The primary benefit of being a thought leader, to me, is self-satisfaction. Being darn good at what I do. I would like to be the best and that is what drives me. Nothing external is as important as that, as far as benefits of being a thought leader, if you are trying to become a thought leader for other reasons (fame, fortune, etc.), it isn’t authentic and in my opinion, likely to fail. If you are indeed a thought leader and at the top of your craft, you will be sought out more. Demand for your time, services and/or product will likely increase.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Randy Kessler. Randy is the founding partner of Kessler & Solomiany Family Law Attorneys, a 30 person family law firm in Atlanta and is the author of many family law books including Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future , The GA Library of Family Law Forms and How to Mediate a Divorce. He teaches Family Law Litigation at Emory School of Law and is the former Chair of the Family Law Sections of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Georgia and the Atlanta Bar Association. Mr. Kessler has over 30 years’ experience in domestic relations and family law matters including divorce, custody, paternity, prenuptial agreements and child support. He has lectured in over thirty states and six different countries. He is a LinkedIn “Influencer” with over 425,000 followers and often appears as a contributor for national media such as Fox News, CNN, NBC and others. He is a graduate of Brandeis University and Emory University School of Law. And he is the Founder and inventor of Starsona and Starsona.com, providing Personal Videos from Stars to their Fans.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in New Orleans, went to college near Boston, at Brandeis University, and settled in Atlanta after graduating from Emory Law School. I worked for 2 general litigation firms in my first 3 years out of law school (1988–1991) and handled all sorts of litigation, with a lot it being family law and divorce. When I opened my own firm in 1991, again I handled all sorts of litigation; personal injury, DUI, etc. but mostly family law. Within about 2 years, all I was doing was family law and I loved it. I was so busy that I hired a few lawyers and paralegals to be able to handle it all and when I had time, I focused on becoming the best damn family law attorney I could be. I attended every legal seminar on the topic, read every case that came out of our appellate courts, and met and befriended every senior divorce lawyer I could. Our practice has grown and we are now at about 30 people (13 lawyers) and have a well-respected family law firm with offices in downtown Atlanta and North Buckhead.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I strive to stay on top of my craft, and I love doing so. I try to read every article and case that I can on the topic of family law. I continue to attend, and present at, seminars all over the world on family law; I teach family law litigation at Emory Law School; I have written 3 books relating to divorce; I am on TV and in the print media weekly discussing family law and trial topics and I have over 400,000 followers on LinkedIn where I often post about divorce.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are way too many and they are private, attorney-client privileged situations. But the most interesting and unbelievable thing to me is that I have been able to consistently do what I love, practice family law, for over 30 years, knowing that I am doing my best to help those who hire us. That is a blessing (to be able to do what you love for so long).
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I am sure I made lots of mistakes. But I don’t recall any fatal ones. I have certainly lost cases I thought I should have won, and vice versa, but that just illustrates the benefits of settlement, since in family law, you never know what will happen with a judge or jury.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
A thought leader, to me, is much more important than an Influencer, although many thought leaders are also Influencers. A thought leader, to me, is someone who loves their craft and strives to excel at it every day. They do their best to learn from all sources. In my field that means reading the new decisions from the appellate courts, attending as many legal seminars as possible, talking to the lawyers I respect and engaging with them in meaningful conversations and socializing with peers, locally, nationally and internationally.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
The primary benefit of being a thought leader, to me, is self-satisfaction. Being darn good at what I do. I would like to be the best and that is what drives me. Nothing external is as important as that, as far as benefits of being a thought leader, if you are trying to become a thought leader for other reasons (fame, fortune, etc.), it isn’t authentic and in my opinion, likely to fail.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
If you are indeed a thought leader and at the top of your craft, you will be sought out more. Demand for your time, services and/or product will likely increase. In my case, since as a lawyer, my only product to sell is my time, the high demand has forced me to raise my rates at times to limit my caseload.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
I don’t know five strategies. I listed above what I did and those probably are what I would list again:
A thought leader, to me, is someone who loves their craft and strives to excel at it every day. They do their best to learn from all sources. In my field that means reading the new decisions from the appellate courts, attending as many legal seminars as possible, talking to the lawyers I respect and engaging with them in meaningful conversations and socializing with peers, locally, nationally and internationally.
I attend seminars across my state, across the country and across the world. And I learn and continue to learn. And I try to give back. I write articles (for LinkedIn, for Huffington Post), I accept invitations to comment on News networks and Podcasts, I teach at Emory Law School, I write books on divorce, and I mentor our lawyers at the firm, and others in the community.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
There are so many. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Arianna Huffington. They all seem to look at the “bigger picture” and seem to want to change the world for the better.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
That is probably true, but I don’t know what you would replace it with.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Be sure you are doing what you love, and you will never burn out.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Wow, I wish I was smart enough to have the perfect answer for this. But the things I would support already have big movements. I just wish they could all succeed. Eradicating cancer, achieving global peace and the elimination of starvation and poverty, and saving the earth. Those are things worth fighting for.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This too shall pass. Keep your eye on the prize. In other words, don’t let setbacks define you. Tomorrow will come and there is always opportunity to accomplish anything you set your mind to.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I am a huge Drew Brees fan.
How can our readers follow you on social media?