Week 12 – Sandy Thomson

Sandy Thomson

Week 12 I talked with Sandy Thomson, founding partner with Murchison Thomson and Clarke - Barristers & Solicitors

This week I told my wife that I had to drive to Surrey to meet with a lawyer.  Her instant response was “What did you do to need a lawyer?”  I told her that I was meeting with Sandy Thomson who has been a founding partner at Murchison Thomson and Clarke for the last 25 years for my blog.  Sandy and I decided to meet at the Hook and Ladder Pub in Surrey.  If you haven’t been, this is a nice little neighbourhood pub in Surrey B.C.

Who is Sandy Thomson?

“That’s a good question.  I always had a knack for school.  I didn’t have to try very hard.  I always wanted to be the class clown, and I was.  As a result I got bullied quite a bit.  Also I was very small as a kid, so that doesn’t really help.  So I felt that I had to be quick on my feet to avoid being beat up.”

“I always knew that I was going to go to university.  Originally I wanted to be a dentist but I wasn’t very good at science so I switched to arts.  I wrote the law school admission test just to see how well I could do.  I figured if I did well, I would apply, so I did well and I applied.  It was pretty straight forward after that.”

“When I got out of  law school in 1981, I started working at a firm in Coquitlam.  In 1978, a couple buddies from law school and I decided to start a firm.  We were all working in different places, I was working in Coquitlam.  My partner Ted Murchison was working in Cloverdale and our other partner, Brian Clarke was working in a big firm in Vancouver.  It took a couple months for us to decide where we were going to open up.  At the time it was either Langley or Surrey because they were the 2 fastest growing municipalities.”

“Basically when we started out, we had one secretary between the 3 of us.  We didn’t have any institutional clients or anything like that.  It was just advertising that we were open on Saturdays, hoping that people would come in and use us.  We didn’t take a salary for probably 6 months.  Now, 25 years later, there are 20 lawyers and 20 support staff and we have sales in the millions of dollars per year.”

On to the questions…

Melissa Musika of Indivine Visual Productions asks

Q.   What is the biggest mistake new business make when starting their business?

A.   “They don’t realize that it’s going to take some time before they are going to make money and they don’t take time before they start taking money.  The problem is, and they usually don’t realize it is banks aren’t going to give you a lot of money to invest in their business.  And if they do, it’s not for you to take out as salary; it’s for you to invest to make money.  The biggest mistake you can make is try to take money out of the company before they make it.  That’s why they go under.”

Rob Maar of REMAX SABRE REALTY asks: 

Q.   How did you find your clients/prospects when you started?

A.   “When I first started out of law school it was basically the phone book and word of mouth.  Back in the ‘80’s there wasn’t the internet.  And even in 1987 when we started our own firm, I had a few clients that I brought over from the other firm.  Clients woujld come from legal aid, advertising in the local papers.  I don’t know if that worked or not.  It’s hard to say.  I don’t know how people find lawyers.  Now-a-days its referrals from other lawyers, former clients, and it could be something as simple as someone doing a Google search.  We have a web site.  http://www.murchisonthomson.com/.  We try to keep that up to date.  It may sound silly but we an area of Surrey that has a lot of traffic drive by.  We have a large sign and we get clients calling because they see the sign.  It’s interesting in our business as to how we get work.  We never really know.

Jeanne Marie Eng ask 

Q.   How do you stay inspired?

A.   My desire to please and my desire to solve a problem.  The type of law that I do, nobody comes to me because things are going well.  It’s always ‘I’ve got a problem, I need some help” and that always keeps me motivated.  It’s probably like doctors as well.  Nobody goes to a doctor when they are healthy.  So there’s always a challenge and I love a challenge.

In conclusion…

I’ll end this blog post with a little story about our meeting.  I don’t know how typical this interview would be for most lawyers.  Sandy is a very straight shooter who got right to the point.  My buddy Eric (week 1) came by the pub as we were eating our lunch.  He works about 3 blocks from the pub so he is in there all the time.  The 3 of us enjoyed our conversation while we were eating.  When Sandy was done, he got up and headed back to work.  I turned to Eric and said “You know how you can tell Sandy is a Lawyer?  He stiffed me with the bill…”  Shortly after Sandy returned to settle up and we all had a chuckle over it.  Thank you Sandy for sharing your experiences with me.


About KevenMcTaggart
I own a small business called Anything on a Clock. I started Anything on a Clock in 2007 when my son was about a year old.

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