Theodore K. ManleyTheodore K. Manley&&
March 7, 2024

MDK Celebrates 22 Years: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

MDK is marking a major milestone – 22 years in business! We spoke with Ted Manley, MDK's co-founder, to gain a deeper understanding of the firm's remarkable journey. In this interview, Ted discusses the firm's early focus on growth and development, the core values that guide our work, and MDK’s approach to keeping pace with the ever-changing legal landscape.  

MDK: When you embarked on this journey 22 years ago, what did you envision for the firm?  

Ted Manley: When we started, it was just about keeping the team together. We were focused on surviving and our ambitions were tied to keeping everything going. That was our fuel. Then we started to ask ourselves, what could MDK be? When Ed Kochalski joined us (the K in MDK), we realized awareness of our clients, knowledge of process and an emphasis on technology would be the way.  

Challenges and Triumphs

MDK: Can you share a significant milestone the firm faced in its early years and how you overcame it?

TM: Our first big client visit comes to mind- we were so nervous to host in our modest office! Back then, we were in a former casket factory in an up-and-coming part of town. Throughout the day, we noticed we were compared favorably to our much more established competitors. Our client saw that we had hustle and that we knew the constraints of the law. It was a defining moment for us in that we knew we could do it; we knew this venture could succeed.

Building a Culture

MDK: What core values define MDK’s culture, and how have you fostered these values throughout the years? What makes our firm a unique and desirable place to work?

TM: Around three years ago, we launched a formal exploration of our values, and those values are a reflection of who we have always been. Here’s how I describe them:

Respect- MDK is a working environment where new ideas are welcomed, and people feel heard.

Collaboration- Collaboration requires that people know what's important- and what’s important in the now.  

Creativity- If you know something well because you’ve done it many times, this will allow you to consider new ways of thinking and to ask questions like “why”.  

Engagement- If people enjoy the work they do while finding it challenging, they are more likely to be engaged, to understand the entire process and to support the goals of the firm.

Advancement- With the advent of technology, there are known, predictable paths to complete parts of our work. We’ve used technology to have a single lawyer do the work of many lawyers. Having systems do system things while people do people things is key to finding simpler, more efficient solutions to legal needs.

Taking the Leap

MDK: What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs in the legal field?

TM: My advice is to give it a shot. In this economy, barriers aren’t as high as they once were. Entrepreneurs can be- and usually are- risk adverse. So, after you’ve done your research, step off the curb and go into the road. Trust yourself.

Evolution of the Legal Landscape

MDK: Over the past two decades, the legal landscape has seen significant changes. How has MDK adapted and innovated to keep pace with these evolving trends?

TM: Now is the time to dedicate our energy and resources to growth outside of our core practices. MDK has excellent attorneys who know their area of the law exceedingly well. We’re on the edge of leveraging technology and highly skilled professionals to be able to provide services to legal consumers outside our current sphere who have a need but not a partner.

Mentorship and Legacy

MDK: As a leader, how do you prioritize mentoring and supporting the next generation of legal professionals?  

TM: MDK’s Executive Team and Practice Group Directors are key to the future success of the firm. They are immensely supportive and visionary. I support them through our One-on-One meeting setup. Properly done, these provide feedback, address challenges, and empower growth.

Gratitude and Recognition

MDK: Is there anyone you'd like to acknowledge and thank for their contributions to the firm's success over the years?  

TM: Over the long arc of our history, there are so many, but I’d like to thank two in particular. My wife is at the top of the list. She’d tell me everything was going to be fine, even though I was terrified.  

Brian Deas, now retired, made such a good complement and teammate. We were able to jump into something unpredictable because we each brought a different set of skills to the table.

Celebration and Personal Reflection

MDK: On this significant milestone, how do you personally celebrate and reflect on the past 22 years? What are you most grateful for, and what excites you about the future?

TM: I’m just grateful for the whole journey. It has wildly exceeded my expectations. I’m very grateful for the people who’ve been willing to jump in and add to their intelligence, good humor and creativity to the mix that is Team MDK.  

Follow Ted on LinkedIn here.

This publication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an opinion of MDK.
Do not rely on this publication without seeking legal counsel.