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PR: Francisca Pretorius Joins Firm Full Time

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 20, 2018

CONTACT:

Jason R. Wiener

720.445.6860

jason@jrwiener.com

www.jrwiener.com

Linda D. Phillips

303.355.0401

linda@jrwiener.com

www.jrwiener.com

 

Francisca Pretorius Joins Firm Full Time

 

Jason Wiener|p.c., a public benefit corporation, is pleased to announce that Francisca Pretorius has joined the firm in a full-time capacity. She will hold the dual roles of Senior Associate and MBA in Residence.

 

Francisca practiced corporate law in Johannesburg, South Africa, for 4.5 years. She has extensive academic experience and is currently an adjunct lecturer at Strathmore University’s law school in Nairobi, Kenya, teaching Foundations of Roman Law and Legal Practice Management. Francisca also worked for Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy on renewable energy policy. She previously served on the board of a South African non-profit organization that identifies, connects, and mobilizes change-makers in Africa. Francisca is licensed to practice law in Colorado and South Africa and holds an LL.B (Bachelor of Laws) from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, an LL.M in International Trade Law with a thesis on carbon markets from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and an MBA from the Global, Social, and Sustainable Enterprise program at Colorado State University.

 

“From the moment I met Francisca in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program, I knew she was a superstar. The combination of international big-law experience in South Africa, a background in renewable energy policy, combined with a social enterprise MBA makes Francisca uniquely suited to the work our firm does. Francisca brings a balance of rigor, attention to detail and tenacity, along with a tender touch with training and a big picture perspective. We are lucky to have Francisca join the team full-time and to offer her unique skill set and talent to our clients and partners. The whole team is excited by this big step forward,” says Jason Wiener, Principal. Linda Phillips, Senior Of Counsel, shares that “Francisca is a dynamic attorney who is passionate about the law and about helping those who want to create and build their social enterprise businesses. She will be a true bonus for our firm and we are delighted she is able to join us full time.”

 

In her practice Ms. Pretorius will work on business entity formation (with a focus on cooperatives), custom transactional support, regulatory compliance (especially compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation), and other areas of law that support mission-driven companies and social enterprise. Her full bio is here.

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New Law: How investment in culture and people fosters innovation, collaboration and client service

Originally published on September 5, 2018 on Medium.

How does a law firm, known largely as a stagnant institution, nurture a culture of trust, openness, entrepreneurship, resilience and collaboration? Read on to learn how we are liberating ourselves — from the clock and the obligations of client matters — to focus on the meaningful and necessary work of building a durable culture, adding value to clients, and propagating positive social and environmental impact. Much of what we are practicing, as described below, is experimental and still evolving. This is our best effort to practice what we preach.

I had never given much thought to what it takes to assemble a top-flight team of values-aligned, talented, dedicated and compatible people although I’ve been fortunate and privileged to have both served on and helped assemble such teams. Our current team, assembled over the course of 1.5 years, is the most awesome (in every respect) amalgamation of backgrounds, passion, talent, and dedication that I have ever thought possible. To be honest, that this team has come together at all feels as much happenstance as serendipity. I know now, however, that there are carefully nurtured and delicate dynamics at play.

Our whole team recently came together in Boulder, Colorado for a 2-day retreat. We put up out-of-office memos, we turned off the phone and we informed clients and strategic partners that we would be inaccessible. For folks who still largely inhabit a world where “time is money,” this kind of planned down-time is relatively rare. Throughout our time together, we discovered we are rare in many respects.

I. Open Book Collaboration

Over the last year, I have been slowly opening up the books of the firm to our team. I started with a 2017 year-in-review. I went over our high-level financial performance, key metrics and qualitative aspects of our practices and performance. This was an opportunity to tell the arcing story of the firm’s history, the ebb and flow of various campaigns and big projects, and to use the financials as a canvas for telling the richer story. I was struck by the level of engagement and the curiosity of the team. For some, it was the first time they were ever exposed to financial statements at all, let alone those that affect their own employer.

I followed up this year-in-review with a set of 2018 projections. The most exhilarating part was when I…drumroll please…unveiled our “Moonshot.” By this point, three members of our team had only been with the firm for less than two months. How cool! To start a brand new job and to have a front-row seat to an organization’s launch point for the moon. To be clear, we were not a start-up at this point. This presentation took place around the 4-year anniversary of the firm. For most of that time, the firm had been just me and one or two part-time contract attorneys. I gave this presentation to six people. From one to six team members in less than one year. That’s a lot of growth!

Like most moonshot goals, we set ambitious goals for the next 4–5 years. I confessed not having a clear picture of what strategy or tactics we would employ to reach the moon. I only knew that the moonshot had to be inspiring, credible and imaginative. To my surprise, it was…for all six of us. That was one of the first real signs I had that we had the right people.

II. Collaborative Goal-setting, visioning and strategic planning

I more or less set the 2018 goals and strategy by fiat. The team was too nascent and without historical context to engage in collective planning. Plus, we were planning for a merger with the law practice of Linda Phillips. Thus, there were too many “unknown unknowns” to go through a strategic planning process for the 2018 fiscal year in early 2018.

So, with early 2018 strategy and goals presentation as a backdrop, we hit the ground running at the 2018 firm retreat. I gave a summary review of the 2018 year-to-date. I refreshed everyone’s memory of our 2020 moonshot and I presented a model for what the launch path would look like to achieve it. This gave the context everyone needed to fully and meaningfully contribute to a strategic plan.

We spent the better part of two days engaged in the profundity of firm culture, client screening, business development, vision and values and strategic planning. Some of us confessed our predisposition for “passion and purpose fatigue.” Some revealed a rejuvenated motivation to tackle big, thorny social and environmental issues, including climate change, economic inequality and social justice. Ultimately, we bonded over our shared sense of purpose and our commitment to our core values.

I have been deeply impressed and touched by the occasions and experiences that remind me of the timeliness of our core values. I developed those as a solo practitioner and entrepreneur, back in 2014, long before I knew 4 of my 5 fellow team members. We explicitly revisit and discuss these core values every week on our team huddle.

We re-committed to the moonshot goal. The energy of the retreat hardened our commitment to our team and to our purpose. To get there, we knew the challenge would be strategic planning in an environment where we, not unlike most businesses, are not fully in control of the key inputs. We divided up the pillars of our core business — Internal Relationships, Business Development, Client Service, Internal Systems (tech), Internal Systems (processes), and Inclusivity and Diversity — and assigned each component to one team member. We follow the Todoist model of accountability — every task must have a direct responsible individual if it is to be done.

For each strategic plan component, we are following a standard 1-page format that involves:

· A vision statement.

· 3–4 high level elements of the component plan.

· 3–4 high level goals per element.

· 3–4 key performance indicators for each goal.

Each strategic plan component can include tactical detail in endnotes or subsequent pages.

Over the next 5–6 weeks, we will rotate presenting on drafts of each of our plans, providing feedback, iterating and ultimately consenting to the final assemblage of the plan.

We will be experimenting with a few new things:

· We will budget for conferences and events up front and allow team members to self-select which conferences they want to attend, with input from the team.

· We will budget for firm-wide and individual training. Each team member will have a time and monetary budget that they control. The aim is to increase competence and interdisciplinary knowledge and experience.

· We will budget for innovation and technology. Team members will have individual budgets they control for experimental projects and technology, to make the most of each team member’s creativity.

III. People Policies and Work Expectations

We hired our first employee in June of 2018. Despite having long practiced employment law, it is quite different to be an employer than to advise employers. I found myself in the seat that our clients usually occupy. I had to get comfortable with all that hiring employees entails; payroll, fixed costs, workers compensation, leading, supervision, and, most importantly, creating a culture and work atmosphere that enabled the highest contribution from people.

To do this, I resolved certain things:

· First, I would resist the inimical truth that setting compensation is an inherently imperfect science. I made the typical “negotiation” process collaborative, open and transparent. I showed prospective employees all the numbers and the revenue and cost model for the position. Their contribution and commitment is valuable to me and the firm and I want each team member to know that.

· Second, I didn’t want to baby-sit employees. I wanted to only hire people I trust unconditionally. I wanted to set each employee free to do their best work and to be happy. I tell team members that they can work any time, any where and in just about any way that suits them, as long as they get the job done to their highest ability given the circumstances and resources available. One team member chose to work while visiting a friend in Scotland. Another worked remotely from South Africa while visiting family.

· Third, I wanted to practice what we preach. The conventional 2080 work hours/year is…unworkable. It roughly translates into more awake time at a desk than with family. This is not how I choose to live my life, and so it would be hypocritical to impose this on co-workers or employees. Therefore, we set an expectation of a 1600 hours of work/year. Not just billable hours; that’s total time. This translates into approximately 31 work hours per week for 52-weeks, or 33 hours per week for 48-weeks. What employees chose to do with their time outside of the 1600 hours is up to them. We expect our team members to recharge themselves and to take time away. We put in place safeguards against burn-out.

· Fourth, we mean what we said in #3. We have an unlimited vacation policy. As long as employees meet expectations and add value to the firm according to prescribed metrics and quality goals, our team members are in control of their time.

· Fifth, we pay at or above market rates to our employees and contract attorneys. I regularly review market data for firms of our size, practicing in comparable areas of law, and practicing in similar geographic regions. We provide health insurance to all full-time employees, a 401k plan, paid professional development, a remote work stipend, and paid access to a rich technology platform for collaboration.

· Sixth, we create the conditions for innovation and entrepreneurial risk taking. By maintaining flexible and reasonable work expectations, we can afford to enter into creative and alternative fee arrangements with clients. We are experimenting with fixed fee, monthly subscription models, and other non-time-based billing practices. Our aim is to enhance value to clients while creating a fun work environment.

Corporate governance for stakeholders

My journey to the practice of law has not been linear. My sensitivity to injustice and inequality, on the other hand, has been a constant driver. I’ve always been in search of a solution, which led me to seek a deeper understanding of the systematic ways inequality has been ingrained into the fabric of society, which led me to law school. If you had told me when I was eighteen that eventually I would come to the realization that a piece of the solution was dependent on reforming corporate governance, I would have scoffed indignantly at the idea that corporations could be anything but evil money-making machines.

I’m not sure when the switch flipped, but sometime during law school I began to see how corporations could be leveraged as a solution if we recast the role they play in society. As my colleague, Lenore Palladino, writes in her recent blog post on corporate governance, “Why Workers on Corporate Boards Just Makes Sense,” corporations are run “according to a neoliberal model of shareholder primacy,” but that doesn’t mean they have to continue to be run that way or that it even makes sense. Corporations can and should be run differently. The corporate form and its many variations can be used to create economically viable businesses that benefit workers and communities, that are good stewards of the environment, and that demand capital in service of stakeholders.

Giving workers a voice in their companies, if not an ownership stake, has a role to play in breaking the extractive cycle corporate American has been in for much of modern history. Positioning workers so that they have a say makes sense from a practical point of view too. Without workers corporations don’t create value for anyone. Workers are the face of a business, they deal with customers and understand the day-in and day-out operations in a way the C Suite cannot. Placing workers on corporate boards also creates more accountability for companies that claim to consider all stakeholders in decision making. As Lenore points out in her article, giving employees board representation puts stakeholders on the board, creating a board that inherently governs for its stakeholders and not just shareholders. Often self-interest is viewed negatively, but when you consider creating a board where a variety of self-interests are represented, it can be leveraged to accomplish measured and equitable outcomes that benefit society as a whole.

Jason Wiener | p.c. Named “Best For The World”

Jason Wiener | p.c. is proud to announce that we have been named “Best For The World” by B Lab for the second year in a row. This year’s award focuses on governance within the legal industry.

We have been a certified B Corp for three years and a Public Benefit Corporation for nearly four years. Jason Wiener, Principal at Jason Wiener | p.c., had this to say: “We are honored to join such impressive company with others recognized as best for the world.  This is a very meaningful distinction. We will continue to strive to advance the notion that business can be a force for good.”

We are intentional about working with and advising companies that are progressive in their approach to business. Whether it be a company committed to having a net positive environmental impact or a small business that wants to implement democratic ownership principles, we are helping our clients innovate their business structures and governance practices to achieve better outcomes for employees and communities.

As a firm, we re-visit our values and mission statement weekly to discuss how we are living out our values and where challenges arise. This results in an open dialogue among everyone at the firm about how we can better serve our clients and what impacts our actions are having on our community at large. Our most recent community initiative, the Legal Café, came out of this open dialogue. The Legal Café is a free event, inspired by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, where we invite community members to join us for a short presentation on a legal issue and an hour-long small group Q&A with our attorneys.

The practice of regularly discussing our firm values keeps our work fulfilling and reminds us of the positive impact we are making while also keeping us honest about where we can improve. It has been a wonderful tool for reflection and goal setting. Out of this and other practices we are creating a workplace that rewards everyone for their efforts, learns from the past, and creates effective decision-making structures.

Perhaps the most important part of being a social enterprise is continual evaluation of current practices with a critical eye to where we can improve. Through retreats, retrospectives, and weekly team huddles, we evaluate our impact internally and externally—constantly looking for ways to improve. As a result, our firm takes an iterative approach to client work; we are not hesitant to try new things. This approach keeps us engaged, flexes our creativity, and ensures that we are delivering innovative solutions for our clients and community.

As we grow, we are excited to also grow our community focused offerings. One long-term goal we have identified is to increase the amount of pro bono work we do individually and as a firm.  To do this, we plan to continue hosting our Legal Cafés, explore pro bono partnerships, offer one-on-one consultations to low-income entrepreneurs, and increase our use of technology in a thoughtful way that will allow us to serve a more diverse set of clients.

We are excited and honored to receive recognition for our work as a B Corp. To anyone new to this space, there are a variety of practices that have led us to where we are. Don’t be afraid to experiment and actively engage your employees, vendors, and customers in the discussion about ways to improve.  Give out much responsibility, trust people—then listen to and implement the feedback.  Together, you will have more impact than you could individually.

PR: Tonya Price Promoted to Associate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

                                                                                  

June 4, 2018 

CONTACT: 

Jason R. Wiener 

Jason Wiener|p.c., a public benefit corporation                                                                                                        Linda D. Phillips 

720.445.6860                                                                                                                                                                                         303.355.0401 

jason@jrwiener.com                                                                                                                                                                       linda@jrwiener.com 

www.jrwiener.com                                                                                                                                                                           www.jrwiener.com 

 

Tonya Price Promoted to Associate  

 

Jason Wiener|p.c., a public benefit corporation, is pleased to announce the promotion of Tonya Price from law clerk to Associate, effective immediately. 

 Ms. Price is a summa cum laude graduate of Michigan State University College of Law.  She recently passed the uniform bar exam and will be sworn in today by the Colorado Supreme Court.  She believes that “the only way to remedy the growing inequality in the U.S. is to make business work for the many by creating models that consider business’ impact on employees and communities, not just shareholders.” 

Her focus on a more just and equitable economic paradigm will add value to the firm’s clients, says Jason Wiener, Principal. “As a founder, it’s always difficult to share stewardship of a vision and purpose with others. With Tonya, it hasn’t been a challenge at all. Tonya gets it; she came in with strong purpose alignment and a strong foundation of skill, competence and capacity for growth and training.” Linda Phillips, Senior Of Counsel, echoes those sentiments:  “We’re so delighted to have Tonya become a formal member of the team, bringing her boundless energy and vision for social enterprise and cooperative businesses and ideals.” 

 In her emerging practice Ms. Price will work on public benefit corporation formation and conversions, cooperative design and formation, compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation, employment issues, and other areas of law that support mission-driven companies and social enterprise. Her full bio is here.   

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GDPR is Almost Here – Are you Prepared?

On May 25, 2018, the European Union’s new data protection legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will take effect. This law heralds a new era of rigorous data privacy and security and makes data privacy a fundamental right for EU citizens. Of course, all EU companies and many multinational companies doing business in the EU have to be fully compliant with this legislation on Friday. What is important to note is that some U.S.-based businesses, even those without employees or offices within the EU, may also be required to comply with the GDPR.

Does my U.S.-based business need to comply with this law?

If your business processes and/or holds personal data of individuals residing in the EU (including employees) or you are marketing/selling products to consumers in the EU, then your business must comply with GDPR. In a broad sense, the GDPR requires businesses to understand what data they are collecting, be able to articulate why they are collecting it and which of the six categories of lawful processing its purpose falls into, what the business’s strategy is in the event of a data breach, what the timeline for retention of personal data is, and how such data is destroyed when the purpose for collecting and retaining the data no longer exists. There is a record keeping exception that companies with less than 250 employees may qualify for.

But what is ‘personal data’ and what do you mean by ‘processing’?

Personal data’ is any information related to a person that could be used to identify such a person. This includes the person’s name, identification number, location data or online identifier, email addresses, bank information, social media posts, or other factors specific to the physical, genetic, physiological, economic, mental, cultural, or social identity of that person. The EU is taking a very broad approach to defining ‘personal data’ so it is best to consider almost any information you collect about an EU citizen to be personal data.

Processing‘ means any operation performed on personal data, such as collection, recording, organization, structuring, storage, adaptation, alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment, combination, restriction, erasure or destruction.

Most, if not all of us, have a website and if a German resident stumbles upon our website, the GDPR will likely not apply just because that person found the website. However, if you are actively encouraging EU residents to visit your website, ship your products to the EU, market or translate your webpage in a language of an EU country, or if you engage with EU residents and process their personal data in any other way (for example track and collect information on webpage users from the EU to analyze online behavior), the GDPR may be applicable to your business.

The GDPR requires all businesses to protect the personal data of EU citizens, and specifically prescribes how this should be done.

How do I ensure compliance before May 25?

There is a “quick fix” that you can implement before Friday: add a cookie banner to your website that allows your business to ask permission before processing an EU resident’s data and also allows you to stop collecting data from any IP address from an EU country if they do not consent.

For the permission or consent to be valid in terms of GDPR, be sure not to use legal jargon or to bury the consent in fine print. Consent needs to be specific, in plain language, explain what you will be using the personal data for, and positive (i.e. the person must opt in to allow you to process the data).

Is there more to it?

Yes, the GDPR’s requirements are far-reaching and ensuring full compliance may take a bit more time.

One of the biggest and most important tasks is to map your data, i.e. figure out what personal data you store and collect in your databases (online, on computers, tablets and phones, and on paper), how that data is being used, and how long the data is being stored.

Once you have an idea of your data collection and retention practices, you need to determine what data relates to EU residents.

All EU residents need to consent (i.e. opt in) to your processing of their data, so the business will have to reach out to these residents to obtain consent or, alternatively, destroy the data.

Another key step is to update your data privacy policy and ensure that your business puts the necessary controls in place to adequately process personal data going forward. This policy should be in writing and become part of your existing and future service contracts with third parties.

What if my business doesn’t comply?

The penalties for non-compliance are quite steep: 4% of your company’s worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year or € 20 million, whichever is greater, for serious infringements of the GDPR; 2% or € 20 million, whichever is greater, for less serious infringements.

 

Contact us to schedule a consultation.

Tonya Price (tonya@jrwiener.com)

Francisca Pretorius (francisca@jrwiener.com

Creating the Workplace We Want

Management and operation of a law firm has taken many forms over the years and we are exploring new, innovative ways to run our firm. We are experimenting with the use of democratic principles, Teal, and self-management to develop a style that works for us and our clients. Earlier this week, Jason sent an article around to the team that highlighted The Wellington Community Law Centre (WCLC), a New Zealand law firm that went from a traditional hierarchical management system to fully self-managed in six months. Our firm has been discussing and implementing self-management techniques and it was inspiring and encouraging to read about WCLC’s journey. While reading the article I was tripped up by the reference to “advice process.” I had never heard the term before and we haven’t formally chosen a decision-making process to adhere to, so I did a little research. In a nutshell, advice process is an alternative to top-down and consensus decision making. Instead of executives or leaders making decisions, the employee who notices the problem or opportunity is empowered to act on that knowledge and becomes the decision-maker. The decision maker must seek input and advice from the relevant team members, leaders, and stake holders, but is ultimately responsible for creating a proposal and deciding what action to take. The process resonates with me because even as the least experienced member of our firm, I feel empowered to make decisions and suggestion for improving processes or creating new ones. I’m comfortable approaching the more senior attorneys to discuss my ideas and get their feedback and I’m able to pursue projects that interest me and be an active participant in my career development.

My favorite quote from Geoffrey Roberts, the general manager of WCLC, was, “When you treat people with high levels of trust, then they will live up to that. They will give you much more than you can imagine. Anecdotally, I argue that high levels of trust result in high levels of engagement and flexibility.” Perhaps more than anything else discussed, I feel that building trust is critical. For me, feeling trusted makes me feel like I can make mistakes and that I will get productive feedback that will help me grow as a lawyer. Having trust also means that I’m not afraid to come forward when I have made a mistake or to be held accountable for a decision I made. One way our firm fosters a trusting environment is through quarterly retrospectives. Retrospectives give us the chance to reflect on what is and isn’t working – they also help remove the negative connotations from accountability. Instead of accountability being scary, it simply becomes an opportunity to celebrate a win or learn from a decision that didn’t work out.

As a member of a law firm that is treading an unconventional path, I love seeing what WCLC has been able to accomplish. It gives me hope for the future of the profession and it’s nice to know our firm is in good company.

Choosing the Right Entity for Your Business

Last week our team held its first legal café at Green Spaces in Denver. We welcomed a group of approximately thirty entrepreneurs and discussed the nuances of entity choice. Our team was excited for the launch of what we hope will become a mainstay for the firm and a valuable resource for our community. We selected entity choice as our first topic because this early decision can often have far-reaching consequences for businesses. The right entity is critical for many aspects of the business, from protecting the social mission to attracting outside capital. Our hope is that we can help early stage entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls of choosing an entity not well suited to their long term vision. To that end we created this presentation with an overview of entity types and strategies for choosing the right entity. Those who attended the legal cafe also had the opportunity to participate in an hour of small group Q&A with our team.

The event exceeded our expectations and our team is looking forward to hosting future legal cafes that provide useful information to entrepreneurs at all stages of developing their business.

Press Release: Leading Colorado Cooperative Business and Sustainable Economies Law Practices Join Forces

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jason Wiener|p.c.                                                                                     

 CONTACT:

Jason R. Wiener

Jason Wiener|p.c., a public benefit corporation                                                   Linda D. Phillips

720.445.6860                                                                                                     303.355.0401

jason@jrwiener.com                                                                                          linda@jrwiener.com

www.jrwiener.com                                                                                              www.jrwiener.com

 

Leading Colorado Cooperative Business and Sustainable Economies Law Practices Join Forces

 

The law practices of Linda D. Phillips and Jason Wiener are merging effective April 1, 2018, to scale client service, capacity, training, and impact for the firms’ collective work with cooperatives, social enterprise start-ups, sustainable growth companies and mission-oriented businesses.  Jason and Linda have been collaborating for close to a decade. In that time, the shared ownership and cooperative movement has expanded significantly.  The two attorneys will merge their practices and continue the process of building a team of dedicated, talented, multi-faceted and purpose-filled attorneys.

The merger of Phillips Law Offices and Jason Wiener|p.c. coincides with the rapid growth in purpose-oriented start-up law work, shared ownership conversions of growing and mature transitional businesses, and alternative and non-extractive financing for small- to medium-sized businesses.  The combined firm will offer higher level resources and services to the growing craft beer and beverage, renewable energy, technology, agriculture and small producer, housing and real estate, and co-working sectors, and to other worker and multi-stakeholder owned businesses.  The firm has attorneys licensed in Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut (pending), and South Africa, and serves clients in more than 21 states and 4 countries.

Linda and Jason will collaboratively train and lead a team of junior and mid-level attorneys and staff.  The firm is committed to self-management principles and transparency.  The firm has begun open management and collaboration practices, including regular internal discussions about client service, core values, financials, and business development.

About the merger, Linda says “it’s exciting to become part of a team that shares my passion for advancing cooperative business models and helping businesses realize their visions through proper legal and management structures.”

Jason says “We are tremendously fortunate and honored to leverage Linda’s experience to bridge three generations of Colorado cooperative law and to offer such deep business law expertise to our current, new and prospective clients. Linda’s addition to our team will also help train the next generation of cooperative and sustainable economies lawyers.”

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Increasing Access to Legal Services – Process Improvement and Automation

I went to law school because I wanted to make a difference. Initially, I though I would focus on environmental issues, but through a variety of courses and internships, my focus shifted to economic inequality and access to justice. This new focus piqued my interest in how technology could expand access to legal services and led me to Michigan State University College of Law’s LegalRnD program. The program offers several courses, and as a 3L I took a course call Litigation: Data, Theory, Practice and Process, with Daniel W. Linna Jr. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited for a hands on, practice focused class. I was not disappointed; Professor Linna introduced new concepts and challenged the traditional ideas about legal services throughout the class. We experimented with several process improvement techniques including Lean Six Sigma, Kanban Boards, design thinking, and process mapping as tools to solve for inefficiencies in legal processes. He challenged us to think about legal issues and client needs from a process point of view and was constantly asking how our proposed improvements would add value for clients. By understanding the process, we could remove most of the inefficiencies without technology and when we did employ technology, we had a crystal-clear understanding of why it was necessary and how it improved the process.

As part of the class we were asked to re-imagine a legal process and automate it using ThinkSmart’s (a legal software developer) legal workflow automation tool, TAP. I chose to create a new system for referring pro bono work to attorneys. I created an automated workflow that aggregated attorneys’ availability for pro bono work, areas of legal expertise, contact information, and location into a database that would be hosted by the State Bar Association. The rest of the process is automated with inputs from legal aid offices looking to refer clients out and attorneys in the State Bar database. ThinkSmart spotlighted the project on their blog in February.

I’ve carried many of the skills I learned in the Litigation course into my daily practice. I look forward to continuing to leverage process improvement and technology to deliver better services to our clients, create organizational documents that are legally sound and user friendly, and to evolve the practice of law for the 21st century.