Creator & Presenter, Universal Crazy Hot Matrix
Dana McLendon, Owner, McLendon Law Office
New York, New York
Past affiliations include associate, Palmer & Dodge
BA University of Florida
Criminal law, domestic law, comedy: it’s all in the matrix
Listen to interview:
EXJ: Most of you won’t know the name Dana McLendon, Esq. But many of you may know him for a very particular non-lawyer role…as the creator of the Universal Crazy/Hot Matrix (300 million you tube views)
EXJ: What do you do at present?
Dana McLendon: I’m a trial lawyer in Tennessee. I have been since graduating law school. I believe I have the distinction of being the only living lawyer in the state who has tried both a murder case and a divorce to jury verdict. I started my career out of Vanderbilt Law School working for a large law firm in Nashville. I remember being on an elevator with a guy, and the receptionist on the floor spoke to him and that made it clear that he was also working at the same firm for some time. I realized then I didn’t want to be part of an organization so large there were people I didn’t know.
ex judicata: Can you describe the route you took after law school that led to the creation of the Crazy/Hot Matrix?
Dana McLendon: I was always the class clown. I’m sure that’s not a stretch for you to see given the Matrix. It served me very well as I was growing up. Because my family moved around quite a lot. I changed schools like 6 times, including 3 high schools. Two things made the transition smooth. I was an athlete, and I was funny. I never had any problems. The matrix itself evolved over time. I think the seed was planted when I was counseling a client who had been arrested three times. Low level stuff. But, in looking at the circumstances of those arrests I asked him “Do you see anything in common with these three situations?” He didn’t. I then pointed out what was obvious. A woman was involved in leading him into trouble each time. And thus, was born the first part of the Matrix. High hot, high crazy. Strippers, women named Tiffany, bunny in a pot, have your tires slashed and you wind up in jail. That kind. The rest of the parts of the Matrix gradually came into being over the years as I flushed it out.
ex judicata: Do you think your legal training helped you in any way when presenting the Matrix? I am thinking of Moot Court or participation in other exercises where you had to present convincingly before an audience?
Dana McLendon: Yes, I did have some chances to present to a live audience. But I’ve always been one of those people for whom public speaking comes naturally. I was in my element. In law school, in court and yes, in delivering the Universal Crazy Hot Matrix
ex judicata: Or, perhaps, doing impressions of partners you worked for, to the amusement of your colleagues?
Dana McLendon: Spot on. So, recall, I’ve always been the class clown. One year my firm decides to put on a show. Variety. Comedy. A key component in making everyone laugh is going to be making fun of the leading partners. I look around and none of my associate colleagues want anything to do with this. They’re afraid there’ll be retribution. I think the exact opposite. These heavy hitters are going to want to be made fun off. So, I wound up doing impressions of a number of the leading partners.
ex judicata: Do you recall the time and place when you realized the Crazy/Hot Matrix had made you famous?
Dana McLendon: Yes. Absolutely. It was back in 2014. I was with a good friend at the school he ran for firearms training. He’s got like 250,000 followers of his channel. He puts up a lot of videos. So, the equipment is always there ready to be used. We decide to put the Matrix on tape. My best friend shot it. All done in one take. He then posts it on his channel which as you might imagine is almost all men. It takes off like wildfire. Goes viral on his channel and then crosses over to the mainstream and it just continues and continues. One night I start looking around on the internet and I’m seeing millions of hits.
ex judicata: If I’m remembering a couple of years into it there is an effort to monetize. T-shirts, mugs, hats, movie deal? Am I imagining this?
Dana McLendon: No, it’s true. Someone said ‘you should sell t-shirts. So, I wound up selling all this stuff. The hats, the keychains what have you. If I recall, we probably mailed out a few hundred t-shirts. The movie deal was also real. 2 studios had wanted the rights. Nothing ever came of it though because along came the MeToo movement and there was just no way this kind of movie could be made.
ex judicata: I know in addition to the Matrix you were elected a town alderman 6 times in a row. Another non-lawyer role. So, you know something about attorneys who do other things besides practice law.
What advice would you give young attorneys in law firms or law departments contemplating pursuing a project outside of law
or considering transitioning to another career?
Dana McLendon: For starters realize that you are easily replaceable. That’s the nature of the practice. For certain in large firms and really, small firms as well. On the positive side I’d say be deliberate about cultivating things for which you have a passion, and which are rewarding and which you can do indefinitely. Whether you’re a competitive bike rider or you’re a powerlifter or you belong to a book club, or whatever it is. If you don’t figure out the work life balance quickly, it will be figured out for you. And, then it becomes very, very hard to pivot.
You know, it’s funny, when this went viral, I got contacted by people that were like A-list uber famous who described themselves as fans and who wanted to figure out a way to work with me on something. There were a couple that I thought for sure I was being catfished, and I went through a few steps to verify their identity, including face time. Sure enough, they were real. And I was like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Wow.’ And I got to do some pretty cool stuff along the way, too. Because, again, I’ve always been the class clown. I got to perform live at the Improv in Hollywood. I did 15 minutes on the stage. Wow. I didn’t see that coming. Do something you love, take a chance. You never know.