Louis Goodman / Marco Brown – Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:03
Marco Brown is a Utah family law attorney. He’s a mediator and he’s involved in pro bono activities. He speaks several languages. He’s given a lot of thought to the business of practicing law. But perhaps most impressive is that he bakes his own pizza. Marco Brown, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Marco Brown 00:30
Hey, I appreciate it, Louis. Thank you for having me on.
Louis Goodman 00:33
I’m really glad that you are on. Where are you speaking to us from right now?
Marco Brown 00:38
I’m in Salt Lake City right now.
Louis Goodman 00:40
And you live in the Salt Lake area as well?
Marco Brown 00:42
Louis Goodman 00:44
I explained it a little bit in my introductory remarks. But I was wondering if you could tell us specifically a little bit more about the type of practice that you have now.
Marco Brown 00:54
Yeah. So now we do family law. That’s it. I couldn’t do a DUI, I couldn’t do a real estate case if I tried. I just have absolutely no idea anymore. So we do divorce, is the main thing, probably 80% of our cases are divorce cases. Then the other 20% are child custody and modification cases. And it’s been like this for a long time. I started my firm in 2010 in the middle of the great recession doing everything for everybody that I could, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just took whatever came in the door. And then I got into a family law. I got into it because a lady came to me and said, Hey, I need help with this. And I knew she was a friend. And I knew her and her husband’s cheating on her. And I thought, all right, I need money. So let’s do this thing. So I stayed up until about three o’clock the night before she came in to meet with me, figuring out Utah family law, divorce law. And then we met the next day. And she hired me. And we got through the case. And I really enjoyed it. And I felt good about it. I liked how I felt and I liked the result I got her. And then more and more people kept coming in for Family Law stuff. And I figured out I was good at it. And I figured out I was really good at it. And I decided, okay, I’m not going to do anything else. It’s easy to like the stuff you’re good at, let’s just do that and make a career out of it. So that’s what I did. So it’s been about 10 years since that happened, and I haven’t done anything else.
Louis Goodman 02:20
What is it about that family law experience that really attracted you?
Marco Brown 02:25
So for me, it’s that I get to come in and help people in the worst situation in their life many, many times this is literally the worst thing that’s going to happen to people who’s getting divorced, and help them through it, and help their kids through with the minimum amount of pain and damage, especially to their children. And I take real pride in helping people through the process.
Louis Goodman 02:50
Where are you from originally?
Marco Brown 02:51
So I’m from Alaska, my parents moved up there because my dad ran a salmon hatchery of all things. He was a fishery biologist. So we moved to the boonies of Alaska on the Aleutian Peninsula in a place called Cold Bay, population about 85. I blame all of my social problems on that right there, because I grew up just in the middle of nowhere without many other kids around. But to be honest with you, I just loved it. I got to hunt, fish, play with my dogs, I spent a lot of time outside, I spent a lot of time alone in my own head, figuring things out. And now that I look back on it, I realized that it really helped me kind of develop that executive functioning and that prefrontal cortex, right, because I just had to work through problems all the time out there. And then when it came time to do adult stuff, that was pretty easy, because I was kind of doing that stuff all the time when I was a kid. So I really enjoyed it out there.
Louis Goodman 03:52
Is that where you went to high school?
Marco Brown 03:53
No, I lived there from time I was pretty much I was born until 13. And then I moved into Anchorage for eighth grade and high school but I never did finish high school. I just left early, somehow got my GED and made it back to college. But those were some rough years for me.
Louis Goodman 04:12
What did you do between the time you left high school and the time you started going to college?
Marco Brown 04:19
There really wasn’t a gap there. I just left and then very quickly decided that that was probably not a good life path for me. So I went took the GED and then got into college after that. So I actually started college a year early, because I made that decision. But it was just the luck of the draw.
Louis Goodman 04:38
Where’d you go to college?
Marco Brown 04:40
So I started college at a university there in Anchorage called the UAA. University of Alaska Anchorage. It’s kind of the flagship university in Alaska. And then after a year, I kind of got myself together a little bit and I went down to– I transferred down to BYU in Utah.
Louis Goodman 04:57
Was there some reason that you decided to go to BYU? Was there’s something about BYU that attracted you?
Marco Brown 05:02
Yeah, I’m Mormon. It’s a Mormon. It’s a church-owned school.
Louis Goodman 05:07
What was your experience of BYU like?
Marco Brown 05:09
I loved it. It really did. It’s an educational and spiritual experience for me. So, when I was a teenager, I was very full of myself, I was an atheist at that point. I just didn’t like myself very much. But I had grown up in a religious household and my parents were very religious. They taught me what they believed, and I didn’t really care, because that’s what I was going through. And then, when I was about 16, they sent me down to BYU because they knew that the only way that they’re ever going to make a Mormon out of me is if I went to BYU. So they sent me down there. And I felt differently about myself. And I felt differently about things when I was there. I didn’t realize what that was at that point. But I knew that everybody there was a bit different than the people that I was normally interacting with. So when it came time to get into college and kind of got myself straight a little bit, I thought, okay, I liked that place, BYU so maybe I should go to school there. I really wasn’t religious to that point. But I knew it was different. And I knew I liked it. So I went, and then I really got, I figured some things out down there, right. I hit my stride in school, I started learning a bunch, I really enjoyed college, I really enjoyed that atmosphere of being able to go and learn what you wanted to and argue how you wanted to and everybody was kind of equal. I really enjoyed that atmosphere. And then I also thought, okay, this is probably time for me to figure out my spiritual life as well, if I’m going to believe anything at all. And it turns out that that I did, and I did the requisite amount of work that I needed to and then started that path. So Mormons, if people don’t know that, why would they? When they’re young, they go on what are called missions.
Louis Goodman 07:04
I was going to ask you, did you go on a mission? I guess you did.
Marco Brown 07:08
Yeah, I did. Yeah. Yeah. So I was watching my friends do this and I thought, well, this is crazy talk. But I should probably figure out if I’m going to do this thing or not. I went and I figured out whether I should and I came to the determination. Yes, I believe these things. So I should go and I ended up going to Italy for two years and talking to people about religion and about Jesus in a language I did not understand, in a country that was highly Catholic, but nobody really believed all that much. Right. So it was a very, very interesting experience. And one that was super formative for me on a lot of different levels. I love it, I still go back to Italy all the time. In fact, it’s Wednesday, when we’re taping this and on Friday, I will get on a plane and I will go back to Italy, which I do about four times a year now and go eat food with friends and look at artwork and we’re going to live over there for part of the a year, we are going to buy house there before too long. It was very, very formative in a lot of different ways for me, and it really made me into a man. It just took me away from my family. It took me away from everything I knew. Everything that was familiar, made me learn massive amounts of new stuff in a completely different place, and deal with different culture and different people on a level that almost nobody ever gets to do. And I loved every second of it.
Louis Goodman 08:34
So I take that’s where you learned to make pizza.
Marco Brown 08:37
That is where I learned to make pizza. Yes, exactly.
Louis Goodman 08:40
You graduated from BYU, and you went on your mission and then you subsequently went to law school, is that correct?
Marco Brown 08:48
Yeah, I was in Italy for two years. And then I finished up College, the end of my college career, I got married. And we graduated at the same time. At that point in my life, I just figured out okay, law school was what I needed to do and where I needed to be.
Louis Goodman 09:04
When was it that you really first started thinking about yourself as a lawyer? And then when did you decide, okay, I’m actually going to apply to law school?
Marco Brown 09:15
Ever since I was eight years old, I knew that I would get some sort of professional degree because my grandmother had one. My father was a very educated guy with a couple of master’s degrees. My mom was really intelligent. She was a very, very bright woman who’s great at mathematics. And I just knew as a little kid that I would do that, but I didn’t know what it would be. And I experimented with a lot of different things. Initially, I thought it was going to be a physicist, then psychologist, but I had always thought about lawyering because I could kind of tell when I talked about law and when I interacted with lawyers that I could do some of the same things that they were doing, but I was at a much younger age. And then the other thing was, I was in Vegas, my wife and I had taken a job in Vegas. And there was this guy down there named Glenn Lerner. Okay. Glenn Lerner is a big time PI guy, very, very interesting guy have come to learn. And he’s doing tons and tons of commercials in the Las Vegas area for PI. And I turned to my wife and I said, if this guy can be a lawyer, I can be a lawyer. And it was literally at that point when I decided that I was going to go to law school and I was going to apply. So it’s very shortly after that that I went to law school.
Louis Goodman 10:28
Okay, so I just wanted to get my timeline right here. You started BYU, you were at BYU for a couple of years then you went on your mission to Italy for two years. And then you came back to BYU and finished at BYU, is that correct? Then you graduated from BYU, and you were working, and then decided that you wanted to go to law school. So how much time went by between the time you graduated from BYU and the time you actually started law school?
Marco Brown 11:00
I think it was a year and a half, if I remember correctly.
Louis Goodman 11:04
So you really had three and a half, almost four years of other than academic experience before you went to law school. Do you think that that experience, especially the mission experience, really helped you focus once you did get to law school?
Marco Brown 11:22
Yeah, absolutely. In every way. So before I went to law school, I was a smart kid. But I was really scattered. I did not focus on really what I eat on academics and what I needed to like I said, on a wing and a prayer, I got into BYU, I don’t know how, but I didn’t do well, I got like a 1.2 GPA in my first semester, because I just jerked around, and that they ever let me back in is just an absolute miracle. But when I went on my mission, like I said, I learned how to become a man. And part of that was becoming focused, I had to learn a different language, I had to study, we talked about religion. So I studied scripture all the time, I read constantly. And then when I got back off my mission and went back to college, I’m like, Oh, this stuff’s simple, man. Like, this is nothing. So at that point, I got, I think, almost a 4.0 past that point, and then went to law school and law school is challenging, I graduated with honors, all of it is to the mission.
Louis Goodman 12:21
Where did you go to law school?
Marco Brown 12:23
University of Nebraska.
Louis Goodman 12:25
How was that experience going from Italy to Salt Lake City and then to Nebraska? I mean, those are very different places.
Marco Brown 12:35
Yeah, yeah, they were, I really enjoyed it. I liked the Midwest a lot. I really enjoyed the people in the Midwest. The people are just beautiful, beautiful people. They’re really, really nice. They’re really level-headed. They’re not flashy, but they’ll do anything for you. And I loved them.
Louis Goodman 12:56
If a young person were just coming out of college, would you recommend the law as a career?
Marco Brown 13:01
The old joke is you ask a lawyer a question and he says it depends, right? It does depend, it depends on who you are and whether you want to do lawyer stuff, if you’re made for like I was made for it, because literally, my brain was made to be an attorney’s brain. What I mean by that is, ever since I was a little kid, I could take an argument, I could take a logical proposition. And I could unpack that logical proposition and look through the permutations of it and think through them very quickly to their logical conclusions, right, and then kind of backtrack into that. And then use that and argue through an issue. So you need to know yourself, you need to know what attorneys do and how they do it, and what makes them successful. And then you can actually assess whether or not you should become an attorney. But if you think being– if somebody thinks being an attorney is about going to court all the time, and about righting the wrongs of society, and being a holy warrior than I hate to tell you, but you’re going to live probably a pretty unfulfilling life as an attorney.
Louis Goodman 14:04
How has actually practicing law actually met or differed from your expectations about it?
Marco Brown 14:10
Wow! That’s a great, great question. It’s very different than I anticipated it would be. I was naive, and I thought that I would be a litigator. And I would be in a courtroom all the time just doing my litigation thing. And what I thought litigation meant was that you were in the courtroom quite a lot. That was my naivete. I never realized that so much of the success that an attorney has is really based off how well they serve their client, and how well they can communicate to their client really difficult legal concepts in plain English. I think that more than anything else, is the indicator of success as an attorney, and especially the indicator of business success as an attorney.
Louis Goodman 15:08
That really kind of brings up my next question to you. One of the reasons I was so interested in talking to you is because I wanted to talk to you about the business of practicing law, and how that business of practicing law has gone for you, and what sort of, I don’t know, lessons or observations that you’ve made about that?
Marco Brown 15:29
So I’ve had two kind of phases in my career when it comes to business. The first was, when I started in 2010, so about 2010 to 2015, 16, I was terrible at business. Law school teaches you absolutely nothing about it. Law School, very often law professors disdain the actual practice of law, they think it’s kind of dirty, and non academic. And it’s motivated by this profit thing and that’s awful. But they can do that, because they’re bureaucrats, and they enslave kids and lots of debt, and then get paid off that debt, right. So they can make those ivory tower arguments. So they don’t teach anything because they don’t know anything. So I got into owning a firm, and I didn’t know anything about it. So I spent five, six years not knowing anything about it. And those were really bad years, actually, like I was a good attorney, I really tried hard for my clients and did well for them. But I was suffering really, really badly because I was doing all this work and I didn’t know what it was what I was doing, I wasn’t getting paid for it. I decided, okay, don’t want to do that. I had to create a system to get paid at 100%. And so I thought, okay, how do I create that system? So I did that. And once I started getting paid 100% for the work I did, everything changed, everything changed. Then at that point, I thought, okay, I did this once. So maybe I can do this again with different aspects of the law firm, and especially with the business aspects of the law firm, because that really helped out quite a bit. So I started doing that more and more and more and thinking about the business side of things. And the funny thing was, once I did that, then the law side got a lot better too, because I was able to actually give myself space and step back from the crush of the day to day and think about how to serve my clients better, and how to hire other attorneys so they could service them better, and how we could create systems that would service them better and how we could talk to them to service them better and roadmap better for them and communicate better with them. So by focusing on the business aspect of law, I became a lot better at that. But I also became a lot better at the law aspect of law.
Louis Goodman 17:43
Would it be fair to say that now you run a law firm, but you really don’t do a lot of day-to-day practice of law?
Marco Brown 17:52
Yeah, I’m not a lawyer anymore. So I run legal companies. I oversee, I have a second in command here who is the chief legal officer, he runs the day to day. So I am not in those cases anymore. Every once in a while, I’ll answer high level questions about cases. But I’m really overseeing the business administration of the law firm, client acquisition, expansion, quality control, those types of things. So I don’t really get into the nitty gritty much anymore.
Louis Goodman 18:27
How big a firm is it that you’re running these days?
Marco Brown 18:30
So we have 11 attorneys, and four paralegals and some more admin administrative staff. So I should know this number, but I think it’s around 20 total team members right now.
Louis Goodman 18:43
Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing law?
Marco Brown 18:48
Now, there are two things. One, I wish I had known that it was a really bad idea to take out $160,000 in loans to go to law school. And then I really wish I had known how to sell into clothes as a skill set before opening my own law firm.
Louis Goodman 19:13
What advice would you give to a young lawyer just starting?
Marco Brown 19:17
If you’re a young attorney, you need to decide what your career is going to look like, envision that, right? You might not end up where you envision it, but at least have the vision for it. There are two things you should learn from your first job as a lawyer, because you will not stay at that job for your entire career, it just will never happen. So the two things you should learn are what type of law you don’t want to practice and what type of lawyer you do not want to be. And if you do those two things in the first year or two, that you’re an attorney, your trajectory as an attorney will be markedly different than if you had never done that. If you could just eliminate all those things at the very, very beginning, you’re going to live a life as an attorney, that is going to be much, much better than if you hadn’t done that.
Louis Goodman 20:06
Do you think the legal system is fair?
Marco Brown 20:09
Oh wow! I tend to think of the American legal system like Churchill thought about democracy, it’s the worst, except in comparison to all other systems. In what I do, is it fair? I think it approximates it.
Louis Goodman 20:25
What sort of recreational pursuits do you enjoy, when you want to get your mind off of the practice of law?
Marco Brown 20:32
I have always had to watch my weight and watch my health. So I spent a lot of time kind of thinking about that. But I also spend a lot of time now in the gym, because I have more time than I can do that sort of thing. So I lift heavy objects, and I put them down, and I do cardio, I really enjoy being in the gym, I really enjoy being outside hiking, Utah is great for things like that. So I enjoy that quite a bit. I cook, I spend an inordinate amount of cognitive energy thinking about food, especially Italian food, because I just love it. So I cook a lot, I we travel back to Italy. So there are recreational activities that really do help kind of helped me psychologically to deal with the stress that then I’m undergoing. Even though I just said that, I still have a lot of them kind of retooling things. Without those pursuits, without those outside pursuits, it would be 10 times worse than it currently is. So to everybody out there, do not just allow lawyering to envelop you all the time because if you do that you have made a bad, bad mistake. And it will ruin you over time. You have to have an outlet. You have to take care of your body, you have to take care of your mind. You have to take care of your spirit and give those pursuits their due. Because if you don’t, it’ll kill you.
Louis Goodman 22:06
What mistakes do you think lawyers make?
Marco Brown 22:09
I think one of the biggest mistakes lawyers, make many of them treat each other poorly. But the bigger mistake than that is to think that all lawyers treat each other poorly, because they don’t. So I genuinely enjoy about 90% of my colleagues, there are 10% that make life really, really difficult. But there are 90% that are really like, and the mistake that a lot of lawyers make is to generalize from the 10%. And to say that those are representative and there’s they’re simply not
Louis Goodman 22:41
What sort of things keep you up at night?
Marco Brown 22:45
I think one of the things that keeps me up is deregulation within the legal community, I think that we’re going to get a push in the next 10 to 15 years to really deregulate the ethics within the legal community in the sense that we’re going to allow non lawyers to own law firms, there’s going to be a massive amount of amalgamation of law firms. And 56% of American attorneys are solos that don’t know a dang thing about the practice of law, who I mean, they don’t know dang thing about the business of law, and they’re going to get eaten and swallowed by large institutional law firms and large institutional investors that want to come grab their book of business, and their profit margin. And that keeps me up at night because they’re not going to get me, like I’m not losing to people like that. So I spent a lot of time thinking about how to win in that marketplace that doesn’t exist right now.
Louis Goodman 23:43
You’ve just brought up a buzzword that I think about all the time, and that is book of business. And I think it is so important for every attorney to have their own book of business. And I’m wondering if you could just comment on that thought because obviously, you’ve thought about it yourself independently of my thinking.
Marco Brown 24:08
I have thought about it. So attorneys don’t work for attorneys, attorneys work for rainmakers. Okay, if you do not have your own independent book of business, if you are not a rainmaker, okay, then you are vulnerable in a number of ways. The person who makes it rain the most is the most valuable person in the law firm, and the person who makes it rain the least is the least valuable person in the law firm. And if you’re that least valuable person, you’re the first one to get fired. You’re not going to get the good cases, you’re going to be told what to do your entire career and you’re going to take it like you’re liking it because I’ve got no other choice, right? So you having your own book gives you power and gives you authority. And you need to realize that and then you need to learn how to rainmakers so you can make your own book. And that makes you independent, it increases your income. Everything that is good about being a lawyer is built on that.
Louis Goodman 25:11
Let’s say you came into some real money, three or four billion dollars, what if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Marco Brown 25:19
I would buy a very, very large villa in a particular part of Italy. And I would live there for an extended period of the year, I would not stop working, because I can’t stop working. It’s just not how my brain is wired. My brain is wired for really high, it has a very high need of cognition. And it has a very high need to create and to progress. So I would keep working. But I would be playing on a different level at that point. I would go around the United States, and become an absolute juggernaut in the legal realm by buying up these smaller law firms, and just changing the face of that market, because I would have independent capital to do it.
Louis Goodman 26:05
Let’s say you had a magic wand, that was one thing you could change in the world, the legal world or otherwise, what would that be?
Marco Brown 26:12
I wouldn’t say that every lawyer has to do one nice thing for another attorney every day.
Louis Goodman 26:17
Let’s say you had 60 seconds on the Super Bowl, someone gave you a one minute Super Bowl ad, what, if anything, would you want to say to that really enormous audience?
Marco Brown 26:29
I would talk about my faith in Jesus Christ. Because ultimately, if I get down to brass tacks, that’s the most important thing in my life. And that’s what’s changed my life and made my life what it is. And I would talk about that.
Louis Goodman 26:46
Marco, if someone wants to get in touch with you to hire your firm, talk to your firm, talk to you about something, what’s the best way to do that?
Marco Brown 26:58
Yeah, the best way is to go to my website. So it’s www.brownfamilylaw.com. So brownfamilylaw.com. And there are web forms, so even if it’s not about a case, you just fill out a web form and say, Hey, I’d like to talk to Marco and I’ll give you a call back. I have a lot of LinkedIn content as well. I’m very active on LinkedIn. So you can go message me on LinkedIn, all you have to do is search Marco Brown, and it’ll come up. So I think those two ways are really the easiest way to get a hold of me and to talk to me.
Louis Goodman 27:35
Marco, is there anything you wanted to talk about that we have not touched on?
Marco Brown 27:40
Wow, I have to say that, I’ve done a lot of podcasts and the this is the kind of widest ranging and most incisive questions and deep questions that I’ve ever been answered. I’ve talked about and I know that because I’ve talked about my religious faith more on this podcast than I ever have on any of the other ones. So you’ve asked some, like really probing questions, which had been absolutely fantastic. The thing that I want to talk about that we haven’t maybe this idea of balance among lawyers, I tend to think that balance is both a myth and something that we should strive for at the same time, because unless we have balance, unless we can give due time to our families, and our spirit, and our emotions, and our own self education, our jobs are just going to eat us up. If it’s all lawyering all the time, bad, bad things is going to happen.
Louis Goodman 28:43
Marco Brown, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.
Marco Brown 28:50
Thank you so much, it’s been great.
Louis Goodman 28:53
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 lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.
Thanks to my guests, and to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Marco Brown 29:31
I was not constituted as a psychologist like I was a lawyer. My head works like lawyers’ head works. I like to argue.