Dec. 20, 2021

A Celebrity and High-Wealth Divorce Lawyer Talks About Building His Practice

Christopher Melcher never dreamed about representing celebrities and wealthy clients in divorce court. Instead, as a young lawyer, he met an LA attorney with a high-end solo practice in divorce and family law who invited him to join the practice. He dove into the world of representing wealthy and celebrity clients, working with the teams that manage them, and never looked back.

Managing the legal needs of these high-powered, sophisticated legal consumers requires the dedicated focus that this successful niche practice provides. But hobnobbing at Hollywood parties has never been his thing. Christopher’s humble and straightforward approach with his clients is what drives his success.

In this episode, Christopher gives us a masterclass on marketing for niche practices. He describes the advice that worked for him and how using a video bio on your website can lead to more referrals. As a legal analyst for various media outlets, he also gives us some pointers on becoming a go-to legal commentator. Join us for this enlightening discussion.


Christopher Melcher never dreamed about representing celebrities in divorce court. Instead, he met an LA attorney with a high-end solo practice in divorce and family law as a young lawyer and was invited to join the practice. He dove into the world of representing wealthy and celebrity clients, working with the teams that manage them, and never looked back.  

Managing the legal needs of these high-powered, sophisticated legal consumers requires the dedicated focus that this successful niche practice provides. But hobnobbing at Hollywood parties has never been his thing. Christopher’s humble and straightforward approach with his clients is what drives his success. 

In this episode, Christopher gives us a masterclass on marketing for niche practices. He describes the advice that worked for him, and how using a video bio on your website can lead to more referrals. As a legal analyst for various media outlets, he also gives us some pointers on becoming a go-to legal commentator. Join us for this enlightening discussion.

Guest Insights

  • Didn’t plan to become a divorce attorney. [03:27]
  • Working with a solo family law and divorce practitioner to learn the ropes. [04:10]
  • How celebrity and wealthy clients differ from typical clients. [05:19]
  • Protecting celebrities’ images. [06:55]
  • Why data security is extra important. [07:36]
  • Approaching his work from the client’s perspective and being accessible. [09:04]
  • The importance of data management. [10:29]
  • Understanding an attorney’s role among a group of client advisors. [11:06]
  • He’s more like a border collie than a pit bull. [13:58]
  • “You are better than no one, and no one is better than you.” [15:24]
  • Not being a client’s cheerleader. [16:50]
  • Realizing people are typically not geniuses in every area of their lives. [19:01]
  • Writing articles on family law and speaking at CLE events shows you’re a thought leader and leads to referrals. [21:59]
  • Receiving referrals from other lawyers. [23:33]
  • The importance of being likable. [24:49]
  • Becoming selective in choosing speaking engagements and writing articles. [25:42]
  • Video bios as the new calling cards. [28:49]
  • Becoming a legal analyst. [31:08]
  • Using a publicist vs. pitching your own stories to media outlets. [33:56]
  • Experimenting with providing legal analysis non-family law topics. [36:10]

 

Links From the Episode

Transcript

John Reed: [00:00:00] Building a professional services business is hard, especially when you’re both the sales manager and the service you’re trying to sell. Trust me when I say, “been there, done that. “For lawyers, there are a lot of great resources out there about growing your business, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that discusses boundaries.

[00:00:20] What do I mean by boundaries? First, there are communications boundaries. How available or accessible do I want to make myself to my clients? What expectations -- express or implied -- do I create about prioritizing one client’s needs over another or prioritizing my work life over my family time? 

[00:00:39] Next, your economic boundaries. Early in your career, you may be more willing to buy the business by lowering or discounting your rates. And that’s understandable. But what about later when your skills are sharper and you have more experience? The survivalist in you may say get the work at any cost, while your inner banker advises to demand your market value plus a premium. 

[00:01:01] Then there are behavioral boundaries, which I think are the most vital. Do I feel the need to act a certain way towards clients and prospects? Or am I the same person no matter the context? If I portrayed different personas for different people, is it a conscious decision? Is there a client or a situation that’s forcing me to behave differently, to think differently, maybe uncomfortably or unethically? How high a pedestal am I willing to put a client on? How much of their bravado criticism or flat-out abuse can I tolerate or subject my colleagues to? When is it time to fire a client? 

[00:01:42] Many lawyers, solo practitioners on up, have to wrestle with these boundaries, but just like business development and marketing, they don’t teach this stuff in law school. The conversation with today’s guest promises to be another masterclass in building and marketing a niche law firm with plenty of takeaways. But we’ll also hear about choices he’s made about his boundaries and behavioral boundaries in particular. 

[00:02:08] Christopher Melcher is a partner with Walter and Melcher in Los Angeles, and he’s a celebrity divorce lawyer who has established a platform as a legal commentator and analyst as well. There’s not a lot, if any, accidental marketing here. His approach has been thoughtful and strategic, and it’s paid dividends. And he hasn’t been afraid to change course when things don’t pay off.

[00:02:31] If you’ve listened to the podcast before, I never ask guests to name client names, and today is no exception. But I’m very interested to know what it takes to represent and counsel celebrities and their celebrity during what may be one of the worst times of their lives. What’s it like counseling the high-visibility, high-wealth client? 

[00:02:52] Christopher Melcher, welcome to the podcast.

Christopher Melcher: [00:02:54] Thanks, John, for having me. I’ve been a fan of the show and just love the title, the Sticky Lawyer, and didn’t understand what it meant at first. But after getting into the show, I really love that concept and hope to be sharing some thoughts on how I became sticky.

John Reed: [00:03:13] Let’s set the stage. When did you decide that, in particular, divorce litigation was going to be your focus and then the target audience of high-profile or celebrity divorces?

Christopher Melcher: [00:03:27] So this happened by accident. When I went to law school, my plan was to do corporate securities law, and I wanted to represent newer companies, pre-IPO stage companies, and help take them public and take a percentage of their equity for legal fees because I saw this other lawyer doing that very successfully.

[00:03:51] So that was my goal. But when I got out, there was no hiring. I ended up just having a practice of basically whatever came in the door. It was a lot of criminal defense, personal injury, plaintiff-side litigation, some entertainment client work for small production companies. There was a gentleman down the hall from me who was a solo practitioner in divorce. His dad had really helped start this field of being a high-end family lawyer because back in the sixties, seventies, eighties, mostly wealthy clients would go to a big civil firm for their divorce work. I just went to lunch with him a few times. He was looking to bring somebody in to grow his practice. He gave me some contract work, and I could see that family law was really interesting, that we’re not just doing litigation, but it’s at a high level involving really every aspect of a client’s life. It was me, him, and a secretary. And now we’re at nine lawyers plus support staff, and it’s been great to have that journey with them over 20 years. 

John Reed: [00:04:58] I continue to refer to it as the celebrity divorce practice. So, tell me if there’s a better name. But, apart from certainly the visibility, the publicity, and maybe the money and the assets involved, what are the nuances? What distinguishes these celebrity divorces from your run-of-the-mill divorces when it comes to the challenges that you have to deal with? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:05:19] I’ll put aside in a subcategory of wealthy people that they’re also celebrities. But just with the big category of wealthy client, these are folks who are used to dealing with lawyers. So, most divorce lawyers are representing people who probably have never hired a lawyer before. The client will typically defer to the lawyer because they just figure all lawyers are really smart and powerful. And so, there’s a different power dynamic when the client is not a sophisticated legal consumer. When you have somebody who’s wealthy, they have teams of lawyers, they’re used to doing this, and they look at it completely opposite, that we are just servants. I mean, we’re like the gardener basically, but we get to go inside the house. 

[00:06:05] These folks, because they’re so successful, are used to getting their way. They are high-power people. They’re not used to being told no, and they don’t like getting pushed around. But in divorce court, there’s a lot of getting pushed around. Accusations that are made in publicly filed court documents; a court system that just is overburdened, so it’s not very responsive, so you really don’t get your day in court very often. They are very unhappy to have that happening to them, and they can take that out on the divorce lawyer. That’s just the world of representing wealthy people. 

[00:06:42] When you’re dealing then with the subset of celebrities -- and I would note my celebrity clients often are not my most wealthy clients. The people you’ve never heard about actually have more money. When you have a celebrity, there’s this other layer of their image that is so important to them to make money, because if they’re going through this public divorce proceeding and there’s allegations of domestic violence, abuse, cheating, this can really hurt their careers. So, they have an incentive to keep this quiet. And if it isn’t going to be quiet, then there’s going to have to be some PR response. Usually, they have a really good team of PR folks there that we would interface with to understand is the client going to make a statement or not? And who’s going to make the statement? What’s the content of it? So, you have that world to deal with. 

[00:07:36] Also, data security for the law firm is something that we should all be doing all the time because we’re targets. We hold a lot of financial information for our clients and sensitive info that make us a target of hackers. But when you’re representing a celebrity or high-profile client, now it’s times ten because paparazzi, other folks that are just curious might want to hack in to get documents, and we’ve seen this, unfortunately, happen to law firms with their computers or even their voicemail systems.

[00:08:10] There’s also some practical issues with celebrity clients who are filmmakers or other artists who are constantly out doing projects away from home. And now they’re trying to share custody with their child. That is very difficult to do. How are they going to have a relationship with their child or children when their former partner is really not into sharing and being flexible. So those are the issues that we face daily in representing a celebrity or high-profile client. 

John Reed: [00:08:44] What other things did you have to do to prepare yourself for this practice? And I also mean in terms of your mindset. You’ve got some, some interesting statements that we’re going to talk about in a minute that kind of define your practice, but I’m curious how you prepared yourself skills-wise, mentally, psychologically to operate in this world. 

Christopher Melcher: [00:09:03] Sure. In pretty much everything I do. I’m trying to come at it from the other side’s perspective. It’s a challenge, but it’s worked for me every time. So, I’m looking at it from the potential client or actual client’s perspective. What do they want from their law firm, rather than what do we want to provide? And so, I’m flipping it and getting into their shoes and seeing. If your practice involves representing really successful people and big money cases, they want a lawyer who’s really responsive.

[00:09:39] We have to, first of all, make that commitment that Hey, it’s nights and weekends. I’ve taken calls, unfortunately, during dinners, I had to step away from the table. That’s terrible not to have those boundaries, but sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do because a client demands it, and they are paying a lot of money for that accessibility. 

[00:10:00] So first is, are you going to make yourself available? Because if you’re going to represent a billionaire or a super celeb and they only have ten minutes to talk to you, you can’t just be like, “Well, you know, I’ll just talk to you next week or in three days.” You’re going to get fired. And so, there is that mindset, like, what are you willing to sacrifice for what is going to be a very high hourly rate that you’re going to get for that work? Number one. 

[00:10:27] Number two is if we’re going to represent clients with big cases, we’re going to have lots of documents, and we have to be able to manage those things. It’s not just having a banker’s box for the file. It’s having server and accessibility management, all of those data systems around there so you can have a team of people accessing all that information at once in a way that’s consistent. And so, you’re not asking the client for the same document twice, which is just a big tip-off to them that you’re not organized. So, we have to have our back office in place. 

John Reed: [00:11:06] Are you also dealing with personal attorneys and business managers and CPAs and financial advisors and others that are involved in the client’s life?

Christopher Melcher: [00:11:16] Yeah. And that’ll depend on the client. Some are very hands-on, and they want to be having all the discussions with you, and they’ll then debrief their team. Others are very hands-off, and they’ll never talk to you. Most of them will have their professional team in place, so we want to make sure we’re involving them. We’re playing nicely together because in a divorce, especially when somebody has been married for quite a bit of time, every aspect of their life is involved with their pension and their job, their houses, their business, kids, all of this stuff. So, we need to be talking to the other members of the team so we’re not making offers that really can’t be fulfilled. 

John Reed: [00:12:00] The ongoing theme we’ve got here is boundaries. When you are presented with this team, when the client comes to you and says here, here’s my entourage of business advisors and other lawyers, and what have you, how often and how strenuously do you have to assert yourself as the lead, at least in this particular legal matter? And is there pushback? And I guess, how do you define your boundaries when you’ve got so many players that are “representing” the client? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:12:31] First is to understand the roles that they play. Some clients want to use the lawyers almost like pawns. They’ll want the lawyer to be the heavy because the client doesn’t want to be seen as barking out orders or being difficult. So, they’ll hire a lawyer to play that role for them or a business manager to do that. This was confusing to me at first because I would get on these group calls, and somebody would be yelling at me, and you got to do this, and you got to do that. I was pretty reactive back then. And then I would just go give it right back to them. And then I realized after really listening and sitting back saying, oh, okay, I get it. This is the good cop, bad cop that’s being played here. The client’s sitting back listening while their operative goes in on the attack. And I can’t go and attack back on that person because we’re on the same team. And then that makes that person look bad, even though I might have some great responses. I’m going to hold back and say, “Hey, that’s a great point,” because that’s what the client wants to hear is that their operative is making points, is doing their work for them. And that I’m listening to that, and I’m being influenced by it. That’s all they want. 

John Reed: [00:13:50] How often are you being asked to be that bulldog? How often does that come up, and what is your response? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:13:58] I’m more like, I think, a Border Collie. I’m kind of fast and smart and lovable. I’m not a pit bull. I couldn’t even pretend to be that. It’s just in my nature, but then there’s other folks who, by nature, are very aggressive and would have a hard time emulating anything else than that. This becomes pretty clear, I think, when most clients will interview around for a lawyer to see that personality type. I’m upfront about it, and it’s like, “Hey, I want to win.” So, if we’re in a negotiation or going to court, I want the best for my client, and I’m going to do everything I can to achieve that result. It’s the way in which I do that is, is not through threats and intimidation or lying or misrepresenting facts or playing games. It’s much more of an intellectual exercise and looking at personalities and strategy and planning.

John Reed: [00:14:53] You shared some statements with me in a previous conversation before today. And there are three that kind of popped out at me that I want to read to you. “I am not better than anyone, and no one is better than me. I am not my client’s cheerleader. Respect for art is different than respect for the artist.” they’re almost like mission statements. I can imagine they’ve evolved as you’ve evolved in your practice but give us the backstory. How did they become the pillars for your practice? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:15:24] My dad was a prosecutor and then became a criminal defense lawyer. And one of the things that I learned from him through observation was what I’m calling “you are better than no one, and no one is better than you.” And it’s a combination of being humble to acknowledge that, you know, hey, I’m not that special and that I can learn from other people. And then I’m not putting myself above anyone else and also being self-confident. Because usually we get one or the other, and if we can get both of those right, humility with self-confidence, this is a superpower. You can actually be really confident in yourself while also being humble. The biggest turnoff is when somebody is boastful, even if they own it. I mean, even if they’re entitled to be boastful because they’ve done all these great things, nobody wants to hear that. Coming in with humility, especially if you have accomplished a lot of stuff, people love you for that.

[00:16:26] Being self-confident is super important because we’re spokespeople. We’re a representative that we’re going to walk into court, usually on the losing side of issues, and come in there and fight back. They want to see that you can stand up to a judge and that you’re not afraid to speak. People have to like you, and they have to trust that you’re able to do the job. 

[00:16:50] On don’t be a cheerleader. This is a failing of many family lawyers who are mostly solo practitioners, never probably had a whole lot of training in bigger firms or anything like that. And I count myself as one of them. Now you have this high-power client, and they want you to come in and fight for them. That’s needed when you’re in court, but we’re in court like half a percent of the time. If we’re doing a hundred hours of work for a client, it’s a half-hour in court, and the other 99.5 is not. So, I am very direct with the client because it does no good to that person just to say, you are right, and you are going to win, or you should win. When they need to hear, “Hey, here are the risks. Here’s, what’s at stake. This is what it’s going to cost you in time and money and aggravation to continue going forward with this.”

[00:17:43] And if they’re doing something wrong, to call them out on that, and I’m saying, “You’ve got to stop this; this looks horrible. You’re actually hurting your chance to win this case. You’re undermining my efforts.” I don’t tell people what they want to hear. I tell them what they need to hear, and that’s important. So that eventually, when they’re able to evaluate a settlement offer or decide whether to go to trial or not, they’re making informed decisions, not based on me propping them up. So, they know all the risks before they’ve gone to settlement conference or trial because I have pointed that out to them in painful detail. 

[00:18:20] I was never enthralled by celebrity. Honestly, I could walk down the street, and I could see movie stars. I probably wouldn’t even recognize them. I think going in and representing these folks, it’s made it a little bit easier because I’m not like falling all over myself. They’re just people. They’re just like everyone else. Sometimes they’re more dysfunctional than us because no one’s ever told them no. And they have a bunch of cheerleaders or sycophants around them. Somebody can create incredible art, whether it’s as an actor or musician, film director, painter, but not be such great humans.

[00:19:01] And the other thing is when you have great gifts in one area, you probably have great deficits in another. This is what makes them incredible people because they’re geniuses. They have this talent to make music or art in a way that no one else could ever do. That’s one of the interesting details here about some of these artists is that they are not completely in balance. 

[00:19:27] It’s a fallacy that we say, wow, this person is this great rock and roll icon. And, and then we just assume that they’re just a wonderful person. But there’s a difference between the art that’s produced and the artist. So that’s something just logically that I’m trying to keep in my mind, especially with these more well-known clients, it’s like, hey, they create awesome art. No, no question about that. Absolute genius over there. But over here in my world, getting them through a divorce, they are just like any other human, and I’m not going to treat them any differently. 

John Reed: [00:20:05] Let’s take a break. And when we return, will you walk us through how you built your practice, the steps you’ve taken, and what your mindset is now? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:20:13] Absolutely. 

John Reed: [00:20:14] Terrific. Great. We’ll be right back.

[00:21:12] We are back with celebrity divorce lawyer Christopher Melcher. 

[00:21:16] As you embraced this idea of a high-profile, wealthy client divorce practice, what were some of the initial building blocks of your marketing plan? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:21:28] So when I was practicing before I went into family law, I tried a lot of different things and advertising and marketing and a little bit of networking. And it was very difficult. Originally, I was thinking, well, I’ll just go into court, and I’m going to win these cases. And people will see that I’m winning these cases, and then they’re going to hire me. Well, that was a ridiculous plan because number one, I didn’t win that many cases, and number two, there’s not a lot of people looking at those results. 

[00:21:59] When I got into family law, Peter Walzer had followed in his dad’s footsteps, which was write articles on family law to show that you are a thought leader in this area to provide good information to other family lawyers and speak at CLE events to show again that you’re a thought leader on this and people see you as an expert and then join bar committees so you can meet other lawyers who are doing the same thing. Learn from them and expand that network. Over time, you’ll learn family law, and you’ll meet a bunch of people, and you’ll start building your resume. And that’s what I did. And it works perfectly. Anyone can do it. 

[00:22:43] Now I’ve done 200 live CLE programs. I’ve written probably 50 articles. Every one of those was an opportunity to fail. Uh, you know, I don’t want to look bad. I want to think about this. I want to see what other people are saying or writing about this topic so that I can provide complete information and not look bad. And so, you do that a bunch of times, and you will learn your field. You will become an expert in the field just because of the homework that you’ve done.

[00:23:12] But now you’re out there publishing and speaking on this thing, and now other people associate you as an expert on this, even if you weren’t before you started. Okay, so it becomes self-fulfilling. You’ll learn the stuff and meet people, build your resume, and you’re getting attention outside your little friends and family circle. 

[00:23:33] What was surprising to me when I started working with Peter, he said, “Well, all of our work comes from other family lawyers.” And I, it made no sense to me. Like why would another family lawyer refer work to us? Well, it comes in sometimes from other lawyers in LA county if they have a conflict or they just see the case is too big for them. But it’s mostly from lawyers outside of LA that are doing family law. So, San Francisco, San Diego, other states, Chicago, New York, Florida, and then a lot from London. Those folks end up getting called when we have interstate, international disputes, or disputes within the state, and they’re not going to handle the case. They are not even licensed probably in California. So, they’re going to have to refer that out. 

[00:24:24] And that’s how we’re getting all of our work. I don’t go to Hollywood parties. I would never do that. I have no interest in it at all. It’s all through developing a specialized practice. Pushing myself out there to speak and write, serve on committees. And this is all in my free time and nights and weekends when I’m not, you know, billing hours. 

[00:24:49] The key there, though, is it’s also being likable. When we’re interacting with these other lawyers who are really the referral sources for me, that I’m listening to them. I’m not bragging about myself. I want to know about their lives and their kids and what’s going on in their practices. I want that experience to be good for that person. So, they’re like, “Wow, I really liked this guy. Yeah. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s a good guy, and I would refer work to him,” is what you want those interactions to be. Not that like, this lawyer is really good, but I really can’t stand being around him. They’re never going to refer to you.

John Reed: [00:25:25] Let me ask you a question. This idea of content. The writing, and the speaking, the thought leadership. How has that changed over the course of your practice? Are you still doing the same number of CLEs? Are you still writing articles? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:25:42] I’ve evolved over this. So, when I was starting out, I was really focusing on speaking anywhere I could. Anywhere, any place, any time, sign me up. I’m good. Now I’m being more selective about it and the topic. Yes, you, you’ve got to kind of speak wherever and whenever. Do a few. Then I would start being much more intentional about it. Because like in family law, we have a low-income adjustment to the calculation to child support, you know, very complex stuff. I’m not going to spend time talking about that because I don’t handle those cases.

[00:26:17] I was focusing a lot on writing books and chapters for books in family law treatises, and I learned so much by doing that. One was Lexis Nexis on negotiating, drafting, and litigating premarital agreements in California. But nobody’s noticed it. I get no attention on that thing. There’s low input, high output work, which would be more like a seminar. So, if I go to some family law conference and I go speak for an hour on something that I’ve written about, know about, and I can put together and have some really good content that’s delivered in an entertaining way. Okay. So, I got an hour of my time there. I probably got eight hours of time for prep. So, nine hours of investment. And I’m going to fly out there, and I’m going to have dinners and meetings, network all along. And now I’m in an audience of 200 people of the target audience for nine hours’ worth of work plus travel.

[00:27:17] Compared to hundreds of hours writing a book that, you know, one person said, “Hey, you know, I remember that book. it was pretty good.” So, it was kind of looking where the payoff is. I don’t want to do any articles and books anymore. I’m more focused on the delivery of presentations, particularly ones that are going to be recorded and then sold later on by the provider because those have a life then that exists for years. 

John Reed: [00:27:43] Let’s talk about that, too, the idea of leverage. Is that part of your assessment process when you’re either pitching a program or being asked to do one is to see the additional opportunities, the additional placement that that content can have?

Christopher Melcher: [00:28:00] We have to because it’s all we have is our time. And we’re going to spend that hour either billing a client, seeing our family, or doing this program. I’ve spent so many nights and weekends trying to cram and get content delivered by the due date for these things that months ago I said yes to, thinking, oh yeah, sure that’s no problem. And all of a sudden, now I’m stressed because I’ve got to get this PowerPoint or article done or got to fly out to go speak. You kind of figure it out, and then you have to start being selective about it. And like you say, leverage your time. How much are you going to put into this, and how much are you going to get out of it? So, you definitely want to experiment. We have to have a purpose because we’re not doing this just because we like it.

John Reed: [00:28:49] You and I have talked before about video as the new calling card, the new lobby on a website, if you will, where you can make a greater impact and reach somebody more quickly than written material. When did you see the light on video? And how did that parlay itself into your television appearances?

Christopher Melcher: [00:29:10] The light bulb went off when I was really a consumer of a legal service. I was tasked by a legal team overseas to find a California lawyer that had a particular specialty. So here I’m coming at this now from the potential client’s perspective. So, I’m now doing my Google search and asking around. I’m getting names, and I’m looking at people’s web page and their bio. Some colleague just told me that this lawyer is the expert on this subject matter, but then I would go to their bio, and it wouldn’t say anything about it on there. I have no way of now evaluating whether they are the expert I’ve been told that they are, but there’s nothing to explain, like how they really own this field of law. I am the one vouching. And so, if this person bombs, I’m going to be severely criticized by not only the client who’s paying the bill but now by this whole team of international lawyers who would never trust me in anything again. If they just had a video intro on there, doesn’t matter or have to be beautifully produced—literally an iPhone with some decent lighting. When somebody goes to your landing page and bio, they see the big play button. Okay. Boom. What is your highest specialty? How do you do it differently? Tell me something about your personal life. I’m getting the information I need, but I’m also now seeing, can this person talk? Do I want to have this person stand up in court for me when my life’s on the line and speak for me? Very, very powerful, very easy to do. Barely anybody’s doing that.

John Reed: [00:30:56] You’ve really created a platform for yourself as an analyst and a commentator. How did that come about, and how do you have to care and feed that activity over time?

Christopher Melcher: [00:31:08] When I started in law, I remember seeing there were criminal cases happening in the news. And then there would be this lawyer talking head coming in there and talking about the legal aspects of that story. And I thought, “Gee, that would be really cool. I would just love to do that.”

[00:31:26] And I thought, “Well, you know, I’m too young. I’m not experienced. Maybe one day when I get my resume.” And again, this is another lawyer’s fallacy. I need to build my resume, then I’ll do it. No, you do it, and that’s how you build the resume. And don’t sell yourself short; start now. I went and then eventually went into family law, and I thought, “Okay, I really want to do this.” So, I’d worked with a publicist initially to say, how do I even make a pitch, and what should it be about? And so, I came up with this idea about people breaking up on Valentine’s Day, because of course, if you’re having an affair, you can’t hide that. You know, honey, I’m working late tonight. They’re going to spot that, and I saw a lot of people breaking up on Valentine’s Day. We’re here in December. You know, we can talk about a story in February and start pitching that. Well, it went nowhere. One of the producers of Nightline had this other story, which was Anthony Wiener; he got himself into some trouble, and they wanted to know about the use of social media in divorce cases and how affairs could be established or uncovered through social media. And they wanted me for that. And so, I got on there. It was a national thing. It was very cool. And I kind of got the bug, and then I’ve just been doing, I’ve done probably 200, you know, easily, somewhere in there of media interviews since then. We’re constantly following trending legal stories and then seeing, okay, what is the angle? I could talk about this. Then I start pitching ideas. And then I’ll get into a print media or television news interview, and then other producers see it, and then it just kind of takes off from there. But where it can pay off for everyone’s individual practices is if you’re doing that, you then wind up with a clip.

[00:33:16] And again, back to this importance of video. If people are checking you out, well, if they Google you, they’ve been referred to you. They’re probably going to, you know, do their own little due diligence. They’re going to Google you. Now they see the news clip of you being interviewed on a, it can either be a local TV show-- doesn’t matter. But you’re being interviewed on a news show.

[00:33:35] They can see how you talk, what you look like, what your demeanor is. And it’s instant credibility because you’ve now been interviewed by the news. You must know what you’re talking about. And so that’s where it’s helped with clients who have done the due diligence. They now see a big old web presence, which a lot of lawyers don’t have.

John Reed: [00:33:56] So you’ve indicated that you’ve used a publicist over the years. Is hiring a publicist a necessary expense?

Christopher Melcher: [00:34:04] It’s not necessary. I think there’s plenty of resources on the web about how to get placed in the media. Even if you’re working with a publicist, the publicist typically does not come up with a story idea. You are the one in the industry. You’re the one reading the news, seeing like, whoa, wow, this just happened. And here is an angle that I can talk about that I can comment on. And then you’re telling the publicist, or you’re making direct pitches to media outlets on that. So, publicists are not; you’ve got to do that homework—number one.

[00:34:37] And then number two, you’ve got to drop the ball on it. And because when they call, and it may not be the one you pitched them about, maybe something else like my first one. You can’t just be like, “Oh yeah, thanks. Uh, I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Can we do tomorrow?” No, they’re working four or five stories a day, and they got a deadline. And if you don’t respond, you’re off the list. If you’re lucky, they’ll call you next time. When a reporter calls, it’s drop everything, cancel an appointment, boom, here’s your comments. And it’s a big investment of time to do that, so I would be thinking about, as we talked earlier, what is the payoff? 

[00:35:16] My suggestion is, you know, if you think this would be fun for you to do, if you liked doing this work, then just start following stories, go to your local news outlets. They’re hungry for stories. I mean, they’re under huge time restrictions. They don’t have the budget that they used to have. And this applies certainly for print media also.

[00:35:40] So if you’re coming to them, story in a box, they love you. “Hey, thanks. Uh, yeah, let’s go with that.” Or, “Hey, you know, we’re really not going to hit that story, but we got this other one. Maybe you could comment on that.” So, you don’t really need a publicist, but you do need a lot of dedication to wanting to get that done so that you can hopefully get some of this payoff that I’ve had with the web presence and the credibility that comes along with having spoken on these topics. 

John Reed: [00:36:09] You’ve got to be ready. Somebody reaches out to you; they want a comment. It would be nice if it is about celebrity divorces, but if it is about mandatory vaccinations in the workplace, are you accepting that? How are you deciding between the topics that make sense for you and those that don’t? 

Christopher Melcher: [00:36:27] Yeah, John, it’s a great question. It’s something I struggle with that because initially, I was only going to talk about divorce because it made no sense that I would talk about anything else.

[00:36:37] I didn’t want to cheapen my brand. I didn’t want to talk about things that I don’t know about. I don’t want to confuse the other attorneys that refer work to me to like, why is Chris talking about a murder trial? But what I found, though, after doing that for years, is that there is not enough celebrity divorce cases to talk about, and you can talk about trends in divorce, like, you know, social media and spying on spouses, all that stuff.

[00:37:00] But there’s not a lot of cases to comment on. I’m still in the experimental stage on that. So, the jury’s out on whether that was a good idea or not. I definitely, I’m still learning this myself, like, where exactly do I want to go with this? And I think where I’ve landed in my mind is that maybe when I slow down as a litigator, I would like to do legal commentary.

[00:37:25] So that’s why I’ve allowed myself to branch out onto just being somebody who is a source of legal information to the community who wants to know on a little bit deeper level what’s happening on these stories. But if I was smarter, I would say, “No, I’m just going to focus on divorce, and everything in my life is divorce. And I don’t care about doing things that I’m passionate about.” 

John Reed: [00:37:48] Well, but you enjoy it too. So, there’s something to be said for that. Well, Christopher, I want to thank you for your time and for tutoring us today. I know I’ve learned a lot more about the world of celebrity divorces than I ever thought I would, but also just about how to build a practice.

[00:38:05] And I think it will be really helpful information to our community of listeners. Of course, we’ll put all of your hyperlinks to your websites and other resources that you have. We’ll put that on the web so people can visit. And again, I just really appreciate you sharing your world with us today. 

Christopher Melcher: [00:38:21] Well, thanks, John. And I would just in closing say if any of you are listening to this and you kind of feel stuck, and you want to progress in your career and want to know a little bit more information, just please reach out to me. Just let me know you heard me on the show, and I’m happy to share this because this was all a gift to me that was given to me. And I would love to share that back. 

John Reed: [00:38:43] Well, you’re very generous, and I’m sure that will be very much appreciated amongst our listeners. 

[00:38:48] And thanks to all of you for listening. Please be sure to check out other episodes for engaging conversations with attorneys who stand out. You can find them wherever you get your podcasts or visit stickylawyers.com, where you can also view episode transcripts, read about our guests, and recommend a standout attorney who might be a future guest. Producing Sticky Lawyers is a labor of love that everyone at Rain BDM is excited and proud to do. Help us spread that love by telling your friends, family, and colleagues about the podcast and give us a favorable rating and review. Until next time, I’m John Reed, and you’ve been listening to Sticky Lawyers.

Christopher Melcher

Celebrity and High-Wealth Divorce Lawyer

Business owners, celebrities, and trust beneficiaries across California turn to Christopher Melcher for assistance protecting their most valuable assets in high-stakes divorces. He understands the need to keep sensitive family matters private, having represented noteworthy clients in the largest divorce cases in the state. His clients include A-list celebrities, executives, and tech company founders. His passion is helping others and he loves the law.