Lawyers aren’t always willing to lighten up and be themselves in public. In this wide-ranging episode we talk to Ruth Carter, a lawyer who is undeniably herself in public and private, about what it means to be a lawyer who is known to participate in the annual No Pants Subway Ride or don a Starfleet uniform for Comic-Con.
Arizona lawyer Ruth Carter is known for her daring antics and outgoing personality. With her pants on (probably?), Ruth focuses on intellectual property, social media law, business formation and contracts, and flash mob law. Ruth was named to the ABA Legal Rebels in 2012, and she has written three best-selling books on guerrilla marketing and social media law, including her latest, The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers.
Listen and Subscribe
To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button (or click the link to this post if you are reading this by email).
To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.
Voiceover: Welcome to the Lawyerist podcast, with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: I’m Aaron Street, and this is episode 111 of the Lawyerist podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today we’re talking to Ruth Carter about daring networking.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by FreshBooks, which is ridiculously easy to use and packed with powerful features. Try it now at freshbooks.com/Lawyerist, and enter “Lawyerist” in the “how did you hear about us?” Section.
Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ruby Receptionists and its smart, charming receptionists who are perfect for small firms. Visit callruby.com/Lawyerist to get a risk-free trial with Ruby.
Sam Glover: What if we told you that having a new website designed for your firm doesn’t have to suck? Spotlight Branding prides itself on great communication, on meeting deadlines and on getting results for their clients. Learn more at spotlightbranding.com/Lawyerist. Aaron, today I’m talking to Ruth Carter, who is going to talk about doing things like a no-pants subway ride, and other fun things.
Aaron Street: That sounds like a really useful podcast for everyone listening.
Sam Glover: Well, so I want to kind of frame it, because what we’re really talking about is sort of how far do you go in being yourself in public, where your clients can see it? I’ve been thinking a little bit about this lately because obviously we have a current president who’s very active on social media, warts and all, and people seem to forgive him for it, but traditionally the advice is like, “If you ever want to hold public office, keep yourself squeaky clean in public.” Neil Gorsuch may be the last Supreme Court nominee who really doesn’t have much of a trail beyond his opinions, I’m pretty sure the next ones will at least have a LinkedIn profile, if not a Facebook profile, and maybe even some drunk college photos in there.
Ruth is maybe at the opposite extreme, but it makes me think about the idea of how much of yourself should you show off on social media where your potential clients can see it?
Aaron Street: Because Ruth Carter is running for president, 2032?
Sam Glover: Yeah, maybe, yeah, I expect we’ll see that.
Aaron Street: What’s the answer, where on the spectrum should lawyers fall?
Sam Glover: You know, I think most lawyers try to present a very professional appearance on social media. Like I know lots of lawyers who have a professional profile on Facebook and a personal profile on Facebook. More of them use a page now, but this idea that you can have a professional persona and a personal persona and you can keep them separate, but the problem is like if all you ever do is present your buttoned-up, tie-wearing suit exterior to people and nobody ever sees you let your hair down, I think that just makes you kind of bland and forgettable.
Aaron Street: What if you’re a great lawyer?
Sam Glover: Sure, people care about that, absolutely, but I don’t think that, I’m not sure that is what makes people make the decision to hire you.
Aaron Street: I think it’s revealing that we just did our 2017 best law firm websites contest in the last couple of weeks, and one of the major criteria there for our panel of judges was the degree to which the sites revealed the personality and personal dynamics of the lawyers at the firm, regardless of what that personality was. Some were bulldogs and some were caring, and there were a wide variety of personalities there, but showing actual humans doing human things ends up being an important criteria for marketing and branding.
Sam Glover: I think that’s because yes, it is important to show that you’re a good lawyer, but most people make the decision whether or not to work with somebody based on their emotions, and if you don’t show any, whether you’re a good lawyer or not, I think there’s a good chance that somebody else makes what they feel is an emotional connection with another lawyer, and end up hiring that person. You might as well show who you are. Ruth will make the point later that if somebody sees her doing all the things she does and decides not to hire her, then maybe they’re jerks she doesn’t want as clients anyway, or maybe they’re not jerks, but she probably doesn’t want them as clients.
Aaron Street: If you don’t want your lawyer to do no-pants parties, Ruth’s not the one for you.
Sam Glover: I think that’s right.
Aaron Street: She’s probably cool with that.
Sam Glover: I think so.
Aaron Street: But you could still vote for her for president in 2032.
Sam Glover: Absolutely, so we might as well hear from her now.
Ruth Carter: Hey, my name is Ruth Carter, I am a licensed attorney in Arizona. I own Carter Law Firm, am of counsel to Venjuris Law Firm. I focus on business, intellectual property, social media law/mob law, I’ve written three bestselling books on legal issues, and I am also a national and international speaker.
Sam Glover: Welcome Ruth, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I feel like I should add “finally”, because I feel like it’s been a problem that I haven’t invited you to the podcast before now. Thanks for being here.
Ruth Carter: Thank you so much.
Sam Glover: Tell me, that’s an interesting list of things that you do, and I know that you’ve had kind of a non-traditional career path. Describe for me the work that you’re doing now, and then let’s kind of talk about how you wound up there.
Ruth Carter: From the outside, my work looks pretty traditional right now, in that I work at a firm and I do transactional work and litigation, I’m also an adjunct professor to Arizona State University’s law school, and I speak at a variety of conferences on legal issues.
Sam Glover: What kinds of conferences do you speak at?
Ruth Carter: Boy, whoever pays me is the short answer, but I speak at mostly non-legal conferences, so I do a lot of social media conferences, I’ve done SXSW, Blog Pause, Women in Travel Summit, the Un-Gagged Conference, and then I’ve also done like the ABA Tech show, and I do do some CLEs.
Sam Glover: What size is the firm you work for now?
Ruth Carter: There are 12 people total, nine attorneys.
Sam Glover: Cool, but for awhile there you were on your own, and what did your law practice look like then?
Ruth Carter: I went solo right out of the gate, opened in January 2012. For the first two years, I had a mailbox at the UPS store and worked from my dining room table, and did strictly transactional work because I was too afraid to do litigation, business contracts, copyrights, trademarks. Then when you’re solo and just starting out, you have a lot of time, so that’s also when I wrote my three books and put a lot of energy into my speaking engagements.
Sam Glover: What are the names of your three books? Because I know some of them are pretty interesting subjects.
The first one was The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested or Killed, and that resulted in a double book deal from the ABA, and I wrote Flash Mob Law, and the Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers.
Sam Glover: Those are cool. I should maybe back up and say I was introduced to you while you introduced yourself to me, after I came down to Arizona State to speak at the law school while you were still a student. You struck me then, and you have continued to strike me since as someone who just, you’re not shy, you’re fairly outgoing, and you make an impression by just, you’ve called yourself “The Undeniable Ruth”, and it’s hard to get away from that. You do make an impression, you get out there. I thought it might be interesting to talk about kind of how you’ve used that aspect of your personality as a way to have interesting hobbies, as a networking tool.
Because you take your hobbies, you’ve turned them into books, you’ve gotten out and done them. It makes you fun to follow, but I imagine it gets out in front of clients and referral services. I guess I just wanted to talk and explore that a little bit. I think the first thing I remember is Flash Mobs. Maybe you should start by explaining what flash mobs are.
Ruth Carter: Okay, so flash mobs are the unexpected public shenanigans, people dancing in the street or not wearing their underwear on the subway, doing a living Where’s Waldo game, fake protests, dressing up like zombies and scaring people along running paths, these are all things that I’ve done. I’ve done I think 22 flash mobs to date, and I started doing them when I was in law school. I hadn’t passed character and fitness yet, and so I knew I had to make sure that when we were doing what we did, that we weren’t setting ourselves up to get into trouble, so I started just doing some basic research into the legal do’s and don’ts, both as a participant and an organizer.
I actually did an independent study in law school on the legalities of organizing flash mobs, and it just kind of grew into its own little thing on flash mobs and pranks and things like that.
Sam Glover: I know flash mobs have kind of become a commercial thing now, like the orchestra will go out and give a flash mob-style conference and stuff, are non-commercial just hobby flash mobs still a thing, or is that kind of died out?
Ruth Carter: It is for me. I can’t speak to other people, but I mean I’ve done at least two in the last year.
Sam Glover: What were the last two?
Ruth Carter: The last two, well the annual no-pants subway ride is a global event, so I did that one, and I’ve done that one every year since 2009. In December, we did a living Where’s Waldo game.
Sam Glover: No pants as in nothing on the bottom, or underpants?
Ruth Carter: Underpants, keep it legal, so yeah from the waist down you’re in underwear and shoes, and the waist up totally normal and acting like nothing bizarre is going on.
Sam Glover: What are some of the surprising legal issues around flash mobbing that you uncovered?
Ruth Carter: In law school, they don’t really teach us much about criminal law outside of homicide and maybe rape. It was when I did a summer internship with the Army JAG, that I got to go to spend some time in their police training facility for military police, and that’s where I learned about things like solicitation and conspiracy, and some of the more intricacies of assault, and then that inspired me to start digging deeper. That’s when I started learning more about littering and writing and just how small of an infraction it can take to go from just being shenanigans to criminal, and things like that.
Sam Glover: Now flash mobs are not it, you’re also a Trekkie, you were just telling me about getting a new Star Fleet uniform.
Ruth Carter: Yes, it arrived in the mail yesterday, I was as giddy as a school girl.
Sam Glover: As a Trekkie, you show up at places like Comic Con to give talks that are in the neighborhood of law? Tell me about that.
Ruth Carter: Yeah, I’ve been invited multiple years to speak at Phoenix Comic Con on things like comic book creator rights, fan art and fan fiction and copyright issues, those are the main things I get to talk about. It’s really great—
Sam Glover: Do you get to practice that law too, in your day to day work?
Ruth Carter: Yes.
Sam Glover: Very cool. You’re also a minimalist, you like to practice minimalist lifestyle, right? Tell me about that.
Ruth Carter: I do, it’s really simple, I mean really it’s about having things in your life, whether it’s physical objects or where you spend your time or who you affiliate with that add value. Of course I started with the physical stuff, and when I moved to my condo, I put all my stuff in boxes, and then I didn’t unpack. For I think nine, 10 weeks, I only unpacked what I needed when I needed it, and then after that 10 weeks, whatever was still in boxes went away, because if I didn’t need it for almost three months, I probably didn’t need it.
Sam Glover: Is it in storage, or have you sold it?
Ruth Carter: I just gave it away, I just called up, I think I gave it away to like the Humane Society’s thrift store.
Sam Glover: Do you know how many things you own? Like I know some people are like, “I will only own 100 things,” or whatever.
Ruth Carter: No, I’m not one of those. I’m not dissing it, but I don’t feel the need to sit around and count my stuff, but if I’m going to purchase something, I have nothing against consumerism because we all need things to stay alive, but I’m very thoughtful about what I’m buying and why I’m buying it, and yeah, that’s just kind of how it works.
Sam Glover: Aaron and I have had some conversations recently on the podcast and outside of the podcast about how your hobbies and your niche can become part of your marketing campaign. I thought that might be interesting to explore with you, who has some unusual hobbies, some very cool unusual hobbies, and they are very much part of who you are and what you do. You have managed to use them as a way to get exposure, it makes you a very interesting person to talk to in a room full of strangers, and I’m kind of curious, have you tried to be strategic about that in any way, or do you just wear your geeklawfirm.com t-shirt to everywhere you go, and that’s it?
Ruth Carter: Sometimes I’m strategic about it. Like as you were talking, a couple things that came to mind was, when somebody goes to an event and they see that the lawyer named Ruth is coming to speak, they tend to assume that I’m an old, stuffy Jewish woman. What somebody started saying about me is like, “Yeah, you know this lawyer’s coming, but don’t worry, she’s not that kind of lawyer.” I actually had business cards made that on the front, all it has on it is my name, and underneath it says, “Not that kind of lawyer.” On the back, it has all my contact information that you need to have to have a functioning business card, so I have those.
One year, instead of sending holiday cards around Thanksgiving/Christmas, I waited three months and had custom-printed postcards made to commemorate the future birthday of Captain Kirk, and sent those out instead.
Sam Glover: I think I got one of those.
Ruth Carter: Yes, you did get one of those.
Sam Glover: That was awesome.
Ruth Carter: See, and people still like have it up on their walls, versus you know how many holiday cards from this last Christmas do you still have up? Exactly. Then I was just thinking, I actually had new postcards made, just ones for everyday use, end of 2015. I also, one of my other hobbies is I’m also a model, and one of my photographer friends did this really cool composite of me with a stationary camera, and I kept changing my outfit and changing my pose, and then he combined them all. It’s this setting of me with 13 of me in one view, and so like in one I’m like telling a joke to myself and taking a picture of myself, playing a quartet with myself. I took this great composite, and I turned that into my postcards.
Sam Glover: You strike me as an extroverted person, do I have that right?
Ruth Carter: No.
Sam Glover: Really?
Ruth Carter: On the contrary, I am severely introverted. I love to perform.
Sam Glover: Well, that’s what I had in mind, and I get that performance is not the same thing as working a room, right? Performance, you’re really alone in front of a crowd.
Ruth Carter: Right, and selectively with people, I’m outgoing. Last week I got to do a talk for a bunch of design students at ASU on business formation, basic contracts, and a little bit of IP issues. I got to take my dog with me, which was awesome, and afterwards, I went home and was exhausted, because it’s fun to do, but it is draining.
Sam Glover: Maybe talking about introvert/extrovert is not even the point of what I’m getting at. I have a hobby, I love to go winter camping. I just got done telling you that I can’t go in a couple of days after this podcast recording because it’s going to be so warm for the first time in Minnesota that I’d be walking through lakes on top of frozen lakes. One of the things that makes it easier for me to go out to networking events is I always know that at worst, I just bring up the subject of winter camping, and automatically I’m going to be answering questions for a half an hour about winter camping, because I have this hobby that it’s interesting enough to people.
Most people have been camping, or they have thoughts about being outside and sleeping in the cold, so it seems like something that I always have a half an hour of stuff to talk about, which makes it easier to network. You have like five of those things, so that make it easy to go out and network, right?
Ruth Carter: It does, and are we allowed to swear on your podcast?
Sam Glover: As much as you like.
Ruth Carter: When I go to networking events, which I’ll admit, is not very often anymore, but when you have to fill out your own name tag, instead of writing my firm’s name, underneath my name I just write, “I’m fucking awesome”. That’s a great way for people to like self-select, either they’re like, “I want to talk to you,” or they’re like, “Yeah, you’re not my people.”
Sam Glover: Yeah, or they’re like, “Come on, prove it,” and you’re like, “I ride the subway without pants,” and they’re like, “Okay yeah, fair.”
Ruth Carter: Exactly.
Sam Glover: That makes sense, and you always have things to talk about that people are interested in, so you can kind of keep a conversation moving.
Ruth Carter: Exactly.
Sam Glover: We’re going to take a few minutes to hear from our sponsors, and when we come back, I want to explore the various flavors of geekdom and talk a little bit more about what it means to sort of represent the legal community as a member of a tribe, or represent your tribe as a lawyer, so we’ll be back in a minute.
You’re racing against the clock to wrap up three client projects, prepping for a meeting later in the afternoon, all while trying to tackle a mountain of paperwork? Welcome to modern life as a small firm lawyer. The working world has changed, with the growth of the internet, there’s never been more opportunities for the self-employed. To meet this need, FreshBooks is excited to announce the launch of an all-new version of their cloud accounting software. It’s been redesigned from the ground up and custom built for exactly the way you work.
Get ready for the simplest way to be more productive, organized, and most importantly, get paid quickly. The all new FreshBooks is not only ridiculously easy to use, it’s also packed full of powerful features. Create and send professional-looking invoices in less than 30 seconds, set up online payments with just a couple of clicks and get paid up to four days faster, see when your client has seen your invoice, and put an end to the guessing games. FreshBooks is offering a 30-day unrestricted free trial to our listeners. To claim it, just go to freshbooks.com/Lawyerist, and enter “Lawyerist” in the “how did you hear about us?” section.
This podcast is supported by Ruby Receptionists. As a matter of fact, Ruby answers our phones at Lawyerist, and my firm was a paying Ruby customer before that. Here’s what I love about Ruby: When I’m in the middle of something, I hate to be interrupted, so when the phone rings, it annoys me, and that often carries over into the conversation I have after I pick up the phone, which is why I’m better off not answering my phone. Instead, Ruby answers the phone, and if the person on the other end asks for me, a friendly, cheerful receptionist from Ruby calls me and asks if I want them to put the call through.
It’s a buffer that gives me a minute to let go of my annoyance and be a better human being during the call. If you want to be a better human being on the phone, give Ruby a try. Go to callruby.com/Lawyerist to sign up, and Ruby will waive the $95 setup fee. If you aren’t happy with Ruby for any reason, you can get your money back during your first three weeks. I’m pretty sure you’ll stick around, but since there is no risk, you might as well try.
Aaron Street: Most solo and small firm lawyers have had at least one truly miserable experience with a web designer or internet marketing company. If the idea of launching a new website for your law firm makes you queasy, our friends at Spotlight Branding get it. At Spotlight Branding, they pride themselves in excellent communication with their clients, they are responsive, professional, respectful, and deliver what they tell you they are going to deliver. Spotlight Branding works exclusively with solo and small law firms.
Services include law firm website design, email newsletter management, social media marketing, and more, all designed to make your law practice more profitable. Visit spotlightbranding.com/Lawyerist to see how they can help your firm stand out from the crowd without the headaches.
Sam Glover: Ruth, a few podcasts ago we had a lawyer on who does fitness law, and Aaron pointed out that there’s no such thing as fitness law, he just made that up. What he is is he’s a fitness enthusiast who is friends with a lot of other fitness enthusiasts, and he is their lawyer. I’m wondering how many clients that you had over the years have come out of riding the subway without pants or joining flash mobs or going to comic conventions, or doing Trekkie talks and things like that, like how much crossover between your hobbies and your profession?
Ruth Carter: I don’t know about crossover, because there really is no place where me the person ends and me the professional begins. It’s all me, so I definitely get clients from flash mobs, from speaking, from being involved in community activities, it’s definitely part of just what happens.
Sam Glover: It’s hard to talk about that as a marketing strategy, because it’s just who you are hanging out with people you want to be with, I guess.
Ruth Carter: Right, that’s exactly it. Like if you’re a soccer parent and you happen to also do divorce law, when your friend has a friend who’s getting a divorce and needs a lawyer, who are they going to call? They’re going to call their buddy because they like them as a person. I think that’s what’s missing as part, to a degree, in the legal community, is that people forget that people hire people, and so that’s what you’ve got to do first is just be you, and the rest tends to fall into place.
Sam Glover: Well, speaking of being you, so right now nerds or geeks who are like superhero geeks and comic book geeks are very much in style, Marvel is making the biggest movies repeatedly. I am not a comic book geek, so that has me kind of thinking about flavors of geek. You’re a Trekkie, that’s one of your flavors of geek, and you’re an improv performer, right? Do you get what I’m saying, that there are sort of different flavors of geek?
Ruth Carter: Yeah, I mean if you go to something like a Comic Con, you’re going to see like a subsection of the geek world, but then even within that, there are subsections. I remember my first time going, I knew so little of what I was actually seeing. I’d see all these crazy costumes, and my friends, who are immersed in comic books and things that I’m not, totally knew what they were seeing, and I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t get it.”
Sam Glover: Because I’ve never been to a Comic Con because I’m intimidated by it, and because “Comic” is not part of my geekiness. I’m a bookworm, I’ve read like all the Tarzan books, I’ve read all of the John Carter of Mars books, you know I’ve just read so much crappy sci-fi and fantasy, and that’s where my geeky shows out. I don’t go to Comic Cons, because I’m intimidated by the comic book geek-ness. I’m wondering, are geeks all of one stripe, like we all work together, or is it just different kind of cliques?
Ruth Carter: It’s a little bit of both. There are different veins, but to a degree, I think because we all are used to being like misfits, and basically like high school, back before comics were cool, we were the ones that got like the weird looks. Going home and playing with your chemistry set was weird, versus being a cheerleader or into theater or something maybe in our time was more “traditional”. I think there’s the understanding that it’s okay to be different, no matter what that is, as long as you’re being respectful of the other person’s thing, whatever that happens to be.
Sam Glover: I guess part of me is wondering like, do you get to really be a geek if you didn’t have that ostracism as a child? Like I got stuffed in trashcans routinely in junior high, so that’s my geek cred. If you’ve never known what it’s like to be an ostracized geek who gets picked on, do you actually get to count? I don’t know.
Ruth Carter: I think you do, because I bet there are some people out there who were maybe more mainstream and didn’t get shoved into trashcans, but maybe they felt like they had to hide their comic book reading from their friends out of fear, and so they had to keep it quiet.
Sam Glover: That’s probably true. This is a total digression from anything related to law practice obviously, but for whatever reason, it’s been on my mind. What advice would you give for somebody who is trying to think strategically about law practice and marketing, and isn’t sure whether or not they want to put themselves out there? Maybe we can, “Be your authentic self,” lots of people think they need to mute that authentic self, or they need to be a certain type of professional in public. What would you say to somebody who’s just not sure whether or not they ought to put it all out there?
Ruth Carter: I will say that once you put something out there, you can never take it back, so I mean at least if it’s on the internet, where everything is true, so you do have to be mindful that there’s certain bells you can’t un-ring, which I think is kind of funny because when I was invited to join Venjuris, and some of the people here are very conservative, nothing against it, but conservative. They said, “We want you to join the firm,” my first thought was, “Did you not Google me up? Because there is some weird stuff out there.” If you can find it, I’ll own it, but I won’t necessarily bring it up in every situation.
At the same time, I went to law school because of a career change, I wasn’t happy being a mental health therapist anymore. I didn’t invest three years and at least 60 grand in an education to be in another career where I was unhappy. For me, that means I have to be who I am, and if that’s a turnoff to you, that’s fine, self-select out, because you know if we’re not a good fit for each other, I don’t want to work with you either. That’s kind of my take on that.
I just think from a marketing perspective, if you do you and are connected to a community of people, like you know, humans, I’m not dissing people who live behind their computers, but there is value to in-person connections, and people just know what you do, and just being a lawyer, you’re going to start getting those questions of, “Hey, do you know someone who can help me with XYZ?” Whether that’s something you do or you gave a good referral, you’re going to create the network that’s going to lead to business. At least that’s been my experience, knock on wood, that’s working for me.
Sam Glover: When you were talking, it reminded me of how I used to feel about asking someone on a date, to how I learned to feel later in life. You know like in high school or junior high, there was this girl, Leigh Sackowitz, if she’s a lawyer and listening to this, I’m going to turn red if she tells me. In 5th grade, I had just an enormous crush on Leigh Sackowitz, and the school square dance was coming up. The boys, because this was Virginia however many years ago, so it was very chauvinistic, but so the boys picked a name out of a hat, and the boys got to decide to pick their date, or they could just say “Pass”, and then a name would be drawn from the hat.
I was like the second guy who got to pick, and Leigh Sackowitz hadn’t gotten picked yet, and I was too shy to say her name, and instead I said, “Put my name in the hat.” My today me would be like, “Dude, you’re never going to get that chance again, take it.” To a certain extent, when lawyers are suppressing who they are to present a polished and often kind of bland, whitewashed version of themselves out there, it reminds me of shy little Sam being too shy to say the name of the girl he wanted to dance with. It didn’t help that I could see her crossing her fingers and saying, “No, please don’t pick me.”
You know, and the today me would be like, “Eh, screw it. Ask, what’s the worst that could happen? They say no, well then big deal. It’s not going to work if one person doesn’t want it, so give it a try.” That sounds like kind of what you’re saying is, if you want a lawyer who is me, pick me, and if not, oh well, no loss really, we aren’t going to get along well.
Ruth Carter: Exactly, and one of the things I like to do, like my rule is if I’m in a situation and I’m not sure what the right thing to do is, I think, “How do I want to look back on this situation a year from now?”
Sam Glover: I love that, like give yourself some perspective.
Ruth Carter: Exactly, “Do I want to tweet at Sam and tell him how awesome he is, and hope that he likes it?”, which I could totally tell the story of the day we met, or, “Do I want to just be the person sitting there.” I remember sitting there thinking like, “This guy is so cool,” because you were a blogger, I was a new blogger. I remember watching you thinking, “I need to make this guy my new best friend.” I could have just thought that, or I could have done something about it.
Sam Glover: You did, you stomped right up to me and said, “Hey, how’s it going?”
Ruth Carter: First I tweeted at you, and then I followed you on LinkedIn, and I found lawyers on Facebook, and then I could walk up to you.
Sam Glover: Well, and it works, I try to have that perspective too. At the last Cleo Cloud conference, Gary Vanderchuck talked about this too, and he said, “Look, if you’re doing your best to appear what you think is professional, then you’re no different from any other characterless law firm and lawyer out there. There’s absolutely nothing to help anybody choose you over somebody else,” which is a damn good point. If you can interject your personality into the persona that you give to the world, then people can at least say, “Hey, that seems more like a lawyer with some life in them that I’d like to hire.”
Ruth Carter: Exactly, and I’ve had people reach out to me and say like, “I want to hire you.” Or, I thought this was so cute, somebody recommended me to their dad and said, “You’re going to like this lawyer, she swears.”
Sam Glover: There you go, that sounds about right. You kind of alluded to this maybe, have you experienced any negative repercussions?
Ruth Carter: Yeah, I mean I’ve had people say, like as a professional speaker I’ve had people say that they didn’t like my talk, or that I swore too much. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever had anybody not hire me.
Sam Glover: Do you have haters?
Ruth Carter: I wouldn’t go that far. I think there are people out there who are not a fan, and that’s okay. There’s plenty of people out there I’m not a fan of, so I think everybody has that, and that’s okay. I don’t think I’ve had that much backlash, and if there are people who are hating on me, they’re not being very loud about it. I think especially in our industry, it’s like you go with someone you trust and someone you like, and you don’t really worry about the people you’re not hiring.
Sam Glover: I guess another aspect of this that I’ve been thinking about sort of in respect to politics is we’ve become a lot more forgiving because so much, I think people have become more forgiving not about policies, but about what people might have done that is available on the internet, because so much of all of our lives is available on the internet right now. Like going and erasing all of your tracks isn’t really practical, but also everybody’s going to have pictures of themselves doing something out there, unless maybe you’re a Supreme Court justice who’s been planning for it their whole lives.
It seems to me that we’ve gotten a bit more forgiving of that sort of a thing, and people are used to seeing personalities, and what nobody wants to see is a lifeless law firm out there. Maybe people are just willing to accept that if nothing else, they’re getting a better picture of who you are, even if they ultimately conclude you’re not the right lawyer for them.
Ruth Carter: I think you’re right. I think people have like their one or two things that are the deal-breakers, but then are much more forgiving or just not caring about some of the other stuff.
Sam Glover: Maybe this is a way for me to make the discussion about what kind of geeks we are relevant. There are definitely a lot of common hobbies that really aren’t all that interesting to talk about or to do, and have the effect of making you look bland even if you talk about them, I think. For example, I have two kids, and we do kid things, and one of my biggest hobbies right now is hanging out with my kids and my wife, and doing family things. Nobody really wants to hear me go and on about my amazing daughters, but I will at length and in detail if I get a half a chance.
I wonder if golf is like that, like everybody golfs at some point in their middle age, well mostly white men I suppose, everybody doesn’t, white dudes at some point around middle age mostly start golfing. Maybe that’s interesting to talk to with other golfers, but it’s not the kind of thing that distinguishes you in any way, it’s a totally sort of boring hobby, really. I wonder if maybe, if you’re sitting here reflecting, “Well, there isn’t much about me that is daring and outgoing and interesting like Ruth has.” Maybe it’s time to reflect on what your hobbies are, and try to come up with some new things, you know go travel in Europe for a month or something, and then you’ll have something more to talk about, I don’t know.
Ruth Carter: I don’t know, I hear what you’re saying, and I guess that someone’s in that space where they’re questioning that, I would ask them—
Sam Glover: Or like if you’re worried that you aren’t a very interesting person.
Ruth Carter: Right, and I may ask, “Okay, why do you do what you do in your spare time?” Because I can totally support someone being passionate about something I would find extremely boring, but listening to someone else geek out about it, you know you’re not there to convince me why you love it. You love winter camping, good on you, you’re not getting me out there.
Sam Glover: Says the girl from Phoenix.
Ruth Carter: Yeah, exactly, but I can totally enjoy somebody else’s enjoyment. Even you were saying like you enjoy spending time with your family. I am not somebody who has any aspirations to procreate, but I went to the Dad 2.0 Summit, which is this dad blogger conference, and had this great time watching these guys totally geek out about being dads and what it means to them to be an involved parent, and the challenges they face, and things that I had never thought about. Just because it’s mainstream doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.
I got involved with a group called Ignite Phoenix, which is all about people talking about their passions in five-minute increments. Listening to people geek out about things I could care less about is fine, and so I think if it’s something that you love, let that freak flag fly, whatever that may be for you.
Sam Glover: I suppose now that you’ve mentioned that, if your geek thing is tax law, then spend your time talking about how awesome the tax code is, really, and show that enthusiasm and wear that for your flag. If you can make the tax code interesting, or even if you can make other people see how interesting you find it, maybe that can be your thing.
Ruth Carter: I mean, I would want to hire a CPA who thinks the tax code is cool. You don’t have to give me a lecture about it, just do my taxes, but someone who’s happy with what they’re doing, it shows.
Sam Glover: You don’t have to have daring and outrageous hobbies, you just have to geek out about something and find a way to let people know, because that enthusiasm is really the infectious piece. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Ruth Carter: Well and I mean, we all have that platform, it’s called the bio on our website. If you just add like that one liner of like your hobbies, I bet when someone reads it, they’re going to see that, and that could be the reason that they hire you, or at least they call you is that, “Hey, you’re a super Red Sox fan, me too, or I love baseball,” or whatever.
Sam Glover: I can’t wait to see the lawyer bios that we see next year in our websites contest that have taken advantage of your advice. Ruth, thank you so much for being with us here today, and taking time of from your many amazing hobbies, and I hope we’ll have you on the podcast again soon, and I look forward to spending some time at TBD Law with you.
Ruth Carter: I can’t wait for TBD Law, it’s going to be great.
Sam Glover: See you then.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of the Lawyerist podcast. If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit Lawyerist.com/podcast or legaltalknetwork.com. You can subscribe via iTunes or anywhere podcasts are found, both Lawyerist and the Legal Talk Network can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and you can download the free app from Legal Talk Network in Google Play or iTunes.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants in this program are their own, and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said during this podcast is legal advice.