What We Can’t Stop Thinking About From This Year

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Episode Description

We’re looking back on the last year and some of the most impactful books, articles, and other resources we used. 

Lauren discusses the best book she read this year that explores how everyone has untapped talents and abilities that can be cultivated in the right environment and how the legal profession can better support all of us. She also talks about using the Enneagram to cultivate greater compassion professionally and personally.

Jess highlights an article on the legal accessibility challenges rural communities face. She explains the intersection of geography, technology, and other barriers that prevent equal access to justice based on where someone lives. Jess also shares the team communication platform she’s been using to cut down on email.

Finally, Jess provides a sneak peek of an exciting new project launching in 2024 – the Above the Line Network. This community of legal professionals across North America will focus on improving legal services for the underserved middle class. 

Listen now!

Episode Resources

Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things by Adam Grant

A Mountain to Climb, the Accessibility of Rural Courts 

The Enneagram Journey with Susanne Stabile podcast 


Above the Line Network

Episode Transcript 

LAUREN: [00:00:00] 17, 000 a year to 141, 000 for a single person. 141, 000 is a damn good income, and those people cannot afford legal services. That’s the problem.

Welcome to A Different Practice. We’re your hosts, Lauren Lester and Jess Bednarz, and we’re obsessed with all things business, well being, and optimizing the practice of law for solo and small firm lawyers.

Lauren started her solo practice right out of law school, built it from the ground up, and now works for Four days a week while earning well over six figures just approaches the profession as a whole to identify opportunities for growth and help implement systemic improvements. We’re here to share tangible, concrete tools and resources for ditching the legal profession’s antiquated approach, and building a law practice optimized for growth and enjoyment.

Think of this as grabbing coffee with your work besties, mixed with all the stuff they didn’t teach you in law school about how to run a business. Pull up a seat, grab a cup, and get ready to be [00:01:00] encouraged and challenged. This is a different practice. Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of A Different Practice.

We’re excited to share with you today, as the year wraps up, kind of taking a look back at the books or podcasts or presentations or articles or just anything that we consumed. During the year that we thought were really impactful or thought provoking, inspiring, just go things that we haven’t stopped thinking about, or has given us maybe some inspiration for how we want to move forward or incorporate it into our daily lives.

So we’re going to share some of those things. Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration from them. If there are things you haven’t checked out, we will certainly have all of the links in the show notes. So if something really resonates with you, be sure to grab it, maybe over the holidays, check it out and get ready for the new year.

If I’m okay to start Jess, because. Of course, one of my things is [00:02:00] a book.

JESS: Of course it is. Which one of the 30 books that you read last year is it?

LAUREN: It was really hard, honestly, to narrow it down. And I tried to think of what would be most helpful to the audience. Because I certainly have other books that I actually would put above this one in just my books of the year.

But they came from a different lens, like they’re a little bit more personal or like interpersonal relationships. And I thought, you know, some people may be like, this is not the podcast for that. Like we’re trying to run law firms here. So I picked one that is definitely in probably my top five, but is a little bit more easily able to be incorporated into running a law firm.

So the book that I and honestly have not stopped thinking about I read this recently, I took an actual vacation, which for folks who have kids understand that means my kids were not with me. It wasn’t a trip. It was a real vacation to Boston with my best dearest friend from law school. And I [00:03:00] bought this the day before I left.

And we were there for a weekend. And I read it By the time I got home. So it’s a really easy reads really love the author read several of his books at this point, but it is hidden potential the science of achieving greater things by Adam Grant, who I know you’re familiar with. Yeah, definitely.

JESS: This is on my list of books to read.

So how was it?

LAUREN: It’s really good. It’s a super easy read, but it’s really chock full of science and real stories. And so his science. Theory of this book is we live in a world that is very obsessed with talent. Like LeBron James is phenomenal at playing basketball and Bill Gates is phenomenal at creating technology with Microsoft, right?

You can name kind of those people. But we really seem to only celebrate kids who are naturally talented, like you just go, Wow, that that kid’s really good at piano. Let’s pour all of our resources into [00:04:00] him. Whereas you might have had other kids who were also going to be great at piano, but because they don’t have like that flash in the pan initially, they get overlooked.

And so his theory of the book is potential isn’t all of us. And we all have hidden potential. And we can actually create kind of a framework for bringing it out, which I thought was really interesting because I certainly grew up in the mindset and of the societal thoughts of that kid is just innately a prodigy.

And I’m not like that. Just I didn’t get those gifts and I have other gifts, but I don’t have that potential in that way. So I really loved that different mindset shift of no, actually, we all have potential in us, but we have to create the environment around it. And it’s not a flash in the pan situation.

It’s actually something that’s cultivated and grown. So he has three sections in the book that he divides it up into, but he starts in the [00:05:00] prologue with this fantastic story about these kids who play chess and they are not the kids you would think would be at the chess tournament. Like they’re kids of color, they’re not the white prep school, private school kids.

Who are traditionally at chess tournaments. There’s just a guy who really loves chess and he started teaching at the school and so taught his students how to play chess and they were certainly like the, the underdog of underdogs when they showed up to this chess tournament, laughed out like what are these kids doing here like they’re not going to do anything.

And he tells this fantastic story about how they actually were really successful. And it’s not because they were prodigies that. We’re necessarily untapped, but because the teacher created this system around them to really let their potential shine so that like three pages in, I love a good underdog achievement story.

I was like, I’m in Adam Grant. I don’t know what you’re gonna say the rest of this book, [00:06:00] but I’m in. And so, yeah, he has some really great. Stories in here. And so the three sections are the skills of character getting better at getting better. So he talks a lot about if we want to grow our potential and have it come to fruition, we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and like learning because again, we’re not all Mozart’s.

We’re like, we just sit down at a piano and it comes to us like we have to work at it. He talks about a great story about folks who are polyglots, who are people who understand like several languages, and they’re not naturally gifted at it. The people that he interviewed failed their Spanish class. So these aren’t people who like, just have that ability, but talks about how they got to that place and, and really absorbing information, finding, he calls it the imperfectionist, finding the sweet spot between flawed and flawless.

So again, just sort of embracing the learning culture and being crappy at something to be able to find your passion and [00:07:00] then have your potential come out. The second section that he goes through is the structures for motivation, which I found most interesting because it was like, how do you create a scaffolding around yourself or around people that you’re trying to help them see their best?

Potential. And again, it’s not just like an innate thing. Like there are actually routines that you can put in place. And he talks about that, like a daily grind, like doing something every day to work towards your potential and getting unstuck. And then the last section. Which is really interesting kind of from a that you would probably like just the most is just from a macro level in terms of the systems of opportunity and how schools in particular are failing average kids because they don’t walk in with genius level intelligence.

And so again, the resources are put all towards those gifted kids, right? They get to go in the special class and all the rest of us sit in regular class, but that [00:08:00] class has just as many kids with potential as the kids who are labeled gifted. So he kind of goes through like, how can our education system be better at supporting all kids?

And he has a great line in the very beginning of the book that says, although talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. And I like that thought of like, this isn’t all of us and we can all cultivate this and we can all help others cultivate potential, but we really have to look at the system that we are in.

And is that actually supporting everyone? Or is it supporting a chosen few?

JESS: Interesting, as you’re talking about this, and I love a good framework. And it just makes it so much easier to understand how to apply it, I guess, to what we do as individuals and just within the profession. And so I’m thinking of different Ways this might show up in the profession.

I don’t know. How do you think it looks? I obviously legal education came to mind. I’m also just thinking after we graduate from law school, how we train [00:09:00] lawyers, do we provide everyone the same opportunities? What do you think that looks like?

LAUREN: I certainly was thinking a lot about law school and the structure of ranking students.

And if you’re in the top 5%, you’re going this way and people are looking at you. But if you’re in the bottom 30%, I don’t know. Good luck. I mean, I don’t, I don’t know what they say to those students. Like, good luck. We hope. We hope we see you on the other side. I think that is one of those inherent structures that Adam Grant kind of talks about that is not helpful because if you have 150 kids in a law school class, yes, there’s going to be those who are just phenomenal at.

Law school and can argue everything and understand Iraq from day one, but the rest of us in that big pool have other hidden potentials that are just not cultivated because they’re not the norm. So, yeah, I think law school does fail in that way, because if you’re not in that top 10%, you kind of feel like I’m not going to be that great of a lawyer [00:10:00] and.

That’s not true. As we’ve seen it out in the profession, there are folks who are phenomenal at what they do, and they probably weren’t in that top 10%.

JESS: Yeah, no, I think you’re exactly right. That really resonates with me. And I think. I think all law school professors and people running law schools would really benefit from reading the book.

Okay. I’m excited to check it out. All right. I’m going to move on to a resource on my list. And so those of you who know me very well know I, I suck at reading books. I just, it’s really difficult for me to get through a book for a variety of reasons. So I will not have any books on my list, sadly. But the first resource I have on my list is an article that came out through law 360.

Just a few weeks ago, I think December 1st was the publication date. And the title of the article was a mountain to climb the accessibility of rural courts. What this article focuses on is it first talks about kind [00:11:00] of the headline that kicked it off was that Congress passed a bill that would add to federal court locations, courthouse locations in rural parts of Texas and Washington state.

And so immediately for me, I was like, wow, do we not have enough? I mean, I know we have rural deserts for sure. And wow, we’re actually adding adding physical like. Courthouses. I mean, that’s good. Maybe people have to drive shorter distances, but interesting solution. And then they immediately talk about how experts say that we already have enough federal courthouses.

It’s getting to them that’s the problem, which that makes sense to me and those two ideas seem connected. And then it just kind of goes through and talks about the issues that people living in rural communities face. And what I love about this article is it just really painted a very clear picture. I’m sure as I talked about this topic, people had an initial view in their minds, but I think this just really crystallized it for me.

So they’re talking about the long distances. And so, yeah, a lot [00:12:00] of people have to drive at least an hour, if not more, to get to a federal courthouse. And the distance is then complicated by things like the cost of gas. And while the cost of gas has gone down, thankfully, I think across the country in places like Washington and California, there are certain states where the cost of gas is just always high or higher than in other parts of the state.

So it costs a lot of money to drive long distances to get to a courthouse. And then that’s paired with lack of public transportation in a lot of these places. It’s just very minimal or non existent. And then there’s the geography itself. Driving an hour, an hour and a half just down like a flat highway is one thing, but They’re talking about a lot of these areas and specifically in Washington, they give an example where for a lot of people to get to the closest federal courthouse, they actually have to drive over the highest mountain pass in the state.

And so that’s pretty different. That adds a lot of stress. That’s just a more dangerous driving situation. When you pair that with potential weather, it [00:13:00] snows in Washington. So now try think about having to drive over that pass if it’s even open when the weather is really bad and Then they talked about kind of a side issue with jury trials.

So like, if you want to have a jury trial, for example, and that courthouse in the winter, it’s really tricky because you got to make sure you have enough people there. So they, they send those requests out to a larger population just to make sure they end up with enough people. In the end, and then they add on wildlife, which we live in Colorado.

This is not surprising to me, but if you live in New York, you might not think about these things like so, you know, when you’re driving in some of these more rural areas, and there’s a moose in the middle of the road. Hopefully you don’t hit it. But you might, and then also you might have to wait for the booths to move, whatever.

So it’s really just difficult to get to a federal courthouse. And just having those stories, I think, really illustrated the difficulty to me. And then they talked about, okay, well, maybe these folks, they could hire a local attorney to handle these [00:14:00] cases instead. And sure, they could do that. But again, because of the difficulty in getting to the courthouse, then the cost of hiring that attorney is higher because those attorneys then have to spend that time to actually get to the courthouse.

And so they still kind of bear that burden that way. And then they talked about how the courthouses themselves sadly are breaking down. So. I’m sure many of you have seen some of these courthouses. They were built a long time ago. They’re beautiful, but they have a lot of issues. 1, they’re not accessible because they were built in a different time.

And then also, at this point, I’m not sure that we’ve been keeping them up. And so they’re kind of breaking down. I’m sure there’s discussion. It doesn’t make more sense to. Add more, refurbish them, or do we move to a different model? And the article didn’t really discuss that, but it does make you kind of think about those things.

And so here is the point where most people would say, well, this is where technology and remote hearings come in, right? This is the perfect solution to this problem. The thing is, is that people living in these more rural [00:15:00] areas, a lot of these areas don’t actually have broadband access. So they can’t actually access court using technology.

And then even if they do, a lot of times it’s really expensive, like more expensive than it is in cities and more urban areas. And so I think the assumption is that everyone has access to the internet and that’s not actually the case. And so they’re, they decided some research that bears this and talking about how also most self represented litigants, so people end up coming court and representing themselves, would actually like to come to a courthouse if they could, because they really want to access.

the resources that the courthouse has and talk to human beings. I think they called it the big lie that technology would be this solution, but for many reasons it’s not. And so how do we serve people living in more rural areas? And I thought this was a good topic or at least point to bring up on this podcast.

Cause we may have some listeners who want to serve people in more rural areas, or maybe you live in more rural areas and hearing this and hopefully this [00:16:00] resonates but if you want to serve people in these areas. Just thinking about how best to do that and not making assumptions that a lot of us have made, I think, along the way that these people will have access to technology.

And so, how can you connect with them? How can you be accessible to them? Asking some questions up front and making sure you understand. What they have and what they don’t have so that you can figure out how to best communicate with them and represent them. I just thought it was really interesting. It’s a really complex issue.

I don’t have any suggestions beyond this, but really the reason I brought it up is just don’t make assumptions and just really try to understand where your clients are at and try to meet them where they’re at as best as you can.

LAUREN: That’s a big takeaway that I feel like we talk about this issue and I’m guilty of this from a urban center.

We all get around in a big fancy office and we sit around a conference table and we say, yes, people who are in more rural parts of our state or the country need to have better access to justice. [00:17:00] How do we do that? And we make huge assumptions. And I hope That the shift will be to actually talk to those folks.

Cause I think getting their perspective and what they actually need is going to be the best way to move forward. I feel like here in Colorado, we’ve talked about this for at least half a decade, if not more that I’ve been here. And I’m sure it’s been longer than that. I feel like we’re still talking about it and there’s not been a lot of progress.

And I wonder if that’s because it’s a bunch of people sitting in an urban center talking about it. Like we actually need to go to these places. And talk to these people who live there and say, what is the issue? Like, what are the 12 issues that stack up to make it really difficult for you to get to court or find a lawyer or get the representation that you need and actually address those rather than assuming we know the problem and then trying to come up with a solution that is maybe not even a problem they have.

JESS: Yeah, I think that’s a really good [00:18:00] point. And there is research on this issue. I don’t know if there’s research specifically with respect to Colorado. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was, but there is, there are many researchers across the country who research this specific issue. And I think a lot of times Some of the challenges are the people in these groups discussing these issues aren’t aware of the research and just starting with the research would be a really good starting spot.

LAUREN: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m going to assume, speaking of assumptions, hopefully not wrongly, that this is focused on federal courts. But my guess would be that this same idea and principles translates to state courts as well. There’s definitely self represented litigants and federal court, but a majority of them are in the state courts.

I’m going to guess that there’s not a specialness to federal court, that these same issues aren’t the exact same things that self represented litigants in state court also face.

JESS: Yeah, I think, I think you’re exactly right. I don’t know [00:19:00] the numbers of federal courts versus state courts. I would imagine there were fewer federal courts, although I could be wrong about that.

But yeah, I think all of these same ideas and challenges still apply, sadly, kind of a downer, sorry, downer resource.

LAUREN: But like such an important one. I mean, we can’t bury our head in the sand because it’s a really complicated, tough problem. It’s not, there’s not going to be a silver bullet to it. I mean, again, we probably all naively thought, Oh, great.

We’ll just do remote hearings and that’ll fix it. And that’s not going to fix it, though. I think that it’s still an important issue to constantly bring up, even though it makes us uncomfortable and it’s hard. And it’s tricky to figure out because if we don’t, we’re never going to address it.

JESS: And I don’t want anyone to leave this conversation with the takeaway that we should no longer do remote hearings because they are helpful in, especially in urban areas and more urban surrounding areas.

I think it has been helpful to self represent [00:20:00] litigants and attorneys and brought the cost of delivering legal services down. It’s just not a solution that works for everyone.

LAUREN: My other resource that I have constantly come back to this year, and again, you can see where. My focus this year was definitely as I look back on a more like personal level than a business level, but this resource has been so helpful in business because we deal with people, whether it’s in a personal setting, going out to dinner, or you’re talking to a client or an opposing counsel or a judge or whomever, we’re still dealing with people.

And so earlier this year, I came back across the Enneagram, which is a. I don’t really want to call it a personality thing. It’s a system of identifying nine different types of people and how they all view the world and interact with the world. And the goal that I really do think the [00:21:00] Enneagram’s purpose is, is for all of us to be more compassionate, not only to ourselves, but to others.

And this is more of an ancient approach to differences in people. It’s been around for thousands of years, but I happen to be listening to a podcast at the gym. And a woman named Suzanne Stabile was on and she is affectionately called the godmother of the Enneagram and she’s written several books on it.

And so she was being interviewed and I hadn’t really thought about the Enneagram in a couple of years, but she is amazing. I just like want to have tea with her. She’s just such a. Sweet Southern lady who lives in Texas, and she’s really funny. So she was going through the nine different numbers and how they show up in the world and what their biggest challenges and how they can, if they’re unhealthy, show up and What some of the things if you identify as that number to work on to be a more healthy, whole version of yourself.

So once I heard from her, I thought, Oh God, this is really resonating with [00:22:00] me and really helpful. And so then I went down the rabbit hole. She has her own podcast, which is called the Enneagram Journey with Suzanne Stabile. And I started listening to that. The episodes that I like the most are the ones where she does Q& A or she gives a little bit more of the structure of the Enneagram.

So she’ll talk about like the repressed centers or centers of intelligence or the dependent stances. And so if you get into it, this will all make sense, but they’re the most helpful. She also has a bunch of episodes with interviews with folks of different numbers, which I think are interesting. But for me, Her just explaining the structure and the system of the Enneagram has been so helpful to just understand people more and come to a relationship with more compassion.

So I have used it with clients who I’m talking to, and I’m thinking, gosh, you know, this person really sounds like an eight and I know where they’re coming from. I know that they sound angry. I just had a call with a client the other day who apologized [00:23:00] because he’s very intense and he talks in a very intense way.

And if you don’t know, he just sounds angry. And I thought for a split second, like, is he mad at me? Like, what, what did I do? And at the end of the conversation, he said, you know, I’m sorry if I just come off a bit aggressive, like I’m not mad. I’m just sort of an intense person. And I have no idea what His Enneagram number would be, but you can kind of start to see patterns.

And I just thought, okay, I don’t need to take this personally, which is. What I probably would have done in the past. This is just how he is and that’s how he communicates. He’s just a person who’s very intense and you have to kind of love that about him. And then I know in communicating with him, that’s where he’s coming from.

And so I’ve done it with clients just to kind of get on a more compassionate understanding place with them. I’ve certainly done it with opposing counsel where I can kind of pick up pieces because that for me in particular. can feel very much like a personal attack. Sometimes the way that we talk to one another, unfortunately.

And so if I can use this structure again, just to [00:24:00] say, well, if they’re this number, then they see the world through this lens, which is very different than how I see the world, but I can understand where they’re coming from. And it is not a personal thing against me. It’s just, they see it through a blue lens and I see it through a green lens.

So we’ve got to work together to find some common ground. It’s just been really Helpful. So if anyone is interested in just kind of understanding yourself better and other people better, I’ve certainly used it in my personal life in many ways. My husband and I have really talked about it a lot this year and and gotten better connected and understanding of each other.

And we’ve been together. Nearly two decades. We’ve understood our kids a little bit more. I mean, it just really is such a fantastic tool, but I think you can incorporate it into your professional life because we work with people like we’re a profession of people. And it just helps us be a little bit more compassionate.

with each other. And I think now more than ever, in a lot of ways, we really need that.

JESS: I’m curious if, [00:25:00] as you’ve been listening to the podcast, reading the books, et cetera, if one way of describing the tool is, or if a use of it is to help develop empathy, because that’s kind of the biggest takeaway that I’ve gotten listening to you talk about it.

I’m super interested in it as well. And it has done the same thing for me, helped me It’s helped me understand individuals, but I think at its core, what it really helps me do is just understand the different perspectives and like the example you gave when someone’s mad at you. What are the different reasons this person could be mad?

Like, is it me or is it this is how they are or, you know, a personality thing, whatever, just trying to open up the possibilities of why something might be happening or why someone might be. The way they are. And I think that’s so important. And we’ll just help all of us develop businesses, personal relationships, et cetera.

It’s, it’s huge. And it’s super interesting. I love the nerd out on the enneagram.

LAUREN: Yeah, it’s, it’s really complex. It’s, it’s very deep. If you want to get into it, it’s not just sort of a [00:26:00] personality test. You take a quiz online and it tells you, you know, your gimmer girl character is whatever. It’s not like that.

It’s, I mean, if you get into it, it, it can get really complex, but yeah, I think in a profession. that is so, is structured to be adversarial. Like we just, I, maybe it’s just me. I just assume the other person is against me or my client from the jump. I mean, we just are set up, but there’s two sides that want something and are pulling the same rope and it’s which side is going to win the tug of war.

And so coming at it and pushing back against the other person is just against me or us is just in a. aggressive fighting position, and I always have to be defensive, it’s really helped me try and step back and go, okay, well, maybe that’s just sort of how they communicate. And they’re not actually trying to be aggressive.

They just are sort of intense personality. And I can understand that or the opposing counsel [00:27:00] who seems to be very focused on like winning Which for me is very foreign in family law because like we’re talking about kids and relationships, but I get the vibe from them that they want to win something for their client.

I can go, okay, again, no idea what number they are and, and Suzanne Stiebel certainly talks about not. Typing somebody else like everybody has to self select, but I can say, okay, let’s say this person might be a three who’s the achiever that’s in their personality. And so is there a way that I can have some compassion and go, okay, they’re not coming at it to like one up me.

They’re just coming at it because that’s how they see the world. Can I work with my client to say, okay, it’s really important to the other side to have, I don’t know, a dinner on Saturday or whatever, or it’s really important to them that they get these frequent flyer miles. Which to my client means nothing.

They just want it to be fair that I can say, Hey, you can quote unquote win that piece. And it sort of helps us get [00:28:00] more on the same page. So yes, it’s just another framework that I think is really helpful in such a adversarial profession where it feels like it’s us against everybody all the time.

JESS: Yeah, I think it’d be interesting too.

I don’t, I’m just, I just thought of this, so this could be totally off, but I do wonder if it would be helpful in law school. I mean, I think it’d be helpful to take this test much earlier in life, but in law school to see what number you are and if that would direct you or offer guidance on maybe some career paths.

I can just imagine, for example, I know Peacemaker is one of the numbers of the nine, I wonder if peacemakers, and I think they say in the book, make good mediators, things like that. It doesn’t mean you have to go that direction, but I just, it’s just more information about yourself and what might. Be a good career path for you.

And a lot of us students and I have the same issue. Like, it’s just hard to figure that out. Like which direction should I go? I don’t know, but we can start providing them with tools like this. I wonder if that would be helpful.

LAUREN: I think it would give [00:29:00] you even threads. Like, again, you may not want to be a mediator, but you may go, you know, I like having that element in my practice.

So how can I incorporate that? Or how can I get. In a practice area that it is a little bit more of let’s solve the problem and see, you know, everybody’s side, you know, maybe something like education law or something where we’re all really wanting to make sure that this kid gets the IEP that they need.

So we’re not necessarily pitted against each other. Having those insights about ourselves makes it more helpful that we go down paths that we don’t go three years in and go, this isn’t for me because none of these things align with my personality.

JESS: Yeah, which makes me think specifically for career services offices, maybe this is a good tool for people working in those offices to familiarize themselves with, but maybe then to also use with law students.

LAUREN: I love it. I’m really excited for you to dig in more and get your insights from it. It’s a fantastic resource. So if anyone is interested in dipping their toes in Suzanne Stabile’s [00:30:00] podcast, the Enneagram journey is a really great place to start. So we’ll link all that in the show notes. If we’ve piqued your interest at all,

JESS: I’m going to move to my next resource and I’m going to keep this one short.

It’s not a new resource. It is slack, which has been around for a while. But when I moved organizations this past year, started working at aisles. IELTS has been using Slack and we use Slack a lot. For a lot of different things, and we have a hybrid staff. So we have most of our staff is based here in Denver, but we only have to come into the office 50 percent of the time.

So even the Denver staff is hybrid, but then we have 3 employees who are fully remote. And so I think this has been a good tool for that type of working environment. And so. If you’re a solo Slack, maybe not the resource for you. Although I do Slack with people outside of my organization. So I think there could be ways to use Slack, but I think this is more maybe for people who do have some employees and I can just share some of the [00:31:00] ways that we’ve used it.

I think it’s good for both. Real time communication and asynchronous communication. I think we primarily use it for the latter, but if you catch someone on Slack, you can chat back and forth very quickly. There’s an opportunity or a feature where you can just have a quick huddle, which basically means you jump on a quick video call.

But what I’ve loved about it for us, and I could see maybe this has some value in legal as well, is just I really dislike email. It sucks. It sucks, right? We have to use it, at least to some degree. But I can’t tell you how many times and no, I don’t, I recognize I could create folders, but I don’t. I expect Outlook to properly search my inbox when I’m looking for something.

And yet it rarely does it. And so instead of having conversations via Outlook or email with your staff, if you instead have them in Slack, it’s so much easier to go back and just reference them, grab them. I put together [00:32:00] a newsletter every other month and all of the updates, I just put them, I create a specific.

Slack channel for that newsletter. And so I post all of the updates so that everyone else in the organization can see it. But then when it comes time to actually putting the newsletter together, communication staff will just grab all of those updates and dump it into a newsletter. Super easy. And it’s just easy to create topics and this would look differently maybe in a law firm, but for us, we have a Slack channel for different focus areas of our organization.

And again, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back just to see like, Oh, who said what? Or where was that article again? Or it’s just so much easier and it makes me have to go into my Outlook inbox less, which I really appreciate. So I don’t know if you’ve used Slack, Lauren, but I recommend people check it out, especially if they have staff.

LAUREN: Yes, staying out of email. Huge win. I have used it in the past. I would say it’s just me, so I’d be just like talking to myself. But I do see it as a good organization tool potentially. [00:33:00] I have tried to use it in other settings with other people. We tried to use it for kind of our community at one point.

I think it can be hard to get maybe buy in from folks who are not in your organization or where The conversation on Slack isn’t robust. Like if it’s just not used, then it’s not a place that people go consistently. And then it’s just one more tool that I have to check. But I think if folks can use it consistently and use it in a way that’s organized, yes, it’s way better than email.

And that’s really exciting to hear that you’ve had a great experience with it. So if I do have the need for something like this in a kind of community setting, I think that’ll be the first one that I check out.

JESS: And I definitely agree it can be hit or miss. I have been part of listservs, some of which have worked well, some have not.

So I get it, especially with other lawyers. It’s difficult because I know a lot of lawyers work from their inbox. You know, I did the same thing. So I totally get that.

LAUREN: Whether or not you [00:34:00] use Slack, the undertone of get out of your inbox. is such a huge help. So however that looks, I have done that too. I just use my to do list, which I use ClickUp, but it’s the same thing.

Like it just keeps me more organized. I’m not in the inbox all day. I push everything to that and then work out of that. So whatever works for you, depending on your organization, email, just. Sucks. And it’s so time consuming and you can go down the rabbit hole and then you pop up three hours later and you’re like, I haven’t done anything, but it’s noon.

So I’m so glad to hear that y’all are using Slack and that it’s been so helpful.

JESS: Okay. Yes. So this is not actually a 2023 resource. This is a coming soon in 2024 resource, but hopefully coming in January of 2024. And so this resource will be called the above the line network. It’s going to be a community of leaders from across the United States, Canada, and beyond, working [00:35:00] together to transform the delivery of legal services to the underserved middle class.

This applies to our listeners. You all are leaders. You all are doing great things. And if you are serving people in the middle class in any respect, we would love for you to be part of this network. Lauren is actually going to be on the advisory committee for this network, which we’re super excited about.

And this network is a joint project of IAALS and the ChiCago Bar Foundation..

So the access to justice gap is huge. So the number of people who aren’t actually receiving legal services, it’s not just low income people. It’s people in the middle class as well. The vast majority of Americans, when they have a legal issue, are not able to actually get the legal help that they need.

And as a profession, we typically. Have provided resources and focused our resources and funding on helping low income people, which makes a ton of sense because they’re the most vulnerable, but to the exclusion of everyone who is also in the middle class and also needs [00:36:00] these resources. And so. There’s been no organized effort around that, and that is what we’re hoping ATLN will be.

And let me just talk about what we mean by middle class before I talk more about kind of the benefits and why you might want to get involved. Everyone defines middle class differently, and so we just felt we needed to create a definition just so everyone understood, like, does this apply to me? And so our definition of middle class is Anyone who makes above the income eligibility line, which is 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which for an individual is just under 17, 000 in 2023, and all the way up to the upper end of how Pew Charitable Trust defines middle class, which in 2023.

Was 141, 568 for an individual. So quite a range, as you can see. And so basically if you are serving anyone in that income range, and I have to imagine you are, and you’re really dedicated to [00:37:00] serving people in the middle class, then we really would love for you to join the network. We spent a lot of time putting together a strategic plan.

What we really want to do in the first year is identify all of the models and the. space that are working well to serve anyone who falls into the middle class. And so law firms obviously are one of, are those models. And so we want to just provide a way for law firm owners like yourself, but also people maybe who own nonprofit law firms, sliding scale law firms, maybe even legal aid organizations that serve above that income eligibility line, anyone who is doing it, we want to bring them all together and create a community where we have a listserv.

We have a directory where and hopefully we’re going to be offering opportunities both in person and virtually for members of the network to meet each other and share ideas and share resources and success stories and challenges. And so we really just want to build that community. We’re hoping to offer educational opportunities along the way as well.

And then also there will be an [00:38:00] advocacy component. So if you spoke, if you feel especially. Passionate about serving this group and you’ve been looking for opportunities to advocate for it. There’ll be opportunities to do as well. And so we’re going to start working that probably this summer trying to outline existing efforts, how we can kind of plug into those.

And are there things we need to do as a community to make sure that. The middle class voice is being heard. That’s kind of what the network is going to be coming January, 2024 at above the line. org, which is active right now. But sometime in January, we’ll have an opportunity where people who are interested in joining the network can go to that page, fill out a brief form, and then you can get involved and see where we go from there.

I’m really excited about it. We’ve heard along the way, when I was working at the Chicago Bar Foundation and even this past year that a lot of people are doing really great things, but they just don’t feel supported. They don’t feel part of a community in order for us to scale all of these [00:39:00] efforts. I think we really need to build that community.

And so hopefully some of you will be interested in sign up.

LAUREN: This is a such a cool project. I’m so excited that y’all are spearheading this and putting it together. I’m really excited to see the conversations that come out of it and like you said the community because it can be very isolating not only being a solo or small firm but feeling like you are Bye Not practicing the traditional model because you are trying to serve these folks and so there’s not just a lot of resources that sort of fly by the seat of your pants and see what works.

So to be able to chat with folks who are in that same space and have that same perspective is going to be so invaluable. I just want to underscore because I can’t get over these numbers, the middle class. So it’s 17, 000 a year Which like how anybody lives on that is beyond me 17, 000 a year to 141, 000 for a single person that [00:40:00] like we’re not you said this.

Yes, the low income folks need to be supported and we need to continue to put resources there. But these are not 141, 000 is a. Damn good income and those people cannot afford legal services. That’s the problem.

JESS: Yeah, can’t afford it and or they don’t know they have a legal problem. That’s a big part of the situation as well.

And so we’ll definitely be digging into it more, taking existing research, probably conducting new research just so we truly understand the problem and then also the challenges that have led us. to this situation so that we can actually craft solutions around it. But like you said, also sharing resources to help existing models that we know that work and help people who come in and want to really do want to serve everyday people who want to be clients of their own law firm.

Hopefully this is kind of a one stop shop where they can go and find the resources they need to get started and then to join a community.

LAUREN: I would venture to [00:41:00] guess a large majority of my clients are in this group. Yeah. They make less than 141, 000 a year. I think I’m doing okay. They seem happy. So there is ways that we can make this work and we can serve those people, though, the fact that y’all are doing this, like, I’m, I’m super excited.

I’m excited to see what 2024 brings and where this Project goes. So yes, if anyone is interested, please check out above the line network. org. We’ll link to it in the show notes as well. So looking forward to 2024 even more, we’re going to wrap up for today, but join us next episode where we look more into the new year and what each of us is excited about, what some of our goals are.

Certainly the above the line network is already on that list. But come back and join us to see how we’re kicking off the new year. Thanks so much for spending your time with us today. We always appreciate it and we’ll see you next time.[00:42:00]

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