Matt Meyerkord is a personal injury lawyer practicing in Kansas City, Missouri. As founding partner of Meyerkord Russell & Hergott, Matt and his partners focus their practice exclusively on helping individuals harmed through the negligent or reckless actions of another. Matt will tell you that his goal is to “leave a positive imprint on people’s lives.” Through the interview below, you can see how he follows this goal in his trial practice to get fantastic results for his clients.
Lawyer Minds: Why did you decide to become a trial lawyer?
Matt Meyerkord: Why I became a trial lawyer is a little different that why I am a trial lawyer now. I never really wanted to be a trial lawyer growing up. My dad’s a trial lawyer and I was never really interested in his work. I wanted to be a wildlife biologist, so I went to the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana to get a degree in that field. Looking back, I think I might have just wanted to get away from home because a few months into my freshman year I started to get interested in the law in a new way.
My oldest brother had just become a lawyer and I was able to see the practice in a different light. I saw the difference a lawyer can make in a person’s life and was also better able to understand how you can make a good living helping people. I transferred back to Mizzou after my freshman year to get a degree in Communication and get into law school.
I had gone through school and been practicing on my own for a while when I found the true reason why I am a trial lawyer. In 2009 I started attending the Reptile (now EDGE) CLEs and learned to start looking at cases a different way. I learned to focus on the wrongdoing and the rule-breaking act and find cases that really got me angry. This turned my practice into a mission and helped me discover a true passion for my cases. We started taking fewer cases which allowed us to work more on each case and really make them shine, rather than focusing on a volume practice where you just churn them out. It’s made me really love my job and is the reason I am a trial lawyer.
Lawyer Minds: What advice do you have for new trial lawyers?
Matt Meyerkord: Try as many cases as you can, especially if you’re doing it on someone else’s dime. It’s hard to get courtroom experience when you’re a new lawyer, especially if you’re a solo. Most cases a new trial lawyer handles will settle, and oftentimes rightfully so because new lawyers often get the bad cases. It’s hard to press a client to reject a settlement offer when you know you’re going to have to beat it by a wide margin to justify your fees and expenses. Plus, jury trials are risky.
You could have the best case in the world and put on the best trial, but at the end of the day you can’t guarantee what 12 strangers are going do with the case. But if your client’s on board and understands the risks, and especially if you’re working at a law firm with more experienced lawyers to help you out, then get in there! Take the opportunity early in your career to get trial experience before it gets too expensive and risky to turn down decent settlement offers.
Lawyer Minds: What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a lawyer?
Matt Meyerkord: The appreciation from the client at the end of the case. No matter what the size of the verdict or settlement, if you’re honest with your clients and talk with them regularly, work hard, and do a good job, they’ll be thankful. It’s nice to hear and it motivates me to keep pushing.
Lawyer Minds: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a law firm?
Matt Meyerkord: Do it! It truly is incredible being the master of your own destiny. It’s hard, for sure. But the freedom to chart your own path is worth the hard parts.
Get a website as early as possible and just start putting content on there. Keep it well-fed with original content and it will grow over time, just like a plant.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I found that established solos and attorneys at small firms are always willing to help, having gone through the same experience as you.
Lawyer Minds: For solos or those looking to add law partners to their firm, what was that process like for you?
Matt Meyerkord: I started my firm in 2008 after having practiced with my dad in St. Louis for several years. Shortly after that, my lifelong best friend Brian Russell decided to go to law school after serving in the army and working a corporate job for a few years. He wound up at UMKC School of Law. While he was in school, I was building my solo practice in KC and trying to make my way on my own. When Brian graduated, things were starting to pick up in my practice. My website was gaining visibility and I was finally getting cold-call cases. Brian got a job at a mid-sized general practice, but quickly decided it wasn’t for him. Since things were picking up and I knew Brian so well and knew how well he’d done in law school, I asked if he wanted to partner up.
The two of us practiced for several years and we rented out part of our office space to Brian’s law school classmate Nick Hergott. Things continued to pick up for Brian and I and Nick was killing it on his own, so we asked if he wanted to join up. Nick and Brian were both at the top of their class, I trusted them both, and we were working well together, so it was a natural fit. Time has proven that right.
Lawyer Minds: What advice do you have for someone looking to partner with another lawyer?
Matt Meyerkord: I think the most important thing is that you trust this person. There will be good times and bad times, highs and lows, and you have to be able to count on each other to get through it all.
Communication is also vital.
Everyone needs to be able to check their egos at the door and talk. You have to be honest with each other and open. Don’t hide things and if you ever aren’t sure whether to mention something to your partners, err on the side of telling them. If the communication and respect is there, it can only help make you all better.
Lawyer Minds: How much time do you spend working on your practice versus in the practice (practicing law) and how do you balance that out?
Matt Meyerkord: We divide “working on the practice” duties between the three partners. Generally speaking, I run our marketing, Brian handles firm management stuff, and Nick heads up our HR.
I try and spend Friday mornings doing marketing stuff. That includes things like this, though as I type this it’s 2:25 pm and I’m behind my self-imposed schedule. I also spend that time writing a blog, meeting with our marketing manager Stina Hergott (Nick’s wife) if necessary, bugging former clients for online reviews, and doing stuff for the lawyer’s organizations I’m part of.
Lawyer Minds: You are heavily involved in AAJ and MATA. Why are those organizations important to you?
Matt Meyerkord: Two main reasons.
Many people don’t know how sorry a state our 7th amendment rights are and how they continue to get eroded by laws passed by the legislature. We have a constitutional right to trial by jury, just as we do a right to free speech and a right to bear arms. I’m amazed at how people will fight to the death for their other rights but so quickly vote for an elected official who is advocating for the limitation of your 7th amendment rights.
MATA and AAJ are two of the few organizations that are trying to prevent us from losing our right to trial by jury. MATA and AAJ help prevent laws that limit people’s rights to full and fair compensation from wrongdoers.
The second reason I’m involved is because they make me a better lawyer. Their CLE programs are the best I’ve ever attended. They are top notch. I’ve been to some other lawyer conventions and other one-off CLEs and they don’t come close to MATA and AAJ’s content. You really do get the best continuing education. This is important because we work in one of the few professions where the better you are at your job, the more money you make. This incentivizes improvement and benefits both me and my clients.
Thanks to Matt for spending time with Lawyer Minds for the interview.
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