The law is not a mobile profession. Unlike studies in medicine or accounting, the law is not a consistent study. While anatomy and numbers are the same the world over, the law varies between states (to say nothing of countries). This, combined with state-by-state bar and licensing requirements, means that your career may be restricted to a single state in a single country.
As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynden Renwick, Esq.
Lynden Renwick has been every kind of attorney there is. He has practiced as a cross-border corporate attorney for one of the world’s largest global law firms, a commercial litigator for a multi-office practice, and general counsel for a U.S. Defense Contractor. An attorney in both Australia and the United States, Lynden has represented some of the largest organizations in the world — including Fortune 100 companies.
An award-winning executive, Lynden was named one of Maryland’s ‘Very Important Professionals’ in 2018 for his leadership of a multi-million-dollar, woman-owned company. In 2020, Vanguard Law Magazine named him one of America’s leading authorities on global data security laws. His emotionally-confronting novel, ‘A PART OF YOU’ boasts a +4-star rating on goodreads.com, and he is an intermediate-level combatant trained in the martial art of Jeet Kune Do.
In September 2020, Lynden founded Out-House Attorneys, LLC., the first innovation in legal service in decades. As Founding Partner and CEO, his mission is to deliver affordable and on-demand access to senior legal executives. Out-House Attorneys is shaking up the legal services industry by replacing the traditional ‘In-House Attorney’ and ‘General Counsel’ with a new kind of attorney: the ‘Out-House’ Attorney.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
I suffered a workplace injury shortly after my 15th birthday that required litigation. At one stage, over a year passed without a word from my attorneys. Litigation is stressful enough without having to add the stress and strain of poor representation. I initially became an attorney because I wanted to provide people with a more supportive legal experience.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
When I was a law clerk in Sydney, I had to deliver a number of briefs for a major trial suit. I had to deliver one set of briefs to our Barrister (containing every strength and weakness of our case in intimate detail), and some evidence briefs to our opponent. I delivered the opponent briefs first, and when I reached the barrister’s offices on the other side of the city, I realized I’d given our opponent the Barrister’s briefs! I ran four miles in a full wool suit and 120-degree heat back to the opponent’s office, and managed to collect our briefs just as they were being loaded onto the mail cart.
The lesson I learned: attention to detail. To this day I won’t hit ‘send’ on an email without triple-checking the recipients!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Unfortunately, the most exciting stuff is protected by attorney-client privilege. However, one of the most exciting things we’re doing is flipping the script on what it means to be a ‘partner’ in a law firm. At Out-House Attorneys, our Partners aren’t partners with the firm — they’re partners with our clients. This means trying our damndest to reduce our clients’ legal and business costs, and making sure that their hard-earned dollars end up on their bottom line, and not ours. We’re proud to share that we have reduced one of our client’s annual legal expenses by almost 70%!
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
In 2016, I worked on the civil suit by five of the six officers in the Freddie Gray case against Baltimore’s State Attorney and Assistant Sheriff. Although I can’t reveal specific details, the most interesting thing was the sheer volume of exculpatory evidence and information that had been completely ignored by the public offices and media.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
One of my distant ancestors, James Renwick. James Renwick was a minister in Scotland in the 1600s. Hanged for refusing to swear fealty to King James VII due to his religious persecution, James Renwick was the last of the Covenanter Martyrs. His story reminds me that the law is not inanimate or agendaless; it is a tool that can be wielded as a cudgel or a cure. His legacy inspires me to remain true to my faith and principles even in the face of fierce disagreement or persecution.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
Spend a week shadowing an attorney practicing in the areas you find most interesting. Practicing law is very different to what’s portrayed in TV and movies, and shadowing an actual attorney will give you first-hand insight into the life you’re considering. Each morning, be sure to ask how the attorney spent their evening. You may be surprised at how much work they do at home, too.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
1. Term Limits for Congress. No matter which Party has control of the Legislature, little progress is made because Congresspersons are too occupied with partisan squabbling and special interests. This is particularly true for ‘career politicians’, who use their name and familiarity to block out fresh candidates and ideas. Term limits would reduce the ‘buying power’ of special interest groups, and open up seats to permit fresh voices and ideas.
2. Introduce Public Bankruptcy and Insolvency Liability for Public Officers. There are many municipalities and states that perpetually operate with budget deficits. If private enterprises were run this way, the officers would be liable for negligence or trading while insolvent. The government should be held to the same standard. Public offices should have the ability to declare bankruptcy so they can enjoy a navigable way out of debt, and this should be married to tortious liability for the officers responsible for driving that office to bankruptcy if, like a corporate officer, they are found to have managed the office and/or finances in a negligent manner. In my opinion, this would create an incentive for responsible fiscal management, and disincentivize those who lack the nerve or qualifications from running for office.
3. Mass Deregulation. I’m not suggesting that every industry should become a free-for-all, but many regulations exist solely to create unnecessary obligations and expenses. The costs alone of licenses, insurances, permits, and registrations actively prevent enterprising people from starting new businesses; and they strangle existing small businesses. This is before we even begin to consider the difficulties faced in just navigating the often-inconsistent systems of requirement. Some of the deregulation seen in response to COVID-19 has shown that many of the removed regulations weren’t necessary in the first place.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to complete at least 80 hours of pro bono work for low-income clients and voiceless victims each year. A few years ago I represented a beautiful Great Dane named Rhonda against a series of actions brought by an adjacent neighbor. I believe that many of their allegations were fabricated, and their goal was to have Rhonda removed from her family or put down. We were fortunate to have many of the allegations disproved during cross-examination of the neighbor, and Rhonda lived out the rest of her life in peace with her family.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
It will probably sound ingenuine, but justice truly drives me. I was bullied relentlessly throughout high school in Australia. To this day I can’t suffer a bully, and I’ll intercede any and every time someone tries to use the law to bully or intimidate. I don’t care how big they are.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1. The law is not a mobile profession. Unlike studies in medicine or accounting, the law is not a consistent study. While anatomy and numbers are the same the world over, the law varies between states (to say nothing of countries). This, combined with state-by-state bar and licensing requirements, means that your career may be restricted to a single state in a single country. When I moved from Australia to the United States, this meant that I had to go back to college, get my Masters in the Laws of the United States, and pass the Maryland Bar Exam. Sadly, unless and until a Uniform Bar Exam is adopted nationwide, I’ll have to study for and sit another Bar Exam every time I move to a different state.
2. The law is lonely. Studying law will inevitably give you unsurpassed objectivity. Your professional obligations will teach you to treat your opponents with deference and respect. You will learn to objectively and respectfully consider and debate the merits of any argument. Sadly, the vast majority of people lack these abilities, and this makes for lonely company. I see this with increasing frequency due to the current socio-political schism. While I am genuinely content to engage in an objective debate on just about anything, most of my counterparts are now unwilling (if not unable) to entertain a friendly discourse with someone they disagree with. Many have forgotten that reasonable minds can differ.
3. There is a dichotomy between doing good and getting paid. If life is a game, then laws are its rules. Like any game, those who know the rules are often positioned to play it best. Accordingly, knowing the law will position you to help an incalculable number of people. Anytime you gather with friends or family, you’re bound to have someone come up to you and start with, “So I have a legal question for you.” These are often benign, but you’ll often encounter people who need real help, but can’t afford an attorney. In my experience, I let my moral compass decide what happens next. Sometimes I point them in the right direction. In others, I take them on as a pro bono client. It’s never an easy decision.
4. Some cases will haunt you. The thing that makes lawyers so valuable is that they make their clients’ biggest problems their own; losing sleep so that their clients can sleep soundly. While you will never forget a client or their case, some will haunt you. Different cases haunt me for different reasons. My early criminal defense cases haunt me with the images of the crime scene photographs and the sounds of terrified voices in 9–1–1 call recordings. Some civil litigation cases haunt me with questions of ‘what if?’ While I am fortunate to have only lost a single litigated case in my entire legal career, there have been a lot of settlements, and I am often haunted by how the outcome may have changed if the client had decided to let things play out in court, or if I took a different strategy during settlement negotiations.
5. The law is a lifestyle, not a career. This may seem obvious given the other things I wish I’d been told when I first became an attorney, but it warrants express mention. Practicing law is not just a job or a career — it is a lifestyle. There will be long stretches of time when your mind never leaves the office. Your legal obligations will require you to put yourself and your family behind your clients’ interests time and again. My practice has seen me on calls during my wedding anniversary celebrations and ‘babymoon’. I have left parties, cancelled paid vacations, and even stepped out of the delivery room during my son’s birth due to my obligations to my clients. The law will change the way you see the world, make it sometimes difficult to relate to the layperson, cause the needy to call upon your knowledge, and sometimes conscript you and your family to the backseat of your own lives. This profession offers substantial personal satisfaction, but it often comes at a heavy personal price.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Elon Musk. Elon Musk is single handedly and intentionally changing the world. I’d love to speak with him over a meal just to try to understand the way he looks at the world.