Matt Taylor | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Matt Taylor

Background:  

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Duane Morris has more than 750 attorneys worldwide. The firm's specialties include bankruptcy, insurance, employment, environmental issues, intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, product liability and real estate, among other areas of law.

The Mistake:

There’s a couple of mistakes I’ve learned from over the years.

When I first started as a lawyer in 1989, I took a job in New York City to be with my then-fiancé — now my wife of 27 years — who also had a job there. Looking back, the mistake I made was not concentrating on networking and client development right out of the gate in law school. I was up there for about two and a half years or so before moving back to my hometown of Philadelphia, where networking was a little bit more natural and easier. But I found myself a little behind some of the other folks that went to big firms and came out swinging. The firm I was with was wonderful, but they didn’t encourage young lawyers to market. So the mistake on my part was being naive, and not getting into the marketing mindset right away.

The other mistake I made was that when I did get out there and start marketing, I didn’t know how to cater to my audience. Traditionally, I go everywhere in a suit and tie. But one time, about eight to ten years ago, an in-house lawyer at a client said, “Matt, I know you think you’re being respectful by wearing a suit and tie, but it’s really hard for a lot of us millennials or Generation X-ers to relate to you.” So that really helped open my mind.

You have to get out there and market right away, and you have to understand your audience.

The Lesson:

You have to get out there and market right away, and you have to understand your audience.

I realized my first mistake when I went back to a college reunion, and there were a couple of other lawyers talking about all the meetings they were having, and how they were out pitching them for business. I thought “Man, I need to get my act together.” Prior to that, the advice I had received was to just master your trade, be the best lawyer you can be, and the work will just come. But I think the better advice would have been to get out and market right away.

As far as understanding your audience goes, little things, like the way that you dress, can go a long way. If I’m going to prepare a witness for a deposition, I’ll wear a suit. But if I’m just there to visit a client or stopping by for a visit or a pitch, I always ask how everyone is going to be dressing. If they say, “Come casual,” I’ll come without a tie and I’ll dress down. It’s a way to be respectful to them and the culture of their company.

Follow Duane Morris on Twitter at @DuaneMorrisLLP.

Photo courtesy of Duane Morris.