Beyond the Docket: Shannon Montgomery
Alt Legal Team | June 20, 2019
Welcome back to Beyond the Docket! This time we are back to interview Shannon Montgomery of Montgomery Law, PLLC and learn about how being a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder has helped Shannon secure fitness influencers and other folks in the fitness space as clients!
Tell us a bit about your legal practice. What type of work do you focus on?
I focus primarily in trademark prosecution and brand protection. But I also do quite a bit of what I consider small business transactional work like contract review and drafting.
You have a really active blog, and you’ve spent time as a legal writer. How do you find time to manage your blog and your legal practice? How do you come up with topics to write about? What’s a strategy you use when you find yourself with writer’s block?
Well in the interest of full transparency, I have allowed myself to get a little behind on the blogging. But typically I block my time in order to keep up with it. Usually Tuesday mornings are my blogging mornings. I set aside an hour or two in the morning to write, get it up on my site, and do any of the artwork that needs to get done for it. I turn off my phone and pause my email inbox to keep myself from getting distracted. I find that if I don’t schedule the time and truly act as if it is a meeting I cannot miss, then I won’t write and the blog sits there waiting on my next article.
Topic generation isn’t quite as scientific as my writing schedule. I usually draw inspiration from client, or random emails I get in my inbox. I also spend time on Quora and Reddit trying to find out what people are struggling with and then I answer those questions via a blog post, a social media post, or a YouTube video.
If and when I get writer’s block, I just step away. Sometimes I only need an hour, and sometimes I need a few weeks to get the creative juices to flow once again. This is part of why I haven’t written a new blog in a few weeks. I haven’t been feeling very inspired, and I have needed a bit of a reset.
On your blog, you have a great series called “Social Media: This Isn’t the Wild West,” where you discuss issues surrounding intellectual property and social media. What was your inspiration for the series? Have you gotten any interesting or unexpected responses?
This came from a bit of a debacle that happened with a prominent social media influencer that a lot of my clients started asking me about. Basically, this person was caught taking money from clients for services they never received or only received portions of.
The story sort of blew up and people started asking my opinion on the topic. A lot of my clients are influencers so they had concerns. Plus, a lot of people think social media is some kind of unregulated territory, and it is to an extent (which I think needs to change) but it isn’t what people think. For some reason, a lot of social media users don’t realize that there are laws in place that govern your behavior, whether that is taking place on social media, or some other platform, and the laws and regulations don’t need to explicitly state “this applies to your behavior on social media.” So since I was getting a lot of questions on it, I thought it would be fun to write a few articles explaining what laws exist and how that applies to Social Media.
Before starting Montgomery Law, PLLC, you worked at a few other firms and legal departments. What do you think you gained from those experiences? What did they teach you about managing your own firm?
This is a tough one! Aside from the general legal experience and learning how to practice, I think my prior firms taught me crucial skills for managing my own firm. Time management is the most important one. I’ve always had decent time management skills, as I suspect any lawyer does given our personality types. But practicing really teaches you how to prioritize the important things, and how to shift around certain things to ensure you are hitting your goals.
Another great lesson was client management. I am a people person, I have never struggled with that. But I was terrible at managing client expectations. Working in my past firms provided me with the skills needed to do this appropriately and effectively. Obviously, in our industry, this is probably one of the most important aspects of working with clients, and without my past firms, I don’t know if this is something I would have been able to figure out as smoothly right out of law school.
I think at the end of the day, the main thing I learned while with my previous firm(s) is that this work has to remain client-focused. And I don’t just mean providing the client with top-notch legal work but also being able to relate to the client and to understand what it is they’re going through when they come to you. I strive to do more than just provide a work product because I think the relationship I build with each client is just as important as the work they’re hiring me to do.
In addition to being a lawyer, you’re also a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder. How did you get into that? How do you balance your lifting and bodybuilding with your legal practice? Have those two worlds ever collided? How do you use this expertise at your firm?
Bodybuilding came first, but I didn’t get into it until I was out of law school and settled into my first job as an associate. I have been lifting/working out since I was about 15, and after so many years of people asking me what I was training for, I decided I had better actually train for something!
This was right around the time that Instagram fitness was growing, so I was learning more and more about the sport, and it seemed like something I would be good at and enjoy doing. Initially I thought bodybuilding for women was too scary. I didn’t realize there were other categories to compete in outside of “bodybuilding.” When I found out there were categories like bikini and figure (I’ve competed in both) it seemed a lot less scary. After my first year competing, I was hooked.
During my first “off-season” from competing in bodybuilding, my coach at the time suggested I give powerlifting a try because it compliments bodybuilding and I was semi-strong. I tried it for the first time and fell madly in love. I’ve been competing in both for about 5 years now. I have some injuries related to a car accident that might have ended my powerlifting career, but I will never give up the gym. It is my one true love.
Balancing the two is easy for me because I am not married, and I don’t have kids. It is just me and my sweet dog. So if I need to get up at 4 am to get to the gym and back before a 9 am meeting, I can do that with relative ease. When I landed my first associate position, I would wake up at 4:15 every day to get to the gym by 5 and be home by 7. Morning workouts are the only way I can do it. If I saved training for after work, I would probably skip the gym more than I care to admit. So for me, the balancing is simple: set my alarm for as early as I need to and get it in gear when it goes off in the AM! It is a nonnegotiable for me. My day is not complete until I get my training in. Because I view it this way, I have never struggled to balance training with my career. I just make it happen.
The worlds 100% collided, and that is one of the main reasons I decided to go out on my own. I have a personal Instagram account that I started as a way to document my fitness “journey” although it wasn’t really a journey; it was/is my way of life. My handle is embarrassing (liftinglawyer) but because of the name, people started popping in my DM’s with questions on whether or not I could help them with this that and the other. Sometimes these people were fitness influencers, and I realized there was a hole in the market. There are a lot of really smart, young, entrepreneurial people doing cool things on social media, and most of them are doing it without legal help. Sometimes this gets them into trouble, and I started noticing it. One thing led to another, and now a good bulk of my clients are fitness influencers or people in the fitness space. I think they like working with me because we understand each other’s mindset. Plus it’s fun to meet with a client at the gym!
Fitness and competing provide so many parallels to life and running a business. Consistency is the most important thing when it comes to training for bodybuilding or powerlifting and really just maintaining a healthy lifestyle in general. That lesson is something I bring over into my practice every single day. I am consistent in my actions to move my firm forward and consistent in providing a great service to my clients. I am also consistently growing and learning as much as I can when it comes to practicing law and managing a solo firm. I truly believe my dedication to fitness, and the experiences it has given me, is the main reason I am running my own practice today. I honestly could discuss this particular topic for hours, but I won’t do that to you!
What is your law firm’s technology stack? Do you use Slack? Practice management software? Trademark management software?
Since it is just me at the moment, my tech is pretty simple. Although this is an area I would like to improve on in the near future. I use Alt Legal and Clio for trademark and client management. I run off of G Suite, so my calendar and all my emails are synced. And I love Boomerang for email management. Aside from that, I have a Mac and an iPhone that I operate off of. I am 100% virtual because I live in a different state than I am barred in. All of my clients are in FL or CA, so occasionally I will utilize Zoom for face-to-face meetings or even Facetime if that is what a client wants to do. Aside from that, I keep things pretty simple.
If you could create any legal practice-focused technology, what would it be and why?
I am in search of document creation technology. So far I haven’t found anything that is a) super budget friendly b) super user friendly and c) has all of the parts I am seeking. I spend a lot of time drafting contracts, so a top notch document creation software would save my life! But, I just can’t find what I am looking for…if anyone out there has suggestions for me, I am all ears!!