Madeline Schmidt Law | Building a Successful Law Firm

Your one and only legal firm for Social Media Influencers & Media Agencies

Madeline Schmidt is a corporate attorney with a background in contracts, alternative dispute resolution and data privacy work in the tech industry. Madeline founded Schmidt Law with the goal of helping small businesses, entrepreneurs and influencers realize their potential and reach successful resolutions of their legal issues. She takes a proactive approach to helping her clients achieve their unique goals through consultative communication, and prioritizes prompt and equitable results. 

Prior to starting the firm, she spent three years with a digital agency gaining knowledge of corporate legal matters. She also worked for an employment law firm, where she was exposed to litigation and a wide variety of agreements. Before obtaining her law degree, Madeline enjoyed a successful sales career in San Diego, California. 

Outside of work, Madeline is an advocate of victim’s rights. She is a pro bono attorney with the Legal Aid Society and volunteers with a number of anti-domestic violence and anti-human trafficking organizations throughout the United States. Here is her success story!

Tell our readers about you and your background before the law.

I grew up in Chicago, which is also where I ended up for law school after a number of years on the West Coast. Before law school, I worked in software sales and have been working in the tech industry ever since. Throughout law school, I worked for a digital agency, which has since converted to a client of mine through my firm. I also counsel larger corporate and government clients on data privacy regulations related to the tech industry. So I’ve always been working and learning in that space and trying to hone my skills there to better serve my clients.

Why did you decide to go into the law more specifically?

I knew that I wanted to be a corporate lawyer since high school, and I’m so grateful to have followed that path through. I think I was drawn to it because it’s more transactional and collaborative in nature than, say, litigation – the fun law stuff you see on TV.

You’re also a business owner through the law, did that help you as well?

Absolutely, yes. My background in sales has helped me from an entrepreneurial aspect, just by having that skill set to know how to market yourself and appeal to potential clients. So even though I wasn’t doing sales in the legal field, it’s been very transferable, so it’s interesting to see how past and present experiences tie together.

What made you decide that you wanted to go and start your own firm, that’s a big, big bold move.

It was definitely not planned. The idea for my firm started in law school. People my age, myself included, spend a lot of time on social media keeping up with their favorite brands and influencers. I started to realize that they’re signing contracts without a lawyer reviewing, or sometimes entering into a partnership without a contract at all. I identified a market that had a need for an attorney who truly understands social media, not only from a legal perspective, but as a fellow user. On the other hand, my experience at the time was with startups and corporate law, so I can also be of service on the business side for social media agencies or if influencer clients want to go out and start their own brand or business. So the firm has developed as a combination of identifying that need and luckily having the experience to support it.

Love that. Then you took a leap of faith and decided I’m going to go all in on this. What do you think was the biggest challenge that you had to surmount as a business owner?

There have been so many, one being that I started the firm during the pandemic, so everything was remote and I didn’t have the advantage of being able to meet with potential clients face-to-face. I just relocated to New York, and I was definitely concerned with my lack of business contacts in a new city. The move has been planned for a while, so to prepare I ramped up my firm’s virtual presence and began to reach out to potential clients and firms that I could collaborate and network with, both in New York and otherwise. Because of that, I built a solid foundation of clients and colleagues, so now I can focus on expanding my firm here and maintaining relationships in other cities.

You have both your license in Chicago and New York then?

Yes, I’m licensed as an attorney in both Illinois and New York, but because I’m a transactional lawyer, my client base isn’t necessarily limited to those states. Thankfully, I can expand a little bit and have some fun with that.

Do you see yourself expanding to other states and just kind of seeing the brand be something that could be reached?

Definitely. Social media is such a new and rapidly growing market, so I don’t want to confine myself too much as to how I can grow, but I would love to focus on adding more diverse clients and practice areas. I recently did some work for clients in need of registering a trademark for their online brand, so we are expanding to include some intellectual property services. I have also begun reaching out to student athletes since the recent NCAA decision that allows them to enter into brand deals. So we’re now getting familiar with those policies to be able to advise on that. It’s very exciting to think about how social media will evolve, which will determine how my firm can navigate that.

I love that you’re active on social media, and that’s your media outlet because so many lawyers have neglected the platform as a means to create new business opportunities.

Now I would also like to know when it comes to a bigger vision about you and your brand, where do you see it going? In terms of the near future, if you can give us some type of like a short term goal or a long term goal that you would like to see accomplished.

I mentioned adding more diverse clients in practice areas, so that’s definitely priority number one. Because our clients work in a wide variety of industries, my long-term goal is to focus on becoming as knowledgeable as possible in any area that our clients might be confronted with a legal issue – such as intellectual property law or entertainment law. Those are the two practice areas we’ve been getting really into just based on the work that our clients are doing. For example, we have a chef who is featured on TV, we have a DJ who is booked at large music festivals, influencers being cast in movies, and so on. I would love to use the experience of working with them as a chance to anticipate other legal issues that will arise when doing business with social media influencers and agencies. 

So you see yourself expanding and growing in more states. Is there something that is more short term you would like your company to achieve?

Yeah. I’m working on the data privacy practice area quite a bit. I’ll be taking the Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) exam soon, which is a certification for compliance consulting on data privacy regulations. We’d love to get more into advising corporations on implementing new privacy policies in compliance with the changing laws.

When it comes to you and your personal life, what are the things that you implement on a regular to set yourself up for a successful day?

I didn’t used to be so structured until law school and the bar exam, that’s when I started implementing a morning routine. Basically just going for a short walk to grab a coffee and listen to house music gets me up and ready to go.

What motivates you to keep growing, keep evolving and just keep thinking so big?

So many things, I would say, the freedom that this gives me and the endless possibilities. There’s so much opportunity for growth and I’m so aware of it because I’m constantly prospecting for clients on social media and thinking to myself, wow this product is so cool or I love this person’s aesthetic, and I’m exposed to new people every day and learning from them. So I guess the freedom of opportunity and information, coupled with the fact that I’m able to reach out to and work with these people who inspire me, is very motivating to me.

Did you have any mentors that were women in the legal field or the business field?

Yeah, absolutely. I’m actually working on some content for my social media that features advice that they’ve given me over the years. One of them is my mom, I mean she is just a killer salesperson and has been instrumental in preparing me for any type of entrepreneurship in life. My first few bosses in the legal field were women as well. 

The first was Jennifer Baumann, the General Counsel at Alliant Insurance Services, where I was a legal assistant before law school. She was the person who initially exposed me to working with contracts, helped to cement my interest in corporate law, and make sure that law school was the right fit for me. Another woman who taught me so much was Kristin Prinz of the Prinz Law Firm in Chicago. She actually owns that firm, where I worked as a clerk during law school. I was working for her at the time I decided to go out on my own, and she sat down with me to teach me all about management and the backend of running a law firm, such as marketing and business operations separate from the actual legal work. I was so grateful to have such a successful woman lawyer to guide me, and I definitely would not have figured it out as quickly without her.

So I would love to know, looking back now at the younger version of yourself that was nowhere close to opening a law firm, what advice would you be giving her and essentially other women that are students of law or that are going into that field?

This goes more toward running a business than practicing law, but both are mostly trial and error. The biggest thing is to believe in your idea and commit to it. If you have a business idea and think this is something I’m passionate about and I think I can monetize it, make a general plan and go for it. 

I didn’t really have much in place when I started mine. Obviously consider the basics like getting the company set up properly, your target client base, etc. Realizing that you are going to make mistakes, but staying committed to learning and becoming an expert so that you can help other people enhance their lives and businesses helps to keep the big picture in mind. Trusting in the value that you bring to your clients is key.

What has been the biggest game changer for you in that field?

Networking should be higher on everybody’s priority list. I’ve formed relationships with so many clients and colleagues just by finding opportunities to talk about what I do. I take every chance to post about it, attend events, and reach out to people who have been successful in what I’m doing. At the very least, I’m educating people about my business, getting useful information in return, and connecting with people who either need my help or might be able to refer me to someone who does. 

I also have a mentor in Chicago who has been hugely supportive by introducing me to people that I can learn from or who can use me for work. And I think that’s something in the legal industry that is really undervalued, paying it forward to younger attorneys is where a lot of success comes from.

Follow Attorney Madeline @Legaliista on Instagram.

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