For those who think textbooks are too expensive or don’t fit the course material well enough, the solution may be to create your own textbook. In this episode of the State Bar of Texas Podcast from the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, host Rocky Dhir talks to Matt Crockett about his experience writing his own textbook and how it has helped both him and his students. For lawyers who aren’t professors, he also discusses how explaining his process and collecting textbooks in an easy-to-read format also helped him more effectively communicate with clients.
Professor Matt Crockett is an assistant professor of law at the UNT Dallas College of Law, teaching contracts, commercial law, and other business courses.
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State Bar of Texas Podcast
State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2018: Writing your own Textbook
Intro: Welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast, your monthly source for conversations and curated content to improve your law practice with your host Rocky Dhir.
Rocky Dhir: Hello and welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast. This is Rocky Dhir, your host, and when I got into Houston last night — I’m here in Houston at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting for 2018. When I got in last night, I thought, oh, I’m going to have some time here to sit down and kind of read a book.
So, I kind of cozied up to my book, and then, as I was reading my book I couldn’t really enjoy it because I ended up thinking about all the book ideas in my head, all the books that I’d always wished I’d written but just never got around to doing it. I’m sure you’re probably the same way.
You probably have a lot of stories up there that you’d love to put down onto paper, and some day publish, and therein lies the problem, right? Sitting down, writing and then actually getting the word out. So, maybe, just maybe there’s a way to get your books published, once you have them down on paper.
Who better to talk to about that, then a law professor, right? They know how to write, they write books and articles all the time. So, today, I brought you a law professor. We’ve got Matt Crockett.
Matt, how are you?
Matt Crockett: I’m good. Thanks Rocky.
Rocky Dhir: So UNT Dallas College of Law, that’s where you teach?
Matt Crockett: That’s right. I just finished my second year full-time over there and it’s kind of my dream job, so, I’m loving it and super, super happy to be able to do that.
Rocky Dhir: Well, congratulations, it’s a great school, our newest law school in Texas.
Matt Crockett: Brand-new law school, by far, the cheapest in the State and that was very important to the founders, give as wide of access as they possibly could. It’s got a unique mission to serve all types of folks. And the style is different than any other law school that I know about, and certainly any law school that any practicing lawyer went to.
The school requires multiple assessments at every class, multiple quizzes, midterms, finals, assignments, it’s much more like an undergrad style setup, all based on the idea that the one exam at the end of the year model is not the most effective way to learn based on a lot of research about that.
And so, we’re making our way through that style of teaching and learning and it’s been very interesting, very — a lot of fun to be on the ground floor of that.
Rocky Dhir: And what do you teach?
Matt Crockett: I teach contracts and I teach the UCC topics, Article 3 and Article 9, which are Bar-tested and the Bar exam is a huge focus for us, and so we get as extensive coverage on the Bar topics as we can.
Rocky Dhir: So, now, were you a transactional lawyer before you became a teacher?
Matt Crockett: I was, I was a finance lawyer, which meant the area of law that I knew best was Article 9 and when I came over as an adjunct, I taught Article 9, Secured Transactions, and then expanded from there when I started practicing full-time — or started teaching full-time.
Rocky Dhir: So, then the litigator is going to court, voir dire all that, that’s not your world.
Matt Crockett: Not at all, not been a part of any court proceeding, deposition, voir dire, nothing, just pure transactional work and most of the law professors at UNT have litigation backgrounds and so it’s been nice to have a couple of peer transactional people come in and present that side of the story for students, and that’s certainly been my background.
Rocky Dhir: Now, if I remember anything about my UCC and contracts classes in law school, the books were rather thick. There was a lot of reading material to go through, and it was quite expensive. So, for your students, do you have a way of trying to pare that down, are you trying to make the process easier for them? What have you done?
Matt Crockett: So, what I’ve done for all of my classes, not necessarily to start but by now I’ve written my own textbooks for each class that I have. They are traditional style case books, they are not as heavy on cases as maybe the books that you or I used; but, they match, obviously they match my lectures perfectly. I go right through the book and I’ve designed the book around the course and vice versa.
Rocky Dhir: So, it’s kind of customized to what you teach them?
Matt Crockett: Exactly, it’s customized, I get to have as much fun as I want, one of the books, all the hypos are my buddies and they are real-life people that my students —
Rocky Dhir: I was going to ask how you have fun with the UCC? I mean that I don’t usually think of F-U-N and UCC, don’t necessarily spell the same word to me. So, yeah, elaborate on that for us? How do you have fun with the UCC?
Matt Crockett: A couple of years ago, my friends convinced me that it would be a good idea if the three of us started a treasure-hunting company. One of them decided it was going to be called Weird Gets, LLC, and if you look that up on the Texas Secretary of State, it’s a legitimate entity.
Rocky Dhir: So you guys started this for real?
Matt Crockett: They both wanted to be able to put CEO, CFO, COO of a treasure hunting company on their résumé, and I knew how to pay a hundred bucks or whatever it is with that so as to form something, and so —
Rocky Dhir: And you’re talking as if you had nothing to do, you’re like they wanted to do this. I think it sounds like you’re deflecting.
Matt Crockett: Well, they think they’ve found some things, but it’s three idiots who know nothing about treasure, Dino bones, things of that nature, looking for stuff out in the desert, pretty fun.
Rocky Dhir: This sounds like the nerdy version of ‘The Hangover’.
Matt Crockett: It’s like The Hangover Plus Treasure Hunting, it’s kind of what the events turn into.
Rocky Dhir: One of you is going to end up falling asleep on the top of a La Quinta or something, like where we’re going to find you?
Matt Crockett: That has already happened, my friend, we’ve all been friends for a long time.
So, anyway, the debtor and the Article 9 hypos is always the company or one of my buddies, borrowing money from their girlfriend or otherwise, and the collateral is treasure hunting —
Rocky Dhir: I hope their wives don’t mind them borrowing money from their girlfriends; that would be kind of awkward.
Matt Crockett: Nobody but me is married and no one has any kids. So, the tomfoolery continues at least for the foreseeable future.
Rocky Dhir: I can tell you as a guy with kids, the tomfoolery never ends.
Matt Crockett: I expected you to say the opposite.
Rocky Dhir: No, no.
Matt Crockett: I’m comfortable to hear you say that.
Rocky Dhir: You can rest assured.
Matt Crockett: Yeah, I wonder when someone finally does have kids if the wheels will really come off then.
Rocky Dhir: You’ll get your kids involved in the tomfoolery, you’re going to pass that on to the next generation is what’s going to happen.
Matt Crockett: The stuff we like tends to be stuff that I think kids would probably like, so it kind of 06:31 Goonies ask and so yeah, I think that could happen.
Rocky Dhir: We’re going to have to make sure that your students hear this podcast because they need to hear about the shenanigans. So, they know their professor actually is a totally wild dude outside of classrooms.
Matt Crockett: Well, that takes me back. I mean, they know about all this stuff. This is all the hypos and —
Rocky Dhir: So, you’ve used your antics as hypos in your own books.
Matt Crockett: Yeah, they know these guys, they know Johnny and Lilly, those are my two partners in Weird Gets 06:56 and they know all this stuff and so they know these guys, they know their background and their life story and these are all the guys in the hypos.
So, I tell those guys that I’m the Chief Marketing Officer because at least a hundred people a year are learning about this treasure hunting company whether they like it or not, and I’m doing a lot more to promote it than those two guys are.
Rocky Dhir: And they probably haven’t paid big bucks to buy those books.
Matt Crockett: So, back to the books the books are free.
Rocky Dhir: Oh, okay.
Matt Crockett: I send out a post, a PDF, in case they don’t even want to bother getting a bound copy. But I also have copies of all my stuff on Amazon, it’s 5 or 10 bucks, whatever it costs Amazon basically to print and send it; and so, the students have their choice of whether they want a bound book through Amazon or they just want the PDF.
Rocky Dhir: This is like law school for like lazy people. I should have gone. I feel like I was born in the wrong era.
Rocky Dhir: I remember being so broke by the end of law school that paying a 100 or 200 bucks for a book was a big deal.
Rocky Dhir: Yeah, it is a big deal.
Matt Crockett: And so, it was high on my list to make the course materials free and just say, look, I don’t want you going at this without a book, which is what you might do if it costs a couple of hundred bucks. Let’s get the materials, they’re all here for you, they’re free, you have as many copies as you want.
The students have really appreciated that. A lot of the feedback I get is, thanks so much for doing that. It really does matter to save a couple of hundred bucks once or twice. So, I really enjoy that feedback and that’s a big deal.
Rocky Dhir: So, how did you go about publishing these books in, because obviously you need to have enough of them, to be able to hand out to at least a hundred students every year; so, how do you go about the logistics of did you get a publisher, how did you go about doing that?
Matt Crockett: So, I didn’t want to get a publisher because take contracts. There are 20 good contracts textbooks on the market right now. I’m brand-new, I’ve tried it now three or four times. I’m not going to write a better textbook than what’s out there. The advantage of using your own book is it maps on to your class perfectly.
So that for one person, their own book I think can be a real valuable tool. So, at first I was just googling around, looking, self-publishing, how do you get printed books and I came across some outfits that will print hardback book for you. I was doing that but I had to front all the cost, which I didn’t like because students then, even if it’s 20 bucks, don’t want to pay the 20, and so they just won’t get one and then I’m taking the hit.
And then ultimately I came across Amazon, and I’m not trying to promote that, their platform, it’s called CreateSpace, but you just put a PDF on there, with a cover, and they do the rest, and it gets an ISBN number and is officially published.
And now, if you put my name on Amazon then my series of books will come up and it’s super-easy. I just send the students a link at the beginning of the semester in addition to the PDF and say, look, if you want a printed book, you can get it for 5-10 bucks on Amazon, just like you’d buy anything else from Amazon.
Rocky Dhir: So, this is not limited just to educational textbooks, you can make any book and effectively print it on Amazon and publish it.
Matt Crockett: That’s it. So there’s big wave. There’s a guy, I don’t remember his name, that was speaking of Southwest, not long ago who was giving advice as to how to build a network, how to self-publish through Amazon or Kindle for purely non-printed books, ebooks.
And so, this is really gaining popularity in the real-world. The law is always a little bit behind.
Rocky Dhir: Big surprise.
Matt Crockett: Yeah, but he had a little different style, I mean, he’s trying to make money doing it, I’m trying to develop subject matter expertise by going through the process of writing the book and then provide something that’s valuable either students or clients.
So, I’ve written something — I still practice law and I’ve written something on the Texas Finance Code of treatise, and that’s been a real — it’s also self-published on Amazon, but it’s been a great thing to have to send to clients.
Rocky Dhir: How does it help with the clients? I mean, what happens there? Can you walk us through that?
Matt Crockett: So, for example, part of what I discussed in the book was how to form a lending entity and a perspective client will call up and say, what’s the process, and I’ll walk them through it, then I send them the book so they’ve kind of got a record of what we discussed and it’s all right there for them.
Or an existing client will call and say, what’s the law on this? And if I don’t remember from having done the work I know exactly where to look, and so, it really is valuable for my relationship with the clients. I’ve always got the answer on that subject matter.
Rocky Dhir: So, does it help you become a better lawyer or is it helping you promote what you do by saying, hey, look, I’m a published author. How is that relationship playing out?
Matt Crockett: It’s a great question. It certainly helps you become a better lawyer. The process of doing the work is what helps you become a better lawyer, that’s I was giving a speech here today on self-publishing, and the gist of it was putting the material together is where you get the real benefit. Taking a subject matter apart, putting it back together and teaching it in a way that makes sense, that’s you learn and then you have that.
As far as making money, I don’t know much about that at this point. I haven’t promoted the book. I don’t really care to as long as it’s helping me with the relationship with the clients, I’m happy I did it, and it’s about it.
Rocky Dhir: Do you know any other lawyers that are doing the same thing or are you the only one in your world that’s using this strategy?
Matt Crockett: No, you bet, other people are doing it. In fact, when I popped open the Welcome Packet from the Bar Conference today, a self-published book came out of that packet. I don’t remember the guy’s name, but it looks like he put that book in every packet of every lawyer, he came here today with something on disability insurance.
Rocky Dhir: Sure.
Matt Crockett: So, I mean, people are doing it and it’s just an easier frictionless process than working with a traditional publisher, and maybe you write something that’s unique enough, esoteric enough, like a finance code treatise that 12:13 just aren’t going to say I am not going to sell enough of this. You have had it, do what you want.
So other people have written in this area and they tend to self-publish too and using the Amazon feature is probably just the easiest way to do it.
Rocky Dhir: So, Matt, are you open to people contacting you, if they’ve got questions or if they want to know more about how to self-publish and in the process of writing a book, are you okay with them reaching out to you?
Matt Crockett: Of course, happy to visit with them about anything I know and I did go through a little bit of a windy road in terms of publishing the books and fronting the cost upfront before I got used to the Amazon portal which has really been a lot easier for me.
So, if anyone has a similar thing they’re looking at doing, I’d be happy to have them contact me. You can find me online, Matt Crockett, UNT Dallas College of Law or at Husch Blackwell, my firm, those would be the first hits you get if you look for that information and call me at either number.
Rocky Dhir: It’s mattcrockett, all one word, [email protected]?
Matt Crockett: All right, so email is probably the best way to get me, [email protected]. That’s my firm email. Easy way to get me or do a Google search, you’ll land on me every time in Dallas.
Rocky Dhir: And that’s Crockett like Davy Crockett?
Matt Crockett: Crockett like Davy Crockett, two Ts and you can’t miss it.
Rocky Dhir: Well, that is fascinating. I certainly never knew about this how easy it was to self-publish. I’ve learned something new here today, and I hope you’ve learned something as well when you’re listening to this.
This has been just another fascinating edition of the State Bar of Texas Podcast and we’re very lucky to be here at the Annual Meeting here in Houston, because we’re meeting all kinds of amazing people, like Matt.
So Matt, thank you for being here.
Matt Crockett: Thanks Rocky. I appreciate it. Good seeing you.
Rocky Dhir: If you liked what you heard today, remember, you can find us on Apple Podcasts. Please find us there, rate us, subscribe. You can also find us on Google Play or on your favorite podcast app.
Do check us out on legaltalknetwork.com. You can find out more about our production and learn a lot more over there.
This Annual Meeting has been a great ride so far. We appreciate you joining us, because remember, life’s a journey, folks. Thanks for tuning in.
Outro: If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. Go to texasbar.com/podcast. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts and RSS. Find both the State Bar of Texas and Legal Talk Network on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn or download the free app from Legal Talk Network in Google Play and iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by the State Bar of Texas, Legal Talk Network, or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.