The Modern JD spotlight series is a feature on Lawyernomics that highlights attorneys that are using technology, their brand and marketing in innovative ways to connect with clients and their peers. These attorneys come from different practice areas across the country but have one thing in common: they have evolved with the times to meet the needs of their clients and practice. This week we are excited to share attorney, Jennifer Brandt of Cozen O’Connor.
What is your area of practice and why did you decide to get into it?
My area of practice is Family Law. I always had a strong interest in helping people and was eager to be the type of lawyer who was actually in the courtroom early in my career. I worked for a family law practitioner after my first year of law school and realized that the practice area would be a great fit for me. However, when I actually started to practice law, the law firm where I worked did not have a family law department. I did environmental law for a few years, but always had that yearning to specialize in family law. With permission from my firm, I started building my own family law practice on the side and developed it to the extent that I was able to move to my current firm where there was a need for a full-time family law practitioner. The rest is history!
How has being a lawyer changed since graduating law school?
When I graduated law school, there were no smart phones! Email was just becoming popular but facsimile was the preferred way of transmitting legal documents and letters quickly. Secretaries still had typewriters on their desks. Social media did not exist. Today being a lawyer requires the use of technology. It has become a profession where you are expected to be readily available. Gone are the days when you can go on vacation and truly be away without being tempted to at least “check in” to keep up with office happenings. Clients’ expectations have changed in that they expect an immediate answer. And because everyone has smart phones, it is easier than ever to respond quickly.
Where do you envision your practice and profession as a whole going in 5 years?
Unfortunately, I don’t think that people will stop getting divorced, so I don’t see my practice drastically changing in the next five years. I do see the legal profession changing with the development of technology. More and more work is being done without direct contact with clients. Most communication is done by email. Soon we won’t even need to meet in person – there is already the ability to have virtual meetings. The courts are slower to catch up with technology but are doing so. Perhaps in the future, the need for paper will be completely eliminated.
How do you think your practice is unique compared to others? What is your firm’s secret sauce?
My practice is unique in that it has a small firm feel with the resources of a big firm. While my law firm is national with over 500 attorneys, my practice group has only about 10 people including support staff. As such, clients get the best of both worlds. Our clients get the personal attention to detail and competitive rates that are expected at a boutique practice but have the prestige of having their case handled by a large firm and we have at our fingertips lawyers in other practice areas, such as business, real estate, tax, estates, etc. that are often needed in family law matters.
Do you see yourself as a lawyer first? Business person first? Or Client service first?
Client service is of utmost importance. Without clients, there is no opportunity to be a lawyer or business person. So clients need to be valued and treated with the respect that they deserve. After all, the legal business is a service business and we should always strive to provide excellent service.
Beyond that, the legal profession is a business. It is crucial to understand the business aspect of the practice which is something that is not taught in law school but should be. To be able to provide the excellent service that clients’ desire, you need to be able to hire excellent staff and be able to pay them. As such, billing and collecting are required. The legal field is so highly competitive and everyone has access to technology, that one can no longer ignore the need for marketing and business development. As such, to be a great lawyer you need to be good in both client service and business to be successful.
How do you use your personality or brand in creative ways to connect with clients?
I find that my appearances as a legal commentator on television have allowed me to connect with clients in a unique way. Oftentimes, clients get to see me and hear me before we even meet in person. In that way, they feel like they know me and can get a sense of who I am and how I can help them even before the commencement of the representation.
Where do you find inspiration professionally and/or personally?
I find inspiration in my children. It is important for me to be a great role model for them. I want to show them that they can have it all – both a great career and a great family life. Whenever I get the opportunity, I try and combine the two. I bring my family with me to professional conferences and other events when I can so they can meet other professionals, and get exposed to new places while getting a better understanding of what I do and who I am professional. They see firsthand that work life and family life can combine and one does not have to be sacrificed for the other. My work as a family law attorney and my role as a wife and mother are all part of who I am. Having my children understand and appreciate that drives me forward.
What’s the piece of technology you couldn’t live without and why?
I could not live without my iPhone. It is always with me. It’s the first thing I look at when I get up in the morning and the last thing I look at before I go to bed at night. My phone enables me to stay connected with my work without always having to be in the office. I can review documents on it and email clients. I can even dictate work for my secretary. My phone gives me freedom!
What kind of role does technology play in your practice?
Technology plays an important role in my practice now but I am hoping that it plays an even bigger role in the future. There are so many new innovations in technology that make it easier to get work done more efficiently and to better connect with clients. The problem is that I just don’t have enough time to learn about everything. So, I read up on blogs and conferences and try to pick up a few tips here and there to put into practice.
Favorite app on your phone?
I have to say that I really enjoy my Facebook app. While I do use it to share articles and tv spots that I do, I also enjoy reading up on what others post. It also allows me to stay connected with friends and family. I take a little time each day to check Facebook and see what is going on. It gives me a fun diversion from the daily routine and I believe that in the future it will become even more important for business purposes as well.
The best tip or trick for balancing everyday work and life?
The best tip is to try not to balance everyday work and life because the perfect balance can never be achieved. I look at work and personal life as a continuum. Some days will tip in favor of work and some days will tip in favor of personal life. Understanding that removes the pressure and the feeling that you are always lacking in one area or the other.
Describe in three words, the Modern Lawyer or the 21st Century Lawyer.
Supreme problem solver.