This morning was my 3rd day sitting in on the Clio Conference. In the last 3 days, I have felt a surplus of inspiration from legal innovators, lawyers, non-lawyers, justice seekers, book authors, business CEOs, and more. When choosing which courses to sit in on and which to opt out of, I noticed a common trend. To name a few, the sessions I sat in focused on next-generation leadership, forward thinking, growth through adversity, creating mission-driven firms, and exploring the science of success.

The theme of all these? I see community at the forefront. The core of it all: people inspiring one another, people helping one another, and people growing with/ alongside one another.

I asked myself to return to the foundation of what brought me here. To this industry, sitting in these sessions, with world-changers and passion-invokers. When thinking about growth, mission, purpose, success, leadership – what comes to mind are the people leading the charges. I think about the individuals who decided to share their idea and collaborate with the encouragers as well as the challengers.

I think about how it took one thought leader to sit in a room with their peers and colleagues and say, ‘I don’t see this working. What if we tried this instead?’ Behind them, a group of hands pushing their rock up the mountain. Behind these ideas, I envision countless communities coming alongside one another, and, the bi-product of bravery from person to speak up and look at things differently, a whole room of inspired individuals now more likely to innovate alongside them.

Continue Reading The core task of innovation: relationships

I remember first getting approached by LexBlog’s CEO, Kevin, when I was the Community Associate at WeWork. The selling factor being, of course, the way he talked about LexBlog and the work they were doing. Having no experience in the legal industry, nor any interest in the tech industry, I politely told him (in so many words) I was too fond of my current community in my WeWork building to jump ship.

He was persistent. The more I talked to Kevin, however, the more convinced I became about the importance of access to the law. He explained how momentum in blogging and online community building were transforming the way legal services were being accessed. Kevin talked about LexBlog like it was the best possible turnkey solution to expanding and advancing access to the law in order to help those in need – his belief helped me believe it too.

I recently restarted his Common Sense in Legal Blogging series while preparing video clips for our resource center.  One of the things he says a few minutes into the first chapter caught my attention – not because I was surprised by what he said, but because it rekindled my fire to growing this online community of legal bloggers. He states,

When I interviewed Jeff Nowak who writes a blog on FMLA in Chicago in December and I said, ‘What got you into blogging? What makes you blog?’ He goes, ‘My desire to help.’ I said, ‘Come on. At some point in time, you must’ve said I’m doing this for business development, or to make a name for myself.’ He said, “Never.” He goes, “I am always motivated by helping people.

Continue Reading It was never about business

Spending time in our support queue over the past couple months has given me assurance that I could never work in online design or UI.

One of my favorite concepts is the idea of the aggregation of marginal gains, most recently popularized by James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits. He talks about the story of British cycling coach Dave Brailsford, who took the British Cycling team from one of the worst teams in Europe to the dominating team at the Olympic Games in just five years. How? He looked at everything directly and indirectly related to the performance of his athletes, and found a way to make a small, 1% improvement in each facet of performance. Taken individually, each of these improvements had a negligible impact, but taken together, the improvements delivered an outsized impact: the aggregation of marginal gains. You can apply this powerful concept to your law firm.

In the blogging world, I’ve seen people hone in on this 1% more intently than I’ve ever witnessed before. “Can you change the font size of this one sentence in a 15-paragraph post?” “Can you update the photo to match these specific dimensions at the bottom left of the page?” “Can you switch out ‘fast’ for ‘quick’ in the author bio?” Questions like these inundate the support queue of LexBlog constantly. What I have loved most about the blogging community, and the legal blogging community in particular, is how aware of detail people seemingly are.

Continue Reading Focus on the 1%

I watched The Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix with some friends last night. I will start out by saying it is absolutely terrifying, disheartening, and eye-opening to say the lease. On a national as well as a global scale, it feels as though our world is falling apart at the seams. Between fake news distribution, social media addiction, unstable leadership, and more – it seems as though truth is something we’re struggling to recognize and hold onto.

Working at LexBlog, I’ve often heard our CEO, Kevin O’Keefe talk about often how the internet can be a powerful tool for building relationships and advancing communities. Paradoxically, watching The Social Dilemma last night, I was shocked but not surprised to learn about the destructive structures the internet has been laying ground work for over the last ten or so years. Primarily set up to target the Gen Z population, companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and countless others are at each other’s throats, competing to keep users in the rat race we’ve found ourselves in.

This hour and a half long documentary poses the simple question: where did we (designers and engineers of the internet) go wrong, and how do we fix the problem? Because the problem is vastly complex, no one seems to be able to pin point exactly what the issue boils down to, and certainly no one seems to have answers. Users subject to the problem seemingly turn a blind eye and continue buying into the system without questioning its effects on our collective wellbeing. Influencers and engineers and CEO’s alike allegedly recognize a society that’s biting at the poisonous bit, but not a single advocate for change has a clear path for how to restructure the system. Though the current relationship between humanity and the internet appears to be destructive and getting progressively worse, no one knows how to turn off the responders in each of us that gravitate towards the capitalization and obsession of social media.

Continue Reading 3 lessons I’ve learned about community and the internet at a legal tech company

I love how certain instances can bring us back to a moment in time that perhaps our memories would otherwise forget to remember. This morning, I woke up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I arrived yesterday morning to pouring rain, walked about 5 miles in the city before tapping out with water-soaked jeans and a head of hair that looked like it had just gotten out of the shower, and ended the day with ramen. This morning, I awoke to a cloudy sky and a whoppin’ 45 degrees out. Coming from Seattle, I realized why I was quick to get out in the rain yesterday and walk around but even more quick to cozy up in my Airbnb and wait for the temperature to rise before venturing out today.

I saw a percolator and a french press in the kitchen when I stumbled my sleepy way in here. I instantly knew these were hosts I would be friends with in real life if I ever met them. They had coffee beans and a grinder next to them, the way any thoughtful coffee drinker would prefer it. These two hosts – they’re my kind of people. Having spent the weekend in South Dakota bouncing between dated coffee stands and hotel brews, I was ecstatic to see they stalked this kitchen with local beans and a variety of methods to brew them in small batches. Instead of having to choose between the beloved french press and a percolator (that I haven’t used in years) I decided to indulge my nostalgia and make both. Though an explanation is never necessary in regards to caffeine consumption, I’ll explain, for the sake of the story, why these brewing methods felt more like a sentimental decision for me today.

I love a good french press as much as any caffeine addict. I drink a full french press, and typically another after, every morning. I love it so much, in fact, I have two human bodies back to back drinking a french press tattooed on my leg to represent two things- our commonalities and our ability, as humans, to live connected while independent as we navigate relationships or decisions in general. I think it’s a healthy way to live; enjoying the finer things (like coffee) with one another while remaining back to back, not fixated on another, not fixated on only enjoying what we have in common, or on each other, but nurturing our individuality. I learned this concept, and began to appreciate this concept of independent similarities, by drinking from a percolator.

When I was 20 I traveled to Germany with one of my closest friends, Satya. I’ve written about Satya before – he’s kind, patient, thoughtful, and brilliant. He embodies the goodness any human would strive to attain.  I attribute any shred of kindness I’ve learned to him. OK – gushing over. Back to the percolator.

One morning Satya woke me up at 5am. It was a cloudy morning in Munich, but he insisted I wake up to watch the sunrise with him. I pleaded there would be no sunrise if there was no sun – he begged to differ. “Shale, just wake up. I think the clouds will burn off, there will be a sunrise. I’ll make us coffee if you just get out of bed.” I quickly assembled myself and walked out into the kitchen. Satya was standing over the stove boiling water with two mugs set out with cream next to them. I shook my head and laughed, assuring him he would be wrong about the sunrise. There was a small percolator on the stove top, with coffee starting to spurt out. The lid was flapping open and closed, the water piping hot. We took our mugs out to the patio and listened as the birds chirped and the church bell rang and the world slept quietly at 5am.

I learned that morning (and many more to come) that early wake up calls accompanied by dear friends and strong coffee will never not be worth getting out of bed for. The moments when the world feels still, and you feel like you’re the only one lucky enough to be sitting in those quiet moments as you listen closely to the sound of rest. This morning, as I waited for the percolator to finish boiling, I thought about Satya and the countless 5am awakenings we built into our traveling routine. I felt nostalgic as I looked off the back porch and saw dark grey clouds rolling in. I found the video of Satya pouring the coffee into each of our mugs and laughing at the camera as he held his up with a loud ‘Cheers Shale! We’re drinking coffee in Germany! Who would have thought!’

Certainly not me, certainly not at 5am, I’ll tell you that much. No sunrise ever came, but I’m sure glad he woke me up. It was in that moment I realized Satya and I could have nothing more in common than similar mugs and a shared coffee taste in our mouths to see the same sunrise and witness the same majesty of earth waking up before our eyes. There was a shared understanding that, though our commonalities were few and far between, we could lock in on this one – a mutual appreciation for what we were hearing, what we were drinking, and who we were spending those sacred moments with. It was the 5am mornings that disassembled the walls and disarmed the dividers – they were the bridges that built commonalities, the spaces that invited conversation, and the catalyst for stimulated curiosity that would carry us through the days of traveling.

I’ve thought about that lesson over the years and incorporated it into my understanding of society and how we navigate relationships. I’ve thought about how little two people can have in common and yet find similarities in joys and sorrows or moments of clarity or moments of confusion. It’s shaped how I interact with those I sometimes chalk up to be ‘too different’ for me to find common ground with. Those moments determined how I would choose to move through new environments and enter into new spaces, relationally and geographically.

A couple years later I found myself in a similar boat with a girlfriend I met in Jackson, Wyoming. Her name was Lucy, and she was from New Zealand. I loved Lucy most for two reasons: 1. her accent and 2. her love for strong coffee. We met at a cafe called Picnic my second week in town. I had no friends at the time, so she quickly became my first when we began bonding over our shared reasoning for ending up in Jackson. We were both foreigners in unfamiliar  territory, moving to this snowy little mountain town alone, in hopes of spending endless days putzin around in the Teton Mountains.

Lucy and I became roommates and didn’t let much time pass before we began enjoying our morning coffee together on the regular. We would get up around 7am, take our sleeping bags out to the porch, and watch as the streets got busier as the hour unfolded. Our routine entailed a chemex first (usually 7am-7:15) then the percolator second (7:15-7:30). We would consume at least 3 cups each within the half hour. On days we were struggling to fully wake up, we’d make more. We would talk with neighbors as they strolled out to their cars to go to work. We would talk about our dreams from the night before, plan out days on the trails, and exchange any noteworthy findings from the books we’d be reading at the time.

I remember one morning we were sharing our chemex and Lucy said, “You know, coffee really is inconvenient. It’s messy, and it takes a long time to prepare and brew it. Then there’s the clean up. I guess you have to really love coffee to drink it as often as we do. It’s a whole process.”

That word stuck with me – inconvenient. I thought about how the majority of my favorite relationships were built around coffee – the crafting of it, the drinking of it, and the adoration of it. I thought to myself, “If this is inconvenient, then maybe the lesson is good things are often masked as inconvenient. More simply, sometimes good things just are inconvenient. Getting out of bed early to watch the world get painted gold by the sunshine is inconvenient. Finding local and fair trade beans that are fresh and high quality is inconvenient. Grinding the beans and transferring them into the filter of choice is messy. A screaming kettle when the hot water is boiling is certainly anything but an enjoyable sound. Dumping the used grounds is a hassle, if not emptied clean the first go around. Early conversations can sometimes feel like a chore.

But what about this word stuck with me? Perhaps inconvenience, boiled down, is a cumulation of the things that take our time and could be avoided by doing the same tasks in a more simple way. They are not grab-and-go type ordeals. It’s not instant coffee or surface level friendships – though both of those options are most always readily available. Good coffee – quality coffee, like good people – quality conversations, are worth getting messy for. As I continue learning more about what it means to pursue a career in community management, I recognize the time it will take the build trust with clients and other community managers. I acknowledge that community, like coffee, is a whole heck of a process built one step after another, only after the previous step is complete. But, like any seasoned coffee drinker who’s tasted the luxury of fine coffee and watched the process bottom up, we are acutely aware that the process makes or breaks the product. 

Both processes can look messy, they can feel messy, and they consume the hours of our day that aren’t retrievable. But these are the quality hours I will joyfully spend my days on. My community has been built on the messy grounds, and that’s where I intend to keep building it.

Both are worth getting out of bed for. They’re worth showing up for. Even if the sunrise never comes.

When I was a Sophomore in college, I spent a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. I was studying psychology and my school had a campus in Cape Town for psych students to participate in an internship-style learning experience for credits. I will never forget the words of my professor when we began working in our selected townships – towns literally formed from apartheid era consisting of 100% black and colored (yes – that is an accurate term in South Africa) people groups. We were warned about the tendency we might subconsciously have to act as the  “white savior complex” – essentially meaning “you will want to talk over and invalidate what is being said or communicated, but instead, validate pieces of information you find to match what you have already concluded going into this situation.”

He said this to me before I started my first day entering the township: “I know you are going to think you know what this community needs. You do not. You will need to step down, step aside, and let this community tell you what they need (*and it will not come from what they tell you is needed- you will know by what is not said, and by listening. It is not their responsibility to tell you, so you will have to listen more intently in other ways). This township has been dehumanized and brutalized by white people – you will be seen as a threat, as an ‘other’. You do not have their trust. You will need to earn that, and you will need to listen.

To understand a community, he was emphasizing, meant I would need to pick up on what is not being said, which means I better hone in without interrupting. How much more I learned to integrate into and understand this community after three months of observing and immersing. They became my people – my students would take me on walks around the block to point out their homes or where they checked out books from a library. The little girls I tutored would draw me pictures about their family living situation or lack there of. The teachers I was learning from would give me snippets of context about the education system dynamic I was working in. I was able to serve these students far better at the end of my time than I did at the beginning. No amount of classroom lecture time in LA could have taught me that lesson.

LexBlog shared a post today by Cordell Parvin. I clicked the link, read the post, and decided I enjoyed Cordell’s writing enough (short and simple posts) to continue into the archives of his other blog posts. I came across one, What Might Be the Most Important Skill to Develop? which quickly caught my attention. The most important skill to develop? Just in general? The most important skill to learn in relationships? And work? And in the classroom? If there’s one skill that’s worth mastering it’s this? Alright, I’ll take two minutes of my day to unlock the secret if it’s the most important skill out there.

Here’s my key takeaway –

A good lawyer listens and hears what is said. A great lawyer listens and hears what is said and is able to discern what isn’t said.

In my opinion, I think a good lawyer hears, listens, then discerns – in that order. I think a good human hears, listens, discerns – in that order. Not to play on words, but I do think there’s a specific order we subconsciously follow when we’re conversing with another. Whether it’s right or not, humans tend to be reactors. We hear, and we react. Whether that reaction be a simple statement back, an action follow-up, or an impulsive response, humans innately feel the knee-jerk reaction to fill the silence and impose answers, often times missing the meat of the message the other is trying to convey.

I do it constantly when dialoguing with friends, co-workers, family members, the cashier at the store, the nurse at the doctors’ office – I find myself hearing words that spill out of their mouth and quickly trying to muster up a response before they even finish their thought. The quicker I respond, the less silence there is to fill, the less awkward the interaction. Maybe, perhaps, we fill silence in a professional setting because we want to show we’re anticipating needs before they’re even conveyed. Maybe we rush to answers to show our expertise on the topic – exceptionally advanced in a subject, we don’t even take a split second to think about the ‘right’ answer.

It’s no wonder therapists listen much more than they talk to understand their client. I went to therapy twice and both times left frustrated that my therapist wasn’t giving me answers or solving my problems in the first two sessions. How could she when she didn’t have all the information necessary? Of course she wasn’t concluding answers off of two hour-long sessions, but my instant-gratification-loving self started to wonder how long she was going to let me talk before interjecting with a magic solution. Why does being a therapist feel sacred and unattainable for most? Let’s go one step further – why does being a therapist sound so miserable and heavy for most? Because the whole job is centered on listening well enough, intently enough, to be able to understand each patient for who they are in order to get to the source of the wound.

According to Stephanie Kirby

When a therapist doesn’t pay attention to your words and nonverbal communications, they decide for themselves what problems you need to address….A therapist who doesn’t listen may make guesses, but they’ll probably be wrong most of the time.

It’s also no wonder nurses and doctors ask so many questions and listen to a patient’s list of issues before giving a diagnosis. Dr. Read Pierce- VP of Strategy and Culture Transformation at the Institute for Healthcare Excellence  wrote this in his post on listening in the healthcare industry,

It’s no surprise that people go into medicine to care for others, not simply fix others’ problems.

Pierce emphasized throughout this post that failing to listen is failing to care for a patient well – misdiagnosis, negative side effects, and multiple trips back to the office are all results that could stem from a lack of listening to the needs of the patient.  This helped me understand that listening correlates with care, while speaking over and “showing authority” could portray a desire to fix (and won’t always fix it the first time, if at all). Doctors, nurses, therapists- they all have one thing in common; to understand the needs of their patients by hearing, listening, and discerning. Funny how, whether we’re seeing someone to heal and fix our bodies or seeing someone to heal and fix our minds, both professions default to the active skill of listening for highest quality results.

So how do lawyers and bloggers stack up in the rankings of listening and discerning? Well, good thing you asked. I did my homework. When I typed in the same question to google that I did about doctors and therapists, I found alarming results. “Get Better at Listening” “Learning to Listen” “Are We Hearing What They’re Saying?” were among the top results. So what’s the disconnect?

For starters, David Ward breaks it down for us to digest. In an attempt to answer the question he believes lawyers should be asking themselves more often, “do you talk too much?” he writes,

It could be because we were taught to be thorough, to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to persuade. I’m sure some lawyers want to impress people with the depth of their knowledge, the breadth of their experience, or the thoroughness of their research. Some want to display their intelligence. Some want to hide their shortcomings behind a wall of words.

Good food for thought as the legal industry continues to revolutionize to a more human-centered approach. My question of the week will remain “What am I doing to make others feel heard and, better yet, listened to?” When building community, it’s key to keep listening at the forefront. What does this community need? What do the individuals of this community need? What are they telling us and what are they not telling us, that we need to discern? Are we hearing the expertise and the suggestions people are sharing with us? Are there leaders within the community pulling others up and amplifying their voices?

These questions will be what shape our community. What questions will shape your community?

I’ve been thinking about the concept of Community as well as the types of communities there are. For example, how the community of a college is by and large, yet there are hundreds of majors to choose from, each with its own community of likeminded people with shared interest in studying the same field. Or the legal industry, for example, all falls under the larger “law” umbrella, but is studied through thousands of smaller, more niche practice areas. Or take the concept of religious people as a community- each community is broken down by religious groups – then broken down into smaller sub-groups of said religion, and only then are people unified and understand each other’s playing field, once they’ve boiled down exactly which group they most closely align with.

I’ve been spending time in the last few weeks contemplating what community is in light of my experience with it. I had to reach into the archives of the memory bank to think back to pivotal moments that forced me to need community-  the moments it wasn’t presented before me or available, but rather something I lacked and longed for.

The first example that came to mind was moving to Los Angeles when I was 18 to go to college. I was alone for the first time, peeling off from the community I had fostered for the previous 17+ years of my life. I had no idea what it was going to look like to actually have to work to find my people. My people had always been there, introduced to me by family friends or my older siblings’ friends. In high school, sports gave me my community. My older brother (the year above me) had given me my community. Community was inherently part of who I was, without realizing what a privilege it was to have.

Los Angeles was a rude awakening. Easy, in a sense, knowing I was joining forces with other scared college newbies in the same boat, leaving home to pursue education. A tad unsettling, on the other hand, that each new person I met, I was meeting without any context. Los Angeles was a quick reminder that I would either be as built up or broken down as the people I would surround myself with. The next four years would be a reflection on how far I’d grown based on the people I’d choose, and the shared experiences we’d have along the same. How steady that lesson has proven to be true over the years.

After college, I had set out on a cross-country bike trip with 3 other women peddling alongside me. They quickly became my people- the girls I changed flat tires with, shared meals with, and leaned on during 100 mile, 100 degree days. They were the girls who experienced the same roads and headwinds and highlights as I did – the girls who got burned by the same sun, had the same tan lines, and cursed as the same rolling hills through the midwest as I did. *Side note — anyone who tells you the midwest is flat LIED to you. If you don’t believe me, try biking it.*

Our biking community was taken in by strangers, hosted by other cyclists who heard about us coming through, and sought out by hotels and restaurants along the way, wanting to support us where they could. We leaned on the support of the biking community, previous cross-country cyclists with expertise we didn’t have, warm showers hosts who knew what it was like being a nomad on the road, and bike shops along the way who supported our mission.

After we ended the ride in New York City, I had no plan. I had a degree, a bike, a few suitcases of clothes, and a now expansive grasp on where in the US I could move. I’d seen a majority of the country, from the west to the east and everything in-between, so I h

ad options to sift through re: where I thought could best serve my next stage of life. I had enjoyed being outside 8-9 hours a day as life on the road presented us with, and having been in LA the last four years, I felt it was time to shake things. Two weeks after the ride, I packed up my car and  moved to a little mountain town we rode through, Jackson Hole. Knowing no one, I had my first taste of building a community from scratch. What would it look like to live in this mountain town and belong to this mountain town- to foster relationships and understand the culture and contribute to the make up of it’s society? I knew it would be hard work, but I was up for the challenge.

I applied for dozens of jobs within the first week. I figured if I failed, I would move back to Seattle to be with my family and try again. I landed a job the second day in town. I worked at a small cafe in the heart of downtown, with the plan of integrating myself with the locals + getting to know the regulars who lived close by. What a strategy that was.

I quickly befriended many of the Jackson dwellers, some who were former mayors, some who were business owners, some who showed me the best hidden-gem trails. I got to know them on a personal level- intimate details about their families, where they had come from, what they enjoyed doing on the weekends. It started by asking each and every regular their name. I figured if they knew I cared enough to know their name, and if I cared enough to memorize their drink, I had some skin in the game. And I wanted them to know me too. They would stand on the opposite side of the coffee bar and we would chat for the minute and thirty seconds it took me to pull their shots and steam the milk for their drink.

I worked at this cafe for six months before the business owner asked me to open a third cafe with her and manage the store. At the same time this opportunity was presented, a prominent member of the Jackson Real Estate community approached me and asked me to join his company as a guest relations specialist. He was a regular, and I loved having his daily coffee ready when he walked through the doors each morning. I would let him pay later if the line was long, and he became someone I would regularly swap backpacking stories with, as he loved the mountains as much as I did.

I took the job at his company after hearing the other employees were all 25-30 years old, and quickly growing in their careers. They were building out a name for themselves in Jackson as the most elite and talented real estate agency around. I didn’t fill out an application for the job, nor did I interview. Mekki knew my character and abilities from watching my interactions day in and day out. It didn’t matter whether I was qualified for the job, what mattered was how he saw me treat people. I worked hard to build a life for myself in Jackson – I worked hard to call people by their name, and be known by my community. I wanted to belong here, and I was willing to put up a fight to feel like I did.

I ended up working with Mekki and the Outpost team for the next eight months, growing the company from 80 properties, to 120 properties – 30 of which were luxury homes. We added a rental service into the company, a cleaning service, and 24/7 customer service. It was a grind. There were tears along the way when we would get client calls at 11pm, or have to cancel a hiking trip last minute to coordinate a homeowner arrival. What kept us going? Without a doubt – each other. Nothing like shared tears to tighten a bond.

I recently listened to an episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, a Donald Miller interview with Jim Deters, CEO of Gravity Haus. I was intrigued to listen when Miller summarized his findings on Gravity Haus as, “a community consisting of those who care about the planet and their personal growth.” Could it really be that simple? I thought. Is that really all it takes to make up a community this successful – just likeminded individuals who care about the planet and personal growth? Sounds like a community I want to be apart of. Why? Because those are two of my most fundamental core beliefs – to take care of our planet, to take care of myself. Why else? Because it sounds open, it sounds inviting. I wouldn’t be intimidated to join something I knew wanted me there.

So it got me thinking… how do all communities become that simple? In college, your community is shaped by the people you attend classes with, the people you go to the gym with, the people you find yourself hanging out in groups with on Saturday night. At work, your community is the people you rub shoulders with in an office space. More relevant- it’s the people you’re checking in on in a Monday morning zoom call, the people you’re grinding away with to meet deadlines, the people who care about the same projects as you. In the legal community, is it those in the same niche as you? Those who are practicing the same area of law and thus sharing experiences you’re going through as well? What would it look like to teach recent law graduates and young lawyers that to join this community, you just need to have an interest in other people’s wellbeing and your own wellbeing? That simple. That this community of young lawyers, entering into shares experiences and new starts, is going to be just that- a community. Where they can swap ideas, and share resources, and offer feedback and encouragement to their colleagues.

This community would consist of leaning into the conversations that other legal bloggers start, commenting and offering expertise, piping up when someone has a question. At LexBlog, I’ve been thinking about what communities would look like broken down by niche areas of the law- bankruptcy lawyers collaborating with other bankruptcy lawyers, and divorce lawyers collaborating with other divorce lawyers. Swapping stories, sharing resources, offering expertise in the area of law you know best and getting back to the basics of knowing each other’s names, spending a few minutes each week checking in on each other’s mental health, and using one another to network wider and deeper.

What purpose would community serve in the legal tech industry? What value would this add for lawyers and law firms at whole? Well, I think Stefanie Marrone nailed the hammer on the head when she wrote,

“Your goal is to keep in touch with your professional network and to provide information of value to them that enables you to showcase your expertise without being boastful or salesy.”

I needed my sports community in high school to teach me how I could become the captain of the tennis team. I needed my fellow student-peers in college to study with me, quiz me, and share their knowledge and me mine. I needed my community while I was riding to stick with me as I changed a flat, offer their tools to fix my handlebars when I’d fall, and research our route daily to avoid closed roads and dead ends. I needed my community in Jackson so I could learn to make a home for myself personally, asking for locals advice on best-kept secrets around town as well as professionally, to grow a company I believed in and wanted to see flourish. That is what community does – it lets those with the most knowledge and those with little knowledge dine at the same table and equalize the playing field so at the end of a meal, both parties walk away more informed, more heard, and more compassionate for the people they’re sitting with.

Paige, helping change my first flat. Somewhere in Nebraska.

Jim Deeters said it best “We didn’t want this to be a club, we want this to be a community, an anti-club if you will, because as soon as you say the word club, it invokes exclusivity. We want to be inclusive.”

The legal tech community? It’s not a club. There is no room for exclusivity. If you don’t believe me- ask what my major was. Sure as heck wasn’t law. Or tech. And yet, I found myself a seat at the table.


All my life, I’ve leaned heavily on the extrovert side of the scale. My identity has been built up on the communities I’ve found myself in. Whether that be running cross country in high school, leading our tennis team, tutoring ESL students, participating in countless church groups or weaving myself into tight-knit friend packs wherever I found myself. In fact, in high school, I received the “everyone’s best friend” nomination for senior awards and my face will forever be imprinted in our school yearbook, hugging (probably suffocating) my lifelong best friend, Satya.

Satya was a refugee from Bhutan and had made his way to the states with his family our Sophomore year of high school after seeking asylum from political warfare in his camp. After a few days of resettling in Spokane, Washington, I quickly befriended Satya in Spanish class when he sat in the chair behind me and hardly spoke a word to anyone. In a predominantly white school, with 100% english speaking white friends, Satya was a mystery that I wanted to learn more about. Hardly speaking the language, and having no friends, I turned around and sparked a conversation. He was soft, gentle, shy – kind of everything I wasn’t. He oozed of kindness and curiosity. 

Fast forward 10 years and we’re still dear friends. We take international trips together, embark on precariously long walks around the city for hours, and have spent many evenings cooking meals together. For 10 years, I’ve watched Satya dig his roots deep in his community – tutoring refugees in school, paying his parent’s bills, putting himself through a four-year university, building an engineering start-up in downtown Seattle, and most importantly, nurturing a loyal community of people who have faithfully believed in & supported him along the way. 

I remember when Satya and I linked up in the UK after I had spent a semester in South Africa and he in Florence, Italy. We met in Heathrow and joyfully embraced, suitcases in hand, after having been apart for about six months. Seeing his frail body and banana smile run through the airport was one of the more memorable moments I had experienced in a friendship. We gabbed for hours in the airport with our flat whites, catching up on our semesters abroad before we decided to catch our train. Satya had family friends in Oxford that we were going to stay with for a few nights.

On our way to their house, he told me about how Rachel and her family had been advocates for his family to find refuge in the states during their most trying days of fleeing Bhutan. He told me stories about how his mother was championing for women’s rights and being sought after from political rebels. Rachel spent countless nights at the embassy speaking on behalf of the Dhital family to secure a safe living situation, the possibility of education, and the promise that Satya and his sister could one day be apart of a working-class society. We spent a week with Rachel’s family, and I quickly learned why, after many years passed, Satya still traveled great distances to be with her.

We stayed with two more families who had similar relationships with Satya and I was beginning to recognize a common trend: Satya belonged. He was fought for. He had come from a long line of dreamers and believers who supported him, stood in his corner, and stuck around long enough to unpack the potential they saw in him. The catch? They were all thousands of miles across the world from Satya. “How do they maintain these tight-knit relationships? How do they pick up right where they left off after not seeing each other for months, years?” I thought to myself.

Satya knew how to water the root system of his community that defined who he was. He informed me he would regularly stay in touch with these families in the States via Skype or writing letters (before FaceTime was really a thing). It’s one thing to be “everybody’s best friend” when you’re all in the same stage of life, going through the same motions, and experiencing similar 9-5 days. It’s a whole other thing to deepen relationships with a community of people around the world, over a screen, where intentional participation in the conversation is the only option for success. One common unifier in Satya’s community? They all looked out for each other. They believed that each human and family within their community was valued and worth championing for.

I learned a great deal more than how to navigate the transit system or find the best pain au chocolat on that trip. Satya and his refugee-seeking, justice-fighting, equality-demanding community gave me a taste of the power to be found in connectedness. Not only in proximity, but over a mutual interest to see a dream, vision, or idea come to fruition. His people believed in his basic right for a safe future, and they promised to see the fight through until that was secured.

I’m learning, in my career, that the leaders I most look up to share common ideologies as me. The companies I follow, the influencers I keep tabs on, and the businesses I most care to see succeed are the ones that are investing in people being for people. It’s why I chose to ride my bicycle across the country to raise money for charity:water. It’s why I chose to bridge gaps between companies in a co-working space. And now, why I wanted to advance community building in a legal tech company- because my fundamental belief that humans will always be each other’s greatest tool for success stands true. People being for people, advocating for and amplifying the voices of one another, that will always be our most valuable asset.

This is why I started this blog. I want to write about the stories of women in legal tech amplifying the work of one another. I want to create a space for conversation, listening, and active engagement of new bloggers (because I am one of those new bloggers who also craves that space, so why not create it?) I want to see, in the midst of a global pandemic and social reform movement taking place, a community that thrives and digs deep roots, investing in one another’s work and leaning on the expertise of others for understanding around topics otherwise unexplored.

I want to be an advocate for other women who think they are under-qualified for the job but choose to take it anyways. It’s for people like Kevin, who started a blog on blogging, though he had never blogged before. It’s for the people like Satya, who started a community as a displaced Bhutanese refugee. It’s for the English majors who studied creative writing but ended up in the Legal Tech world and are hungry to see people show up and build up. Displaced, under-qualified, and curious about similar subject matters.

This blog will be a space to share and contribute to the conversation through screens and posts rather than in person conferences and gatherings. Bear with me as I figure it out.

What do you do when someone asks you to do something you have no idea how to do? I got a text from the CEO of the company I work for asking me if I had set up a personal blog yet. Two months into a new job (working fully remote, adjusting to a global pandemic in the midst of a civil right/ social change movement, having no direct manager, in an industry that couldn’t be further from what I studied in school) and I am finally starting to understand what it is I’m being asked to do.

Our conversation went something like this,

“Have you set your blog up yet?”- Kevin

“I set it up, but I haven’t written any content in it yet.” -Me

“Can you start posting within days? What’s stopping you?” He asked back.

*pause to catch my breath as I, for the millionth time in this job, feel like I am keeping one eye above water while the rest of my frantically tries to stay afloat while I keep hitting white waters*

“I guess that I don’t feel I have enough content to contribute a whole blog to. Or that I have any expertise on one particular subject.” I hesitantly replied.

“What is enough content? You read something, share it, and say why you shared it/your take. I had zero expertise on blogging – absolutely none – when I started my blog about blogging. We are asking people to blog, including law students, who have no expertise on the subject they’ll blog about. We have a community of people afraid of blogging, and we’re telling them it’s not that hard, you can do it. But our community leader fears blogging so much, she is not going to blog.”

I recollect myself, questioned how in the world I was going to make this work, or where to start, or how big of a fail it would be, and then started typing. I didn’t even reply to Kevin. I just thought, in the off- chance he was right, and fear was the only thing holding me back from blogging, I wouldn’t continue to live paralyzed in that space. I was invited into the space of a Community Manager because Kevin saw something in me that he believed had the ability and the tenacity to lead a community with. I want him to be right about that.

I am the Community Manager at a Legal Technology company who is set on creating a legal blogging community that is vibrant and helpful, challenged and innovative, and who finds excitement in seeing one another succeed. I am passionate about seeing communities form, engage, and banter over matters each individual community member is passionate about. It isn’t my job to be the best blogger on the web, or to have all technicalities down to a tee within the first six months. But it is my job to foster a community of legal bloggers who is scared to try and does it anyways. It is my job to foster a community of legal bloggers who feel like they are part of something bigger than their firm, or their specific practice, or their city. It is my job to walk along side those who feel under-qualified and underprepared and say, “Yeah, I was there too. You just have to do it. You just have to start, ready or not.”

I was right to think  I really don’t know how to blog. I don’t know how to talk legal tech. I am not an expert in adding images into my posts or using tags and categories and widgets. I don’t expect that out of myself- not yet anyways. Eventually? Sure. I hope so. I hope the more I practice blogging, and the more I understand what it means to drive a community, with a community, I’ll master this job. But for today, I’ll let this post be enough. This will be my win.