Brady Allen is an attorney with a focus on criminal defense and family law. He came to that, however, by way of proving himself in on the prosecuting side of the aisle. Allen grew up in Southern Illinois, spending his undergraduate years at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, after which he went into the military. His original plan was to have a long career in the military, then go into the FBI or CIA, but after a medical discharge scuttled those plans, Allen went to law school, returning to SIU-Carbondale. After graduation and passing the bar exam, Allen worked in the prosecutor’s office, gaining valuable experience for how that side of the law functions. He now brings all that experience to his new criminal defense practice, reassuring clients that he can view their case from all angles and come up with the best strategies to get the best results for them and for justice.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I decided that there are lots of benefits, especially for criminal defendants, to have an attorney who has been on the prosecution side of things. There is a lot of opportunity there for the attorney, as well.
Also, I like to have the flexibility to not be stuck on the criminal side of things. In my experience in the private sector, I really enjoyed working with family law, and I wanted to get back to that.
It’s a good idea to go ahead and get started either a prosecutor or as a public defender. Between those two jobs, they give you the most in-court experience. It really helps build up your confidence in representing clients in court and really looks good on a resume for attorneys that are hiring. If you’re not necessarily looking to go into your own area of law, they can see that you’re going to be really confident handling a variety of cases.
You get to know how prosecutors think, what they’re looking for and the weaknesses in their cases. It’s really advantageous to have seen things from that side because you see things from a completely different way.
My motivation to get into law in the first place was to help the average person with their problems. It makes a difference at the end of your day if you can go home and say to yourself that you really helped someone. It may not be the biggest thing in the world that you helped them with, but in that person’s life, in their mind at that particular time, that may be the biggest thing in their world. If they’re dealing with ah child custody case, that might be the biggest stressor in their life. If you can help put their worries at ease for that sort of thing, it’s a good feeling.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There really is no typical day for me. It can be completely different from day-to-day. One day you’re in a courtroom, one day you’re in the office meeting with clients, or lately doing meetings over Zoom. I still go to court, but due to COVID it really depends on the court you’re dealing with. The more populated counties are preferring to do everything over video chat, whereas other counties are open and doing live court sessions with some restrictions.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s necessary to analyze each case differently. Certain case law is widely applicable, but you do have to sit down with each client and figure out what their individual needs are going to be. Really delving into the client’s case and trying to understand what they need from you is where ideas originate and get developed.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There’s a large push because of Black Lives Matter for reform on not just policework but also on how the prosecution handles things. It’s very interesting to see how that’s unfolding. Not every idea is going to be optimal, but there are going to be certain new changes that I think are going to work out really well. Whatever new changes take place; I hope it will err on the side of making sure that everyday citizens are not having their rights infringed upon.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that goes all the way back to my law school days is to always start your day with the things that you most dread doing. That way your attention is on that a lot more strongly than it would be if you waited until later when you’re already tired and burnt out from the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Especially right out of law school, there’s this instinct for attorney to come in and seem like they already know everything and there’s this pressure where you want to come off as professional as possible, like you’re not the new guy who doesn’t know anything. It took me a while to figure out that it’s better to ask any question that you have as soon as they come your way because the sooner you ask those questions, the sooner you’re going to learn from them and the better you’re going to get at your job. It’s sort of a pride issue. I’d tell my younger self to put the pride aside. Let yourself look stupid. It’s okay.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
One of my more unpopular opinions concerns criminal justice reform. There’s a big push to end cash bail. I think that that is a mistake. Cash bail is important in our criminal justice system. The thing that does need to be changed is that there needs to be an equal balance for all levels of income. Right now, the way it’s set up is that cash bail is a much larger detriment to people with lower incomes. It needs to be more balanced, similar to how our tax brackets are set up to be progressive. If you’re having to pay for cash bail, it should hurt a wealthy person just as much as it would hurt a person of lower income.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend people bounce ideas off of coworkers or other people in their field. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are or how much you know a certain type of case, just having other perspectives is always helpful to get a fresh take on things and maybe stimulate your thinking so that you can come up with new ideas and new ways to approach things.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
From a marketing standpoint, it’s good to be able to explain to potential clients that being a former prosecutor is a means of helping them in ways that a lot of defense attorneys can’t. Those who lack prosecutorial experience aren’t as comfortable at navigating those waters.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One thing that people don’t always realize is that attorneys don’t always have all the information at the top of their head, even if it’s an area they work in every day. Fact sheets are always changing, caselaw is always changing, and you always want to make sure you’re giving the most accurate advice. People can sometimes be disappointed that you can’t immediately give them an answer to their questions. So often you have to tell them, “Well, it depends!” It really does matter on how something is worded in caselaw or statutes, and that is always something people just don’t understand, so you have to really explain it to them and give that reassurance that you are trying to be as precise as possible with the information you give them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One thing I think would be a successful business is if someone were to capitalize on this movement to Zoom and other video conferencing applications that have become popular during the time of COVID and make a communication system specifically tailored for legal use. It would definitely be useful to easily be able to have a split screen where you can show documents to a client, judge, or attorney, and manipulate the image by zooming in, circling, underlining, or however they want to look at it. And maybe there could even be a way for someone to legally sign documents right on the application with the witnesses right there. There are a lot of people in the legal field that agree that video conferencing is something that should continue to be done to replace in-person court appearances well after COVID-19 is no longer an issue. Anything that speaks to these more practical legal needs would be great.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best hundred dollars I spent lately was for pregnancy photo shoot with my girlfriend and our baby that she is carrying. She’ll be having the baby pretty soon and that was well worth it.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Westlaw is the most important service that I regularly use as an attorney. There are other similar programs that attorneys use, but Westlaw is my personal preference as far as ease of use. It’s a legal database that allows you to pull up the statutes and caselaw that I need to have at my fingertips.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I always recommend The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. You can’t go wrong with that book.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is actually from The Hobbit movie: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love.”
• Former prosecutors can make great criminal defense lawyers.
• I have a real passion for family law.
• Don’t be afraid to look stupid. Gaining knowledge is more important than pride.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.