chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
March 27, 2024 5 minutes to read · 1200 words

Defining Moments, Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul: Mike Brown

This month, we focus on Mike Brown, who shares his secrets on how lawyers can stay legally fit.

Melanie Bragg

I met Mike Brown, Thomson Reuter’s Senior Client Development Consultant, at the GPSolo Division 2016 Fall Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was impressed by his amazing generosity, enthusiasm, and obvious love for lawyers. He gave a great talk at the meeting, and we decided to follow up afterward.

On that first call in 2016, Mike was so honest and gracious. He said, “Melanie, I looked at your online reputation, and I see you don’t have very many reviews.” My heart sank, and something rose up in me. It was defensiveness. I said, “I’ve been practicing law for 30 years, and I’ve been doing a pretty good job of getting business. I don’t think I need reviews to get new business.” I shut him down fast and wasn’t even willing to listen to what he had to say. He was very kind about it, although I had the sneaky feeling he knew he was right and that maybe I would come around.

I thought about it that evening when my self-awareness kicked back in. I asked myself, What is underneath this resistance? Why am I balking at Mike’s suggestions? It didn’t take long, but I realized that it was FEAR: false evidence appearing real. That nasty fear monster attacks us all at some point or another in our lives. Even though I knew I was a good lawyer, knew I did a good job, I still had a mindset of thinking that “most people don’t like lawyers,” “most people don’t want to pay lawyers,” and that having a lawyer is such a bad experience for most people that they don’t even want to give a lawyer a good review. I pondered it for a couple of days, called Mike back, and said, “I realize that fear was underneath my resistance to your advice about improving on my reviews. I’m on board. Please help me.”

From that moment, I listened to him. Mike helped me to understand why reviews matter for clients and to start owning my brand. He helped me understand the Super Lawyers process and get involved; I eventually made the list. We established a client review process in the office. A discussion of reviews is in both my consult and closing conference with clients. I let them know how important the reviews are in helping prospective new clients know that I am the right attorney they can trust and to get more great clients like them. Mike advised me and asked for nothing in return. I wasn’t even purchasing anything from Thompson Reuters at the time, although I do have a few things now.

Mike came to the Charleston, South Carolina, GPSolo meeting in 2018 (when I was Division Chair), and this year, I called him and asked him to come down to see us at the 2024 ABA Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. He was able to attend our annual Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) Present & Powerful Women’s Speaker Series talk with Stephanie Stucky of the Stuckey’s stores family. She talked about her grandfather’s business, how she recently bought it back, and how she is now living out the principles and values of her grandfather’s business. She eloquently shared her stories of building resilience through the trials and tribulations of the business restoration.

Mike was so excited to meet Stephanie Stuckey, and we had a great time. As Mike does, he looked at my online presence and said he wanted to talk after the meeting. We set up a call, and he reviewed my digital properties, including my social media, and shared the nuts and bolts of his most recent legal program. It’s called Legally Fit, and he has some great advice for lawyers. A couple of days after that follow-up call, I knew I had to interview him for this column. When Mike and I started talking during our interview, I was amazed by what he shared with me, and it all made sense why he loved Stephanie Stuckey’s story so much and why he has such a heart for lawyers. His background is very similar.

Business Is Personal

Mike is from this amazing Ohio family. He watched his father, Bob Brown, and his grandfather, George Brown, build up this successful family business, Brown & Company, a wholesale jewelry company. It was after World War II, and kind of like Stephanie Stuckey’s grandfather, they built a great business and really supported other jewelry stores in the Midwest. His father’s nickname was Dizzy Brown, and he played piano by ear with one hand while holding a drink and a cigar in the other. Mike’s grandfather George would sing, and together, they played events and charities, entertaining the community.

When Seiko watches came to the United States, Brown & Company became one of the exclusive Seiko watch distributors for a five-state district. The Seiko watch line was an opportunity for the jewelry store to build trust with prospective new clients. Like the average legal consumer, jewelry customers don’t know how to distinguish a good jeweler from a bad one. But if a jewelry store was an authorized Seiko dealer, customers could come into the store to buy a new watch or get their watch repaired, and while there, they had a chance to browse and fall in love with the jewelry in the cases. Mike says,

Bringing people in like that—it gives the customers the chance to get a feel for the store, and the trust builds. This is analogous to a law firm in that a customer does not know a good law firm from a bad one. Lawyers need to build trust online and let consumers get to know and experience them through their online presence.

There is a client for every lawyer. There is a good fit out there for everyone. Mike grew up with four sisters, and they used to play the game Mystery Date. Mike says, “Behind one door was a great guy in a tux, and behind another door was a guy with a tool belt. There is someone out there for everybody; it just depends on your taste. Just like at the stores, you give them a chance to go buy a watch, and that gives them a chance to buy more jewelry. Consumers don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know the right lawyer to hire until they have hired the wrong one.” Mike says his mission with lawyers is to help “[m]ake sure a prospective client knows the lawyer. My role is to help the lawyer tell the story and make sure the consumer gets to know the lawyer and connects to them like they are in the office together. It’s a difference between quality and quantity. Most lawyers serve a community within 25 miles of the office.”

Mike worked for Brown & Company in 1984, and they put him on the road. By 1987, he had his own Seiko territory and covered the state of Kentucky. Mike says, “Everyone knew my dad and grandad. It was always so fun to hear the heartwarming stories about them. That’s when I realized—business is personal. It’s not business, it’s personal. People who get that actually excel.”

The lessons that Mike learned as a young child, how to come from a place of service and how to give back, carried him through as a success in business. He says, “When Thomson Reuters partners with law firms to help them grow their business, they become a member of the firm. I feel my role is to connect them with the clients they should be getting.”

Community and the Law

His father sold the business in 1989 back to Seiko, and after ten more years, Mike left the industry and went to work for BNA, where he fell in love with the law. He’s been at Thomson Reuters FindLaw since 2007. One of his defining moments was what he calls a “why” moment. It was when he was at a heart association event with his twin brother Pat, who worked for Medtronic, a big pacemaker company. Mike was MCing the event, and a lot of lawyers were in attendance. After the meeting, his brother came up to him and seemed surprised that all the lawyers in the room knew and loved Mike. It was like Pat saw Mike for his career success for the first time. That was when a truth dawned on Mike. He says,

You need three sturdy legs to have a thriving community: (1) good schools, (2) good medical providers, and (3) a good legal system. The law is critically important. Everyone knows that doctors save lives, but lawyers save people’s lives all the time. Just like Brown & Company was a small family wholesale jewelry company that helped jewelry stores grow, Thomson Reuters partners with law firms and helps lawyers serve clients and grow their businesses.

Mike has a favorite gold jacket and bow tie that he wore at the 2016 Fall Meeting. Some years earlier, he was in a variety show and played what he calls “this Bill Murray lounge lizard character where I sang a few Bobby Darren songs like Mac the Knife and Beyond the Sea.” He went to a costume shop and rented this gold jacket and a gold sequin bow tie. He says of the show, “I killed it. Mom and Dad were there, and Mom asked where I got the jacket. Then Christmas came along, and there was a big box under the tree for me. I opened it, and it was the gold jacket and bow tie. It was a red bicycle moment. Mom said, ‘I couldn’t leave it at the store.’”

From that first event, people began to ask him to MC their galas and charity events. He became an auctioneer, and like his father and grandfather before him, he entertains crowds and loves helping charities such as the Karen Wellington Foundation, which funds vacations for families whose mothers are suffering from breast cancer. He says, “Our mission is to put cancer on hold and make memories.”

Mike is acutely aware of the fact that mental health is crucial for lawyers and that the profession is one of the most stressful ones out there. “It is riddled with divorces, substance abuse issues, and anxiety because lawyers get paid to take someone’s problem and make it their own and then fight against another lawyer/friend.” He says it is necessary to “(1) take care of yourself, exercise, eat right, and (2) join the bar associations, get connected to other professionals who are going through what you are going through.” Mike especially appreciates the ABA GPSolo Division. He says, “It is a tethering community. Lawyers are heroes to me. They are selfless people who fight intelligently to solve clients’ problems and change people’s lives at their worst times.” His advice to new lawyers is to join a small but reputable firm and “learn to practice law the right way, kind of like a doctor’s residency. Don’t worry about how much money you make; just learn how to practice the law and handle clients, and you will be set for the rest of your career.”

Staying Legally Fit

The gems he gave me to keep “Legally Fit” are:

  1. Schedule one hour of time for your social media a week. On LinkedIn, look at other people’s profiles, review your profile, do a post, or like someone else’s posts. Just get in the habit of taking that one hour for you and social media. Eventually, it will grow.
  2. Make sure all your online legal profiles are up-to-date and in order, such as your Super Lawyers profile, your website profile, and your FindLaw profile. You want your profiles to be consistent across the board. Have a current professional picture taken every few years and update all profiles with it. Make sure you have your résumé up there, too, with everything you have done—accomplishments, awards, and examples of your work. Don’t be shy. Go ahead and claim any free profiles on registries. (Mike showed me one profile that I needed to populate on a social media account.). Mike feels that LinkedIn is the most important one of all.
  3. Once a week, do a post on something relevant to your practice. Talk about a client’s story where you made a difference (don’t use real names) or feature a friend or a famous person with a legal problem of the sort you handle and offer your insight for the solution. Make sure to pull those heartstrings. Be a storyteller. Taking little steps will add up over time.

Mike’s goal has been to help lawyers showcase themselves in the best light so that they can fulfill their mission of helping others and live their best lives. Mike’s contribution to that piece of our lives is also a great contribution to society. He is an exemplar of a legal industry professional who is there to serve and one who has captured the idea that the greatest thing in life that any of us can learn is that the more you give, the more you get. I listen to Mike intently now because that first call in 2016 changed my life profoundly for the better. Since I became brave enough to ask clients for reviews and share with them how much it means to me to have such great clients, my practice has been completely transformed. I enjoy the practice of law so much more. Mike helped me shift my paradigm and move into my power as a lawyer. I really began to value myself more than I ever had in the past. I began to ask for what I wanted and needed from clients—and I got it. Everyone needs a cheerleader, and Mike is that for me. And don’t think that whatever situation you’re going through right now is permanent. Things can change, and sometimes, all it takes is one person to help.

Please contact me with your questions or comments at [email protected].

Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul

Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul

Defining Moments: Insights Into the Lawyer’s Soul
By Melanie Bragg
ISBN: 9781641054195
Product Code: 1620777
2019, 241 pages, paperback and e-book
$29.95; member price $23.95

Entity:
Topic:
The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.

Melanie Bragg

Bragg Law PC

Melanie Bragg ([email protected]) is a former Chair of the GPSolo Division and a former GPSolo Division Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, where she currently serves as a representative for the Houston Bar Association. Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas, specializing in probate, real estate, and small business representation. She is the author of three books, HIPAA for the General Practitioner (ABA, 2009), Crosstown Park (Koehler Books, 2013), and Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul (ABA, 2019), and she is a frequent CLE, motivational, and mindfulness speaker.

Legal Insight

Legal Insight

Thomson Reuters is a Sponsor of the GPSolo Division. This article is not an endorsement by the ABA or the Division of any Thomson Reuters product or service.

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 8, March 2024 . © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.