Building a Practice
When asked about the impetus for his prolific involvement in professional associations and organizations, Reus harkens back to his 2L year when he was selected as the student body representative to the UCLA School of Law Alumni Association: “Immediately, I had to get comfortable interacting with leaders in the profession, lawyers and judges. Attending MCLE events, swearing-in ceremonies, etc., I was interacting with impressive people on a daily basis.” He learned how to network by . . . networking.
As Reus notes, when he was in law school the typical career path was going to work for a larger firm. (This was back in the early 2000s when bankruptcies, deferments, layoffs, and the viability of the large-law-firm model were not water-cooler-discussion topics.) Seemingly, Reus was on the traditional path himself: working for a large Wall Street-based public finance transactional firm after his second-year of law school. “It was great experience. I worked on large-scale transactions. The experience was invaluable.” But a clinical class during his third-year year in law school—“Discovery in Complex Litigation”—led him to pursue a litigation career. And so he took a job at Wood & Bender (now Anderson, Kill, Wood & Bender after a merger) after graduating from law school in 2004.
Fortunately, the firm played to Reus’s newfound networking strength. The firm encouraged him to meet with clients, network with attorneys, take meetings at the Los Angeles City Club, and get involved in local bar associations. Early on, Reus realized the value of business development and the importance of networking. “It harkens back to the opportunity that I had to serve as a representative of the UCLA School of Law Alumni Association. I learned how to make connections. I realized the value of meeting people and expanding my personal and professional networks. And I make a point to focus on interpersonal relations.”
And then one day while perusing the UCLA Alumni magazine, Reus read an article about a law school classmate who started her own practice. This was in 2005 when the economy was doing comparatively well. The flexibility of being his own boss, being compensated accordingly, and taking on a new challenge were too much for Reus to pass up. He read the classic ABA bestseller, How to Start & Build a Law Practice, by Jay G. Foonberg (now in its fifth edition), talked to mentors and other attorneys in his professional network, prepared himself mentally, and launched his own practice: The Law Offices of Ireneo A. Reus III.
“It was definitely a leap of faith” notes Reus. But his networking efforts paid off within his first month of practice. He explained, “I went to Whittier College for undergraduate studies. It’s a very small school. A close-knit community. And my first big referral came from a friend from college. The new college president invited one representative from each graduating class to participate in her inauguration ceremony. I was fortunate to be the class of 2001 invitee. During a procession to the amphitheater, I met and befriended the representative from the class of 2000. I gave him my business card and he called me the very next week. It was my big break. It was a pretty big IP case. His friend’s company was involved in a dispute with a Fortune 500 company. I was referred to the client and was able to resolve the dispute and was subsequently asked to become the business’ outside general counsel and handle all of its legal affairs.”
Learning from Challenges
Recognizing the ever-changing nature of the legal profession and never one to stay content, Reus challenged himself to learn new areas of law and expand his opportunities. “I signed up for the CEB Passport, Rutter, and any program to expand my knowledge base. Law school was an amazing experience. I learned a tremendous amount. But formal legal learning should not stop after commencement.” Indeed, it seems Reus’s constant yearning for learning and new challenges keep his practice thriving and his horizons expanding.
“The economy started to slow down in 2008. But I saw this as a tremendous opportunity. I connected with a friend from law school who was working at UCLA’s law school career services. And I started a program in which I hired over a dozen law clerks who are now attorneys since 2008. The program really helped me grow as an attorney and a mentor. I became a better leader working with folks one-on-one. Meeting law students, being challenged by them, and working with them during their early formative stages of practice is truly rewarding.” And Reus continues his strong belief in mentorship programs. During his chairmanship of the California State Bar’s California Young Lawyers Association (CYLA), he helped create the joint Business Law Section and CYLA Business Law Mentorship Program, in which experienced business lawyers practicing civil litigation and transactional law were paired up with CYLA members.
The impetus of his desire to give back to the profession and to newer attorneys may arise from many places. But assuredly one catalyst is his involvement in the Philippine American Bar Association (PABA), which he became involved with in 2006. Reus joined the PABA Board of Governors as secretary and was fortunate enough that his mentor was General Counsel for the City of Los Angeles’s Airport Division and president of the Association. “It was a learning process. I learned when to speak up at meetings, when to respond, how to assert myself as a junior member of an association.” Indeed, it was from this experience that Reus developed the confidence to realize that as a junior attorney and solo practitioner, he belonged. He belonged to a profession. He belonged to an association. And he belonged at a table of community leaders.
Reus channeled his experiences with PABA as a springboard to get involved in the American Bar Association. And he soon displayed his leadership abilities. Reus started as an ABA Young Lawyers Division Scholar, and never looked back. He was the first ABA YLD member appointed to the Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems. He served on the Member Services Team, National Conferences Team, and as the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s National Representative to the ABA YLD. Reus was selected for the Business Fellows Ambassador Program as well as the Labor & Employment Fellowship Program. “Attending numerous national ABA conferences a year was a pathway to leadership and a fraternity in a substantive areas of law for me. It has been incredibly rewarding.”
The Benefits of Involvement
But true to form, Reus continues to network, to grow, and to challenge himself. “Since I live and work in California, I had a desire to get involved in California.” Feeling ready for leadership, Reus applied to the CYLA Board in 2009. “My goal was to take a leadership role in my home state.” Wanting to leave a mark, he pushed the CYLA into avenues of social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, and so on. During his three-year term, he accomplished many things, being elected Vice-Chair and Chair of the CYLA—the largest association of young lawyers in the world. Among Reus’s many accomplishments were leading and forming CYLA’s first “Future Committee” designed to find a regulatory role for CYLA with the State Bar of California, expanding CYLA’s relationship with the substantive sections of the State Bar of California, and serving as an author and editor of the State Bar of California’s book titled The California Guide to Growing and Managing a Law Office.
When asked about the benefits of his involvement with the ABA, the CYLA, and PABA, Reus notes that it is a long-term investment in a practice and a career. “It does take time away from billing, and there are out-of-pocket expenses. But if you commit to it, there are organizations that want people to succeed. You will meet leaders locally, statewide, and nationally. The more that you get involved, the more of a resource you become to other people, and vice versa. Business development is key. And being involved is one dimension of business development.” Reus has seen this firsthand, landing referrals from as far away as Montreal, Quebec, and Ireland.
“I take pride in referrals. I love being able to facilitate and provide opportunities. And I am honored that others feel the same way. I love being a contact. A resource.” In one instance, Reus fielded a call from a Mississippi lawyer that he met through a national ABA conference. But as Reus points out: “You must maintain your network or it becomes stale. I am big on social media. When people have an inquiry, it is often not a telephone call or an email anymore because those mediums have limited capacity to reach large numbers of individuals. In a globalized world, people are turning to outlets like LinkedIn and Facebook to send messages to vast numbers of people. It is strategic.” Importantly, Reus also notes: “Business development does not happen all at once. It is a process. I was involved with PABA for a number of years before I saw a tangible business benefit, a referral. But there are countless intangible benefits, learning how to lead, social and educational opportunities, etc. It is a process. A process that helps people cope with an ever changing world and practice of law.”
Being an Advocate
Building a practice and staying involved in local, state, and national organizations are all challenges. And then there are challenges outside of the profession. In 2012, Reus’s brother, a United States Navy Veteran who enlisted at a young age, became an officer, and served our country for over 20 years, suffered a brain aneurism. Among his busy practice and travel schedule, Reus demonstrated a true sense of humanity by becoming the guardian of his older brother, taking him to VA appointments, advocating for his health care, and helping him with the basic daily routines that so many of us take for granted.
“It is amazing. One day he is a healthy, fit 40-year old male. And the next day he is in a coma. Something bursts in his brain. He is paralyzed and in a coma for two weeks. He survived. But with permanent brain damage.” Here too, Reus demonstrates the value of his legal training. Noting that being an attorney and a solo practitioner, Reus’s flexible schedule permits him the ability to take care of his brother. And he notes that his advocacy skills permit his brother better treatment. “My legal training affords me the skills to communicate with doctors, nurses, and case managers. I have had several health-care clients, so I understand the industry, and associated challenges, better than I would without such experiences. And I am assertive. I do not accept no for an answer. Being a lawyer means being an advocate, in the courtroom for a client, and in the hospital for a loved one.”
Meet Ireneo Reus. If you do not already know him, find him on LinkedIn or Facebook. Or say hello at an annual ABA meeting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/wwwreuslawcom/