Preventing Stupid: Matt Davis / Louis Goodman – Transcript

Matt Davis/Louis Goodman – Transcript

Louis Goodman 00:03
I’m Louis Goodman. This is the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, where we talk to attorneys about their lives and careers. Matthew Davis is an attorney and entrepreneur who built a firm that has seven offices from Dallas to Kansas City. He now teaches business development to attorneys and how to capitalize on opportunities. He’s written several books and has extensive litigation experience. Most impressive to me is his lead guitar work in the heavy metal band Geriatric Steel featuring the infamous musical composition “Get Off My Lawn”. Matt Davis, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Matt Davis 00:44
Hey, hey, thank you. And yeah, I’ve got Geriatric Steel practice tonight and we’re pretty excited. We’re trying out a new bass player.

Louis Goodman 00:55
Well, you know, if spinal tap is anything, you know, trying out new musicians can be very dangerous.

Matt Davis 01:03
Yeah. I remember that. Hey, do you know they’re doing a sequel to that? It’s coming out next year, I think.

Louis Goodman 01:09
Well, talk about geriatric.

Matt Davis 01:12
Yeah. They’re older and the funny thing, or at least I think it’s funny, I was a longhaired kid and played in rock bands. And then for one of our firm retreats here recently, we did a deal where we had a band play and then I got a bunch of my buddies together and we rolled out the Geriatric Steel banner and played “Breaking the Law”, and “I Fought the Law” and two of my kids were there, the teenagers and my son afterwards, he goes, “Dang, dad, you guys can play.” I said, “Well, yeah, we can play. We’ve been playing for 35 years.” He says, “Why don’t you write hard rock songs for middle age and beyond?” And I’m like, that’s the most brilliant idea I’ve heard. And these songs just write themselves. And, you know, I’ve got one called “Been There, Done That”, that’s a dad lecturing his kid. And I’ve got one called “Left On The Lights” and they just write themselves and it’s, you know, it’s the music we grew up, but now putting context of, and I’m 54 years old. And it just writes itself. It’s so fun. And my wife said to me the other day, you know, “Whoa, what are you gonna do when you, you know, your law firm’s doing well?” I said, it’s Geriatric Steel, honey. We’re going, you know, we’re going on tour. My retirement plan is I’m gonna go to Europe and play rock festivals and get paid to do it.

Louis Goodman 02:49
Well, maybe I’ll take my podcasts with you.

Matt Davis 02:53
Yeah. Yeah. I’ll hook you up with some groupies, Louis.

Louis Goodman 02:57
So, where are you talking to us from right now?

Matt Davis 03:01
I live in Enid, Oklahoma, which is one of the most unlikely places to run a law firm the size of ours from, but that kind of happens. There’s lots of businesses from just obscure places and Enid is geographically, I guess you would say between Oklahoma City and Wichita. So I’m in North Oklahoma, which nobody outside of, you know, here knows where it is. And it’s my hometown. My family’s been here for, oh what, we made the land runs back in the 1890s. So yeah, 1889 or 1893, depending on which land run counts.

Louis Goodman 03:42
What sort of practice do you have now?

Matt Davis 03:46
My firm does small business law. I moved back to my hometown. I was in Washington and my girlfriend, who’s now my wife, was a TV producer in Los Angeles, and I just decided I didn’t want to be a Washington lawyer and literally just packed it up and threw the boxer dog in the car and I called Allison and said, “Hey, let’s just move back to our hometown and start having kids.” And here we are 26 years later. But I just, I built a book of business that just was great and I showed up and I worked and, you know, I always tell young lawyers, every case you get turns into another one, if you do it right.

Louis Goodman 04:33
One of the things that you do is help other attorneys get business, work their businesses, run their firms. Can you talk a little bit about that aspect of the Davis business law?

Matt Davis 04:48
Years ago, seven years ago now, I guess, I had a just a solo practice. I was working by myself. I had a couple of my friends from law school working for me and they were, but I was, I was officing out of my house. And it was great. I mean, I had little kids, it was fun. They really didn’t bother me. And then, I say I had a midlife crisis, but which is kind of true. And I just went out and started a law firm and we learned a lot along the way. I worked initially with a group called “How to manage a small law firm”. Great, great, just mindset shift about how to build a professional services. And I’ve helped a lot of other small law firms along the way. I’m a member of entrepreneur’s organization, which commonly called EO. And we have a, what we call, I call it baby EO. It’s called EO accelerator. We have several small law firms in there.
I’ll get those guys. And I took two of my, two of these guys the other day and they were really struggling. I said, Do you want me to reinvent your law firm for you? They said, please. I said, I’ll see you at your office in Oklahoma City at nine o’clock on Saturday morning, and we’re gonna change your world and how you run your law firm.
And what we did is really identified what they could do. What can you be the best in the world at and what can you make money at? And when you can find an intersection of those three things, that’s a fantastic place to be. And that’s what I redid for them.
Louis Goodman 06:34
Where are you from originally?

Matt Davis 06:36
I’m from here in Enid. So, I was born and raised here. I have not made it very far. I literally live, I’ve lived except for when I was in college and back in New York and back in Washington, I have lived in the same neighborhood in six different houses and we currently live in the house my wife grew up in.

Louis Goodman 06:59
So I take it you went to high school in Enid?

Matt Davis 07:01
I went to high school in Enid, yes sir.

Louis Goodman 07:04
What’s the name of the high school? Is it Enid High School?

Matt Davis 07:06
The Enid high school Plainsmen were the only Plainsmen in America.

Louis Goodman 07:11
What’d you do in high school? Did you play any sports for the Plainsmen?

Matt Davis 07:15
No, I mostly goofed off, but I played in heavy metal bands and then I was also the student council president, much to everyone’s surprise.

Louis Goodman 07:28
Well, if you were playing guitar and you were on stage, I don’t see why you couldn’t be elected student council president.

Matt Davis 07:34
Yeah, it was really fun. And it’s a somewhat legendary story around here.

Louis Goodman 07:42
Would you like to share it with my audience?

Matt Davis 07:44
Oh, it’s just, I’ll tell you what, no, this is maybe even relevant to where we are. It’s funny. I was with one of my friend’s mothers the other night. She was at a party with us and she was telling the story of how I got elected student council president, because I was running against her daughter’s boyfriend. And he’s a good guy, but he’s a jock and he predictably got up and told the story of, “I’m on the football team. I’m on the debate team. This is all the stuff I do.” And had an air of entitlement about how, you know, how and why he should be elected. And I just got up and made fun of him in the sense of, you know, I said not so much making fun of him, but just making distinct points of look, I’m not involved in anything, so I have the time to do the job. And I don’t think that you owe me. So, I have the time, or, you know, I have the heart to do the job, but I’m also responsible because I’m an Eagle Scout and I’m working at the bakery and going in at six in the morning because I’ve gotta go make the donuts, which was, you know, the Dunkin’ Donuts line back then. I think it was Dunkin’. And, you know, I just ran circles around him and I won that election 83 to 17%. And you know, it was pretty good trumping, but the thing is I have realized all of our recruiting for attorneys is built around that same idea. Because when we go recruit my ad, you would just think is insane because you know, most law firm ads read like, would you like to wear a gray suit and work for a preeminent law firm and, you know, basically terrorize humanity. I’m exaggerating some of that.
Ours is very much in a chatty, would you like to help people? Would you like to have a great work life balance? And you know, our recruiting is really solid because of it.
Louis Goodman 10:01
When you graduated from high school, you went on to college. Where’d you go to college?

Matt Davis 10:06
Well, I went to college mostly at a little college up in Iowa called Cornell College. Which is not Cornell University. Now, I went there for graduate school just to make it even more confusing.

Louis Goodman 10:20
You went to Cornell College in Iowa, and then you went to Cornell University for grad school?

Matt Davis 10:27

Louis Goodman 10:28
And what did you take up in grad school?

Matt Davis 10:30
I got a master’s in public administration. Basically energy economics. I thought I was gonna be a Washington lawyer. And I went to work, after Cornell, I went to work for the Department of Energy.

Louis Goodman 10:45
When did you decide that you wanted to be a lawyer? When did you start thinking that would be a great profession for me?

Matt Davis 10:55
Well, I think I’d always thought about it just because I came from a professional family and I didn’t want to be a doctor because my mother was a gynecological, well, a gynecologist surgeon, she did a lot of surgery is what I’m getting to. And she would come home after a day’s work and look at the meal on the table and say something like this, “You know, I took a tumor out of a woman about the size of that roast beef today.” And I just, I cannot stand blood or medicine. It freaks me out. I didn’t wanna be an accountant, even though I’m secretly kind of good at it, it freaks my accountants out. And so, lawyer was sort of always the presumptive thing. But after college, I was a history major and I was a good student, in college anyway, and my father gave me a binary choice. He said in a much more crude way than he normally would speak to me, “Matt, here’s your choices. You can go to the University of Oklahoma law school and I will pay for it, or you’re off the family tit.” And I said, “I think I’ll go to law school, dad.”

Louis Goodman 12:17
In Oklahoma?

Matt Davis 12:19
So, yeah, I came from Iowa back to Oklahoma and went to OU as we call it. And that was, by the way, I started in 1990 and Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas happened in ’91 and Anita was our professor and it was a complete circus at OU law for about three weeks.

Louis Goodman 12:44
Yeah, I’ll bet. So, just, I just wanna get the, the chronology here. So you went to college and then to law school and then to the master’s program?

Matt Davis 12:55
Yes, sir.

Louis Goodman 12:56
Ok. Between those educational experiences, did you take any time off?

Matt Davis 13:01
No time off, went straight through.

Louis Goodman 13:04
When you got done then with the master’s program, you went to Washington DC?

Matt Davis 13:10
Yes, sir. I got a job with the US Department of Energy.

Louis Goodman 13:15
How was that?

Matt Davis 13:16
It was kind of funny. I got hired to work in the secretary’s office. And then I had a discussion. I had the job, but then, it was the Clinton administration and I had to meet with the political people and they said something to me like, you know, this was ’94, “We’re gonna turn all of America to renewable energy by 2004.” And I looked at them and I guess it was on the phone, so I didn’t look at ’em. But I said, you know, guys, that’s just not realistic that, and you know, my, I was right. It’s just, you can’t do that for a variety of reasons. And next thing I know I’m in the geothermal division, which was actually fascinating because I learned all about, you know, the geothermal power you guys have out there in California, which is fascinating. I got a lot of great experience. We shared a hall with the wind division and of course, West Oklahoma, where I live is huge wind country now.
And it was interesting to be right there kind of at the advent of all, you know, of the development of the wind turbines of the bigger wind turbines anyway. And then solar, we shared offices with solar and my boss was really good friends with the boss of solar, who was the head of the whole shebang of renewable energy.
And it was a fascinating time to spend there. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about energy and just thought I was gonna stay there and stay involved in that whether on the oil and gas side or on the renewable side. But I had lunch one day with a cousin of mine who was on 10 years older, but had had a very similar career path.
And I just, after lunch, I just said, you know, that’s just not what I want to do.
Louis Goodman 15:22
And is that when you decided to come back to Oklahoma and start practicing law?

Matt Davis 15:28
Yeah, I came back to Oklahoma and got an eat what you kill job with one of the law firms. And just got real hungry and to everybody’s surprise became pretty successful pretty fast.
And you know, just the thing about law is if you’ll get in it and you’ll do good work and you’ll put your heart into it and you’ll take care of your clients, your clientele just starts to snowball.
Louis Goodman 15:55
I wanna ask you a little bit about that, about the importance, because this is something I’ve been talking to a number of lawyers about on this podcast is the importance of building your own book of business. And there’s a guy named Steve Fretzin, who has a podcast called Be That Lawyer. And it’s something that he just talks about all the time is the importance of attorneys having their own book of business.

Matt Davis 16:22
Yeah. I think that that’s really critical, and by the way, I mean, that’s what I set up my firm with the idea that our attorneys can build their own book of business within my firm. I didn’t have a website. I wasn’t in the phone book. And if you wanted to find me, you had to get my number from somebody else. And I could stay busy, you know, 10 hours a day if I wanted to. And I was still handing off work to Jane Ann or Courtney, who are my friends from law school.

Louis Goodman 16:59
And this was just through referrals?

Matt Davis 17:01
Yeah, it was just referrals. It’s just building up stuff because, again, I say this to young lawyers all the time, every case you take that you do a good job on is gonna turn into at least one more case, and then another case, and then another case you get in and you figure out how to help people, how to take care of them.
And one lesson I ultimately learned about the law business is, it took me 20 years to figure this out, but if there’s a common denominator about what we do, it’s that we help people deal with their vulnerabilities. Our job is to help protect them, whether it’s, you know, in a proactive way, say through estate planning or if it’s an active problem like litigation.
Louis Goodman 17:48
So, if a young person was thinking about going to law as a career choice, would you recommend that to them?

Matt Davis 17:55
It depends on who they are, but, you know, I have got a young guy, we kind of raised all of our kids together, but they live out in the country. One of the, you know, out in the country as if even it’s not kind of out in the country. You know, it’s real country when I’m saying out in the country and he came from a family, his dad’s a doctor, but they had like 10 kids and he’s one of the younger ones, just a great young guy. And he started looking at law school and he came up and spent a couple days with me and we just kept getting acquainted. And, you know, he was asking me about law schools. He said, you know, “Where should I go to law school?” I said, “Wherever you can get out of without any debt.”

Louis Goodman 18:47
Do you think the legal system is fair?

Matt Davis 18:49
It depends. You know, it depends on venue. So for instance, you know, I do a lot of work from Nebraska down to the Rio Grande. So Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas. As a general rule, yeah. I mean, our judges are great. Now we dabble with some stuff in Louisiana and you just never know what in the hell’s gonna happen in Louisiana.
And frankly New Mexico’s the same. So, there’s that. And then, you know, I get hometowned a lot by, you know, small country judges. I had to drive eight hours the other day out to West Texas. I did it, I had local counsel, but I went because it was a pretty big hearing. And I got sent back in by a District Judge, you know, a County Judge, you know, he’s a politician in the county.
And so, you know, was that fair? No, but you know, I’ll figure out a way to make it work. You know what’s generally more fair is Federal Court.
Louis Goodman 20:02
I know you’ve written several books and I’m wondering if you could tell us about the name of one of them and what it’s about?

Matt Davis 20:14
Yeah, the one we’ve got published by Inc Magazine and the other two are sitting on ice.
But the published one is called The Art of Preventing Stupid. And what that is, is a book about teaching businesses how to protect themselves by using effective brainstorming strategies to root out what their vulnerabilities are before they become problems. So they’re not making unforced errors so that then they can capitalize on their opportunities.
Because the businesses that do that and that do that well are the strong players on the field and they’re the ones that particularly in the down times, like, I think we’re about to have, they can capitalize on so much because everybody else is struggling.
Louis Goodman 21:08
I’d like to shift gears here just a little bit. How’s your family life fit into the practice of law? How have you worked that?

Matt Davis 21:17
Now, I have five kids and my oldest is 24. We had three and then we adopted two. Number four is from Russia and five is from Ethiopia. And so, you know, that’s part and parcel of why I live here because I love my three minute commute and I can walk to the office if I want to.
And it’s really important. I mean, my wife gets mad at me because she says I’m a workaholic, but that’s what all my, all the wives in my family say about my uncles and so on because we just, we like to work. We love what we do and yeah, I have a pretty good family balance. I mean, I’m gonna go home and have dinner with them tonight and then run off to Geriatric Steel practice.
Louis Goodman 22:11
Is there someone from history who you’d like to meet?

Matt Davis 22:17
Probably Lincoln. I’ve been reading about that. Those were complicated times. And how he got us through that civil war and how he, you know, maintained his cabinet. You know, Lincoln’s kind of one of my heroes. I live in Oklahoma, but I’m a Midwesterner, if that makes sense.

Louis Goodman 22:41
How do you define success?

Matt Davis 22:43
Well, some of it’s financial and anybody that tells you that it’s not is lying to you. And some of it is getting to do what you want to do and what you’re happy doing. And a lot of it is having meaningful relationships with your family and your friends and your colleagues.
And some of it is, I think about just having, finding meaning through responsibility. And that’s a beautiful thing about what we do is we get to take responsibility for helping our clients, helping protect them.
Louis Goodman 23:22
What keeps you up at night?

Matt Davis 23:24
I thought about this the other day. On one hand, I’m somewhat competitive, as a lot of lawyers are, but I’m not hypercompetitive. When I feel like there’s a chance I could let a client down, it keeps me up at night. And particularly when I feel that I could let a client down over a stupid civil procedure mistake or something of that nature.

Louis Goodman 23:58
Let’s say you came into some real money, three or four billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Matt Davis 24:07
Really, I probably would’ve bought some more farms and, it’s kind of funny, you know, I come from a pretty well off family and they, my mom’s family’s from up in Northern Kansas and we’ve got some cousins that still farm the family ground that’s been in the family since 1852. And then a lot of my uncles and cousins are buying farms up there.
You know, three or four billion dollars is an awful lot of money. Yeah. I mean, that’ll ruin people, you know.
Louis Goodman 24:42
Let’s say you’re given 60 seconds on the Super Bowl. You have a Super Bowl ad, can say whatever you want to the Super Bowl audience, what would you make your ad about?

Matt Davis 24:53
Something political. And my political persuasion, just for putting it all out there, so to speak, is I vote Republican, not because I like them, but because I’m scared of the Democrats. And you know, what we’re living through right now with gas prices and the economy is, you know, is really a function of a lot of political divisions that really shouldn’t exist. And I wish we, as Americans could get together and make really smart, responsible decisions because the legacy we’ve been left and the power that we have to do good in the world, we’re just frittering away by a lot of stupid ideological infighting in Washington.

Louis Goodman 25:50
If someone wants to get in touch with you or your firm, what’s the best way to do that?

Matt Davis 25:55
Our firm is and my email’s [email protected] And by the way, we’ve got a lot of the recent, well, pretty much all the resources from not only The Art of Preventing Stupid, but also the next book that we’re trying to decide how to publish called The Strong Protected Business.
They’re up on our tab, resources tab. They’re good stuff for teaching businesses how to protect themselves.
Louis Goodman 26:23
Matt, is there anything that you wanted to talk about that we haven’t discussed?

Matt Davis 26:29
No, this was great. It was really fun and I appreciate your questions because they’re very insightful and you know, one reason I do podcasts is I always learn something about myself and about the law and about business. And it’s just fun talking to smart guys. So I appreciate your time, sir.

Louis Goodman 26:49
Well, I appreciate being included in your list of smart guys. Matt Davis, thank you so much for joining me this afternoon on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

Matt Davis 26:59
Yeah, my pleasure too. Thank you, sir.

Louis Goodman 27:04
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.
Thanks to my guests and to Joel Katz from music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Matt Davis 27:43
My family came in when the gun went off, then you ran in and claimed your stake, went to the land office and that’s how they got the farms.

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