In-house Counsel


It’s been a long, long time (OK….it’s been an eternity) since I last took the time to blog. I’m still not exactly sure if I’m going to keep this up, but here’s what has been going on lately.

The last few months have been nothing short of a HUGE TRANSITION. Just about everything I knew as “normal” one year ago has now changed. Here is the short list (in no particular order) – new job, new house, new city, new child, new church (sorta)…and on and one and on. I’m sure you will eventually hear about them all in one way or another. I’m tired just thinking about it, but I can tell you that I learned more about life in the last 6 months than I probably ever have before. God’s been faithful through it all and we are still loving life and enjoying every moment. At the advice of a good friend, I took the time to journal about this transition and I am going to share some of it with you, in the hope that it may inspire someone.

Let me know if you are still out there (leave me a comment)….and I will try to be more consistent with my posts. As I re-enter the blogasphere, I’m probably going to share a little less legal theory, a little more personal/family info and mix in a bunch of random thoughts about daily living and what I’m learning on this journey we call life.   

Striving for The Best!-mwr

I recently received an inquiry from a law school classmate that prompted a great discussion topic. The gist of the note was twofold – 1) how did you go from being an aspiring trial law student to an in-house contract lawyer and 2) how do you continue to stay passionate about your work. With permission, I thought the best way to respond was to use those questions as blog entries.

A little bit of history…While at the FSU College of Law, I was a member of the Mock Trial Team and fortunate to serve as president of the team my last year. We entered trial competitions and advocated against other law school students. It was a close nit group, a lot of work, a ton of fun and the best preparation for a career as a trial lawyer one could get while still in law school. After a few competitions, I just knew I was cut out for trial work! When it came time to enter the “real world,” I quickly found out that while many people sue, few actually go to trial. As a baby lawyer who wants to try cases, you either go to a government job handling criminal cases (state attorney/public defender) or carry a seasoned lawyers briefcase, learn the ropes, and pray you get a shot one day. Neither one of those options really appealed to me, so I began looking elsewhere.

I landed my current position right out of law school in a manner that most of the time doesn’t work…I sent in a blind resume to a company and hoped for the best. For a variety of reasons, I wanted to return home, but just knew that the legal market in Daytona Beach, FL would probably not allow that to happen. I can honestly say that many years of hard work, prayer and Divine Intervention landed me with a job I enjoy. While I had offers from traditional firms, many lawyers I spoke with wanted to get out of a firm and go in house, and there were few in house folks who wanted to go back to a firm. I figured I would skip the firm experience and land in a place where many hope to finish. My background synced up perfectly with an open position and 9 years later, here I am!

The boardroom is now my courtroom. Preparation for a successful negotiation is similar to how one would prepare to try a case – know the issues, know the parties and try to masterfully convince others to see a set of facts the was you view them.  While trail law and contract law seem to be polar opposites, there are many similarities – both sides have clients; both sides have different perspectives; both sides want successful outcomes.

Staying passionate about my work is a topic for the next post….that one could take a while.

Striving for The Best!-mwr

Juggling a full time job, family, lots of other commitments and very little spare time has taken its toll on my blogging availability. I don’t want to be one of those bloggers (no offense if you do this) who blogs a few sentences or random thoughts that pop in their head. I desire to post some thought provoking content that challenges us to think, reflect and achieve greatness. So, my revised goal for this site, at least for the time being, is to post one meaningful entry per week. I am going to resist the urge to post a bunch and attempt to save the content for weeks when my schedule gets the best of me. Your participation, in the form of suggestions, comments, quotes, etc., is helpful as this web based process ebbs and flows. I value your active involvement more than you know.

 

As I pen this entry, I am somewhere between a very cold Indianapolis and a hopefully warm and sunny Florida. I’m returning from a fantastic legal conference called TRAC – The Racing Attorney Conference. I have had the pleasure of being a panelist at this great event for the past two years and have found it to be a very useful experience. This year about a hundred lawyers and industry experts gathered in the infield of the Brickyard to discuss the topics that we face daily in the motorsports industry. While the newfound knowledge was great, making personal connections and contacts is the highlight for me. Too often I negotiate deals with my counterparts across the country and never get to meet them face to face or learn about them past the particulars of a deal.

 

Establishing personal relationships are the most effective way to do business. Negotiations, contracts and general business go much smoother when you can sit across the table or on a call with someone who is more than just “the other side.” I pushed myself to meet new people during my time in Indy in an effort to be working with a friend the next time I am fortunate enough to negotiate a deal. We talked about business and the law some, but I was genuinely more interested in their background, family, and other interests. I also renewed relationships with my friends from many wonderful companies involved in this small world we call “the motorsports industry”. No matter what your industry, profession or current situation, go out of your way to make strategic acquaintances. These friendships will never be wasted time and may just make your job more enjoyable down the road.

 

Striving for The Best!-mwr

 My blogger friend, Charlie, left a comment on a recent post that stirred some attention. My wife and I discussed it at length and I even had a few friends ask me about Charlie (look man, you are now famous!). Seriously, his post made me intently think and it has not left my mind. I am going to do my very best but please forgive me in advance for this woefully inadequate answer to some very tough questions.

 Daily, I am humbled by the amazing opportunities that have been placed before me. God has truly blessed my life beyond measure and His grace is the foremost reason for the any perceived success. I can say, without hesitation, that my personal relationship with Jesus is the foundation for my life and provides direction for every step I take. A true relationship, not religious experience or ritual, is my compass for life. While this is THE critical component, I’ll expound on a few other personal reasons to which I can credit.  


Pondering this journey of life that has brought me where I stand today, several things stick out to me. In no particular order, here are some of those other pieces of the puzzle that contribute to my life’s journey – Relationships , Hard Work, Education, A Life of Giving. I could expound exponentially on these and other topics, so lets explore them over the next few posts.

 

Life has not always been a bed of roses and it never will be. Life gets in the way and presents challenges, problems and even heart ache. I believe the key to overcoming life’s obstacles is attitude and determination. You must always remember that “this too shall pass.”

 

This part is for Charlie, but I hope others will benefit as well. I know you think you are stuck in “middle management” and can’t see a way out of that shopping plaza, but I want to share a personal story with you. I have a very good friend who was working as a bank teller (less than middle management) for several years. She was determined to rise above her situation, but with only a HS education she did not know what to do. So, she purposed to be the best bank teller she could be and one thing she did was learn the name of each customer, so that she could properly greet them each time they came into the bank. One of her customers was a man I know well, who ran a very successful business in town. He noticed her commitment, drive and excellent way she performed her work. This man eventually hired her from the bank and she worked for him over 10 years. While there, she completed her college business degree. She was eventually awarded her own franchise and was so successful the company asked her to become a regional manager. Today, this very successful lady owns her own business, makes a VERY comfortable 6 figure income and is genuinely happy with her success.

 

I share this with you to let you know that anything is possible. Sometimes you have to “grind it out” and other times it may come quicker and easier, but it certainly can happen.

 

Striving for The Best! -mwr

Continuing a glimpse into SPEEDWEEKS, I have wrapped a few days into this post. Friday started with a bang, as the crunch was on to complete deals for the Bud Shootout activities. The biggest was a sampling contract that we literally had 3 days to draft, negotiate and execute before the benefits were began Sat morning. Signatures we exchanged late Friday and our on site camping guests were pleased, as it provided them with a sampling of Old Spice shower products for the upcoming days. During the madness of the day, I snuck away with my family for a few minutes to visit the Budweiser Clydesdales. My new friend, Hans, travels with the horses and their Dalmatian, Barley, 320 days per year. It was neat to be so close to these amazing animals….Mackenzie especially liked going into the stalls with this huge horses!

 

Next up, the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday. Great weather greeted us and the night concluded with a fantastic finish on the track. The ARCA race before the main event was well attended, but, as expected, was a bit of a demolition derby. I did not have any responsibilities during the day, so Amanda and I attended most of the race, but had to watch the finish from home, due to a couple of sick little girls. We spotted Jared from Subway, along with some RoushFenway racing folks during the race. The Shootout is the first change to see some of the change for the upcoming season and this year was no exception. Getting used to all the driver, number, sponsor and team changes will take some time, but here are a few of the most notable – Tony Stewart in the #14; Mark Martin in the #5; Casey Mears in the #07; Clint Bowyer in the #33; Joey Lagano in the #20; Bobby Labonte in the #96….and on and on and on…

 

Sunday was reserved for church and watching the Daytona 500 qualifying on TV. It’s great to see EGR driver Martin Truex, Jr. in the #1 on the pole, but also thrilling to see Daytona Beach resident, Mark Martin, on the outside pole. Looks like we are in for some surprises and new faces during the upcoming season!

 

Monday and Tuesday were pretty quiet on the track, but it seemed that the last minute deals and ticket sales were non-stop. A few track visits, combined with meeting on projects and contract completion for the weekend were the main highlights…Nothing too exciting there, but tons of work for sure. Wednesday will bring the start of a flurry of activity culminating with The Great American Race on Sunday!

 

Striving for The Best! -mwr

NASCAR Banquet week is here and the Waldorf Astoria NYC will be buzzing with the best and brightest NASCAR has to offer. While everyone will be rightfully celebrating Jimmy Johnson’s 3-peat, one of the sports brightest stars embarked on an image / career move that may have an impact on our sport of decades. While he is commonly known by just 2 letters – JR – his 2008 change literally re-painted the NASACAR landscape.

 

From 2000 to 2008, the grandstands were a sea of Red. Now, there are hues of green and blue. Legions of fans pledged allegiance to a Fibonacci number. Now, they rally behind it times 11, albeit slanted left now instead of right. The game to get there was a nice disctrction during the latter part of 2007, as the Hendricks organization filed applications with the USPTO for numbers such as 38 and 81, before finally announcing the #88 was the chosen one.

 

What Michael Jordan – 23 to 45 to 23, Kobe Bryant – 8 to 24, more recently Manny Rameriez – Red Sox #24 to Dodger Blue #99 (eventually) and others did with mild success, Dale Earnhart Jr. has pulled off masterfully! In addition to almost single handedly revolutionizing (some insiders also think hurting)  NASCAR team sponsorships, Dale and his sister / manager Kelly Earnhardt Elledge started printing money with this seemingly simple shift.

 

They didn’t stray too far from the familiar 8 to make die-hards mad, but did pick up brands that every person (including those under 21) can wear proudly.  Merchandising is such a huge aspect of every Cup driver’s income stream that changing numbers and sponsorship can be, and in this case was, a windfall of revenue.

 

As we close the history books on the 2008 NASCAR Season, the 8 is a part of a merger with another struggling team (Gnassi-DEI Merger), while the 88 seems to be getting its house in order. Though this season started out strong for the 88, the latter half of the year was a struggle. My money is on the very real possibility that Jr. seems poised for a breakout year in 2009, which makes the February running of the Daytona 500 too far away for me.

 

Striving for the Best! –mwr

With Thanksgiving now past and the turkey, stuffing, gravy, corn, mac & cheese, broccoli, cheese & rice casserole, sweet potato, pumpkin pie, peanut butter pie, and on and on and on… induced coma subsiding, it seemed appropriate to pick up this blog again by listing a few things for which I am thankful. The last few days have been spent with family and a lot less of the internet, computer, Blackberry and even cell phone. The virtual “radio silence” is always a welcome time for me. It gives me a chance to clear my head and re-focus my life objectives towards the things that really matter. With that said, some of the things I am most thankful for are:

1) Wife – An awesome woman who stands beside me no matter what. I clearly “married up” and appreciate her more than I could ever express!
2) Children – I thought life was great until heaven greeted us with 2 bundles of joy. Now 3 and 1, my girls are the love of my life and always remind me that this world is full of endless possibilities!
3) Family – Having the support of 2 families is an invaluable asset to my wife and I. They are always there for love, support, encouragement, advice and when needed, a swift kick to the rear!
4) Health – A most valuable possession.
5) Faith – My ultimate source of strength and guidance. My life would not be what it is today absent the hand of God protecting, preparing and guiding.
6) Friends – Life would be an unbearable journey if unable to share it with people who truly care and love you. I cherish the relationships established and future connections to be made.
7) Country – I’ve always been proud to be an American. The greatest country on Earth. The best place to be – land of the Free and home of the Brave.
8) Provision – Not the things we like, but the things we need – food, shelter and love. If all we had were these three, we could still make it just fine.

The list could continue for pages and pages until it got down to the things that I merely like and want, but I will stop with my thankfulness for the things I truly need. Hope your Thanksgiving was a good as mine.

Striving for the Best! -mwr

Note: My attempt to post this on Friday failed, but I was literally in a place with no WiFi. My Sprint air card would not even work… on Thanksgiving morning, I had to make a run to the closest Starbucks (20 mi.) to use their WiFi and pull a contract for review (yes, in-house lawyers even work on holidays). At least the “WiFi run” allowed me to sip a Venti Carmel Macchiato while plugging away on the laptop. At 10am, we were only the 4th car through the drive-thru.

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