I sat down with Brannon Sowers & Cracraft founder and Director John Brannon a few weeks ago. I’ve known John for years, as a client and a friend. It is no surprise that he is known as one of the most interesting characters in the Indianapolis law scene. A Ceramics Engineering and Materials Scientist by education and a leading patent attorneys by practice, Brannon has been a pillar of the intellectual property landscape here for a couple decades now. After a stint with Big Law, he decided to break away and start a smaller, more agile, IP-focused firm with a decidedly different structure and culture. Read on to find out why.
CF: What was your initial guiding vision for Brannon Sowers & Cracraft?
JB: I’ll frame that by saying that I spent 5 years at General Electric where you had to have a mission statement and a vision statement, and I quickly became inoculated to that concept. I don’t believe in vision statements.
CF: So what was the inspiration behind saying ‘I’m going to do my own thing?’
JB: What I tried to put together, and I think we’ve been fairly successful at this, is a law firm that attracts people who are good at what they do and have decent books of business. The firm allows attorneys to keep more of what they bring in, while at the same time being more economically minded for the client. We don’t charge as much, and the people who actually do the work keep more of what they earn. Everybody is compensated on the same schedule. There isn’t a different compensation structure for the owners. Actually, the first thing I did when I opened my doors was cut my rate by 27%. I still make more money on the hours that I bill. So everybody wins.
CF: What do you view as your role?
JB: In addition to practicing law for my clients, my job at the firm is to keep things moving forward. I’m essentially a volunteer administrator, but that’s okay because I get to make the rules.
CF: I’ve known you for years, and this past 8 months at the firm I’ve noticed that you invest heavily in your colleagues in terms of both their professional and personal development. Is it fair to say that you care holistically about the people you hire?
JB: Yeah probably. Although that’s a bit mushy for my taste.
CF: What’s one thing you’d like to get better at?
JB: I need to get tougher about getting retainers up front. I love doing the work, and I don’t always pay enough attention to the billing aspect.
CF: Is there one experience that prepared you to go out on your own?
JB: Several. Big firms are willing to believe the worst about everybody that works for them. They tend to minimize problems in the most expeditious way possible rather than in the just or correct way. I got tired of that. People deserve to be treated as individuals.
CF: Give an example of when you’ve been particularly proud of one of your colleagues
JB: That’s easy. That would be Amy. When she and I started the firm together she was an experienced paralegal. Since we opened our doors she finished her bachelor’s degree. She then applied and got accepted into law school, attending night classes while working full time. She graduated law school a semester early, and has taken off and become a very good attorney.
CF: Ok, time for some free association. Who is the Class Clown?
JB: There are so many!
CF: The nutty professor?
JB: Kevin McLaren
CF: The social director?
JB: Patty Hughel
CF: The mad scientist?
JB: Kevin Erdman
CF: The know-it-all?
JB: David Novak
CF: The tech nerd?
JB: Danton Bryans
CF: The king or queen of the name drop/humblebrag?
JB: He’s no longer with the firm (laughing).
CF: What is your greatest achievement outside of your career?
JB: My son Adam. I take full credit for every success he has ever had or will have in the future. (laughter)
CF: What’s the most important thing you can teach him?
JB: Hard work, preparedness. If it’s not already out there, go out and make it happen. If it doesn’t exist, create it.
CF: What is your quirkiest hobby?
JB: My extensive comic book collection.
CF: Favorite book?
JB: Fantastic Voyage, Isaac Asimov.
JB: Batman 1966 with Adam West.
JB: “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” (Adam West in Batman, 1966)
JB: The Go-Gos. Or Billy Joel.
CF: Local restaurant?
JB: St. Joseph’s Brewery and Public House. The stuffed jalapenos are awesome.
CF: Drink of choice?
JB: Bourbon. Neat.
CF: Conspiracy theory?
JB: Professional wrestling is real.
CF: Charitable organization?
JB: Nickel Plate Art Galleries
CF: Thanks for your time, John!