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Who are these “enterprising lawyers”? Actually, they are easy to spot. Look for the happier, more engaged lawyers. Deeply invested in the power of the work they do for their clients, they have ample interests beyond the practice of law as well. And they seem to have more energy for getting things done than anyone in the crowd. You probably know one or two—you may even be one yourself!
In this interview, we talk with Matt Haverstick, Chair of the Public Corruption Team at Philadelphia’s Conrad O’Brien PC. Matt has built his practice and reputation representing government officials and institutions in matters ranging from public corruption investigations to the legality of state and local laws. At the vanguard of grand jury practice in the public corruption arena, he has taken clients before grand juries more than 100 times. For fun? It’s comic books. Go figure.
Conrad O’Brien PC
Fordham University School of Law, JD, 1996
Bucknell University, BA, 1992
Why did you want to be a lawyer?
I was going to be a cop in New York City, and I went to law school while waiting for a slot to open. By my second year, I really began to enjoy what I thought a lawyer did, so I stayed on that path and abandoned waiting to be a policeman.
What is the focus of your law practice?
My focus is representing government and public officials. I suspect, like a lot of us, that focus (in part) was fortuitous, in that several years in I happened into a massive public corruption investigation as counsel for multiple witnesses. Given that my practice already had a heavy dose of white-collar defense, it took off from there.
What is the real reason clients hire you?
My colleagues are phenomenal lawyers, and that’s a major reason I get hired. I bring the right resources to bear on a problem. Most times it’s me, but sometimes it’s not, and I don’t let ego get in the way when one of my partners is a better fit. Sometimes the best person for the job is even at another firm; I don’t hesitate to refer clients to the right lawyer, regardless of where they practice.
Who was your most important mentor and, briefly, what did he or she teach you?
I’ve had so many great mentors. It’s hard to put one before any other, but Stanley Arkin taught me to “hustle” (his word) for business. I’ve used Stanley’s word and his method ever since.
What about practicing law did you learn the hard way?
Hard work and preparation are critical to winning, both in court and in getting business. There was a point in time, early in my career, where I didn’t get that. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t too long before I was disabused of the notion that you can coast in this profession and succeed. Every time in my career when I feel as if I’ve reached the summit of something, I look up and down and realize I just got to the top of a foothill, and now the real mountain climb starts.
What is your favorite technology tool?
The iPad, hands down. Any lawyer who can’t find at least one way it can radically change his or her practice for the better isn’t trying hard enough.
What is your favorite non-technology tool?
A daily planner. Not for my calendar (the iPad is far superior), but to jot down my time on a daily basis. I’ve found I capture my time much better since I started using a logbook.
How would you describe the location and decor of your office?
Interesting. There’s a lot of art, and it all has particular meaning for me. My office looks out down the Delaware River, with expansive views of the ballpark and the Philly airport. I find staring down the river, with those things in my line of sight, incredibly relaxing.
Why would someone describe you as “enterprising”?
I am always trying to meet new people, and to make new connections. It’s a great way to generate business and a nice way to lead life.
What is the first thing you “check” each morning?
Newspapers (on the iPad, of course). I wake up around 4:30 a.m. and start scanning papers from across Pennsylvania, then the national papers (and a few political websites).
Where do you think the practice of law is going?
SPECIALIZATION. Lawyers are fast becoming commodities, and in that kind of market you have value if you do something no one else does.
Where are you going?
The same direction. A decade ago I would’ve tried a straight-up commercial case as easily as I would’ve worked on a white-collar matter. Not anymore. I’m spending more time looking for opportunities in the area I’m good at—public corruption and government litigation—and passing on work I don’t really do anymore to colleagues and friends who do.
What are people most surprised to learn about you?
That I read comic books to relax!
What word do you use altogether too often?
“Later,” as in, “I’ll get to that later.” I’m trying really hard this year to not put off anything if I have the ability to get it done now.
What do you use every single day that you could actually easily do without?
TV. It’s on way too much and for no good reason a lot of the time. Other than sports, I could easily do without the amount of TV I watch.
What three things must you always have in your brief bag, desk drawer or refrigerator?
First, good beer. I recommend (right now) Rogue’s Yellow Snow IPA and Sierra Nevada’s Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, if you can still find any. Two, an iPhone/iPad charger. Three, a good book.
Where do you turn when things go really badly?
My family [pictured above].
What else (if anything) do you think we need to know?
Developing business takes years of effort and a high tolerance for hearing the word “no.” Stick with it.
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