Shannon is an Attorney & Car Enthusiast & Musician
Shannon is a litigator practicing primarily in the products liability, toxic torts, government contracts, and financial services spaces. He loves the people he works with and the work is (usually) pretty exciting. However, music and cars have always been his passion. He has been a musician for as long as he can remember. “I was playing ‘drums’ on pots and pans on the kitchen floor before I could carry a tune (or hold my bladder)”. Shannon started working on cars as soon as he “could see under a hood”. He spent the first 10 years after college as an engineer for a Big 3 auto manufacturer, the next few years running a hot rod shop, the next 5 as a professional musician and college instructor, and the last 8 years or so building his legal practice.
Shannon Peters talks about his love for cars, his previous careers in the auto & music industries, and how this experience is applied to his career today as an attorney! He also shares with us his experience with his office discovering his passion in music and their reaction!
• His family’s Plymouth Barracuda
• Working in the auto industry
• Getting into music
• Becoming a part of the house band for Husch Blackwell events
• How his co-workers reacted when they discovered his passion for music
• Standing out in the office goes beyond your abilities at work
• How his time working in the auto industry applies to his current career
• How Husch Blackwell LLP is moving towards a more open culture
• Why all firms should start embracing a more open culture
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Welcome to Episode 231 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and — you’re an accountant and a painter, you’re a lawyer and a musician — those things that are above and beyond your technical skills, and those things are the actual things that differentiates you when you’re in the office.
But first, I’ve got a quick favor to ask you, if you like the show and are listening on iTunes or your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes every Wednesday, and now I’ve got Follow-Up Fridays. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. My book is coming out very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other their websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s hitting the shelves.
This week, it’ll be no different with the awesome stories with my, guest Shannon Peters. He’s an attorney in the St. Louis office of Husch Blackwell. We actually went to high school together. Now he’s with me here today.
Shannon, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Shannon: Hey, John, it’s great to be with you. You should just know that the timer is running, and I’m billing you by the 10th. So that’s how it rolls in the big law. Keep it short and keep it sweet, and we’re going to get this done.
John: That’s awesome. Well, my accounts payable department is on vacation, so the check is coming some time, but that’s awesome though. Now I’m sweating. Okay, we better get to the rapid-fire questions then. Let’s just do this.
Shannon: I’ll do it.
John: All right, first one, favorite color?
John: Blue. Nice. Okay, how about a least favorite color?
Shannon: Oh! Green.
John: Green. Interesting. Okay, and when you fly, more window seat or aisle seat?
Shannon: 12F, baby. I fly only Southwest. 12 is a good row and I’m on the aisle.
John: I know what you’re talking about right there. That’s awesome. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Shannon: You know, it’s got to be Dwayne Johnson because I look so much like him. I get it every day, so like, hey, I might as well watch his movies.
John: I meant to include that in your introduction, Shannon “The Rock” Peters.
Shannon: That’s right. That’s right.
John: My apologies. Would you say you’re more early bird or night owl?
Shannon: What is sleep?
John: Oh, yes.
Shannon: I’m an early bird, a night owl, and everything in between. Yeah.
John: There you go. There you go. More pens or pencils?
Shannon: Oh, pens.
John: Interesting. No mistakes. I like that. All right. Puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?
Shannon: It had have to be crossword. I don’t know how to do Sudoku.
John: Right. There you go. Since you’re a lawyer, I have to ask, more Suits or Law and Order.
Shannon: Ooh, you know what? Those are both great. Law and Order got me in the profession and lied to me all the way here. Suits is no more realistic than Law and Order, but I think it’s my current favorite.
John: Yeah, that’s a good show. That’s a good show. All right. What about your computer, more PC or Mac?
Shannon: Mac all the way.
John: Wow, fancy.
John: How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Shannon: Oh, man, Moose Tracks, I think.
John: Yeah, that’s a great answer. Solid, solid. Besides the Westland Marching Warriors, do you have a favorite band or musician?
Shannon: Oh man, that’s a loaded question for a musician. It really kind of changes from day to day. Right now I’m listening to a band called Judah & the Lion, which is they’re fun. Yeah, you know what? I listen to all the genres and all the bands. So yeah, the Westland Warriors are, I’ve got to say, close to number one.
John: Right. That’s our role in high school for anyone listening because no one would.
Shannon: No one would.
John: So there you go. How about a favorite animal, any animal at all?
Shannon: A liger, of course.
John: A liger. I like that. I like that. Very good. Prefer more hot or cold?
Shannon: Food has to be hot, but the temperature around me must be cold.
John: There you go. There you go. So yeah, eating warm food in a cold atmosphere. I like that. That’s a good answer. Do you have a favorite number?
Shannon: Seven, maybe.
John: And why is that?
Shannon: You know, it’s cliché, right, with the lucky number seven.
John: Totally. It is the number one answer is number seven.
Shannon: I’m sure it is, right.
John: All right. Since you’re a lawyer, let’s ask, criminal law or corporate law?
Shannon: Oh, between those two, it depends how you define corporate law. You use that as a lawyer or law question, so now you’re in for a long answer.
John: Because I don’t know. I googled it.
Shannon: I would say, in terms of my practice, it would definitely be civil, which I guess you would call corporate. I’ve done a little criminal law, and I hope not to ever do it again.
John: Two more. Favorite cereal from anytime?
Shannon: Oh, man, that’s — woof. You know, I used to like Golden Grahams a lot. I don’t know why, but I did.
John: You know what? Those are good. Those are good. That’s a great answer. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Shannon: Oh, man, wow, that’s tough. So I would say have two, I guess, material babies, if you will. My 69 Barracuda, which I had in high school, you may remember, and my Tom Anderson Crowdster guitar which was custom made for me. So those are my two non-human babies, I guess you’d say.
John: Right, right. Absolutely, man. That’s awesome. Very cool. Well, that dovetails nicely right into both of your hobbies and passions. You’ve had them since I’ve known you, which was like 1990, I guess. Holy cow! We’re old. But you still have the same Barracuda?
Shannon: I sure do. Yeah. The car has been in my family since it was new, so 1969, that timeframe, obviously. It kind of got passed to my grandpa. My great-great uncle bought it new. I started working on it when I was 15, 16 in high school. And then eventually it made its way to me, but I’ve kind of had it in my possession since shortly after high school. So it’s still in my garage today.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool. That’s really cool. Then, of course, I know that that automobile passion has gone way past just the Barracuda. You actually used to work in the automobile industry, right?
Shannon: Yeah, yeah, actually, I went to undergrad, actually in SIU Carbondale called Salukis. I’ve got an automotive technology degree and went straight to General Motors to Saturn division and was an engineer there for a number of years, around eight years, and then kind of moved on from there, but that was my first official gig in the auto industry. Yeah.
John: That’s awesome. I mean, especially if you could take your passion and then make it your job, although that’s when it gets weird though because then it’s work all the time sort of thing. It’s fun, but then it’s like, well, you can’t necessarily take off from it sort of a thing. So it does, certainly, it’s cool but then you have to definitely keep it in check. That’s for sure. And then, of course, the music, I mean, we were in the band together. You were always playing guitar and drums and so good at it, but then you took that to the next level as well.
Shannon: Oh, yeah.
John: Just playing music all the time. You actually had a music career.
Shannon: Yeah. As you know, I was in “the band,” the high school band.
John: Right, “the band.” There’s a difference between a band and the band.
Shannon: Band was my favorite class by a longshot. Thanks to Mr. Rodney. So I was fortunate to be able to hop around from the jazz band to the pep band to the marching band to the, you know, whatever band they did at the time, which was great. But outside of high school or outside of school, I guess you’d say, me and several of the other dudes you’d remember from school always had our little heavy metal wannabe cover bands that we would play at teen parties and whatnot. It’s kind of always been something that took up almost all of my time, which explains why it took me so long to get into the law profession because I was not ready for real college after I got out of high school because I didn’t really go to high school much.
Shannon: I was there, but I was kind of more a social butterfly and didn’t do a whole lot of actual work in high school.
John: Exactly. You were physically there, not necessarily mentally present, and then you still graduate. That’s how high school is, I think. When I hear of kids that are struggling, I’m like, “Come on, man. Like just go.” I mean, that’s really all you got to do. It’s more of an attendance.
Shannon: Oh, yeah, you got a participation prize, for sure, and that was a diploma back then.
John: Right. Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s so fantastic that still to this day you’re playing music, and mostly through your church but also at some of the Husch Blackwell events even. How did that come about?
Shannon: That’s interesting. It actually was kind of surprising for me. I came to Husch right out of law school. I did my summer associate summer here. What drew me to Husch in the first place really was the people that were there. It just didn’t seem like what I anticipated a big law firm to be. It wasn’t nearly as stuffy as I kind of expected it to be. Again, this is from a guy who got into the law profession in his late 30s, right?
So I’ve already had a short music career and all this stuff, but I get here and I find out that there are a number of other musicians that are not really active anymore outside of the office. Well, one of our — he is our chief growth officer now. He is the lead singer of a pretty popular party and cover band here in town. When I say “in town,” St. Louis. His band would play at some of our functions. I even learned that, you know, I played and a few other folks played and sang and said, “You know, why don’t we put these folks together to make a Husch Blackwell Band?” And it was way better than we expected it to be. We really just got together and never practiced once and said, “Okay, guys, learn your parts, show up, and let’s play this stuff.” And it really killed and everybody at the firm loved it. So now we are kind of like the house band for all the Husch Blackwell events. It’s been really fun.
John: That’s awesome, man. Was there any part of you that was like, “Oh, well, if I share this side of me, they’re going to think I’m less of a lawyer or less committed to the firm”?
Shannon: Oh, yeah. So the funny thing is the first time I think anybody outside — well, they found out kind of early that I was a musician because somebody had stalked me on Facebook and found some old pictures of me on stage. So that was a little embarrassing at first and that was during my summer and I thought, well, I’m not going to get this job now. That wasn’t the case at all. But then, as you mentioned, I sing and play it at church, and I go to a fairly large church here in West County. I happen to notice a couple faces in the crowd one weekend that I worked with. Oh, no, this is a whole different world. My world is colliding. How’s this going to work? It was surprisingly a really good response. Everybody was actually that found out, “We like it that you have another outlet.” And they encouraged it. It was kind of surprising to me. But, man, it made a big difference in how I kind of looked at the people I work with and how I interacted with them.
John: That’s so awesome because from all the people that I’ve interviewed on the show, it’s 99.9% in our own head that people are going to judge us or this or that or whatever, and then you let it out. I mean, you’re not shouting from the rooftops, and you’re certainly not not doing your job. But every time, people think it’s cool and that’s fantastic. And not only do they think it’s cool, but they’re like, “Hey, actually play at our events,” which is like next level.
Shannon: What’s interesting and what I found, this has been over the course of — I’ve been with the firm about five years. Pretty early on when we started playing these gigs, people started recognizing the folks who are on the stage, the CEO and the chair of the board, they both know me by name, they walk up to me and say hi and talk to me. I’m a nobody associate especially two or three years ago, right? And I thought, well, you know what? This might actually be a good thing, getting some recognition that has nothing to do with my work product because that’s got to be terrible at this point.
John: No, man, because that’s the thing. We’re all trying so hard to stand out by doing more work, and everyone’s doing good work, all your peers at Husch Blackwell. I mean, plus or minus, you’re doing the same thing. And so to stand out, golly, you’d have to be some savant, just I invented law.
Shannon: And the interesting thing about that is if you stand out with your work product, which again, at a firm like Husch, your work product is assumed to be great. And that’s not to be arrogant. It’s just to get to the level, you have to do that kind of work, right? So the assumption is that it’s going to be really good. So to differentiate yourself that way is really difficult. And you know what? It’s almost like the frog in the boiling water pan. Your clients internally just have to assume, good is that good. They assume that it’s easy for you and you’re no longer special. You’re just another one of those really good lawyers.
To have something that they can talk to you about or you can talk to folks about that has nothing to do with the work product, has nothing to do with the case, I think it’s refreshing on both sides. At least it seems to have played out in my favor. I’ve seen that there are several others of us who, what I like to say, bring your whole self to work, right? Those folks tend to have better relationships in the office, and it seems to work out well for them.
John: Yeah, for sure, because surprise, you know who else has other outside-of-work interests? Your clients.
Shannon: That’s right.
John: They’re people too. That’s so refreshing to hear, and you’re able to see it while you’re in it. Because I remember when I was at PwC back in the day and people would be like, “Oh, what did you do this weekend?” I was like, “Well, I drove to Springfield, Illinois, and did a comedy show.” And they’re like, “Wait, what?” And then all of a sudden, 12 years later, someone remembers me as the guy who did comedy at night and it’s like, I’ve never even met you. We never worked together, and that sort of a thing. I think everyone deserves that. You work way too hard and you’re too good at what you do for someone to just not remember you.
So would you say that either the cars and/or the music gives you a skill set that makes you better at your job?
Shannon: Definitely, I would say both do in different ways. My primary practice is products liability defense, toxic tort defense, and it’s all in the manufacturing industry. My practice group has been manufacturing based. So the fact that I started my career as a dirty hands mechanic, working in shops and building cars and moved up to the engineering world, I understand the clients’ products, I understand the clients’ processes. I can speak their language, and they love that. Of course, I would too. I love that. So that’s helped in that regard.
Honestly, it’s funny but you meet — I just recently brought another fairly large client and our in-house counsel that we report to happens to be a car guy from Detroit. So we hit it off right away. Those are the things. He didn’t want to talk about business the whole night when we took him out to dinner. He wanted to talk about his Mustang and quite frankly, so did I. So the car stuff has that connection. You know, car guys, we’re an interesting sort but sort of like musicians in that we all have this little competitive edge to us. We want our car to be cooler and faster and all that stuff, but we also want to help our car buddies make their cars cooler and faster, right? Musicians are kind of the same way. Musicians, we want to be the best singer, guitar player, whatever, but we want our fellow musicians to rise to the occasion too. I think that kind of translates into how a good, in my opinion, how a good attorney or a team member works. You want to kill it, but you want to make sure your team kills and your clients are able to kill it. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I’ll say it’s working.
John: No, no, I love that. It’s so true it, especially when you’re up there as a part of a band, sure you’re the singer, the lead guitarist, or the drummer or the bassist or whatever you are, but that’s a team. If one is way better than everybody else, then it’s out of sorts. And if somebody’s off rhythm or if somebody is whatever, then, man, it’s terrible. And it’s the exact same thing is when you’re running a team at the firm. That’s such a great parallel that you’ve been doing since you were in high school. So you’re like a pro now.
Shannon: I’ve got experience with these really hotshot trombone players trying to show off in the middle of a —
Shannon: Wait a minute, trombone is not supposed to be lead instrument here. It’s supposed to be flute.
John: You’re talking about me, low brass, everybody. Low brass.
Shannon: Yeah. Maybe a Billy Pemberton tuba would fill in there once in a while.
John: Oh, gosh. The fact that we ever had a straight line ever during a football marching, that’s amazing, totally amazing. Well, that’s so cool. You’re able to share that at work and that everyone embraces that and doesn’t make you feel like eh. You’re clearly very good at your job. Somebody wants to tell me, “Hey, why don’t you just go do that comedy thing? That’s all you want to do.” It’s like, whoa, that has nothing to do with my work product. What I do outside of work is I’m here and I’m delivering what you need.
Shannon: That would be a tough comment to get because, unfortunately, at my old, salty age that I’m at now, I would answer that question and I’d say, well, nobody’s going to pay me this kind of money to do that job, and that’s why I’m here in the first place.
John: Exactly. It’s like the thing that I like to ask me is would you do taxes for free? Would you do engineering free? Would you do law for free every day, not just a charity case? And it’s like, no, of course not. It’s like, well, that’s what you’re doing when you work on your cars or when you play your music or when you’re doing comedy or when you’re running marathons or when you’re whatever. I mean, that’s your real passion. That’s just awesome that the firm embraces that like that. So does Husch Blackwell do anything in particular to get other people to share their passions? You guys are living, breathing examples. So clearly that’s a thing to get things started.
Shannon: I think we’re moving in that direction. It’s interesting the time that I’ve been here, we have an associates committee that they call the next gen committee now because they’re all new age. But I think we’re moving in that direction where we’re trying to get folks to be more well-rounded because I think it’s faired out the numbers. I’m sure there’s plenty of research out there that shows that people who are more well-rounded are better at everything that they do. If you got a laser focus, you can be an expert at something, but you’re lacking something that maybe is undefinable. So I believe they are. I can’t think of any explicit programs that they’re doing, but they certainly encourage and I think you’re right. I think that the idea of even having some musicians hop on stage, some folks who maybe aren’t used to being on stage because there are some other guys in the band who they did play trumpet or something in high school and that’s the last time they played. So they’re getting out of their comfort zone. But at the end of the night, it’s always a positive response.
So I think that helps other folks who have other outside passions to say, you know what, hey, I think the firm can appreciate this stuff and maybe I’ll start doing it. I think we’re moving in that direction. I don’t know that it’s explicit. Yeah.
John: And going back to that research, so there was actually a study done at Duke University that showed that people that have more dimensions to their life are less prone to anxiety and depression, which makes complete sense because if you’re all work all the time and then you’re waiting for a client decision or you’re waiting for whatever, then your anxiety is going to be through the roof. And then if that decision is not in your favor, then that’s 100% blow to your face. I mean, just 100%. Where if you have family and faith and friends and music and cars, it’s like, you know what, that stings a little bit but I’ve got all this other stuff. That’s also who I am. Then you’re able to rely on that for confidence and happiness and joy, whatever, in who you are. So that’s cool, man.
One thing that I like to noodle on, because I’ve got time, is how much is it on the firm to create this culture to have people playing that are members of the firm in a band, or how much is it on an individual to just kind of step up and be like, “Hey, this is what I love to do,” and create that little circle amongst their peers?
Shannon: I think it is on the firm and I think that they, you know, it’s like a ride or die situation. I think that they’re going to all the firms, the large and small, are going to have to start embracing that as we have these generational changes because they’re going to lose good people if they don’t. So I think it’s on them. Now, I think it looks different at different firms with different folks. But quite frankly, we know that our clients also want this stuff. Our clients want world-class work product. There’s no question about that. That never has to waver. But they also want people. They want to work with people. They’re all concerned about diversity in our teams. I think when we talk about diversity, it’s more than just ethnic diversity. It’s diversity in personality. It’s diversity in experience. It’s diversity in thought. So I think that those things are all at this point in our history as a society are becoming more and more important because, like you said, the research is out that it makes people better at what they do, and everybody’s starting to understand that.
John: No, I agree, because when I got out of school and started at PwC, work-life balance was kind of something people said. The idea was just don’t die at work. That was pretty much the concept. It’s like, whatever. Now it’s find out what that hobby-passion balance is because there’s skills that you have, I mean, like you going into manufacturing industry and you’re one of the guys. You can talk to them. You can talk their lingo. You know what’s going on. You’re, oh, that’s whatever type of machine. They’re like, “What?” All of a sudden, you’re not suit. You’re just one of the guys type of a thing. You’re one of us. And that’s a huge differentiator than just any other lawyer that just walks. If I was a lawyer and I walked in, I’d be like, I don’t know what the hell they do here. I have to touch that? My hands are going to get dirty. What? This is weird. Give me some gloves.
Shannon: It will mess up my manicure.
John: Right, right, right. Totally. I can imagine. I think that’s a huge thing. I love that you share that and that the firm embraces that, and it’s really encouraging to hear. So that’s awesome. So do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks, hey, I have this passion outside of work, but it has nothing to do with my job? And there is not a charge code for sharing.
Shannon: I would say, you always have to know your audience. So I mean, in the professional world, one of the things that makes us good at what we do is being able to read a room and speak to that room the way we should. So know your audience, I would say that. I don’t come to work in t-shirts or even shorts. I don’t wear short — because I have tattoos on my arms. I know my audience. But when I’m on stage and my fellow attorneys see me, it’s all good.
So I would say, get to know some folks in your office that you can start to share that stuff with, that you feel comfortable sharing stuff with. And then you will see, you’ll get that confidence because you’ll realize they like it. They like the idea. They can come into your office and talk to you about something that’s not work related because you know what? Everybody in your office at some point needs to talk about something besides these are the balance sheets or something besides the complaint and the responsive pleading. They want to talk to you about something else to feed off their minds. They want to know they have real people working with them.
So get comfortable with a few folks. Then you’re going to realize, hey, you know what? I can do this stuff. And then find strategic places to kind of inject that, those conversations. You don’t walk into the office one Monday morning and you’re a whole new person. But at the same time, yes, bring your whole self to work, quite frankly. Maybe this was the old me talking, but how long do you really want to work for people or at a firm or a location that doesn’t appreciate who you really are? You don’t want to be there. So worst-case scenario, if you bring your whole self to work and they hate it, find a better place to work because those places are out there. They really are.
John: Right, right. That’s the thing, like when I speak, it’s always what’s professional? Because that definition has changed over the last hundred years. I mean, 100 years ago, the largest bank in the UK, you had to get permission to marry from the bank. So it’s like, wait, what? So that’s professional 100 years ago. So I think it’s anything and everything up until you’re interrupting someone else’s ability to do their job. If you bring your guitar in and start just wailing away on some music, it’s like, well, all right, that’s clearly bringing your passion to work, but that’s going to make it hard for other people to do their jobs. But there’s ways to go about that that I think that we just get in our own heads so much. I love that you felt that at first and then it happened and then really cool stuff after that. So that’s fantastic, Shannon.
So before I bring us in for a landing though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid-fire question me. And I’d also like you to stop the clock on the billing.
Shannon: Oh, all right.
John: Because this is now — I’m billing you.
Shannon: All right, let’s do this. What do you think? First rapid-fire question, foreign or domestic?
John: Oh, all right. You know what? I’m going to go foreign.
Shannon: Oh, I see like a Honda.
John: I’m not made in America.
Shannon: All right, automatic or manual?
John: You know, let’s go manual.
Shannon: Sweet. All right, you’re back. You’re winning me back. All right. Rock and roll or rap?
John: Rock and Roll.
Shannon: Oh, maybe. You like steak or chicken?
John: Steak, for sure.
Shannon: Yeah. You’re from the Midwest, man. You got to like steak better.
John: There you go. There you go.
Shannon: All right. You have experience about East Coast or West Coast?
John: I’m going to go East Coast. I’m going to go East Coast, just because you get what you get, like you don’t have to gas. East Coast is I get back to you tomorrow and then six months later, you have to call them. It’s like, come on, man.
Shannon: All right, I got one more. What was better to you, your 20s or now you’re 40s so far?
John: Probably the 40s just because I think, I don’t know, you start to learn what’s actually important instead of what you think supposed to be important or what people tell you is important.
Shannon: Yeah, that’s more accurate.
John: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, this was awesome, Shannon. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? It’s so much fun.
Shannon: I appreciate you having me on. You’ll be getting my bill shortly. So it’s all good.
John: Awesome. Perfect.
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