Ari Kaplan interviews Nancy Mertzel, the former chair of Herrick Feinstein’s Intellectual Property Group, who recently founded Mertzel Law PLLC, a boutique IP law firm.
Ari Kaplan: Tell us about you background and the genesis of Mertzel Law.
Nancy Mertzel: I protect brand names and content. I help clients who have new products and new businesses register their trademarks, as well as enforce them once they’re established. I also perform copyright work and draft related agreements. I wanted to have a more direct relationship with my clients where there is no firm administration, reduced overhead, and I could just take care of people. That’s why I started Mertzel Law.
Ari Kaplan: What are the unique challenges that former large firm attorneys face in launching solo practices?
Nancy Mertzel: You are the marketing department, the tech department, and the HR department if you hire someone. When you’re in a large firm, there are people to do all of those things for you. If something isn’t working, whether it’s your printer, your telephone, or your computer, you are the one that has to get it fixed. Doing without those helpers in your work is definitely a challenge.
I thought other people might have concerns that I don’t have the resources that I would have at a large firm, but what I’m finding is that I’ve done so much of the work and I carefully review and supervise any work that anyone else does, so that clients want me. When they hired me at a large firm, they did so because they knew me or they were referred to me and they wanted to work with me. Now they can hire me without the firm and get the same thing without the overhead.
Ari Kaplan: How have your past experiences from an entrepreneurial perspective helped with your current endeavours, especially addressing some of the challenges that you mentioned?
Nancy Mertzel: I like technology. When I was in law school, I had a lot of fun with technology. I even did computer programming in college. I used to sell computers. I used to do consulting for people and help them with their computers whether it was a PC or a Mac. I bring my full self to my law practice. I’ve actually had to shut down the technophile in me over the past few years because it wasn’t helpful when I was in a larger firm setting as they already had solutions that we had to use, and they didn’t like the things that I came up with. Now, I can let that side of me flourish and pick and choose the tools that are going to enable me to be most efficient and take the best care of my clients. Today, it’s all cloud- and subscription based. My law firm fits in my backpack. And I can be anywhere and do the work that I need to do as long as I have a little bit of quiet and some electricity.
Ari Kaplan: How have you leveraged your knowledge in coding and IT consulting to create efficiencies in your new firm?
Nancy Mertzel: I think I’ve made good choices of tools to use in my practice. I’ve tested out a bunch of different programs and products, including practice management software and technology to keep track of my clients’ trademarks. When I sit down in front of a new program, whether it’s local or cloud-based, I can usually figure it out and I have the determination to find solutions if they are not apparent to me. I also like dealing with computer code and I have been fortunate to work on some really interesting lawsuits over the years involving software and source code.
Ari Kaplan: What are the key qualities for success in today’s market?
Nancy Mertzel: Being nimble, flexible, and authentic. Bring your true self to every encounter and every engagement. Relationships are so critical. The people you know will be your clients. So, it’s really important to nurture those relationships and develop new ones. You give, you receive, it all comes through if you do that and work hard at it.
Ari Kaplan: Do you have advice for new lawyers entering the profession seeking to achieve some type of work life balance?
Nancy Mertzel: New lawyers really need to get their training and they have to find a place where they’re going to develop those skills. It’s important that people navigate that individually. Have a recipe for it. There are times where you can say, “Look, I have to be at this. My work will get done at another time.” There are others where you’ll say, “I can’t go do that. I need to be in my office or at my computer and be working.”
Each person has to struggle through those challenges. But over time, it gets easier. As you develop the confidence, skills, clients, and relationships, then you’ll be in charge of managing your own time. If you need to pick up the kids at 3:30 and get them fed and then work later at night, that’s what you do. That’s a solution that many working moms have come up with. Fortunately, we don’t have to go back to the office anymore to do that.
Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlights transformative change, and introduce new technology and on iTunes.Be Sociable, Share!