money involved, right? So there’s more diligence around those decisions. But in that light, say you do meet somebody in that environment and say they turn around or want to look you up. Right then they look your firm up, and then or they look you up and do that, can they find, again, all this displayed expertise at hand everything you’ve done. Or say they’re in search — a brand new insurance adjuster — the insurance company is in Nevada, and they get hired as a brand new adjuster and someone leaves or they get assigned a new territory like Alabama, there you go. You work in Alabama and say you have no relationships with firms there. The insurance companies decide to move in there to market: workers comp Alabama insurance defense. Enter. And they’re going to research just like anybody else researches. Just like I’m gonna go buy a new TV. And I you know, I’m like, the best TVs for $2,000, enter, and I get a whole list I do a bunch of comparisons.
Jeremy Richter: That’s a big TV budget.
Keith Lee: I’m gonna buy a giant TV. But you know what I mean, right? People do research, but at the same time, if you’ve got nothing out there, if there’s nothing to show for yourself versus your competitors have a whole wealth of information that people can learn about their firms show the work that the lawyers in their firm have done show the speaking engagements and the material that their lawyers produced. I mean, it’s this notion of displaying expertise and in this day and age, the internet is absolutely a required part of displaying expertise to this day.
Jeremy Richter: Yeah, my own experience has supports what you’re saying. I can give a really specific example. Last year, maybe, I think early in the year? Well, a couple of years ago, I wrote about a very specific, trucking-related problem that people encounter that interfaces with the insurance industry. So a year-and-a-half or two years after I wrote the article, in-house counsel for an insurance company that writes trucking business, emails me and says, “Hey, I read your article, and I have some thoughts about it and have some questions. Can you call me?” So I call her and we talked about it. And we don’t see things exactly the same way. But we both understand where the other person, where their opinions were coming from and what the result would be of the case law. And we hung up, and I followed up a while later, and maybe that turns into business down the road, and maybe it doesn’t, but that’s somebody who I was a resource for and who is a connection and a part of my network now that wouldn’t otherwise ever have been.
Keith Lee: 100% and that’s super valuable. Your network, your relationships will just be wider and deeper, wider and deeper. You know, that’s the name of the game.
Jeremy Richter: So I’ve seen firms doing video blogs. Now, there is — while we’re talking about insurance, because I think this is more broadly relatable — there’s a lawyer in St. Louis, who does insurance coverage work. His name is Michael Young. And early in 2020, he started a daily short form insurance coverage podcast, that’s a few minutes a day. Now, he couldn’t have predicted then, that this Coronavirus pandemic would occur and that all of these lawsuits about business interruption coverage and everything would explode. But he had put himself in a position when that happened and there’s all these insurance coverage questions arising, that not only could he talk about it, but he could have guests on to talk about it. He by happenstance, you could call it, but it’s not really it’s like, who was the coach that said, maybe it wasn’t a coach that the harder I work, the luckier I get. Like, he’d put himself in a position that whenever some crazy thing happened, he could be a voice of the insurance industry. And so there’s podcasts, there’s video blogs, what do you see is like the next iteration of effective content marketing for lawyers and law firms.
Keith Lee: Yeah, and that dovetails with the thing. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, right. It’s like, “Oh, you were so lucky.” It’s like, Well, yeah, an opportunity was given there, but it was also that he had prepared for it, right. You know, that’s how luck works, or how a specific type of luck works.
Yeah, future marketing. You know, it’s really tricky. Because, you know, if you look at all the trends around where things are going or what people doing or volume of traffic, everyone will say, you know, video, audio podcasts are the future some type of material around audio visual material, because that’s the way people like to consume information now. And to some degree, I agree that’s true. I think being out there and some regard via audio or video is part of the future of marketing anything realistically, that’s just where it is. But what I soundly reject is that it’s actually going to replace in any way, deep, long-form, text-based information on the internet, particularly around law, law and lawyers, right, because, you know, the idea that any video is going to be committed Look, the number one with the bullet, nothing else is closed, fastest and most effective way to educate yourself on something is reading period with a bullet. Nothing’s close.
Reading is amazing. What I could learn via a book, if I had to learn that same amount of information via video or audio would take me 5 to 10 times as long as if I could just read a book. And I would probably retain it better actually by reading it too. Like reading is just a direct way to transfer information from someone else and in a distilled way directly into your brain. And its king. You know, it doesn’t matter. I mean for all the lectures we sat through in law school, ultimately, what do you do? You read a shitload of case law. Why? Because that’s the best way to learn this stuff. There’s no substitute for it. So, yes, there is an opportunity for audio and visual marketing, and again, displaying expertise. But at the end of the day, will written long, like thousands of words of content that are deep dives on a specific topic are incredible.
I wrote an article — when did I write that article? Someone messaged me about it. Someone who’s teaching, like a business of law class for undergrads at a university in Florida, someone sent me a random email today over something I wrote years ago about how to write a legal memo. And they were asking me for permission to use it in their class. Well, if you type how to write a legal memo into Google, I’m almost positive I’m number one. If I’m not number one, I’m number two. And it’s something I wrote years ago, but it is a thousands of words in-depth guide, properly formatted — you know, like, it’s a huge, really good thing that I spent a lot of time on, and I wrote it years ago. And same thing like you were just saying, I still get inquiries from people like, hey, can I use it for my class? Can I do it for this? Or I’ll meet some law student who’s like, “Hey, I learned how to write legal memos from reading your blog post on Associate’s Mind.” I’m like, “That’s amazing. Thanks.” You know, no video or audio thing I could ever produce will have that type of impact or be able to educate and impact as many people as one very well written piece of content for people who really want to learn something. This, in a lot of ways, is not education, this is edutainment. So yeah, you kind of learn something, but it’s also it’s equally about kind of having fun and having a good time, right. It’s not something that I think people really sit down to be like, “Wow, I really want to learn some in depth information around something.” I could be wrong.
Jeremy Richter: No, I think that’s fair. Alright, since graduating from law school, you spent most of your time in a law practice. And then within the last couple of years, you’ve transitioned out of that. When you went to law school, did you envision yourself as having the traditional legal career of like, you know, career in a law practice doing the lawyer thing?
Keith Lee: I mean, initially, that’s certainly why I went to law school. But I mean, given that I did go to law school later, I don’t think I went to law school until I was 27. So I had a few years in between, which I think is totally useful. Everyone should do that no one should go. Like, I think, I know, plenty of K-JDs, and they’re great. And it’s all fine. But I think most people would be way better off to not be a K-JD to get a couple of years of experience under their belt first. And that’s true for any degree, whether you’d be a doctor, whether you were the MBA. Whatever. You should go to college, and then you just take a couple years off and then go back. You’re just a way more informed person. But even through — I started my blog, which was something law students don’t do, particularly with a public face and public name. Now people do it; they create a Twitter account or whatever. But they all still do it anonymously. None of them — very, very few are gonna be like, “Okay, I’m gonna own this because this is my professional identity.” You know, I right out the gate decided, alright, this was gonna be my professional identity online and it’s going to be an extension of myself. And I think maybe that part of me that was willing to do that, and doing that type of stuff recognized that there was this alternative avenue available. I didn’t know if I was ever going to hit it or not. But I at least knew it was there on some level. And as time went on, I mean, obviously here I sit now not practicing law anymore.
I became aware that this was a real alternative career path. And for me, particularly, it’s where my skills were strong. I very frequently tell people, you know, I was a good lawyer, meaning I was good. I was above average. And that’s not a high bar because average sucks. Right? An average is a C, right? That’s not very good. I was above average. So like I was, let’s say I was a B. I was a good lawyer. I have met and know plenty of great lawyers. I was never going to be a great lawyer. I mean, maybe I could have been, but I don’t know if I had the driving desire to be a great lawyer versus a lot of areas that were and because it seemed very difficult, insurmountable. Then there were other things that seemed very easy to me which was writing, speaking, marketing, branding, design, strategic thinking business.
Which we’re all not that difficult to me or came to me much more naturally. And over time I’ve, I became to realize like, oh, all that stuff I’m good at, most lawyers are really terrible. And eventually, as I created more opportunities, as more went on, and the harder I worked the luckier I got. It just became apparent that I could go down this other path. And I would (1) be better at it than being a lawyer, (2) enjoy it more and (3) ultimately probably be more economically lucrative in the long haul.
Jeremy Richter: Has it been more fulfilling than what you got out of practicing?
Keith Lee: You know, it’s different. It’s interesting. Certainly, some of my best memories of practicing law were around satisfied clients. Like that’s a good feeling to have, a client just really go out of their way and tell you that you did such a good job for them and they appreciate it, you really helped their situation and you know, you were available to them and were a good lawyer. That was super gratifying and super fulfilling. But there’s a lot of crap that goes along with the whole lawyer, frankly. I mean, you know, I think it’s — who was it said that being a lawyer is like doing homework for a living, which is, I think, a pretty accurate statement. So, you know, and for me, eventually, it was like all the stuff in between all the in between moments. The good peak moments of real client satisfaction, there were long valleys of just menial paper pushing work. And maybe it was the type of practices I did, I don’t know. But that was not fulfilling to me and I didn’t enjoy versus the type of stuff that I’ve done in the past two to three years, which I enjoy a lot. I find incredibly fulfilling, and really interesting and engaging and I’m always having fun, and it makes money. Right? That’s the trifecta. That’s why when it’s like it’s fun, it’s engaging. It makes money. Whoop Venn diagram I want in the middle of that, you know.
Jeremy Richter: Well, as important as associates mind was in, in your journey, I think what may become a greater part of your legacy as being able to connect people and put people together is the online community that you have built that started in 2016 and eventually became known as LawyerSmack. So I’ve been a part of it since shortly after we met in 2016. You invited me to be a part of it. And what has that done? So, you know, Associate’s Mind was your starting point, eventually LawyerSmack. What part of your journey does that play?
Keith Lee: Yeah, quick so a couple other stops Associate’s Mind. I wrote a book for the ABA. Wrote for Above the Law for a long time. And then I that I stopped kind of a lot of that activity and I pulled back from doing anything for a couple of years in there. Maybe 2015 to 2016. I was just like, I’d kind of not burnout but I was just like, I need to hit pause and all this and it wasn’t as enjoyable for a variety of reasons. Personally, many write a lot — like I wrote a lot. I mean, I wrote for years on a very regular basis for Associate’s Mind huge, long form articles. I wrote for Above the Law, a weekly column for I think, three years. And I think I only missed like, a handful of times. I mean, I was cranking out, just boom, boom, boom, every week I was doing it. And so I think at some point, I kind of hit writing fatigue.
Keith Lee: So anyway, LawyerSmack. One of the thing I realized as blogs began to wane and social media began to take off, there was still something missing. And all of it like, I don’t know, like, I missed the early days of legal blog comments, and there was this almost sort of like Parisian salon-esque quality of interaction and conversation that I thought was really interesting. And social media, don’t get me wrong. I’m an I’m an avid Twitter user, as I say that people are like, you’re on Twitter all the time. I’m actually not. I have very specific periods of the day where I use Twitter intensely for a short period, then I bounce. And I don’t look at it for a lot of the day. I don’t really use Facebook. I don’t really use LinkedIn. I don’t really use Instagram. For me, it’s really Twitter.
But it became apparent to me there’s not a way for lawyers to honestly talk shop on social media. There needs to be a 100% completely private space for lawyers to engage. And that’s what LawyersSmack — that was the genesis of LawyerSmack, and that’s what it became. And eventually it became a paid private community. So initially, it was free. And then I hit reset, and I kicked everybody out. And I said, you know, if you want to stay, you’ve got to pay. I mean, it takes a lot of time at work. I mean, it’s effort. So I mean, I wanted to be compensated for my activity, but too, there’s the the older I get the more, I mean, I’ve read this book. And it’s, you know, it’s an old saying, but Nassim Taleb’s book Skin in the Game — and the more I do stuff, the more I’m such a believer in it — like skin in the game is everything. And the fee makes all the difference in the world. Like people have to have some type of commitment to the community. And it’s, hey, it cost a fee, you’re inside. And you know that fee is honestly and it’s a small barrier. It’s not like it’s thousand — it’s cheap. You know, it’s like a quarter a day or something if you annualize the cost, but that’s worthwhile because that is a good filter. It’s funny, someone who’s not willing to pay it just even a small nominal fee on an annual basis to have access to a like-minded community of professionals who are all wanting to have secure, safe, private conversations, frankly, about what’s going on with their practices. That person’s not anybody you actually want to talk to.
Jeremy Richter: I agree. And, you know, I’m a part of it. I’ve been paying it for a couple years. Certainly, I think it’s worth it. But how do you communicate that value to people? How do you say, look, I have this community and it’s worth you paying your money, however nominal or not, to be a part of it?
Keith Lee: You know, I don’t even talk about LawyerSmack that much. People regularly sign up, you know, week in and week out. I don’t actually post about it that much on social media. And I haven’t ever really changed the design since I set the website up. And I kind of like it that way. Because I enjoy that almost as another filter. Like my presentation of LawyerSmack and the value that it brings is just so sort of on display in the sense that if you go to llawyersmack.com. It doesn’t actually say that much. It’s like, learning privacy dah dah dah. Really all it is, is testimonials from about 15 to 20 members, and it’s just their name, a picture of them where they work, and just a paragraph or two of why they say the community is worthwhile. And I tried to get a wide and diverse group of people: in-house, plaintiff side, defense side, transactional, America, Europe, you know, all cut across the board in a lot of different ways, so that people could see, hey, there’s somebody like me or in my practice setting or the type of work I do on this page.
And that’s it. Like that’s literally it. I mean, it’s like you can either see that and you inherently think, oh, there’s value there in the sense that I want to have private conversations with other people. The other thing I used to be able to do more is I’d go to conferences; I would meet people in real life and be like, “Oh, I do this thing, you should join it, and there’s people in there.” Because I would at conferences, I would have parties; people would get together and be like, they’d be like, this is amazing here. All these people, we’re all getting together. And people were joined that way. But I’ve never really sold it hard. I just haven’t. Because I mean, I’m incredibly confident in it’s value. I mean, it’s gone on for years, people still join on the regular. We’re still doing 10,000-15,000 messages a week. I mean, it’s just as busy as it’s ever been.
Maybe I should be doing a better job of convincing people to join, be out there like beating the bushes. It doesn’t faze me that much. I like the fact that people come to it and go, Oh. They see me or they’ve heard something I’ve done or they’ve read something and they look at it or they know somebody. I mean, I’ve had a lot of good word of mouth marketing from members like you or other people who were like, Oh, yeah, I’m in LawyerSmack and it’s great. And then people join.
Jeremy Richter: So when you’re in law school, you have the career services folks to tell you get a JD and you can do 1000 different things with it. You’re probably one of the few people who actually have done 1000 different things with it. What lawyering skills or mindsets do you feel like have been beneficial to you through your journey or have been a hindrance?
Keith Lee: So like, obviously, a law school doesn’t prepare you to be a lawyer. That’s a cliche at this point. Law school does one thing, which is teaches you to think like a lawyer. Which is critical analysis and the construction of problems, right? As a lawyer, you’re taught to find the weakness in an argument and break it open and expose it, and then construct really compelling arguments for your side. I mean, it’s just how to think structurally in a defense and an attack methodology is what law school teaches you. So that is a benefit in the sense that in that one mode of thinking, and here’s the thing, that mode of thinking is actually very difficult. It’s difficult to obtain. Most people think people, they kind of have it — they don’t. Law school can refine that down really, really well. And that has utility to be able to constructively or de-constructively analyze situations. That that sort of in-depth analysis provides utility in a lot of different settings.
Keith Lee: However, it is not the only mental framework or methodology for thinking, right. So lawyers are very, very deep, but they’re not very wide. Versus let’s take an MBA, because my brother in law is an MBA. He’s a professor at Emory. And we’ve had this conversation over the years, and a lot of MBAs are very wide in their thinking and maybe not as deep. And to tease that out means if, like, MBAs have maybe 40 to 50 mental models for variety of business situations or environments that they go, they can look at a situation and say, hmm, oh, this is a that type of model. We’re gonna have boop, boop, boop, boom, boom, boom, and then, and they’ve got all these different models of thinking for and it’s really structured problem-solving to business situations. Now, obviously they’re in different business situations; lawyers are here to like solve the legal problem. But your question is around, oh, law school can prepare you to do all these different things. Law school does not. It prepares you to think in one narrowly deep way. And yes, you can apply that thinking to other situations, but it’s actually a pretty short lived utility and unless you’re doing critical analysis, then it begins to fall apart if you can’t do any of the other stuff. So it’s tricky.
Keith Lee: And the you will find people who have law degrees and ended up in a variety of different places. But when law schools and counselors and advisors be like, Oh, you can do anything with a law degree. That’s like saying you can do nothing with it, right? It doesn’t actually carry that much weight, you know. Going to law school is really meant for you to become a lawyer. I mean, period, that’s what it’s for.
Jeremy Richter: For people who have entrepreneurial hopes or desires, they have ideas, but are either afraid to act on it or don’t know what the best course or next step is. What advice would you have for that? I know that’s a super broad question.
Keith Lee: Yeah, I mean, the cliche advice to that is always just, you know, solve a problem you have, you know. What is a big problem that you have regularly, that you can construct a system to solve it regularly. And then ask yourself, “Is this a problem other people have?” because if if you have a problem that has a regular reoccurring schedule that you can construct some type of systemic solution to that solves that problem on a regular schedule, and then if lots of other people have that same regularly occurring problem, and if they don’t have a systemic solution, they will pay you money for your solution. Like that’s what a business is. So I mean, that’s step one. But again, it comes around to the mindset of looking for opportunities, it’s the same thing. You know, you just can’t — all this comes down to the fact that your career is your personal responsibility. It is not your law school’s, and is not your partner’s, is not your law firms — is none of these things. Your career is ultimately, at the end of the day, in your hands. And, you know, if you’re cool with being on cruise control, then that’s cool be on cruise control. But then don’t be upset later down the road that, “Oh, I didn’t get to do any of these things” when you’ve been on cruise control, right? You could have grabbed the steering wheel and, and tried to take a different exit, you know. You’re not on Tesla autopilot, like you can control the car, you know, you’ve got to look for those opportunities and try and make them happen.
Keith Lee: And you know, and that’s where I would say, expand upon your skill set. If you’re okay, if your basis is you have a JD, what other skills can you stack with that, right? What was your undergrad? If your undergrad was something that kind of relates to it, or do you have different industry experience or you have some hobby that can tie in, you know, how can you begin to take Venn diagrams and lay skills over skills, or skills into which you find a unique specific skill set that not many people have, but then is also valuable, right? That’s what you’re really looking for is you’re looking for specific, unique skills that have value and, that is honestly a continually refining process. You’re never going to be like, aha, I’ve done it. You know, you’re going to have to sit there and adjust and adjust and adjust and adjust as your career goes on because the world’s not static. Right? You the world’s–
Jeremy Richter: If we’ve seen anything in the last six weeks …
Keith Lee: Yeah, exactly. I was gonna say six months ago, the world is different, is radically different than it was six weeks ago. Forget it, let alone six months ago, let alone six years ago. You know, I mean, the world is rapidly changing. The number one thing you’ve got to have in this environment is ditching any idea that learning and education and improving yourself is something you do from 22 or from 18 to 25. That was your learning education, beginning improvement time. And then if you never touched it again, if that’s your if that’s your attitude, it’s garbage and you should throw it away like like learning and development is a light given how rapidly the world changes technology, society, everything is just going so fast. If you’re not willing to adapt and change at a commensurate rate of speed, you’re falling behind. And that’s just the facts.
Jeremy Richter: Alright, if people want to follow or connect with you, where’s the best place to do that?
Jeremy Richter: That’s right. We probably should have talked about that.
Keith Lee: Yeah, it’s fine. It’s fine. We can always do it again or here, let’s do something. Let me justify my bit about that — ask me something about being the CMO.
Jeremy Richter: Alright, tell us – now, I have to think of a question on the on the run here. Alright, how does what you have done up to this point culminate in you being able to do that new job, a new role for you, especially?
Keith Lee: Sure. So what it has done is because of if I was just a pure lawyer, it would have never had like, it doesn’t fit. That doesn’t make any sense. But my career starting with Associate’s Mind pivoting into LawyerSmack, lots of writing for Above the Law, the book with the ABA, has definitely given me really deep industry knowledge and relationships. Like how the legal industry as a whole, I have really wide and deep knowledge about, by virtue of everything I’ve touched on and written and connected with. You know, I’ve gone to conferences for years. I have deep relationships with people all across the technology side, the legal tech side of things. And I’ve connected with people in a variety of fashions in that area, and I have a lot of relationships. You know, and I’m a firm believer that relationships are the currency of business. And that you know, the more relationships you have, the more opportunities you have, the more avenues for business you have.
And all everything I’ve done leading up for taking this role with them has positioned me in an incredibly unique way to exercise and execute marketing strategies that target the legal community in a way that if you just if you hired somebody else as like a chief executive role for marketing from anywhere else inside from any other random industry or even within the legal industry, I think they would probably be ill-prepared to sort of executing the fashion I have and certainly nowhere as connected as I am. So you know, if you if you do want to go towards some type of alternate career route, you have to build and develop career capital, to borrow a phrase from Cal Newport. What’s your career capital? If you don’t have any depth, if you don’t have relationships, if you don’t have experience, if you don’t have skills, there’s no way to cash in on it. You’ve got to develop all that stuff to cash in on it, right. You know, I know I’ve used with you before, I like to use the phrase trust equity, right. Do you have trust equity? Meaning, just like after you take a mortgage on your house and you start to pay down the mortgage, eventually you build up enough equity that you can go and get a HELOC and take money back out of the house. Well the same way with your career or relationships anything like have you built the capital. Have you built the equity? Have you built the trust that you can then make an extraction from it? And that’s certainly a way that my career has been framed to this point. And so that’s what got me to where I am today for sure.
Jeremy Richter: That was a really good answer. I’ll take credit for having asked an incredible question to solicit it. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I really enjoyed it.
Keith Lee: It was fun. Good times.
Jeremy Richter: If you’ve enjoyed the show, you can support it by rating it on Apple podcasts or wherever it is that you’re listening, and make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything. You can also support the show on Patreon at patreon.com/lawyerpreneur. Thanks for listening.