Meet Joyce, a legal technologist who is on a mission to change the way the legal profession approaches problem solving

Name:  Joyce Raby 

Location:  Almont, Colorado . . . Joyce lives with her husband Joel in a cozy cabin nestled between a river and mountains. To answer your question, yes, it is absolutely as magical as it sounds. I’ve seen it in person!

What do you do and what does a typical day look like for you?

Well, I am currently in a mini-retirement, but even during this time, I need some structure. Otherwise, I’ll end up sitting on the couch and eating popcorn all day (lol).  I typically get up between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  I’ve revisited The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and have been working my way through it again.  It talks about how creativity gets trained out of us and the author offers a couple of basic strategies for cultivating creativity.  One of the strategies is called “morning pages” which is a daily activity where you write three streams of consciousness pages in the morning. While the goal for many people using this approach is to create some sort of art, I’m using this process to think about what I want to do next.  I poured a lot of physical and emotional energy into my last job at the Florida Justice Technology Center and I need time to refill the well.  So that’s how I start my day.  I wake up, get my coffee, and then start my entry for the day.

I then check email, read or do something work related, and occasionally look for jobs until about 10:00 a.m.  For example, I read Jason Tashea‘s JusticeTech Download every Monday.  I then go ride a bike or hike or some combination thereof for a couple of hours and then I come back and shower and eat.  For lunch, I get to eat whatever I want so it’s the fun meal of the day????  My morning meal tends to be greens and dinner is usually a healthy meal, but there are no rules for lunch. And then I try to spend some timing reading and being creative.  Sometimes it’s doing puzzles.  Sometimes it’s coloring in adult coloring books.  Sometimes it’s reading silly novels.  Or maybe I’ll bake bread or make a new dish!  Have you seen Pasta Grannies?!  I then go to bed early, usually around 8:00 p.m.  I like getting nine hours of sleep.  I was probably a dairymaid or donut maker in a previous life.

Joyce and I then discussed the benefits of having a daily task list in addition to an everything task list, which is what I use right now.  Joyce recommends keeping the daily task list to just a couple of items that must be done that day and creating it at the end of the previous workday.  She recommends this approach to break the habit of feeling like the work is never ending (my issue).  I’m going to give it a try!

What inspired you to join the legal profession? 

It was a confluence of two things.  First, I was living in Houston where my family is and I really wanted to move out of Texas.  I looked at a map and wanted to move to Washington State or Maine because they were the two states in the lower 48 states that were furthest from Texas.

At the same time, I was working in tech.  I had worked in a variety of capacities and the problem that I kept running into is that I didn’t care.  I felt like I was solving the same problem – helping people print or use a mouse – over and over again every day.  And I just couldn’t take it anymore. 

So I started applying for jobs in WA and ME and got a call back from the Washington State Bar Association for a new position for a technologist in their access to justice department.  And I got two sentences into the discussion and I knew that the job and access to justice mission was something I could get excited about.  I was offered the job and moved to Seattle.  I worked with all the local legal aid organizations and pro bono programs and got them all set up on the same software so they could talk to each other and aggregate data so that we could develop a picture of the state’s legal needs.  It was awesome and I was hooked!  I was now adding to the good instead of being a passive consumer.

How do you define success?

Being able to do whatever I want.  And it’s not that I want to run amok and stay out all night.  When I say that I want to be able to do whatever I want to do, it’s more about freedom; being able to use my time in what I consider a worthwhile way.  I want to live such that I can contribute to making the world a better place but also work on my health, my family, my own goals and aspirations as well.

What’s been the greatest challenge on your path and how did you work through it? 

I think I’m still struggling with the greatest challenge, which is to try to figure out how to communicate to lawyers that their basic strategy for how they are solve problems is fundamentally flawed.  There seems to be an incentive in trade protectionism, and how lawyers brains are programmed to work and the way they’ve been trained to think and the adversarial model that our justice system is based on, I think the biggest challenge is to continue to try to convince people that there is another model.  And to get people to understand that when it goes against their mental structure but also against their financial best interests, I don’t know . . . I keep trying to demo how it works and people keep finding ways to kill it, and I haven’t found a way to solve that.  [Note: Joyce and I began our offline discussion that day talking about the sunset of Washington’s Limited Licensed Legal Technician program and our mutual frustration for the lack of iterative problem solving within the legal profession.]

What has been your proudest moment professionally?

When I won the Paul Chapman Award last year.  It’s given by the Foundation for the Improvement of Justice and I received it for the work that the Florida Justice Technology Center (FJTC) had done.  And it was at a moment when the Florida Bar Foundation had made the decision to no longer fund FJTC and to move everything inhouse.  And that is my fundamental problem in the access to justice movement.  I was receiving this incredible award at the exact same time that the Florida Bar Foundation was asking us to dismantle the organization.  I feel like this happens over and over again in this community.  We find a really powerful thing that’s working and then defund it or change funding priorities.  And these boards are solely comprised of lawyers.  No technologists are involved.  It’s just bizarre.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Running around and being 12 is the short answer.  Riding my bike, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding . . . just playing outside and doing things.

What’s your go-to wellbeing activity?

Being outside!  Sometimes in solitude, sometimes with others.  When on my own, I usually have great insights, especially during hikes.  When I need to give my brain a rest and I can’t think about anything else thought, I do stand-up paddle boarding on a river or horseback riding.

The best book you’ve read or podcast you’ve listened to recently? 

Okay, I’m going to out Scott Kelly here.  He and I share a love for science fiction, and when I started my mini-retirement in March, he and I were talking and he introduced me to the 18-book Vorkosigan series.  It’s very, very good.

What is one thing about you that you think people would be surprised to learn?

I don’t really have anything – I feel like I am pretty much an open book.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the legal profession, what would it be?

I would make it much less risk adverse and give it a strong dose of let’s try it and see and then learn.

What is one new thing you are hoping to learn from others in this community?

Continuing on this idea of how do we learn to work together in a non-adversarial model, how do we create a safe psychological space to be creative and try new things?  And I think you learn how to do that by just doing it.  So in some ways, I use OPLN to float ideas or to say something that I might not share in other contexts because I have a sense that the community is respectful of differences in the event that community members don’t agree with my idea.

And what is one thing you are looking to share with others in this community?

My perspective on how to solve problems; the whole “let’s be less risk adverse” thing.