Attorney David Smyth has been on both sides of the table. He’s seen what life is like enforcing the law, and now he helps companies and people who face the repercussions of that very same enforcement.
What he does now, largely representing people who are facing enforcement action by federal agencies, is almost a mirror image of what he used to do as Assistant Director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. In the legal world, the now-Brooks Pierce attorney doesn’t find this to be too uncommon, but it does give him a perspective that’s important.
“I can see both sides of the issue,” said Smyth. “And now that I’m doing defense work I’ve become much more sympathetic to the notion that there are two sides to every story…There may be another part of the story you told.”
Of course, back when he was working at the SEC he couldn’t blog about his experiences. But that didn’t stop ideas for blog posts from forming—a practice that has only snowballed now that he’s actually writing—which is done at Cady Bar the Door.
“Before I was actually doing it I’d get those ideas maybe once a month. Once you start doing it and start writing, you get more and more,” said Smyth, who notes that though the thoughts are there it’s making time to write that make it difficult. “There’s not always a lot of times; it often will happen late at night or other odd times [throughout my day.]”
But Smyth has folded blogging into the package of what he does. Though he may not always have a measurable level of feedback on his blog, he knows the practice beneficial. He’s met people he wouldn’t know otherwise, others will bring it up directly on the phone.
“I had to call a [with a government regulator], and before we even got talking, the first thing he said was that he really liked the blog,” Smyth said. “Someone I was calling to advocate for a client, and the first thing he wanted to say to me was that he was a fan. It’s a nice way to start a conversation.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit that’s come out of blogging is the self-education. From different enforcement priorities to the SEC focusing on an area they haven’t focused on in a while, Smyth finds that the securities enforcement field is constantly changing. Blogging about all that reading he was doing just seemed like the logical next step.
“If you were a contract-based litigator [the] field isn’t changing so radically. Not that you don’t have to stay sharp in that field too, but the substance of it isn’t changing so quickly. The SEC and white collar criminal world does change quickly, and having been there for a while doesn’t mean you necessarily know what’s going on today,” said Smyth. “It almost would seem like a waste not to translate the reading I’m doing into some sort of tangible form to demonstrate I know it.”
That also means that much of Cady Bar the Door is subject to what the agencies do, as opposed to purely what’s on Smyth’s mind. Whenever he gets a press release from the agencies he “knows in five seconds if it will be interesting to write about.” After that it’s just a matter of deciding what an interesting angle on it would be.
“It may be an issue that’s [already] on my mind, but it’s driven by things that are actually being done,” said Smyth. In Smyth’s eyes he’s never going to beat someone whose job it is to cover the SEC, but he can announce what they’re doing and put that into come context.
“I don’t have a really big ax to grind, generally. My posts are not so much what I think as they are what is going on out there, and how it connects to other things happening out there…I think [my readers] are interested in how does this recent thing fit into the slightly larger context of what [the agencies] were doing three years ago, or what another agency is doing, and what people in the private sector can do in response to some action.”
When he does manage to clear out time for a blog post, Smyth tries to keep lighter than a legal memo, writing a post he’d actually want to read while always keeping it respectful. Though the topics he writes about aren’t “all that touchy,” they’re certainly touchy for the people involved, and Smyth has always worked to remain respectful of that.
“The people I write about a lot of times are being accused of terrible things,” said Smyth. “I wrote something one time about a guy who did something dumb and he turned out to be represented by a friend of mine. So the guy called me the next day, trying to explain more about it. It did bring home for me that these are actual people out there. It’s just touchy for that one person, which I very much understand.”
It can be hard work, but for anyone out there who’s struggling Smyth advises them just keep posting.
“Keep writing it; I don’t think there’s anything else to do,” said Smyth. “Write it so that you like it. You’re not going to get a lot of people cheering for you from the sidelines, there won’t be tons of people who say that was great. [But if you like it] at least one person will.”