Kisha Brown’s goals are twofold—empowering communities with access to justice and enriching the practice of law for attorneys of color. Kisha joins Monica Bay and Sean La Roque-Doherty to discuss the challenges minorities face in the legal system. She describes what led her to develop Justis Connection, a platform for connecting lawyers of color to new clients, and together they explore how new legal technology is increasing access to justice for all.
Kisha A. Brown is CEO and founder of Justis Connection.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Headnote.
Law Technology Now
Access for All: How Justis Connection Brings Lawyers and Clients Together
Intro: You are listening to the Legal Talk Network.
Bob Ambrogi: Hello, I’m Bob Ambrogi.
Monica Bay: And I’m Monica Bay.
Bob Ambrogi: We’ve been writing about law and technology for more than 30 years.
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Monica Bay: And I’m Monica Bay.
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On today’s show, we are going to talk to Kisha Brown, Founder and CEO of Justis Connection, an online platform dedicated to connecting lawyers of color with new clients.
In April, Kisha was terrific on ALM “Women of Legal Tech” column for Legaltech News that Monica Bay writes. I’m delighted to have Kisha visit Law Technology Now on Legal Talk Network today.
Monica Bay: Let’s jump right in and tell us how you got interested in the law.
Kisha A. Brown: Thanks Monica and thank you Sean as well for having me on the show. My first interest in the law started for many people like as a child, where I was often told that I talked too much in school and got in trouble for leaning over and trying to help other kids with their homework or speaking up for another kid in the schoolyard.
And so people, adults would often say to me, oh you should be a lawyer, why, you like to talk, you like to argue, you like to discuss. And so very early on, I started looking at the law being a lawyer right and the avenue of the law as a vehicle to really advocate on behalf of people who didn’t have a voice.
And so it’s always been a part of me and throughout my journey early on, I really wanted to make sure it was my choice, something that I wanted and not something that was sort of implanted in my head if you will, and I had many internships and many different experiences that kept leading me back to the law.
Monica Bay: Tell us a little bit more about how you went into school, which one it was and what you liked and if there’s anything you didn’t want to tell us about that wasn’t so right?
Kisha A. Brown: Yeah, school I had the great fortune of starting elementary school in New York, in Queens New York, shout out to East Elmhurst and then went to St. Simons Island in Georgia, those two places are the exact opposite of each other. One is right sort of a Mecca for diversity and culture and the other was an environment that quite frankly was very reflective, a pre-Civil War mentality, if you will.
And so, having both of those experiences really gave me insight into two very different aspects of American culture. And from there, I went to Wellesley College, all women’s college in Massachusetts and was really at Wellesley, it’s all about teaching women to lead, to lead on a global level.
So it was a great training ground to meet and network and connect with women from all over, from all different types of cultures and really have such a high standard of excellence. Whenever I meet a woman now who I’m drawn to because of their good nature, their good heart, their hard work, I always think huh, she could have gone to Wellesley or maybe she went to Wellesley.
And from there, I went to Georgetown Law Center and Georgetown is extremely competitive, right, I went to Georgetown when I found out that they graduated more Black students than Howard did, a little bit I know at the time it was because their class sizes were twice as big.
But I went to Georgetown and it was very competitive and at some point, quite honestly, I probably got lost in the sauce and the hype of the big firm life, right.
And if you’re successful coming out of law school then that big firm life or that firm life is what you’re aspiring to, and that was never me. I actually worked at a firm prior to law school and really had the experience that this is not what I want to do.
But nevertheless when I left Georgetown, I embarked on what I would consider non-traditional pathway to where I am right now as the Founder and CEO of Justis Connection.
Sean La Roque-Doherty: Okay, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about creating Justis Connection.
Kisha A. Brown: Yeah so Justis Connection is a surprising, unexpected evolution of my legal career, having started out at the Legal Aid Bureau, advocating on behalf of noncustodial parents who owed large child support arrears mainly to the state and learning about sort of how child support was such an integral cog in the wheel of poverty. I learned there that I enjoyed connecting with people, doing outreach, making a difference. I’m meeting people really where they were and through that experiencing seeing what it meant for somebody when they had legal counsel.
And last year after I’ve had a number of other jobs including Director of Legislative Affairs for the Maryland Attorney General and Director of the Civil Rights Department for the City of Baltimore and after those jobs, I needed a break, right, and there were so many different experiences when you’re lobbying, when you’re handling government relations, when you’re in the thick of civil rights and during one of the most complex periods of Baltimore city’s history.
And last year when I pivoted, there was a clarity around connecting folks to the legal system from the private sector as opposed to what I had been experiencing though in the nonprofit and the government sectors, and Justis Connection is born out of really my personal experience.
From the minute I started law school, Sean and Monica, I felt like from day one every family member, friend, neighbor, stranger would ask, hey do you know somebody who does X or hey do you know somebody who does Y, and looking for legal counsel, right, and the normal process would be that I would ask for friends and then maybe two of them would ask one person and then maybe a couple hours if I’m lucky let alone days, I’d have a name and number and say hey, try Tina, maybe she can help you, right.
And I felt like as lawyers of color, especially as Black lawyers, we were leaving money on the table by not having a concerted network that connected our communities and then also leaving our communities most vulnerable by not giving them proper access to justice and that is by having opportunities and access to legal resources.
Monica Bay: I want to ask going on with that because it’s very interesting, how do people come to you and how does that work for the folks that you’re helping?
Kisha A. Brown: Yeah, so folks find us a number of different ways and one of the most powerful ways of connecting with people right is word-of-mouth, right, and so people come to the website justisconnection.com and we spell justice a little differently here right, so this is not your average regular Joe Schmo Justice, this is what is just, right so just is, justisconnection.com.
And what we use is we combine, we use technology to make the legal matchmaking process more efficient and effective. For many of the other services out there, they deal in quantity and one of the things that I discovered in a lot of the initial market research that I did was that people really are overwhelmed by the system. They’re intimidated by the system and they’re overwhelmed by the process.
And so technology being able to employ natural language processing to take somebody’s problem and identify their legal issue or be able to ask very specific, very detailed questions to be able to get closer to what are the particulars that this person needs in their legal problem, so that the matchmaking process with the lawyer is more relevant for them. And quite frankly, better for the lawyer who doesn’t have to comb through countless referrals that really had nothing to do with their expertise, right.
So on one hand, it’s really about empowering our communities, but it’s also equally about quite frankly enriching lawyers of color and giving them access to new clients in ways that they haven’t been able to tap into before.
As a lawyer of color, especially the black, where you’re coming out of law school and you do not have a good old boys network to tap into, right. You are essentially starting from scratch and I was tired of seeing generation after generation including myself and those who have come after me come out of law school and start from scratch.
So Justis Connection is about building up lawyers of color, it’s about providing, not just that legal referral, but also the quality support that is needed to help build up their practice and boost their brand.
Sean La Roque-Doherty: Before we move on we’re going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsor Headnote.
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Sean La Roque-Doherty: And we’re back talking with Kisha Brown of Justis Connection, bringing lawyers of color together with new clients. Kisha, what are your thoughts on legal tech being used to increase access to justice?
Kisha A. Brown: It’s the next frontier. In order for our democracy to prevail we have got to open wider the door that leads to justice, and technology is being used right now like for everything; to change the game for how we do the simplest things and for legal tech, right, to be more prevalent, more connected to community not just for lawyers to be able to do their work more efficiently which is incredibly important for our industry, but it’s also about how do we bridge these gaps, and not just to individuals but also to the business community and to larger corporations. How do we connect in ways that we never have before and that allows the whole legal system to shift?
When we allow for greater access to justice, the legal system itself shifts in a way that allows for people to prevail for people to actually come out in a way that regardless of whether their outcome is the way they originally envisioned, but by being able to be more knowledgeable and more active in the process, that is increasing access to justice.
One of the popular sayings right, “Justice delayed is justice denied” is one of my favorite legal Maxims, because it really personifies the black experience in America, and so legal tech can be that bridge that changes the game and allows for that increase for access to justice.
Sean La Roque-Doherty: I think you actually, you know, might have answered this question with that, but do you see technology is affecting the legal system since the use of tech is so prevalent in society?
Kisha A. Brown: I think that we have a way that legal tech is still evolving, right? For many lawyers it is contrary to our teachings to even engage in tech entrepreneurism, right, because it requires a lot of risk and we are taught, right, to be risk-averse or to really, really analyze the risks involved in every twist and turn.
And when dealing with technology and dealing with it in a way to proactively engage the legal system, it is a risky venture, it is unknown sort of what’s on that other side, but it is the consistent exploration by lawyers near and far that are going to change the game, right.
I was involved with the LexisNexis Legal Tech Accelerator Program and some awesome folks have come out of that accelerator program. You’ve got Catherine Krow and Tunji Williams over at dealWIP are doing amazing work and it’s only but a matter of time before more folks start to push the system that will eventually change how we do work as lawyers.
Monica Bay: What will you tell young women and men about being a lawyer?
Kisha A. Brown: Great question Monica. I would tell them to not be overly concerned with what everybody else is doing, that there is no traditional path as a lawyer, that the experiences that you have great and small seemingly important or not so important are all part of your journey.
And being a lawyer is more than just one aspect of our practice, it is — it’s how we think, it’s how we engage, it’s how we read through the law and our understanding in everyday situations and so for those out there who whether you’re considering going to law school or already in the thick of it, don’t be afraid to chart your own path, don’t be so concerned with what everybody else is doing and recognize that your path will lead to a greater development in our legal community if you just stick to it.
Sean La Roque-Doherty: No traditional path, I love that, and I follow that mantra as well. But in your case where will you be in five years and then where will you be in 10 years?
Kisha A. Brown: At this moment in five years I’ll be working remotely on a beach in Jamaica running Justis Connection. That’s part of —
Monica Bay: Good for you. I wish I had thought that out.
Kisha A. Brown: Yeah. I really see the nature of the legal system shifting. Justis Connection intends not just to make a match and be gone and move on, it’s about changing how we interact in our court systems, it’s about how we think about who gets access, who gets to proactively say I want to protect my rights, I wanted this in my rights. And so I see Justis Connection making very deep impacts into the access that especially communities of color have in the legal system and the access that lawyers of color have throughout the clientele that they wish to explore.
So whether that means partnering with Google or Amazon or whether it means being local counsel to a small business, that lawyers of color have greater access to build their practice, to have greater accessibility and visibility and that, that itself will change how the legal system operates when more people are able to prevail inside of it.
Sean La Roque-Doherty: And before we sign off, why don’t you tell the audience how to get to Justis Connection and how to contact you?
Kisha A. Brown: Sure. Folks can reach us at or find us at www.justisconnection.com. They can follow us on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook at Justis Connection and I’d love to connect with folks individually as well and I can reach at [email protected].
Sean La Roque-Doherty: Thank you very much Kisha. This has been another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network.
If you like what you heard today, please rate us in Apple Podcasts. Join us in the next edition of Law Technology Now. I am Sean La Roque-Doherty.
Monica Bay: And I am Monica Bay.
Sean La Roque-Doherty: And we are signing off. Thank you for joining us and Kisha Brown talking about Justis Connection.
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