Jonathan Schmidt wants make the legal profession more approachable.
“I don’t know what the initial catalyst was, but a little over a year ago, I started looking at all the things attorneys do,” Schmidt said. “We’re full of ourselves. We wear suits, we sit in big chairs.
“It’s intimidating enough to go see an attorney, why does the environment have to be so intimidating, too?”
Visitors to Schmidt’s new Cedar Rapids law firm, 303 Legal, won’t find Schmidt in a suit. They generally will find him dressed in jeans and sneakers.
“I only wear a suit when I have to go to court,” he said.
They will sit in comfortable chairs and couches around a coffee table, as if they were in someone’s living room, not across an imposing desk.
And they will find a lawyer who strives to be warm, empathetic and humble.
“It’s a different way to go about a legal practice,” Schmidt said. “I’m going to be down-to-earth. Why do attorneys put themselves on a pedestal? We’re no better than anyone else.”
For Schmidt, the legal profession is a second career. After spending 13 years working in the information technology field, he met with a career coach, who suggested the law would be a perfect fit for his skills and interests.
Taking additional inspiration from his father-in-law, who is a judge, Schmidt returned to school.
He graduated from Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 35.
After graduation, Schmidt spent five years in general practice in Chillicothe, Ohio. In 2012, he relocated to Cedar Rapids, where his wife grew up, and took a job at Kids First Law Center.
He then went on to become a partner at another Cedar Rapids law firm.
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In December, he struck out on his own, opening 303 Legal in the former Smulekoff’s Building. Its legal practice is focused on family law, criminal defense, business law and personal injury.
Although Schmidt calls himself a “recovering IT professional,” technology also is a big area of focus for him.
“It’s important not just for running the firm, but also for litigating,” he said. “Most lawyers don’t use technology to the fullest, but it can be a huge benefit to a practicing attorney.”
303 Legal currently employs one paralegal, with a receptionist set to start work in the next few weeks. The business has room for two more lawyers and two additional paralegals, but Schmidt said he will take his time in filling those positions to ensure a good fit.
“It’s about finding the right people,” he said. “People who understand what we do, what our core values are and how we interact with the public.”
At a Glance
• Owner: Jonathan Schmidt
• Business: 303 Legal
• Address: 333 First St. SE, Suite 303, Cedar Rapids
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Phone: (319) 423-3031
• Website: www.303.legal