For Matt Dow, success as a civil trial lawyer comes down to good storytelling.
It’s a lesson Matt learned early in his career, and he’s spent 26 years honing his skills. No matter how complicated the case or formidable the adversary, he finds a way to communicate his client’s message clearly and convincingly.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Ed Small, one of my longtime partners,” Matt says. “Early in my career, he told me the same thing you read today from high-priced trial consultants: It’s all about telling a story.”
Today, Matt most often serves as lead attorney on cases that involve a variety of business issues, including trade secrets, non-compete covenants, discrimination, business tort, and class actions. He has also argued before several Texas courts of appeal and the Texas Supreme Court. In addition to his robust trial practice, Matt serves as the managing partner of Jackson Walker’s Austin office.
Matt has the unique insight that comes from working in Texas his entire career. In the 1980s and early ’90s, he often worked with clients in the banking and S&L industry. As Austin has emerged as a technology center, Matt has seen a rise in trade-secret and non-compete litigation. Changes in Austin have brought subtle shifts in the composition and attitudes of juries as well. By being attuned to these changes, Matt gives his clients an advantage.
“When you’ve been practicing in the same place for 26 years, you build relationships, you learn what the judges like and don’t like, and you discover what your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses are,” he says. “If my clients know what they’re up against, then I am delivering them not just legal services but real value.
“Sometimes it’s nothing more than being able to settle a case early for a client. I’ve been able to do that a few times and that’s very satisfying. The client ends up saving thousands of dollars and not having to go through the aggravation and business disruption of depositions and a trial.”
In one recent case, Matt successfully defended a startup company that was being sued by a much larger competitor. Based on the strength of Matt’s defense, the judge denied both the plaintiff’s request for injunction and request for summary judgment, which cleared the way for a settlement. Soon after, Matt’s client was purchased by a larger company. “It was great to see them survive all the blows of a big lawsuit and go on to realize their dreams,” he says.
“Whether arguing in a hearing or writing a motion, it’s not just about going through the motions but continually striving to deliver more value to the client.”
– Matt Dow
Of course, not every case can be settled early, and with more than twenty first-chair jury trials under his belt, Matt is always ready to defend his clients in court. That’s where the importance of storytelling comes in, but the process must begin with a thorough understanding of the client’s business and the challenges that might be faced in court.
“You have to take the time to build trust with your client,” Matt says. “It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion. When you’re telling that story to a jury, you have to know it as if you lived through it. You have to know the good and the bad parts because only then can you tell that story with credibility.”
After gaining a deep understanding of the facts, Matt uses all the technological tools available to bring the case to life. Since studies have shown that people retain more of what they see than hear, Matt is a firm believer in employing visual aids, which can range from a simple PowerPoint to advanced trial graphics, depending on what the venue can support. “I don’t want to waste a jury’s valuable time, so I need to tell my client’s story and convey the important information as thoroughly and effectively as possible,” he says.
Technology can also play a role – for better or worse – in what ends up in court. Matt has written articles and given presentations on the use of e-mail in the courtroom, as well as many other employment issues, in an effort to help clients avoid costly litigation.
Whether he’s educating clients about potential pitfalls or representing them in court, Matt puts his clients’ interests first. That unwavering dedication has earned Matt recognition as a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters five years in a row. He has also been listed in Super Lawyers, Corporate Counsel Edition as a “Super Lawyer” in Business Litigation.
Despite the recognition and an impressive list of courtroom victories, Matt says he still looks for opportunities to learn, grow and improve as a trial lawyer – and to find new ways of telling his clients’ stories.
“I hope to be doing things better and differently five or 15 years from now than I am today,” he says. “Whether arguing in a hearing or writing a motion, it’s not just about going through the motions but continually striving to deliver more value to the client.”