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From 8 Lawyers to AmLaw 200

Welcome to another episode of the Founding Partner Podcast, where insights from the legal world’s movers and shakers are just a play button away. Today’s episode features a special guest, Ben Mathis, a name synonymous with legal prowess and strategic growth in the industry. As a leading figure at Freeman Mathis & Gary, a firm that has seen exponential growth and recently entered the AmLaw 200, Mathis brings years of experience and a treasure trove of knowledge to our discussion.

**From Humble Beginnings to National Recognition**

Freeman Mathis & Gary started as an eight-lawyer firm on April Fool’s Day, which Mathis jokingly remarks is the only date he can’t forget. Now, the firm stands tall with 380 lawyers and a presence across 21 states. Mathis takes us through the journey of the firm’s evolution, highlighting the changes in the legal landscape and how they adapted to meet the demands of a growing client base.

**Growth Strategy: The Art of Expansion**

Mathis delves into the firm’s strategic growth, which includes organic growth, lateral recruiting, and entering new markets. He shares the firm’s approach to identifying potential partners and the importance of aligning with their core culture components: teamwork, excellence, opportunity, and consistency. Mathis emphasizes the significance of investing in infrastructure to support growth and the challenges of integrating new offices and attorneys into the fold.

**Navigating the Pandemic and Beyond**

The conversation takes a turn to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the legal industry. Freeman Mathis & Gary’s proactive approach to reopening offices and maintaining a strong connection with clients and staff through technology and in-person interactions is a testament to their resilience. Mathis also shares his insights on the future of work, advocating for the benefits of in-office collaboration, especially for younger lawyers building their careers.

**Tech Football, NIL, and Conference Realignment**

No episode would be complete without touching on personal passions. Mathis, an ardent Georgia Tech fan, shares his involvement in the NIL program and his optimistic outlook for the team’s future. He also weighs in on the shifting landscape of college athletics, conference realignment, and the financial forces at play.

**Joining Forces with Freeman Mathis & Gary**

In a call to action for talented litigators who thrive in the courtroom, Mathis extends an invitation to lawyers across the country to consider joining Freeman Mathis & Gary. With the firm’s continuous growth and trial-focused culture, opportunities abound for those looking to make their mark in the legal field.

**Tune in to the Full Conversation**

This episode is packed with valuable insights for anyone interested in the business of law, growth strategies, and the ever-evolving legal landscape. Don’t miss the chance to hear Ben Mathis’s in-depth discussion on these topics and more. To catch the full conversation, listen to the episode on the Founding Partner Podcast. Your next dose of inspiration is just a click away! 

[00:00:00] Ben Mathis: I tell the associates all of whom think you’re completely removed from the reality of their world that believe it or not, that commutes and that sort of thing were even an issue 27 years ago. So, probably half the reason we started the firm is Ted Freeman lived in Sandy Springs. Bart Gary lived and lived in East Cobb.

[00:00:19] Ben Mathis: I lived in Marietta and we were all tired of driving to downtown every day. So, when we decided to form a firm, we told the real estate brokers that we needed some place equal distance between Ted’s house and my house, which was the Galleria. So, that honestly was a factor in sort of a change of life, you know, to get out of downtown.

[00:00:42] ​[00:01:00]

[00:01:11] Jonathan Hawkins: Welcome to Founding Partner Podcast. I’m your host, Jonathan Hawkins. Today’s guest I’ve really been looking forward to when I decided to launch this thing back in the fall, I made a list of potential guests and this was someone who was one of the top people on my list. So glad to finally get Ben Mathis on here.

[00:01:34] Jonathan Hawkins: And so Ben, we’ve known each other for quite a while. I think I first learned of you, I think when I got on your Georgia Tech football email list years ago. Always enjoyed getting that. So I don’t know if you still send it. I’m not on there anymore. We’ll have to add me back if you still do.

[00:01:50] Jonathan Hawkins: But so yeah. So today’s guest is Ben Mathis, Freeman Mathis Gary. It’s a firm based here in Atlanta, but it’s really grown a lot over the last number of [00:02:00] years. We’ll get into that. So it’s really all over the country now. But the other interesting thing is I think this year, Freeman Mathis entered the AmLaw 200 for the first time, so I think that’s a cool benchmark as well.

[00:02:11] Jonathan Hawkins: But Ben, why don’t you introduce yourself, tell us about your background, your firm, and what you guys do.

[00:02:17] Ben Mathis: Jonathan, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I always enjoy talking about the firm. We started 27 years ago on April Fool’s Day. So unlike my anniversary and birthday and all the other things I’m forgetting in my advanced years, I can always remember when you start a law firm on April Fool’s Day. We started with eight lawyers and so we’re very different firm than we started off to be. And actually, we’re exactly the opposite of the firm we ever wanted to be. And that’s probably a story into itself is how the world changed and we felt like we had it to adapt. But we did start here in Atlanta, Ted Freeman, Bart Gary retired now.

[00:02:56] Ben Mathis: I still most days look around. It worries me because Ted and Bart [00:03:00] always provided adult supervision and now look around. I’m the one of the oldest people in the firm and that terrifies me, but we are now a, a trillion national firm with a lot of thoughts and processes and strategies to be who we are and that’s, there’s been a lot to develop through the years.

[00:03:20] Ben Mathis: I’m a native Atlanta and Atlanta’s changed about as much as the firm has all these years. And you and I are unusual, and they were both Georgia Tech lawyers. Our Georgia Tech undergrads who became lawyers.

[00:03:33] Jonathan Hawkins: There aren’t that many of us, and a lot of the ones, the question I always got is, oh, so you’re a patent lawyer. No, I’m not.

[00:03:39] Ben Mathis: I do, and my University of Georgia partners who are many all comment that they got to work for the only law firm in existence where UGA grads get made fun of every single day at a law firm.

[00:03:52] Jonathan Hawkins: Very nice. So you started with eight attorneys. Where are you guys now?

[00:03:57] Ben Mathis: We are 380 [00:04:00] lawyers, another almost 300 staff, including paralegals and so that’s around a 680 head count. We think we’ll cross over 400 lawyers in the early fall. We’re in 21 states and 37 offices.

[00:04:18] Jonathan Hawkins: Wow. That’s a lot of growth and I want to dig into some of that today, but let’s go way back to the beginning. And when you started the firm, I guess you started with partners. What made you guys Decide to do that as opposed to staying wherever you were.

[00:04:34] Ben Mathis: I tell the associates all of whom think you’re completely removed from the reality of their world that believe it or not, that commutes and that sort of thing were even an issue 27 years ago. Probably half the reason we started the firm is Ted Freeman lived in Sandy Springs. Bart Gary lived and lived in East Cobb.

[00:04:54] Ben Mathis: I lived in Marietta and we were all tired of driving to downtown every day. When we decided to [00:05:00] form a firm, we told the real estate brokers that we needed some place equal distance between Ted’s house and my house, which was the Galleria. That honestly was a factor in a change of life, to get out of downtown.

[00:05:14] Ben Mathis: But we did three different things. I was an employment lawyer. Bart was a construction lawyer. And Ted Freeman had more, he had been a more traditional in the insurance world, but doing a lot of 1983 civil rights defense. I think it’s probably fair to say that Ted is maybe the father of the civil rights defense bar in Georgia.

[00:05:34] Ben Mathis: And and so we did those three things and we thought there was a better fit and a different platform.

[00:05:40] Jonathan Hawkins: And you mentioned a minute ago that the firm now is very different than it was then. Obviously it’s much bigger, but is there anything else you were referring to?

[00:05:49] Ben Mathis: Literally everything with the exception that. We still do a tremendous amount of employment law. We still do a tremendous amount of construction law and and also in the the government civil [00:06:00] rights area. As any lawyer knows, you can be in the biggest law firm in the world.

[00:06:03] Ben Mathis: You can be by yourself, but when you have a lawsuit, it’s you and your team against two members on the other side. A lot of ways, it doesn’t matter who you work for in that regard, but in every other respect it’s very different.

[00:06:18] Jonathan Hawkins: I remember, so I graduated law school in 2003, and I remember your firm, back then it seems to me like maybe you guys had in the teens, maybe in the 20s lawyers. And, I’ve been in a couple of firms that were in that range and they seem to float there for a while.

[00:06:37] Jonathan Hawkins: And it seems to me that, you can grow organically to some level. But if you really want to grow it’s like a decision you make. Was it that way for you? It was, did there come a point where you guys decided, Hey, we’re going to, we’re going to do it?

[00:06:51] Ben Mathis: I tell people that we made two decisions.

[00:06:55] Ben Mathis: The first was when we started the firm, we made the decision that we would [00:07:00] not resist growing. And I think a lot of small firms look at them and say, life would be a lot easier not to grow. You can do pretty well financially, but one of the problems is your younger people do not have any opportunity.

[00:07:15] Ben Mathis: For growth. And I think it just changes the whole feeling of your law firm. So Ted Bart and I were very deliberate about the fact we would not resist growing. And so from 1997 until really about 11 years ago, we grew nicely organically without trying. And and then we made that conscious decision that you’re talking about and we saw, but by, in fact, it was 11 years ago, June 1st, because we just had an anniversary from the 1st group of lawyers.

[00:07:46] Ben Mathis: He joined us from outside of Atlanta, but go back 1213 years. We could see that the. World that we were involved in was changing. We had a significant insurance oriented [00:08:00] practice. I’ve never described our firm as being an insurance defense firm because we’ve always been really heavily in the specialty fields.

[00:08:07] Ben Mathis: And employment law is a good example. When I started practicing employment law, there was no insurance in it. Now it’s in it at many different levels, sometimes primary, but you can represent, and we do Fortune 500 companies, but They’ve got backstop in there and so you’re in the insurance world, whether you mean to or not, but we were significantly in it and we had seen the development of large corporate clients consolidating panel, but the insurance industry started doing that.

[00:08:36] Ben Mathis: And in addition to maybe firms that are in the space we’re in, like an Ogletree Deacons that when I got out of law school was smaller than, we were when we started basically and the Atlanta office had eight lawyers because I was a summer clerk. I was a clerk there.

[00:08:52] Ben Mathis: And then Fisher and Phillips and people like that they saw the need to grow. And then when the insurance part [00:09:00] of it hit, we had resisted that going out of state, but we saw we had to make a change if we wanted. To be competitive nationally. And so we made that conscious decision. It took two, it was, I’ve told people it was a very easy decision to make.

[00:09:16] Ben Mathis: It was very hard to execute.

[00:09:18] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, I want to get into that. So let’s go back to your first sort of, I’ll call it acquisition or merger, whatever that is. Was that in state or out of state?

[00:09:27] Ben Mathis: It was out of state and it was simply a group of small group of lawyers for lawyers and in San Francisco that we knew through some at bar activities nationally, a really good group of employment lawyers.

[00:09:41] Ben Mathis: They were tired of being small. I’m not sure that adding us or joining together made them very big, but they had a I sometimes call them pretend offices. I guess the property term is virtual office in Los Angeles. So it was on staff, but they had business down there. It looked good on paper.

[00:09:58] Ben Mathis: We were Atlanta, Los Angeles and San [00:10:00] Francisco. And in 2 states, and then we. A few months later, added again three lawyers I knew in Philadelphia. They had one person in Tampa, an associate who worked with them. They had a virtual office across the river in in Morristown and New Jersey.

[00:10:20] Ben Mathis: So again, the footprint looked really good. But it was Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Florida. And it was a grand total of eight lawyers beyond Atlanta. It was smoke and mirrors.

[00:10:33] Jonathan Hawkins: It looked good. The question I always have, a couple of questions.

[00:10:36] Jonathan Hawkins: One is, how did it come about? You knew the lawyers, but how did that discussion come about? Did they suggest it? You suggested? Or was it just one night you were having a drink and you said, hey, this might be interesting. How does that conversation start?

[00:10:49] Ben Mathis: It’s, it started with a meeting at my house over the table in my great room with Ted, Bart, Phil Saverin, Dana [00:11:00] Main sitting down and saying that if, and there was others are obviously but we had maybe 10 partners in a 35 lawyer firm and said I’m going to This has worked well 10 barter older than I am there.

[00:11:17] Ben Mathis: They’re in good shape. They’re they’re runways not as long. I feel pretty good about where our practice my practices. We’re in good spot, but I’m just not sure this is going to work in the future for everybody else. And that. Not just the people in this room, but the people who work with us that we’ve always been able to say, you’ll have a bright future if you do all the things you should do.

[00:11:38] Ben Mathis: And you were starting to see other national firms come in plus some ferocious competition within Atlanta. People know this, but Atlanta is one of the five biggest legal markets in the United States. It’s bigger than it punches above its weight, even though now we’re, obviously a top 10 city, but it’s just.

[00:11:57] Ben Mathis: There’s, south of D. C. and [00:12:00] arguably south of New York. There’s not anything like Atlanta when it comes to the concentration of major firms here. And then you were saying the California firms come in heavily, the New England or Northeastern firms come in. So that was the conversation and we, and everybody signed on to what we were going to do.

[00:12:19] Ben Mathis: So then you started thinking about who would you like to join and who would that be? And in that regard, it’s just Julie Marquis is still with us today and she was the 1 I’ve noticed the other day because I remember she says my 11th and we were in New York last week. It says 11th anniversary. And I said, yeah, it seems like yesterday that we were out there signing papers, but that’s that.

[00:12:41] Ben Mathis: It was pretty informal in those days. I look back and laugh about how we used to do things. I still think we do things by gut and by handshakes more than maybe most large organizations, but today is nothing like what the way it used to be. I think we actually I joked about signing the [00:13:00] papers. I think we signed the papers 6 months after we actually did it.

[00:13:03] Ben Mathis: That’s how formal we were.

[00:13:05] Jonathan Hawkins: That doesn’t sound too unusual based on a lot of lawyers and law firms. I know. Some still don’t have any agreements. Yes, so you do well in that litigation. Yeah. Yeah. You guys you’ve added a lot of offices since, but I want to figure out, the more you add and the more locations you have, the more complex organization is going to be. Clearly, and so I’m sure every time you’ve added an office you’ve learned from the last experience or all the ones before, so you get a little bit better at it, but, take me through the learning process of bringing in sort of the new locations and how does that all of a sudden work going from 1 office, everybody here in Atlanta to now, and you’ve got it distributed everywhere.

[00:13:45] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah.

[00:13:46] Ben Mathis: I’d say there were three phases of our learning and I’ve talked to a lot of firms have gone through this, and I’m always glad to share that. The 1st part is when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, and we specialized in that for the [00:14:00] 1st, 2 or 3 years. You knew what you were trying to do.

[00:14:03] Ben Mathis: You had no idea how to do it. You’re trying, you’re also as you do it, you’re trying to keep the same structure and staff you’re scared to death to spend money. And all these truisms are true is that you’ve got to invest you’ve got to have the infrastructure in place to be able to successfully assimilate.

[00:14:24] Ben Mathis: We didn’t do that very well the 1st, years. Fortunately, people stuck with us. I think they were young and excited and. A certain amount of chaos was okay, but we eventually got pretty good at it. Through a lot of trial and error, I used to tell people that we learned about multi state.

[00:14:41] Ben Mathis: Operations of the tax implications by getting ding notices from the city of San Francisco over taxes. I’ve never heard of and never dreamed existed until they sent us something saying we hadn’t paid them. And anyway, we after 2 or 3 years, I realized we needed stronger professional management.[00:15:00]

[00:15:00] Ben Mathis: We did that. And I look at today, we have such a tremendous administrative team, and people say that, but our COO Chuck Freeman came from Holland Night was a business advisor litigation group, which has, 10 times as many words as we’ll ever dream off. Derrick Singleton was CFO for a large medical company, and then you just go through it.

[00:15:23] Ben Mathis: H. R. all those areas really good. And so now we’re on the. Back office with most boring thing in the world, but is the most important part of it, billing and collections, having the technology systems in place. And then the people. I was looking I get a head count report every week.

[00:15:42] Ben Mathis: We have 115 people and non staff, not legal secretaries, not paralegals. 115 people out of a organization of total head count of 680. That’s a lot. We ran 40 lawyers on an office manager and a part time bookkeeper, [00:16:00] and now I have 380 lawyers. Do the math. It’s, it takes a lot more, but that’s what makes it successful.

[00:16:07] Ben Mathis: So it took us a while to learn to do that. And then to make sure you developed and are very disciplined about your culture components, your process, your procedure, all the things about running a large organization. And when you get to, I’d say 7, 500 lawyers. At that point, you better start to have all those things in place.

[00:16:31] Ben Mathis: It’s just the scale from there. And you got to get that structure in place to be able to scale it up. And so I tell people now, we could be 2, 3, 4 times as big. I’m not sure the structure would be any different. We just have 2, 3, 4 times as many people within that structure.

[00:16:48] Jonathan Hawkins: So the administrative team you’ve got, I assume they’re mostly maybe all not lawyers.

[00:16:53] Jonathan Hawkins: They’re more professional executive types.

[00:16:55] Ben Mathis: Yes. And then the other component of that, that I think law firms have [00:17:00] been slow to, to realize the really large firms know this, but I’m saying that, midsize firms, 100, 100 lawyers to 600, we had, we now have four really important non practicing lawyers.

[00:17:16] Ben Mathis: You have significant roles. We have we have somebody who runs our rates and also our legal operations, who was a. He came largely out of the insurance world, but was in private practice, was a partner with a large national firm. He runs that whole area. So he’s a lawyer. He understands the world.

[00:17:35] Ben Mathis: He also understands the importance of billing and collecting money and the technology in there. We have a lawyer who works, a partner who works with our practice group leaders. Has a strong business background, but was a partner with a large law firm in Florida. He works very closely with our practice group leader to give them that business component to looking at client quality, talent [00:18:00] development, the structure and operation of it.

[00:18:02] Ben Mathis: And then we have a whole insurance program that works with very large clients in terms of managing their portfolio claims and litigation that cuts across product lines. Thank you very much. When you’re dealing with a client who you’ve got cyber cases for employment cases, construction, catastrophic loss, all being handled by different partners in the firm, they’re busy.

[00:18:26] Ben Mathis: They can be very disconnected from looking at the overall complexion and success of the litigation. A lot of Croteau works very closely with a lot of key clients in that respect. And those are things we never dreamed we would need, but they’re differentiators.

[00:18:41] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, a lot of lawyers are scared or too proud.

[00:18:45] Jonathan Hawkins: I don’t know what it is, but the thought of bringing in non lawyers to come help run the business is just the last thing that they would do. And it’s, you guys are, you’re all in did it take a while to get there? And then how big were [00:19:00] you when you thought, hey, it starts to make sense to bring in some outside executive type level help.

[00:19:05] Ben Mathis: Probably when we had about 150 lawyers, so I would say that was we passed 110 years ago. That year, we got right at 100. Yeah, about that time, we saw that there was a real need. It started to change my role and that was a big part of it too, but believe me sympathize with the law firms that have a really good office manager.

[00:19:28] Ben Mathis: And then somebody comes in and says, you need to pay somebody to run your operation. You pay a partner and you think, and this is insanity, but then if at some point, you realize the insanity is not doing it.

[00:19:39] Jonathan Hawkins: It’s not cheap. I was, I’ve always thought. Referring back to Georgia Tech, go get a really smart industrial engineer to come run and operations of a law firm.

[00:19:50] Jonathan Hawkins: They would just, they would know some of the technology. They would know how to run efficiently. I think they could do a really good job.

[00:19:57] Ben Mathis: I can’t remember your major Jonathan, but I was a industrial [00:20:00] management. And Ted and Bart always let me run the firm. They were not that interested in that part of it.

[00:20:05] Ben Mathis: I prided myself on being a really good business person. Lawyers make fun of how bad of business people we are, like doctors. And I thought I’m really good at this. And I realized I didn’t know anything as we got into this. I I learned a lot from our first Really outside professional manager.

[00:20:23] Ben Mathis: And so I’ve been the one on the learning curve the last 10, 11 years.

[00:20:28] Jonathan Hawkins: So you guys are still in big time growth mode. I think you opened four new offices last year. Sounds like maybe you’re going to open some more, at least add some more people this year. So with all of that growth and with pretty fast growth I’m curious how you keep the firm culture together.

[00:20:45] Jonathan Hawkins: How do you bring. Into the fold, the new offices, the new attorneys.

[00:20:49] Ben Mathis: We spend a lot of time in making sure we do this. We defined our culture several years ago and it’s core culture components and they’re different [00:21:00] than core values. They’re the components of what the people and how you.

[00:21:05] Ben Mathis: Or operating your organization. So ours are teamwork, excellence, opportunity, and consistency, which I think are very different than when people talk about culture. I always say lawyers are the greatest people in the world. They are entertaining. They’re fun. They’re smart as hell. And like any place, when you send your lawyers out to events and stuff, if you’re not careful, they’ll all start talking to lawyers and not to the clients.

[00:21:31] Ben Mathis: And but Law firms very are very different and it’s not because they’re not good people in there. They’re because of the aspects of the way the firms operate. So teamwork is huge. I’ve never run into a law firm yet that said we operate, we don’t operate as a team or, we’re just a bunch of people.

[00:21:48] Ben Mathis: Selfish individuals but the reality is a lot of firms can operate like that. The truth is partners can wind up competing against each other for business. And so I think you [00:22:00] have to guard against that. And we have a wonderful culture that our partners believe that working together, they will do better than working for themselves.

[00:22:11] Ben Mathis: And so the biggest insult you can get in our law firm we have really good lawyers, good people, that’s usually never an issue. The biggest insult is when they say you’re operating like a silo. It is a 4 letter epithet here, and so we guard that culture zealously and occasionally we have people who come, they say they want to be part of a team, what they really want to do is they just want to be part of a large organization that has a lot of resources, and they want to be left alone, do what they want to do the way they want to do it, and and they’ll call you if they need anything and those people do not last and That’s the foundation we build a lot on excellence is you got to be a good lawyer here.

[00:22:48] Ben Mathis: I think some organizations, if somebody’s got a lot of business, they tolerate a lot because. They’ve got some financial contributions. We just fortunately that’s that you’ll stand out here [00:23:00] a lot. And part of that excellence is it’s a hard working place. I don’t think we’re a sweatshop, but I used to tell people I was the only, once I stopped practicing, I was the only worthless lawyer in the firm.

[00:23:11] Ben Mathis: Everybody else worked full time. Now I’ve got two or three other worthless partners as I was describing, but they contribute in their own way. But what we don’t have is somebody who builds. 700 hours a year has a lot of business plays a ton of golf. That’s wonderful. It’s wonderful for a lot of places.

[00:23:27] Ben Mathis: It would wreck our culture. That’s, we consider that part of excellence is work ethic. Opportunity. We, people are attracted here because we’re growing and we’re committed to growth. And we’re not just trying to grow but I think that provides, it, it gives people the opportunity. A purpose in what they’re doing, other than just purely the practice of law, because they have an opportunity to grow their practice, improve their practice.

[00:23:51] Ben Mathis: And I think that comes with professional and financial success, which people, appreciate. And then the last, I always say is [00:24:00] most boring part, which is consistency. We spend, and that probably gets into orientation. Onboarding all the things we do to try and make sure that we are consistent. And how we deliver our legal product across all markets and all product lines.

[00:24:18] Ben Mathis: And so we do a lot of things there to try and drive that consistency. And I tell people that leads to the opportunity. When we can tell a national client they like what we do in Los Angeles, that they’re going to get the same kind of approach. In Atlanta, and not just somebody said we got a good lawyer there.

[00:24:37] Ben Mathis: He’ll practice completely differently. Go at things, you’ll get a good result, but you’ll have, you might as well be 2 different law firms. I think a lot of law firms struggle with that. And we put a lot of emphasis into making sure that consistency is there. And that’s part of why I mentioned that FMG assurance program.

[00:24:52] Ben Mathis: And we’re serious about it. So those things. have helped keep, I’d say, culture in the terms of [00:25:00] day to day practice of law. As far as the other parts, we have, very different people, very diverse. San Francisco is quite different than Lexington, Kentucky. But but it’s funny when you get around the lawyers, other than the accents, you’d have a hard time telling where they’re from.

[00:25:16] Ben Mathis: Because there’s a lot of consistency and how they handle themselves, their approach to law, that sort of thing.

[00:25:24] ​

[00:25:37] Jonathan Hawkins: So how do you encourage the lawyers from all the different offices to get to know each other, interact? I assume you have some sort of annual retreat, at least once a year or something. How do you go about doing that?

[00:25:51] Ben Mathis: We do. We have a partners retreats coming up in Dallas. Everybody’s looking forward to it. I think in that regard, it’s nice, but it’s not of any value. The way we believe we [00:26:00] keep people interconnected between offices is through our practice groups. We have 13 national practice sections, and we’re very deliberate about creating a national practice section.

[00:26:11] Ben Mathis: We do so when we have a critical mass of partners who exclusively or predominantly practice in that area. Those 13 practice sections. They have leadership they have their groups email lists. They meet once to twice a month and as a, as the entire group they meet more frequently as far as key partners.

[00:26:33] Ben Mathis: So that has worked really well for us and as a litigation firm, and that’s what we are that allows people to really feel connected across offices. My. My greatest satisfaction is when I hear somebody and they’re introducing themselves and they say with FMG, they say, I’m an employment lawyer and that’s what I do.

[00:26:56] Ben Mathis: And then it takes a couple of questions for where they say, oh, I happen to [00:27:00] be in Los Angeles. They think of themselves 1st and foremost in these practice sections. And that has been really important in the firms and the people who’ve joined us. They’ve all commented that we, I think we, we deliver in that regard so that they don’t feel like they’re operating as an island as an office where it’s nice to say you’re part of big firm, but you’re really just 20 lawyers in Newark.

[00:27:24] Jonathan Hawkins: So I want to shift a little bit. As part of your journey of growth Everywhere in America, maybe everywhere in the world hit and hit this gigantic roadblock in 2020 called COVID. How did that affect your trajectory and just how you ran the firm? You said you were a litigation firm, courts shut down a lot of places.

[00:27:44] Jonathan Hawkins: How’d you guys handle that?

[00:27:46] Ben Mathis: I still have the emails to our CFO where I said in March 15th, I said, give me projections if we have no revenue in August and September, like zero. [00:28:00] How long can we operate? That sort of thing. But we were very fortunate I think a lot of people in our space, you saw some impact, but the plaintiffs bar, I’ll give them credit.

[00:28:12] Ben Mathis: They’re like, you can’t kill them. They kept going and and we grew during the pandemic. Believe me, I read about these employee tax credits and firms making a ton of money. We grew our head count. There’s no, I can’t have, we’ve looked at 100 different ways. We cannot qualify. And I see these firms taking 1, 000, 000, credits.

[00:28:31] Ben Mathis: And we were morons to keep growing. We probably would have done better financially to have stayed put, but we did a lot of things. We shut down like a lot of firms, but we were fortunate. Our technology was good. We were able to convert, I think, in some ways, it brought the whole firm together.

[00:28:47] Ben Mathis: We used to have we have a monthly call for an hour. That’s not very business like we go by offices. You get a lot of weather reports, birthdays, stuff like that. We went to daily calls just. [00:29:00] Just, you didn’t know if people were alive and because everybody went home remote and So in that sense it brought us together.

[00:29:08] Ben Mathis: We were different than I think most firms We were we may I made a decision that we would reopen offices as soon as it was legally You were legally able to reopen So we reopened Atlanta in May. I remember having to conjole some partners because I said, you can’t expect anybody else to come back if you’re not back.

[00:29:31] Ben Mathis: And so we got back on our feet pretty quickly. Now, it was different. We had a lot of people, obviously, remote hybrid. Our world has changed in that regard, but we never had to fight the battle. A lot of firms of having to get their people to come back and but we never let anybody off. We never cut a paycheck.

[00:29:49] Ben Mathis: Not 1 penny and so people appreciated that. So they were okay with our philosophy of getting back. And so we we, it was a terrible time, obviously, but as [00:30:00] a firm and in terms of what we were doing. It didn’t it didn’t affect us in that sense. We opened two offices during the pandemic.

[00:30:09] Ben Mathis: Wow. Two offices while we were really, I’ll give you an example. We opened Cherry Hill on, I think it was March 12th in the morning and closed it that afternoon. With the group, Jack Shea and Bill Mead, a group of lawyers. And we opened, we did the deal and opened Neewer, Paul Pantino is our office chair there.

[00:30:29] Ben Mathis: I never met Paul in person. He became an equity partner, chair of an office, and without ever meeting him in person. Now he had known a couple of our partners from a prior firm, they were together. When I first met Paul six months later, I felt like I knew him. I had a million Zoom calls, but, can you imagine telling somebody 10 years ago, you would do that when never meeting the key partner in person?

[00:30:51] Ben Mathis: You wouldn’t dream of it. We’ve done a lot of things that, that we got through.

[00:30:56] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, that’s amazing. And the other thing, this whole, there’s a [00:31:00] huge debate. I guess it’s, I don’t hear about it as much, but the virtual versus in office, very strong opinions on both sides. I’m more in office.

[00:31:09] Jonathan Hawkins: I just the intangible benefits that you get from being. In an office I just think you cannot put a price on them and people argue with me on that. And, part of it is look, I have friends that I worked with 2 firms ago and we are in the office going to lunch and grabbing coffee every day and we still refer each other cases.

[00:31:29] Jonathan Hawkins: If we were virtual, we’d be friends, but I’m not sure we’d be as close of friends. And it’s the camaraderie that kind of thing that I think. It’s going to serve the younger lawyers better to actually be in the office. And this is not a, an old school versus new school kind of thing. I just think long term they’ll be better served by being in an office somewhere.

[00:31:51] Jonathan Hawkins: I don’t know. What are your thoughts?

[00:31:52] Ben Mathis: Yeah, I have believe me, I was laughing. We started a law firm because I got tired of, commutes or arguably I do tell I came in [00:32:00] every day and we only had 4 people here. We had 40, 000 square feet and 4 people. I got more done. It was peace and quiet.

[00:32:07] Ben Mathis: I I was almost part of me didn’t want anybody to come back. I, the only time I, Jonathan, you love this only time I went out is our youngest daughter was exposed and so under our protocol, I had to be out for 5 days. I did, and I was at home and I’m not a work at home guy at all.

[00:32:24] Ben Mathis: I come in on, we, I just been in the office. And after by Thursday or Friday, I thought I will walk the dog during the day. I told my wife, I said, the neighbors down, I said, they’re terrific people. I was talking to them and she said, they’ve been there for 15 years. So I said I’d never met. Who’s home at noon on a Wednesday, and and by, by Sunday, I was thinking maybe I should stay out a few more days. This has been pretty good. I’ve enjoyed this. But so I, I understand that. However, to get to your point it were my sibling or child especially a younger one in the practice of law, maybe there are areas, [00:33:00] yes, but if you’re in litigation and I’m worried about in, in some of our markets like California, where depositions are still by video in many instances.

[00:33:10] Ben Mathis: So it’s hard enough. And we spend a lot of time trying to get young lawyers in positions to get on their feet. So think about this. You not only haven’t tried a case. You haven’t been to court. Now you’re talking about somebody maybe hasn’t been in a conference room to take a deposition in person. Is that the lawyer you want representing you in 1015 years?

[00:33:30] Ben Mathis: It’s it is to me. It’s just ludicrous. It’s okay. A doctor, a surgeon has never been in the operating room. It’s just it’s impossible. We were, I was saying, we were in New York last week. I was with a client. They had a couple of the younger people in the room as we were talking about their litigation.

[00:33:47] Ben Mathis: And this is a woman’s tremendous mentor. And several times while she was talking, she’d stop and she’d explain to the younger people the context and why this is important. And I thought they learned a lot in an hour [00:34:00] meeting that they would never get by zoom or in a team’s meeting. And yeah I think it’s a real problem going forward.

[00:34:08] Ben Mathis: Now, that doesn’t mean that to be here every day. The biggest challenge we see is our partners are the ones who really don’t need to be here every day. They don’t they’ve learned. Yeah but if they’re not here, how can you expect the associates or the younger people? And how can you expect them?

[00:34:25] Ben Mathis: It’s a challenge. I understand everybody’s position on it. But our position is you need to be in the office. You’re professional. You’re expected to be in the office and during regular business hours, unless you have another arrangement. And we have a lot of people who have that. But what I don’t expect is people to go hybrid without telling us, and just not come in on Mondays and Fridays.

[00:34:49] Ben Mathis: And just, just not tell anyone. I don’t think that’s appropriate.

[00:34:54] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah so I want to shift a little bit and talk a little bit about your growth and your acquisition and feel [00:35:00] free to, to not tell me, I’m not looking for your secret sauce here, but I’m curious about your approach to acquisition.

[00:35:06] Jonathan Hawkins: So you’ve made the decision. To grow and you are growing. So how do you identify acquisition targets? What sorts of things, and there’s really probably two sides to this coin. Number one, you’re looking for people that you think would fit. And so you want to go find them, but then also when you find them, you’re going to have to explain to them why it might make sense to come to your firm.

[00:35:32] Ben Mathis: Before I answer that, let me back up one thing. I do think it’s important and for People growing their firms. One thing we did was in terms of growth is again, plan and set out our growth strategy. One of it is for a while, we called it a 20 percent growth target each year, and we measure it by attorney head count now.

[00:35:53] Ben Mathis: And I learned this is that’s more of a check than a target because I realized the years we grew more than 20%. [00:36:00] We tended to outgrow our infrastructure and we had problems. And unless you have a large group and a merger, I think it’s really good to think about what’s too big too fast. Because that can hurt you, quicker than any problem. So we learned a lot with that. Our growth strategy is threefold, which is, and I’ll get to the new markets, but it’s organic growth. And we believe in our 1st year program. We have 30 or 1st year starting in September. Looking at all our markets and saying, where do we need lawyers in various of our national practice groups?

[00:36:33] Ben Mathis: We don’t have an employment lawyer and. Vegas, and so we need to recruit, look for an employment partner there. And the third part to get to your question is new markets. And yeah we look at a lot of peer firms. And that’s, there’s a lot of opportunity there. Maybe somebody’s buried on the depth chart and would like a chance to really, lead a practice section.

[00:36:55] Ben Mathis: So we look there, we look at a lot of midsize or smaller firms [00:37:00] that and honestly, I a lot of those firms have really good leadership. They’ve got big gaps because all these issues about talent recruitment and they don’t have a great successorship plan. And so we’re able to, so we talk about the value added, but many of them have young people or staff people.

[00:37:19] Ben Mathis: They’re very loyal to they may have a 5, 10 year runway. And they’re like, how in the world is this going to continue after me? So we’re able to come in and say, we, we take that issue off the plate. And they’re very amenable to that. That’s attractive to a lot of people. And then there’s just the value of being with a larger platform that you know they get rid of some headaches administratively.

[00:37:44] Ben Mathis: They got a chance to grow and enhance their practice. And and most people like that idea. Yeah. The biggest fear is loss of independence and all the things that go with that. And then that’s our job to explain what the real world is going to be like. And we’ve been fortunate that the people have [00:38:00] joined us.

[00:38:01] Ben Mathis: Only a couple of instances really have been really pleased. And they’re our best advocates. When I have somebody who’s got a 20 lawyer firm and they’re worried, I say go talk to Kevin, go talk, go talk to Barry Miller. They ran firms, groups. So they’ll tell you, and they’ll be honest about the good and bad.

[00:38:21] Ben Mathis: So that’s really how we go at it.

[00:38:23] Jonathan Hawkins: I would imagine there are a lot of opportunities, acquisition opportunities out there with just the aging. Of lawyers and the lack of viable secession plans in place to, I would imagine the sort of the target rich environment for you. The other thing I know though is most people maybe it’s all people, but a lot of lawyers are just, inertia is a powerful force and it’s just you can’t get them, they hate where they are, but, You can’t get them to make a decision and actually do anything about it.

[00:38:53] Jonathan Hawkins: How long does it take? You think you found somebody, you start talking, how long do these things usually take to actually [00:39:00] get it across the finish line?

[00:39:01] Ben Mathis: Some have taken two plus years but some have taken 30 days. Literally so you do try and find people. And as you do this enough, you get a feel for how serious they are, where they are in their decision making process.

[00:39:18] Ben Mathis: Most people who you would be interested in have already been approached, and so they’ve been through this process a little bit and they know what they’re looking for, and we know what we’re looking for. But in some instances, the timing’s not right. Right now, for larger groups, this is the time of year we are spending a lot of time having those conversations, We like those situations to happen at the very 1st of the year.

[00:39:45] Ben Mathis: The structure of these deals can vary, but if, most law firms like us run a calendar year basis. And I think the managing partners and equity partners out there can appreciate when I, people say, what’s your timeframe for return? [00:40:00] I said, our partners will invest. Whatever it takes, as long as they get all their money back by December 31st of every year.

[00:40:07] Ben Mathis: So you gotta, if you don’t want to have debt, we have no debt. So you gotta, the sooner you start in Jan on January 1st, the better Yeah. To get a full year’s revenue, because otherwise you spend, you get eight, nine months of expenses and four months of revenue, and most margins are not that not that broad to cover that loss.

[00:40:30] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. I guess that was one question is how do you finance the acquisition? I guess it’s no debt. You’re, yep. Got a deal where they’re, paid out of cash flow or whatever.

[00:40:38] Ben Mathis: I tell people they’re not, they use the term acquisition until private equity or non, non lawyer owners are allowed in the law firm space.

[00:40:47] Ben Mathis: I, I don’t know many law firms that quote get bought. Maybe there are, but we don’t buy firms. What we do is we’ll structure it typically. A couple of different ways, but if it’s a, if it’s [00:41:00] ongoing firm, then it’s going to be a merger. They bring their whip, they bring their AR and I tell people that typically in year 1, you’re basically trying to replicate what you have in a different platform.

[00:41:12] Ben Mathis: A lot of times we can bring some cost savings. But they’re not tremendous amounts of cost savings with a smaller firm because usually they’re pretty good at squeezing every dollar out of their practice and a lot of times it comes through not investing in technology and all the things that really cost money.

[00:41:29] Ben Mathis: They’re pretty profitable for whatever their practices and it takes a while to grow that or change the rate structure and all that. You’re trying to replicate it in year 1. You typically need the whip and AR as an ongoing entity. Now, lawyers who join you or a group and they’re leaving another firm can’t bring WIP and AR and their cash flow with them.

[00:41:50] Ben Mathis: So you got to be very careful about how, what time of year you do that and make sure you’re doing accurate projections. It’s hard this time of year to bring. [00:42:00] A lawyer on and not lose money. What are we June, I’d say by August 1st it’s very difficult to bring a group or lawyer or a group on and not lose money by January or December.

[00:42:13] Ben Mathis: Let me just think about it. If they come August 7th, you’re lucky to get the bills out and, mid, mid September. You’re lucky to get them paid by October. So you’re talking about two and a half months of revenue. And what does that five months of expenses?

[00:42:29] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, and then there’s probably the, there’s an onboarding cost to, the cost to all the files, all the technology, get them up to speed, probably a ton as well.

[00:42:40] Ben Mathis: Probably like most firms, we have a, I’ll joke and say a secret set of books. We make the billing projections. We have what their billing expectation is when they hit the door. We have what we know is probably going to be, which is less because there’s a lot of transition. And so very few lawyers, have a typical month, their first two [00:43:00] months.

[00:43:01] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s what I’ve always heard. I’ve got a million dollar book that’s coming with me. All right, we’re going to, it’s really more like a 500, 000 book.

[00:43:08] Ben Mathis: You never know. You never know. But even if it’s a million, again, the timing transition billing cycle, all those things, collection cycle, all that changes.

[00:43:17] Jonathan Hawkins: You’re out there you’ve found a potential target. You’re going through the due diligence process or the dance, whatever you want to call it. Have you over the years discern certain. Red flags that stand out and say, okay, yeah, maybe this is not going to work. And any advice on that sort of what are the potential pitfalls that cause you to say?

[00:43:37] Jonathan Hawkins: Wait a 2nd.

[00:43:38] Ben Mathis: Is if you’re components, you’re looking at our teamwork, excellence, opportunity, consistency. You need to ask yourself, how do these folks stack up in that regard? I think a couple, I shouldn’t get into too much detail, but I’ll just say it’s easy to make misses when you’re when you know somebody only in a social sense.[00:44:00]

[00:44:00] Ben Mathis: Or as friends, or maybe a bar association meetings or all that, or quote, my reputation, and you haven’t really drilled down and taken a look at if it’s teamwork, what’s their existing operation line. If they lost all their people, if people quit left and right, let me tell you something. I am reminded that 1 of my father’s best friends in life.

[00:44:23] Ben Mathis: And I was a young guy, and I. I told him one time, I won’t say who, I said, Mr. So and I said, he seems like a nice guy, but I heard these other people talking, he said, son, he said, he is one of my best friends in life, but he has an SOB to work for, and and that stuck with me all these years, yeah, he was an Auburn guy that that explains it but yeah.

[00:44:45] Ben Mathis: I say that funny. I love Auburn. But anyway, you get the point you that’s what you’ve got to look at. You’ve got to do your due diligence in a business fashion, looking at what the issues are. They’re important to your firm that you think makes a success [00:45:00] and screen out the noise, which can be a lot of good noise and make a business decision that you think makes sense.

[00:45:08] Jonathan Hawkins: So you get past all that, they come on board, they’re there. Have you guys designed a program on how to bring them into the fold and really Integrate them into the firm and how is that, what do you do and how has that maybe changed over the years?

[00:45:22] Ben Mathis: Oh, yeah, we’re we just had a group in Miami join us and we sent down a team.

[00:45:26] Ben Mathis: They’ve been down there this week’s first week and it’s not just lawyers. Our administrative team is there. The HR team is there working with staff. The IT team the part of our assurance group so that they are committed to our processes and procedures. They get trained on it, but then they’re people hands on and you don’t just hire somebody and change the sign and send a bunch of training videos which honestly, this first couple of years, that’s how we did it too often because [00:46:00] we were busy and we just didn’t have the staff and the time to do it.

[00:46:03] Ben Mathis: So they have a whole process on how they do it hands on in person, real time training, and then we have follow up on it that we have it. People say they have these kinds of things. It’s all about the execution, which is we have a really strong mentorship, right? We have partner mentors for new and, if you’re been practicing 25 years, you probably don’t need a mentor.

[00:46:27] Ben Mathis: But you probably need a mentor for the firm you’re joining. And that’s what we focus on. And all of that has been really successful. But it, again, I think everybody knows all these things. It’s being willing to invest the staff and the money to be able to institutionalize and replicate it on a consistent basis.

[00:46:44] Ben Mathis: Because otherwise, you have the greatest program in the world, but if you don’t have time to do it again and again, it doesn’t, you don’t get, you don’t get consistency.

[00:46:53] Jonathan Hawkins: And that sounds like something you’ve learned through experience. You have to go through it. You knew it conceptually, but you just had to go through it.

[00:46:59] Jonathan Hawkins: And now you [00:47:00] guys have the program down.

[00:47:01] Ben Mathis: That’s what I mean is that if our power was only started the firm, whatever I was 35 years old. And you hear this, the thing I would do is make sure I went and hired people who’ve been through this. And on that professional staff side, because. Like most things until you’ve done it.

[00:47:21] Ben Mathis: It doesn’t translate quite the way they could tell people all this, but having somebody, our HR team, for instance, who, when we brought Mike Luke in, who had run a, work for a company with 3000 employees understood onboarding under understood a merger and all that was involved in that in terms of people understood how people get upset about benefits when they’re different.

[00:47:46] Ben Mathis: And being responsive and sympathetic to that and addressing that head on. So they’re at work the next day and happy and excited and not aggravated because the pediatrician. Is no longer on the list and all these things that trip you up when [00:48:00] you’re dealing with people,

[00:48:01] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s such a good little anecdote there.

[00:48:03] Jonathan Hawkins: It’s the little things that you don’t the unknown unknowns almost that are there and you have to just go through it and. Get tripped up once. And you’re never going to get tripped up on that again.

[00:48:14] Ben Mathis: It’s like our partnership agreement. I tell people when they look at, I said, most every provision in there is because somebody did something really dumb.

[00:48:21] Ben Mathis: And so we had to add something in there. It’s that’s how we learned. We learned through trial and error, but again, I could have avoided that if I had been a better manager 15 years ago and had hired people and really thought more about where we were headed to get people who had that.

[00:48:39] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s a good segue. I want to explore your day to day, your current role at the firm, and maybe how that’s changed over the years, both in terms of the administrative stuff you do, whatever that is, and how involved are you in actual legal work nowadays, and how that’s evolved over time.

[00:48:56] Ben Mathis: I tell people too often, I’ll say I really [00:49:00] started, I stopped practicing day to day two or three years ago, and I was talking with a friend I’ve known probably a little bit less than 10 years. And I was able to peg, I said, I think when I first met you is the last time I took a deposition. So that would have been over 8 years ago.

[00:49:14] Ben Mathis: So I really after the biggest and the real change was we added the Gilbert Kelly firm in California and another group that popped us over 100, which was 10 years ago. That’s when I realized I, I was within a year or two. I thought I was a pretty good lawyer. I thought I was pretty good business person.

[00:49:34] Ben Mathis: I wasn’t very good at either one if I wasn’t careful. And and that’s hard. I think for 1st generation law firms, I was in a situation where I could stop practicing. And if it all fell apart, I thought I could pick my practice up and make a living. I understand that’s hard for a lot of people to be in that position.

[00:49:52] Ben Mathis: Of course, I was in the right spot in my career. But yeah, at that point. I never understood how you could fill your day [00:50:00] up. I thought at least that’d be great. I could work out and play golf all day. These guys don’t practice. What in the world can they do? But pretty quickly, I learned to define my job now.

[00:50:11] Ben Mathis: So I look at several things that fill my time up in our growth mode, lateral recruiting in terms of partners and other firms, I try and spend time with them. I can’t spend a lot of time with every lateral partner we bring in, but obviously every group I do and I know, I wish I knew the entire firm as well as I know our partners, but I know our partners pretty well.

[00:50:34] Ben Mathis: You can, they say we need so and such. I usually can say I think this is probably the right person. I spend time and that helps me when they come in because I’ve already known them. So the lateral recruiting, I don’t know that I need to, but I guess I can’t get away from clients.

[00:50:49] Ben Mathis: I spend a lot of time dealing with clients just touching base. How are we doing relationships? It’s. Part of what makes the job fun. And then I look [00:51:00] on the management side, spending time with our practice group. Leaders, I won’t say manage them, but working with them and understanding what their needs are, trying to address those, and then obviously a lot out with our executive management with Chuck and Derek or CFO and COO and the whole team there depending on what their needs are, understanding how we’re delivering there.

[00:51:23] Ben Mathis: The other part, though, that is most important, I know it’s you, Jonathan. I started following Instagram. Probably the only thing about our former head coach. His name will never be mentioned. But when he got all into social, I’m not a Facebook guy or anything like that. I stay on LinkedIn, but I started following Instagram to keep up with recruiting and some of the stuff we’re doing.

[00:51:44] Ben Mathis: So I still am on Instagram. And I guess it’s a sad testament to my life that somehow people get all this exciting, inappropriate stuff. I get Warren Buffett somehow. So I’ve got a tremendous number of Warren Buffett feeds constantly. And I was struck [00:52:00] by one where he was talking with Bill Gates and they were, and Bill said, what Gates said, what do I learn from Warren?

[00:52:07] Ben Mathis: He said, we were, we had a meeting we were trying to schedule. I looked at my calendar. And I was like, I’ve got Wednesday, seven weeks from now, between 3 o’clock and 3. 15 open. And he said, and Warren pulls out this paper calendar, and it’s just pages of blank. And he looked over and he said, Bill, you need to learn how to say no.

[00:52:28] Ben Mathis: And because, Warren Buffett spends a lot of time thinking and dealing in that regard and I think there’s a lot to that. So I try and make sure I have time and I divide it this way for strategic thinking. And I look, I try and look a month ahead, 6 months ahead, and then. The year after and where we’re going and what we need to do.

[00:52:51] Ben Mathis: So we’re looking ahead constantly and I try and spend more on that 6 months ahead because what’s going to happen next month. Unless it’s a crisis. I can’t do a [00:53:00] lot about probably, but 6 months ahead, you can impact where your organization is going, especially a year. That strategic part, I probably don’t spend enough time on, but it should be, more than it is and what I do every day.

[00:53:14] Jonathan Hawkins: You’ve been real gracious with your time before we go, I want to shift again and I’ve got to ask you, we got to talk some Georgia Tech football or basketball, whatever the landscape college football has changed a lot. We’re getting over. The coach that won’t be named but, as you look out what are you thinking?

[00:53:31] Jonathan Hawkins: How’s the team going to be?

[00:53:33] Ben Mathis: I I am more involved in it than I, in some ways I’d like to be. I’m pretty involved in our NIL program. And I think like a lot of people, you have a lot of qualms about the way that world is going. I think I can say this without spilling beans. I said, when I, when our NIL group is together, the first few minutes, people talk about this is not exactly what we ever dreamed we’d be doing.

[00:53:56] Ben Mathis: There’s a lot of discomfort. And then somebody says, do you ever want to [00:54:00] beat Georgia again? Everybody says, yeah, and then we get the business. So we, I saw the other day that Brent key made some comments about our friends over in Athens about how he feels. And so I think we’ve got the right guy on a lot of different levels.

[00:54:13] Ben Mathis: So I I was with a meeting the other day. I think we got a team that’s going to win some games next year. I think we got a top 10 offense. And the defense is going to improve. So hopefully we can make that game in Athens more exciting than it’s been the last few years. So I’m very excited about that.

[00:54:28] Ben Mathis: Solomon is terrific. I think we’ve got Jay bat comes back to leadership. We’ve got, a great ad who understands all of this. We have a terrific leadership. I’m excited. I’m more excited about Georgia tech athletics than I have been a long, long well, there’s some tech fans out there.

[00:54:45] Ben Mathis: I think they’re. Hope is on the way.

[00:54:48] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s encouraging. The other topic that I don’t really follow and haven’t followed, but, the sort of the conference realignment issue, we’ve got people suing to get out of the, you’ve got some of these West Coast teams that were [00:55:00] left basically alone.

[00:55:02] Jonathan Hawkins: Everybody left any predictions or any thoughts on realignment?

[00:55:08] Ben Mathis: I don’t have any, inside knowledge on that than more than anybody else has. I I think it’s going to change, there’s a, and this is public knowledge, there’s a settlement with NCAA that supposedly the schools would be able to first year put 20 million directly into paying players either through the collectives one way or the other, but it’s coming from the school.

[00:55:28] Ben Mathis: So that, that may change the NIL. Collective situation so no, you hear the term everyday Wild West, which is, I think, where college athletics is. But, in the end the money right or wrong makes a huge difference. I think a real power coming is SMU in the ACC because they’ve got financial resources that are provided.

[00:55:53] Ben Mathis: Pretty impressive. I dunno if you say, if you have time to, I thought it was a hysterical story. The [00:56:00] headline which explained it was, it’s only a couple hundred million dollars. I’m not gonna lose sleep over it. And it was the when SMU went in the a, CC, I read the article like everybody else, I thought they’re not taking any television revenue.

[00:56:12] Ben Mathis: And I thought why do they wanna be in the a CC? Their board and their chair is a former SMU football player. Made it a mission for years to get us and you back into a power conference. They thought they had it with Pac 12 that fell apart. So SMU took no TV money. So that board of trustees at SMU apparently has seven or eight billionaires.

[00:56:34] Ben Mathis: And they literally went around the room and said that gap in the TV money could be 30, 40, 50 million dollars a year. And the guy said, we’re not talking about a million dollars a year. We’re talking about, several who’s in. And they went around the room and they all said we’ll do what it takes.

[00:56:52] Ben Mathis: And so then he walked out and that’s when he made the statement. He said it’s a couple hundred million dollars a year. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. [00:57:00] That’s the kind of support SMU has.

[00:57:02] Jonathan Hawkins: I’ve always said, one of these Georgia tech alum, billionaire alums, should just say, all right, I’m going to take tech under my wing as like my private sort of, professional team and just open the checkbook.

[00:57:15] Jonathan Hawkins: But no, one’s done it yet.

[00:57:17] Ben Mathis: They’re all too smart.

[00:57:21] Jonathan Hawkins: There’s got to be a way to structure it as a tax write off. At least you’re doing something fun. There’s nothing

[00:57:27] Ben Mathis: deductible about NIL. I’ll tell you that.

[00:57:30] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. Good to know. Good to know. Good. I appreciate coming on. So before we let you go Tell us how people can find you if they want to.

[00:57:38] Jonathan Hawkins: And then also, if there’s, if you want to make a pitch, if there’s any types of lawyers or practices your would be like, willing to bring on or talk to maybe you can talk about that too.

[00:57:49] Ben Mathis: Sure. 1st of all, I’m pretty easy to find go to our Internet.

[00:57:52] Ben Mathis: I’m not somebody who hides one of. One of, one of the things we insist on is everybody law firm on their email [00:58:00] signature and their business card, who uses business cards anymore, has their cell phone. So I am not a hard guy to find one of the lawyers in Miami was kicking back on that and I get that every once in a while.

[00:58:10] Ben Mathis: I said, we’re in the service business, you don’t like who calls you. They have this cool thing called caller ID. That’s so I’m easy to find. I only have one email. So that’s easy to as far as pitches, if you’re a good lawyer, you like to try cases, you’re in litigation, we probably have a spot for you.

[00:58:26] Ben Mathis: Literally anywhere. We didn’t really talk about the shortage of talent, but there is just a shortage of talent out there. There’s a shortage of lawyers who want to try cases or be in really tough litigation. I think that’s. Law schools are having a lot of kids come out who I had to miss my 43 because of a an illness in our family.

[00:58:50] Ben Mathis: But when I was thinking about this 40 years ago, and I was a law school, everybody seemed to kill a mockingbird. Everybody wanted to be a trial lawyer. And it’s no knock, but now you have lots of graduates have [00:59:00] no interest in litigation. And so that pool you’re drawing from smaller and smaller people who really are committed to doing that.

[00:59:07] Ben Mathis: You think you’re a good litigator and you really also want to get in a position with a firm that likes to try cases, is capable of it. We talk about our trial culture within the firm. Give me a call. I don’t care where you are in the country. We’ll find a place for you.

[00:59:21] Jonathan Hawkins: And your firm’s in growth mode still, so that’s important

[00:59:25] Ben Mathis: for the headache with you having to switch offices.

[00:59:30] Ben Mathis: I had no idea. They’re going to tear my windows apart. When we started for those who are watching and notice them in a different office from when I started, I had to come to an interior office.

[00:59:41] Jonathan Hawkins: I appreciate it, Ben. Thanks again for being flexible on that and staying with me.

[00:59:46] Ben Mathis: All right. Thanks so much.

[00:59:47] Ben Mathis: Jonathan. Enjoyed it.

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