Welcome back to Beyond the Docket! This week we talk with Lara Pearson of Brand Geek®. Lara runs her practice as an expression of her values, focusing on social entrepreneurship and giving back to the community.
Tell us a bit about your legal practice. (How long have you had your own practice? What type of work do you focus on?)
I am a soulful trademark attorney. Or at least that’s how I describe myself on online dating sites. My tagline is “Protecting the Brands that are Changing the World®.” And yes, of course, that’s federally registered. I opened the Law Office of Me (officially named the Law Office of Lara Pearson Ltd, PBC) on June 21, 2002 and officially let people know my law firm was open for business on July 1, 2002. I began using the Brand Geek® service mark in 2010.
What is your law firm technology stack? Do you use Slack? Practice management software? Trademark management software?
Hahaha, I had to look that up! “Technology stack.” I’m going to be forty-seven, AKA a techno dino. Do I have to answer? We love Alt Legal, GSuite, Quickbooks, Dropbox, and others I’m forgetting. When I began practicing in 1999, we had mountains of paper. The one federal court case in which I was counsel (swearing that off forever since), literally necessitated renting an office and hiring employees to manage all the paper!
How did you pick your focus: representing social enterprises, bands, and promoters?
It picked me! These are my passions, along with puzzle solving, connecting dots (which often happen to be humans) and playing outside. Serving clients whose values and passions I share makes something I already love to do even more enjoyable. And the people! Soulful people run soulful enterprises. There is nothing better than surrounding yourself with soulful humans who thrive while creating abundance for as many others as possible in all that they do.
How does your passion for social entrepreneurship influence your practice?
How doesn’t it? My firm is an expression of my values. I consciously measure and manage my firm’s environmental and social impact annually and strive to be the best business I can be—doing as much good as possible with as small of an environmental impact as possible. Brand Geek celebrates its 10-year anniversary as a Certified B Corp this month, and every two years (this year included) we have to re-certify by taking the current version of the B Impact Assessment. I have a little more math to do, but last year Brand Geek donated somewhere between 3-4% of its gross revenue to non-governmental organizations, including MAP, The Bear League and Social Venture Network. We also provide a fair amount of pro bono legal work to NGOs whose missions we support.
How do you go about developing meaningful personal relationships with your clients beyond that of an attorney-client?
You mean like beginning my emails with things like “I hope this finds you smiling” and signing many of them with “Love”? After experiencing a traumatic event in early 2015, I realized I still wore all these masks. Although I had not owned or worn a business suit since 2008, there were still plenty of ways in which I put on an act in my legal practice. I decided to abandon most of those. Granted, I’d never ever sign an e-mail to Opposing Counsel with “Love,” but I do sign “Warmly,” and I mean it. The practice of law is meant to be a helping profession, not a contact sport.
You work with a remote trademark paralegal today. Any advice for other attorneys looking to do the same?
Besides hire Ramsey Engler?! Not really.
Actually, the most important thing is finding your Ramsey, be they my Ramsey or someone else entirely. Paralegals are like romantic partners. There must be trust. You have to find someone whose rhythm you can work with and with whom you communicate well. Setting expectations (and reviewing and re-setting as often as needed) is key. Basic relationship stuff, really.
How much of your time do you spend supporting organizations on a pro bono basis?
About 30 hours last year. It depends really. This year I put several offers out and have only had a few responses, so we’ll see. I think I usually average 30-40 hours a year, though it’s always a little tricky since I don’t track time or have any billable hours. I conduct all my work on a project basis, which is the most liberating practice I can recommend for any attorney (well, besides meditation).
You mentioned that surfing and working on 1% for the Planet with Yvon is one of the highlights of your career. Do you still surf? What was a major takeaway from your work with 1% for the Planet?
Does snow surfing (aka snowboarding) count? If so, then yes. Otherwise, nope, I have not surfed since my last 1% FTP board meeting in 2009. Holy cow, almost 10 years ago! Yvon Chouinard is as genuine as they come. He has no filters; he just calls it like it is and look what he’s built. It’s OK to be authentic in business, and really, it’s an incredible gift.
If you could create any legal practice-focused technology, what would it be and why?
This is really ironic given that I don’t bill in time increments, but I desperately want an app for my laptop (PC, don’t shoot me!) that will track every time I change a task and where I go and report it and the end of the day. As a trademark attorney, I spend a lot of time searching things on the internet and, oh the rabbit holes! I often wonder where the time goes, but don’t have the time to track it on my own.