Real Lawyers Live speaks with Stephen Embry, blogger at TechLaw Crossroads, at the #ClioCloud9 Conference in San Diego. Embry tracks the chaos of technology and innovation on one side and the law and practice of law on the other at his blog. Stephen and Real Lawyers host, LexBlog CEO Kevin O’Keefe, discuss being entrepreneurship, cybersecurity, and legal blogging at the seventh-annual conference.
Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I talking with?
Steve Embry: Steve Embry. How are you Kevin?
Kevin: I’m doing pretty well. How are you doing? Oh, we’re getting some background noise because Jack is on in ten minutes and we’re going to get it right there. So, Steve you used to practice law.
Steve: I did.
Kevin: And in the realest sense.
Steve: In more years than I want to think about.
Kevin: About how many years?
Steve: 30 something.
Kevin: Large firm?
Steve: Large firm. AmLaw 200.
Kevin: Yep. Doing what generally?
Steve (0:34): Ah mass tort defense, defensive mass tort cases. Toward the end of my career, some cybersecurity and privacy and uh, interesting things like that.
Kevin: On behalf of insurers and cooperations?
Steve: Yeah. Always on the defense side. Yeah, except once. I had a plaintiff’s case, which was a whole lot of fun.
Kevin: Yeah that’s what I did. That’s the show. And you gave it all up? When?
Steve: A year ago. On May 31st, 2018 was my last day.
Kevin: I’ve asked to talk with you from the standpoint of an entrepreneur cause you’re an entrepreneur in every sense of the word.
Steve: Right, right.
Kevin: So you have the trappings of a large firm, had the drive to the law office. What city?
Steve: Louisville, Kentucky.
Kevin: Louisville, Kentucky. And you said, “that’s it. Not going to do this anymore.”
Kevin: What made you do that big decision?
Steve (1:31): Well, I was writing stuff on technology. It started out writing stuff on cybersecurity, data privacy, data breach, trying to get business, and then I started writing about the law and technology, and I was having more fun doing that than practicing law. And you actually put the idea in my head. You said, “why don’t you start a blog?”. So I started a blog and every morning I got up to work on the blog was a good day. Every morning I got up to go practice law was like an “ehh”. So, after thinking about that for longer than I should have, I thought, I’m going to do what I really want to do for a change.
Steve: And so I left and started to beef up the blog, started doing some consulting and it’s been great. It’s been great.
Kevin: So what is–what’s the day in and day out for Steve Embery these days? Well, I mean, you’re here in San Diego.
Kevin: You’re on your way to New York after this.
Steve: I am.
Kevin: What are you gonna be doing in New York?
Steve (2:24): I’m going to a cyber security, cyber insurance security conference put on by Advisor. Which was a nice group. But you know, a typical day, it’s a little different being out on your own because for 30 years, every morning I’d get up, I’d get cleaned up, I’d get in the car and drive to work, put my head down and bill hours.
Steve: Yeah. I get up. It’s like, “alright, what am I going to do today?.” Whelp, I’ve got a post that I’ve got it write. Well, you know, there’s a baseball game this afternoon and I’d really like to go back. I’ll do that post tomorrow. So it took me about six months before I finally said, “you know, I’ve got to put some discipline to this. I’ve got to have some goals and requirements.” I try to post every week, something. I try to go to conferences. But I’ve set goals and I have made a calendar of what I’m going to block time for every day. And that’s really gotten me more disciplined because without that and without somebody driving you to do stuff, I mean too many days of going to baseball games and nobody knows who you are anymore.
Kevin: So I mean your name has grown. I mean I see it bounce around the internet cause I live on the internet. But how has that all come about? And this whole persona of being, you know, a lawyer that’s known by the defense industry and whatnot, to now getting out and building a name, relationships, and a level of influence through the internet?
Kevin: Now, how would you tell somebody about that? How’d this all come about?
Steve (3:50): Well, it’s always about content, right? No matter what form and good content, but you also have to network and you have to connect. And I do a lot of connections on social, on Twitter and LinkedIn. I set aside time every day to go through content, to push out on social media platforms to comment on something you’ve written or what somebody else’s written and give some perspective from where I’ve been, about stuff. So that’s it. That’s an ongoing discipline every day. And then when, of course, when I post stuff, I’ve always pushed that stuff out. But going to these conferences and talking to people, you know, there’s still no substitute for that.
Kevin: But people might tend to know who you are.
Kevin: Which is the interesting thing when I hear when your stick out your hand and they go, ‘Oh well I read you.’
Steve (4:40): What’s really interesting is when I first started, I would go to these and I’d be sticking my hand out. Now I go to these and somebody will say, “Hey, Hey Steve, come over here.” I don’t even know who they are, you know? And if then they shake my hand, which is really kind of nice.
Kevin: The first time I met you, I think we were in Chicago and it may have been Clio or the ABA tech show and I looked over and I go, “why are you here?” I’m sitting here having a beer. I’m old enough, you’re old. You were kind of looking around like, “why are you here?” And I’m in a large firm, you’re in a large firm. I was like, “Okay, tell me about this”.
Steve: It was actually, it was at tech show and we were having a beer. We were in a bar. I think we kind of bumped into each other and I remember the conversation.
Kevin: Because I was intrigued that that from coming from a large firm that you were out of a conference like that.
Steve: And so was my firm.
Kevin (5:32): I know, that’s about what you said. You said something to the effect that, “I don’t think the model of large firms can continue forever and I’d like to look up the business of law in a more innovative way than maybe what they are and it may not be found inside of the large firm.” Going back to something you said know relating to content, cause I’m not sure it’s just content where you put words up on the wall or you said you might reference something that somebody else said. I’ve always looked at blogging, if you will, is networking through the internet.
Kevin: So I might see something that Stephen wrote and I referenced it and provide my take.
Kevin: And by virtue of that, you see it?
Kevin: And you’ve now entered into that room of people that are talking on a subject. I know it could be on cybersecurity issues or it could be on anything but all of a sudden people are starting to get known by milling around. And you get known by people you know and you’re like, “I can’t believe these people are paying attention to me.”
Steve: Yeah, yeah.
Kevin: I don’t know if you feel that sensation.
Steve (6:26): I do. When you put something out there and you get. Well, like I just wrote a piece about the Dentons acquisition of a couple firms and then stuck it out there and it got a lot of hits including some people there at Dentons. Which was kind of nice because I don’t know many people there and it’s kind of a good feeling and you get to have some conversations too. They’re not always fun conversations. I had one guy that just ripped me a new one over something.
Kevin: Everybody’s got their stake. No, I mean sometimes I don’t ever look at my stats, but I often tend to, when I share an excerpt of a post on LinkedIn and enough for people to get the gist of it, and then that thing comes up, that says “who’s looked at it.’ And you’re looking at the companies of who has looked at it: Price, Waterhouse, Ersons Yard, Dentons. These large firms.
Unidentified Person: Just saying “Hi.” Hi are you Kevin?
Kevin (7:32): We’ll see you later. But you’re seeing, you’re seeing that, you know who’s looking at this thing.
Steve: Well you make connections you could never make otherwise.
Steve: You know, you told me one time, “you know, it’s like a digital handshake with these people” and it’s really true. I mean it’s people I never would’ve met, never would have had any contact with, but for, the content that I’m putting out there and stuff that they’re reading.
Kevin: What would you tell a lawyer, you know, that is closer to our age and in a larger firm and maybe they’ve done all right by themselves over the years. You know, where maybe they have the opportunity to do something different as opposed to just wind things down and go home?
Kevin: What is the world today? What does the innovation and the internet provide them?
Steve: Well, it gives you the opportunity to do stuff that you never could do and reach people you never could reach, but you’ve got to decide to do it. That’s the thing about me. When I left the firm, I had lots of people come up to me and say, “well, that’s really cool what you’re doing. I wish I could do something like that.” Well, you can. It’s like, you know, it’s not a closed society here. You can, but a lot of people I see go through the end of their career and they just, they can’t make a change.
Kevin (8:45): Right.
Steve: They’ve always been a lawyer. They don’t know anything else about being a lawyer. And it’s not only what they do as who they are.
Steve: You know, I was never enamored with practicing law that it became who I was.
Kevin: Right. You know, you’re a great story. You’re a role model for more people than you probably imagine.
Steve: Well, you know, I hope so. You know, You really have–and I’ve given this talk to people before–you have to decide to do it. It’s great to daydream about it. I daydreamed about it for two years, but once you do it, you take the plunge, then everything changes. And that’s, that’s where people don’t, that’s where people fall down because they think about doing something really cool and different and then they just never do it. You’ve got to finish the job.
Kevin: Thank you very much, sir.
Steve: My pleasure. See you soon.
Kevin: That you will. I’ll take that cord. Thank you.