Guest: Kimberley Felton is an immigration attorney, consultant, and supermom and the founder of virtual immigration law firm Onward Immigration and consulting firm Innovation Litigation.
Shortly after law school, Kimberley Felton found herself struggling with all the things they don’t teach: How to manage time, clients, and family. She knew there had to be a better way.
Unfulfilled in disorganized settings and fighting to find meaning in her new profession, she taught herself to incorporate available technologies that let her serve the clients she is passionate about while spending quality time with her husband and two children.
Felton discovered she wasn’t alone and now helps other attorneys break free from “the way we’ve always done it” by embracing tech and project management platforms to build a better work/life balance and a more efficient, rewarding practice.
- What you need to know … that they don’t teach in law school
- Leveraging technology to manage clients and cases
- Treating each case like a project and incorporating project management techniques
New Insights (brought to you by Nota):
- Veteran practitioner Starlett Massey answers litigation associate Melanie Kalmanson’s question.
- Question 4 of 4: “Do you think remote proceedings will continue post-pandemic?”
Special thanks to our sponsors, Lawclerk, Alert Communications, Abby Connect, and Clio. Have insights, tips, inspiration to share? Want to be a guest on the New Solo podcast? Contact us at [email protected].
Intro: Before we get started with today’s episode, I want to make sure and thank our sponsors. Alert Communications, Lawclerk, Clio and Abby Connect. As the largest legal-only call center in the U.S., Alert Communications helps law firms and legal marketing agencies with new client intake. Alert captures and responds to all leads 24/7, 365 as an extension of your firm in both English and Spanish. Alert uses proven intake methods customizing responses as needed which earns the trust of clients and improves client retention. To find out how alert can help your law office, call (866) 827-5568 or visit alertcommunications.com/ltn.
Adriana Linares: Alright everyone, it’s time for another episode of New Solo, and with me today is the rock star of a woman, Kim Felton, who is – Kimberly, I don’t know how old you are, but I’m going to call you a young attorney, if that’s okay.
Kimberly Felton: Sure.
Adriana Linares: Okay. Who’s a youngish attorney that went through law school and had her trials and tribulations. Found out she was going to become a mother during law school. Had her trials and tribulations, got out of law school, had some trials and tribulations, and then just decided there had to be a better way, which I’m pulling that quote from one of Kimberly’s articles that I read about finding balance in her life, creating a better law practice, and then finding ways to actually help other attorneys inasmuch as she helps her immigration clients with their legal needs. So Kim, it’s so nice to meet you. Thanks for coming on today. Give us a real quick the tweet size summary of how Kimberly Felton got to onward immigration.
Kimberly Felton: Okay. First, thank you so much for having me on. I love this podcast. So I’m very happy and humbled to be here. Man, trying to sum this up is difficult but I had my first son during law school. I found out I was going to have my second son right before I graduated law school. I needed a job, couldn’t get a job because I was visibly pregnant and I needed money, so I started doing contract work which turned into figuring out how the legal profession is not efficient and how I cannot function in that environment. So, taking control of that, I want to teach other lawyers how to be efficient, how to streamline their practice, and how to figure out where they don’t have to choose between their families and their careers. So, I did innovation litigation to offer brief writing services so that I could take some of that workload. And then offer consulting to teach them how to build that in themselves, which then showed me there was even more things about the legal practice I didn’t like and being, the control freak that I a.m. I decided I was going to open my own practice and do things my way.
Adriana Linares: Kimberly, the article that I mentioned “A Better Way,” I’ve sought on above the law, but what was the full title for that so people can google it?
Kimberly Felton: It was super long. It is called “A Better Way: How Motherhood Changed My Perspective at the Legal Field and What I’m Doing to Change it.”
Adriana Linares: So, you went to law school, you were married and having babies during law school.
Kimberly Felton: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Like, you didn’t have enough going on, you decided, “well, why not throw a little another challenge? We’re going to have some babies.” So, I read a little bit on your background and I know that that was a struggle for you too, and not necessarily a bad struggle, but you took on a lot at that time, and I know that we have a lot of listeners that are either in law school or just out of law school and going through a lot. What kind of advice do you have? What kind of pearls can you share with going through that other than “don’t give up” and “go with your gut?”
Kimberly Felton: You can’t just not give up. You have to figure out a way not to give up. So, it happened, like, it all started coming together in the second part of my first year. First semester was like a hardcore in the books, head down, nothing else mattered and it was not good for my mental health. And so, it was a nice breath of fresh air to be able to snap out of that and come back to something in real life. I found out I was having my oldest son in April of 2016. After the initial excitement, the panic set in. Like, “oh my God, I’m going to have an infant. How am I going to do this?” And there weren’t that many resources to find about moms who had done this. So, I was left scrambling and I don’t know how I did it.
I recall days of sleeping on the floor and the lounge I used for nursing between my 30 minutes, between classes, the hard-cold floor. And yeah, I actually went back to school when my son was only three weeks old. And my husband was in the military at the time and he had to go away for training, so he left when the baby was six weeks old until mid-March. So, it was just me. Wow! Yeah. At the time, I had just gotten into immigration law and that was when all of the immigration changes started, January 2017. It was chaotic.
Adriana Linares: To say the least.
Kimberly Felton: Yeah. So, advice his — maybe plan it better but you can’t always.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, yeah.
Kimberly Felton: I don’t know. I just — It’s really hard to condense it into words how hard it was, but at the same time coming away. It conditioned me for beyond law school and it also grounded me and knowing that it’s not just about grades, it’s not just about law overview, there’s other people on the other side of this that need help. So, I think focusing on the ultimate end-goal is the good way to get through.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. And so, what kind of things do you offer in support? What sort of “Do you do talks? Do you do seminars? Do you write blog posts?” I mean, tell us where to go look for this kind of information if we are in a situation like you were in and looking for that sort of help.
Kimberly Felton: I would totally love to do talks and seminars. “Oh my gosh, invite me.” I will send you that. Yeah, no, I mean, on my personal Facebook and my Instagram, I am very candidly honest about my trials and tribulations of, when I failed the bar exam, I was upfront about it. I was like, you know, I was only a couple of points away, I didn’t make it. But you know what? I’m going to own that because you don’t ever hear about it. And so, it was more about just telling my personal story as it was happening. And then I started writing articles like the above the law artsicle that we have discussed before called “A Better Way.” How pregnancy changed my outlook on the legal profession and what I’m doing about it, because my post-law school experience was not as generous as my law school experience.
Adriana Linares: Tell us about that. What do you mean?
Kimberly Felton: It was really difficult. On top of all of the things I was doing, I decided I was going to do something that they had in New York called the Pro Bono Scholar Program and I was going to take the bar early before graduating. Yeah, so that was a great idea. I can do all of the things. I had a one-year-old, trying to study for the bar, still in school and I took the bar in February, and I was on top of the world, you know, thinking like this is it. I’m going to get sworn in after I graduate. This is going to be amazing. I found out a month later that I was pregnant with my second child, very big surprise, I was a bit shell-shocked. And then, I got the bar results very shortly after that and I was crushed. So, it was a matter of — it became an issue of not only figuring out my next move with the bar, but finding employment while I have a growing belly. That was where I was the most naive. I really believed that my credentials would outshine my appearance, and they were, until I was there in person. And then interviewers, their eyes would fall to my stomach. Suddenly, they were going in a different direction or they’d get back to me. They never got back to me.
Adriana Linares: That sucks.
Kimberly Felton: When I was 30 weeks pregnant, I found a position at a local family law firm. At first, it seemed promising. It wasn’t quite the area. I wanted to be in but it was good experience. And then, after I returned from having my second child, it was not a good experience. It was really hostile and it was unwelcoming and I only lasted a few more weeks because coming to find out the week I returned from maternity leave, they had started advertising for my position behind my back.
Adriana Linares: Wow!
Kimberly Felton: Didn’t find out until I was unceremoniously dismissed on a Friday afternoon and an hour later, I’m looking for a job and I see my position posted that week.
Adriana Linares: Oh my gosh.
Kimberly Felton: I was crushed, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I mean financially, that’s devastating, two kids, my husband was working but it wasn’t enough to carry everything, and that is how I started doing services for other attorneys to get by.
Adriana Linares: Smart.
Kimberly Felton: It was innovation out of necessity.
Adriana Linares: I think things are born from that. Well, here’s what I appreciate. Well, first of all, here’s what I don’t appreciate. The jerks that did that to you.
Kimberly Felton: All woman firm.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and I was going to say it doesn’t have to necessarily – you know, it’s so funny, I was just talking to a woman this morning and she said to me, “I said, I started my career at such and such law firm, 20 years ago.” She said, “do you know, so-and-so?” A friend of her is a woman.
And she said this person’s name and I said, “yeah, I do.” And I did not cringe when you brought her name from the back of my mind to the front, because when I was at that law firm, my worst experienced in interpersonal relationships was with women. They were so mean to me and, you know, I was 20-something years old, I just wanted to help, I was energetic. I knew something they didn’t know about computers and at this particular firm which was very toxic and not only did I suffer a little bit and not really. I mean, they were just mean girls it’s big deal. But I watched these associates just get pushed and crushed. And on the expectation set upon them were just – they were terrible. I was in my 20s and was young and dumb and I thought “who would want to be a lawyer under these circumstances.” Now, I went to a different firm later, and it was very different. So, there’s definitely something to be said about the culture and the law firm. And since then I’ve been in hundreds of firms where the experience runs the gamut. But anyway, long story short, it’s not always the men that do that to women and I think that’s really disheartening, I mean, it’s disheartening as it is, but this makes it even worse.
Kimberly Felton: Yeah. I agree. I had expected more support because most of them had children. And then like, you were saying the expectations that were set up are not realistic. I was getting told to put my six-week-old to bed and drive back to the firm. I was more than willing to sit and work at my kitchen table. I never shied away from that, but I had to stop nursing because I didn’t have enough time to pump and I was losing my supply and it was a lack of support and the fact that this is normalized that really bothered me.
Adriana Linares: That’s really hard and it’s really hard to live through that when you know you can do something about it. So you did something about it.
Kimberly Felton: I did. So, I discovered that there were ways to do contract work for other attorneys and it wasn’t even something that I had considered as an avenue before, but I had heard other attorneys looking for brief writers. So, I started doing that and I started getting myself on Facebook groups and passing my information around and using lawclerk.legal. It was a great way for me to get some really in-depth writing experience too and not have the pressure of dealing with the caseload.
Adriana Linares: That’s really great. For our listeners, in case you have heard lawclerk.legal is one of our sponsors. I’ve had great on this podcast at least once, possibly twice to go back and find those episodes with Law Clerk and see how they work. You’re the prior fourth or fifth guest that I can even remember who had said, Law Clerk has been very helpful to them. Either getting started, getting experience, or a supplemental income when they were launching their solo practice, so I love that. You are also part of that band of merry users who had a good experience with that and found that it was just a good resource. Okay, so you started with lawclerk.legal and then that still wasn’t enough for you.
Kimberly Felton: No, it wasn’t. So, yeah, I am raising babies, a house, animals, a husband and bringing in brief work. Then I started to get this each because I didn’t like the way people ran their cases. So, that’s how I accidentally stumbled into legal tech because I knew that there had to be a more efficient way to get this stuff done.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. And they didn’t teach you in law school.
Kimberly Felton: Exactly. They don’t teach you in law school. These are essential skills that are coming to be necessary in the modern law practice, but we’re still practicing in the 19 century in some places. So, I got this each and I didn’t like the way cases were handled. So I started diving in and learning about startups and all of these different project management software’s and it just kind of grew from there. Then I started offering assistance with project management and streamlining. I was like, “you know, if I’m setting this up for other people, I should be setting this up for myself too.” So, I set a goal and between — I set the goal actually long before COVID. I wanted a virtual practice because I never wanted to have to choose between my children and my job again.
Adriana Linares: Awesome.
Kimberly Felton: Well, I was a half the curve because then COVID hit and everything went virtual. I thought that was pretty awesome. Except there was a lot of bumps in the road trying to figure out other logistics to it like mail and all of these things that didn’t occur to me at the time. So, I dove in even further and started looking into different services and other types of software offered. And I just saw this entire universe of options, not only just with software and technology, but ways to practice law. I set the goal, it was in March 2020, I was going to open up a firm and have it ready to go by October. And I did.
Adriana Linares: Why did you, and I meant to ask you this earlier so sorry to go backward. Why did you choose Immigration Law?
Kimberly Felton: Okay, so I’ll try to make this one quick. Because I had found out that I was pregnant in my first year of law school. I had to have this purpose to continue because I was about to become a mom and that was supposed to be a big part of my life. So, I had gone into law school years thinking I was going to be a prosecutor. I mean, I’m talking like since I was 13-years-old. This was the plan. And I used to have names of law schools pinned up on my bedroom wall. I was a very nerdy teenager with a big ambition. So, I start interning at the DA’s office. Be still my heart “Oh my gosh, I can’t stand it. Oh, this is not for me.” I felt awful being in the courtroom. Seeing people in shackles, feeling like I was contributing the mass incarceration. The systemic racism that I witnessed was mind-blowing. Stuff that I didn’t anticipate.
And so, I was like, “oh no, I don’t know what I’m going to do now.” I got to figure this out, because I got a baby coming and law schools are really expensive. So, I spoke with a mentor who mentioned a local nonprofit and they have two fellowships there. And the only way to get into it is through two of the school’s legal clinics, which was the Domestic Violence Clinic and the Immigration Law Clinic. I am a domestic violence survivor, so that was a bit triggering to me and I kind of shied away from it. And then I was like “oh, immigration sounds happy.” I want to know this was August 2016. I was very naive and I reached out to the professor of the clinic to get in touch with her about the spring semester. Well, it just so happened that right then a spot had opened up because somebody had dropped the class. So, she said “it’s yours if you want it.” And I was sworn into the clinic with my hand on my belly and my right hand in the air three weeks later.
Adriana Linares: Oh my gosh!
Kimberly Felton: I fell in love. I absolutely fell in love. I was working on a special immigrant juvenile status case for kids that came from Guatemala and like he was 15 and just hearing the things. He didn’t have a mailing address, there’s no running water, there’s no electricity. It took my heart and then there was a bond hearing. I actually ended up on bed restaurant right very beginning of November. I still continued my classes on the computer and I participated through Skype and I worked on a bond hearing with my partner that was done like while I was on bed restaurant, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. I don’t know what it was about that particular area of law, but then when the election happened, I knew what that meant for immigration and it broke my heart. I had to stop watching the election because it was causing me to have contractions. I’m not even kidding.
Adriana Linares: Oh my God. I think I understand.
Kimberly Felton: It’s a little extreme but like the stress I was feeling, it wasn’t even about me, it was thinking about my clients and what they were going to endure. And so, I hadn’t signed up for the clinic for the following semester. I had been invited back to the second part, which is invitation only. But I decided not to because I had a new baby, and I was going to do an immigration law class instead, so I could learn. But I still couldn’t get enough. We had a Capital Region Immigration Coalition meeting. I was pumping as I was driving. I mean, like I said my son was only a couple weeks old and this was when the Muslim ban was coming down and all of these things were happening. So, I knew that I was not going to take much time off. And I ended up applying for the immigration fellowship at that nonprofit. And in February, they told me it was mine. I worked there that entire summer. I stayed there. I went back to the Immigration Clinic. And by the time I graduated, I had over 1300 hours of pro bono service.
Adriana Linares: That’s amazing. And that pro bono service that you loved.
Kimberly Felton: Yes. What really got me, it was my asylum case that I spent so much on.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. Before we continue our conversation. Let’s hear how lawyer’s industry-wide are adopting technology in this next segment of Clio’s Legal Trends Report minute.
Joshua Lenon: Did you know that three out of four lawyers are meeting with clients virtually. Storing firm data in the cloud, accepting payments online, and nearly two-thirds of law firms, support electronic document sharing and e-signatures. I’m Joshua Lenon, Lawyer in residence at Clio. Beyond the necessity of these technologies in the past year their value and saving lawyers time and money while also increasing client satisfaction cannot be understated. For the first time, we’ve seen lawyers adopt new technologies to degree that we’ve never seen before in the history of legal practice. What was once a competitive edge has now become a baseline in the legal profession and you do not want to be left behind. To learn more about these technologies for free download clio’[email protected]/trends. That’s Clio, spelled C-L-I-O.
Adriana Linares: Okay, we’re back. And I’m speaking to Kim Felton who, in our first segment, we sort of rolled through her journey of going through law school, pregnant, and then trying to work and get a job being pregnant and then she got the entrepreneurial itch which I love that you’ve got. A lot of lawyers don’t get the entrepreneurial itch and that’s okay, if you don’t, because another lawyers like you that get it and then do something about it that helps other lawyers.
We left off where you were discovering legal technology and the efficiencies that technology and specifically legal technology might bring to a practice and you saw a better way. Saw a better way to run your own life and then your practice. Is this where innovation litigation comes in?
Kimberly Felton: So, innovation litigation stemmed from the contract work I was doing. I wanted to do an LLC just to formalize it. But then, yes, that’s where I started thinking about other things. I can do with it because I still do contract work. I love brief writing. Some people think there’s something wrong with me. I love doing the 25-page asylum brief when it’s not my case but then I also was thinking about how other attorneys and other moms specifically can benefit from my experiences.
So with innovation litigation, I’m starting to change it, not just to being about outsourcing contract work, but about bringing me into revamp the system and figure out how they can have, you know, everybody wants to have it all, but it’s hard to have it all. You have to be able to have it in good increment so I want to be able to show them. You can have the life you love and the job you love and you don’t have to sacrifice for it.
Adriana Linares: I think that’s really important, because so many people do sacrifice one thing or another. It makes me think about this. I work for the San Diego County Bar II and we have a little podcast about the San Diego Legal Community, and a few months ago did an episode on lawyers as parents and that was the whole crux of the conversation was. I shouldn’t have to choose between being a parent and being a lawyer.
So, innovation litigation is two things then. Let me make sure I understand. It’s a platform for other attorneys who do immigration law to find contracted work, and it’s a consulting service that you run to help other lawyers be more efficient, find life balance, and use technology better.
Kimberly Felton: Yes. I can either offer them that balance by doing the brief work for them, or I can show them how to build that balance in themselves.
Adriana Linares: That’s amazing. Do you have more women or men as clients or about 50/50?
Kimberly Felton: Mostly women.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. I could see where they would be drawn to you. I mean your real and you’ve gone through this and you’re just saying, “Look, I can do this with you and you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself.” I mean ultimately there are things we all have to figure out on our own, but it is really nice to get a little roadmap from somebody. So, when somebody calls you up and says, “Help me, I’m drowning.” Where do you start?
Kimberly Felton: Well, what is the most urgent thing and what is the most important thing that we need to address first and foremost. What is an upcoming deadlines? What is something you need to get out of the way right now and then the rest of it, we can figure out step by step. It’s about prioritizing.
Adriana Linares: It is. Are you finding that you get contacted by young attorneys, older attorneys or again across the gamut?
Kimberly Felton: It’s across the gamut. I do find that there is a little bit more of a procrastination problem with older attorneys. Usually, it’s a last-minute need when younger attorneys tend to get work to me or request work much further out from the deadline so that was an interesting dynamic.
Adriana Linares: Any insight as to why?
Kimberly Felton: I think it comes back to the fact that we were never taught how to actually manage a caseload or projects in law school. That’s not a skill that anybody is really taught and you just — a lot of firms I’m finding are very disorganized and chaotic, and a lot of the younger lawyers are saying “I’ve had it. I can’t work in an environment like this.”
Adriana Linares: A lot of firms are chaotic. I was just speaking to one of my clients today who has a firm that when I started helping them in 2019, they were 18 people and today there are over 120. So not only just fast growth but chaotic because of that fast growth and they have a very fast-moving practice, so they hired me to help them with some advanced support and training on Clio and that docs and stuff. And when I hung up the phone with my contact which was the same person that had brought up the name of this nice attorney that I remember from 20 years ago. I hung up and turned to Henry, my boyfriend, who’s an attorney and does not run a chaotic practice because he is solo. He manages at all and he’s under control.
I looked him, I said, “Oh my God, that firm is an absolute mess.” I mean there’s no order. There’s little compliance but you know, that’s a big firm. That’s every big firm I have ever been to and I think that’s why when, if you are a young attorney or a solo, you have more peace of mind because you have more control and I always encourage attorneys who are losing their minds because of the lack of organization and structure like “go out on your own.” I mean you’re not going to fail; you’re going to get business, you’re going to do fine, and you won’t be going crazy because you’re running your practice under someone else’s rules.
Kimberly Felton: It’s something I’ve noticed like I said coming out of law school I was conditioned for harsher conditions, but I always had this high expectation for the legal profession and lawyers and then seeing the chaos and the lack of structure and even accountability. It was really disheartening for me and that’s why I was like I need to open my own firm because these immigration clients are not getting the service that they’re paying for. It was seeing unethical practices of other attorneys that really pushed me and feeling like I was powerless. The best I could do was work harder on the case work that was sent to me on an appeal than they did for the original petition. I wouldn’t have to do this work if it was done right the first time, but I was able to help in some way. I think that because the law profession is stuck behind the time. This progress is so slow and that is why lawyers have a bad rap. People are paying for the hourly model, but it’s not efficient. It doesn’t promote efficiency.
Adriana Linares: It doesn’t. That’s the argument, right. Everybody wants to talk about whether the billable hours should live or die and the fact that there is so much conversation about it really makes you question it. Talk to me real quick. Project management is something that is “new” to legal as I often say the idea of knowledge management, training is new and legal. I feel even 20 years later, I still have to say that because getting at least from my perspective legal technology training is not something that’s embedded into a culture which is why people are inefficient. This is the way we’ve always done it. No, it doesn’t do that because, anyway, long story short I hear you.
Talk to me about project management. That’s something we don’t talk enough about. What does that mean to you when it comes to managing a case? Because I think a lot of attorneys, don’t think about a case as a project therefore, don’t apply principles of project management to doing that. So when somebody says to you, “I think I need project management but is that the same as case management?” What do you say to them And how do you help them?
Kimberly Felton: Yeah, I mean, it is the same thing. The terms can be synonymous but I think when you mention project management, it’s more granular. It forces you, actually to do it step-by-step and to draw out the entire road map and see how you’re going to get there. What things do we have to do along the way? When do they have to be done? And why? And it’s a really good way. I think it’s a great way for younger attorneys to really get an understanding of a case to by not just plugging everything into Clio and then referencing the notes, but all right so we have this legal problem. When is the next filing deadline? What do we need to have done by them? What do I need to complete before the filing deadline so I’m not scrambling the night before to meet the filing deadline?
So, when it comes to project management, I’m not really partial to any kind of way or tool. I think as long as you can figure out something that works for you. I mean I started off using sticky notes on my wall and doing a convo on board, and I love that. I love the convo on board because I can see everything that’s going on in one place, but it doesn’t necessarily work for other people. It could be a spreadsheet. It could be a running list, but project management is something we do every single day and people don’t realize it.
Adriana Linares: They don’t, I’ll say real quick to I’ll add on this. I had a client who had me create some workflows for them in Clio. And what was great about the workflow when he gave it to me. He said, “Okay, here are the steps and here the paralegal steps, and here’s the attorney steps, but he had really taken the time to put into the workflow. Why? Which is something you said. And I think that’s important to address which is a project management system can be used like a knowledge management system where you’re teaching someone why something needs to get done so that the next time something similar comes up, they’ve got some information in their head that they can apply it or to either solve a problem or redo something the right way.
So it was really how he had –it wasn’t just this task who’s due three days. This task is due in three days because if we don’t contact this potential new client within three days, which that’s way too long, but we might lose the opportunity to service that client.
So, he actually had not just the sales and marketing part of the project but also at some point he dug into the legal reasons and this was a Family Law Lawyer. The other think I will add that I like about Clio and I think it’s any case management system that has calendaring rules in it. Again, sort of teaching. When you use their court rules, it tells you the — it lays out the rule, it doesn’t just say, “Okay, that’s due six days before the deadline.” It tells you why and what and how. And so, I think that’s another important part like you said of why and I think that’s a big piece that we missed out on and training ourselves and attorneys or someone else. It’s why are we doing this? I think that’s a really good case for thinking about cases more like a project than just a linear process to get from cradle to grave.
Kimberly Felton: Yeah. I mean, going back to brief writing, that was just a small portion of an entire project. But for me that was my project. That’s my portion that I control. Somebody else isn’t going to so they need to know where I’m at, at that time, to be able to figure out where they’re going next. And so, by breaking it down and I’m a very visual person so I need to be able to see things and the why part engrains it. It makes you know and understand it and then you take it more seriously and you’re more accountable, I think.
Adriana Linares: Tell me about your tech. You mentioned Clio, but I know there was a product called Afterpattern that is one of the main reasons you are here. What do you use in your practice? Let’s start with your practice.
Kimberly Felton: I am not a Clio user. I didn’t find it to be necessary. I’m more of somebody that takes other tech and pieces it together to make it work for me, so my essential pieces of tech are Zapier, Afterpattern which is a database system that you can build apps in with logic and conditional logic. It’s so hard to sum up into a quick sentence what Afterpattern does but it will do document automation for you, it will do calendaring, it will do pretty much a lot of things that you can think for it to do and if you can’t figure it out how, the team is there for you.
So, it’s a product that’s very dynamic and has filled a lot of gaps in my practice. And that also got me wanting to learn how to create tech and coding. So that’s another story but my — that’s one my essentials and then having a client portal is also essential to me. So I’m using a product from a relatively new startup it’s called joinportal.com.
The great thing about it is it is very customizable. And so, I can add in modules or different areas for my clients to go depending on what kind of case they have. And that was an issue I have with a lot of case management systems is it’s not heavily customizable by case type, it’s more just practice area.
So being able to customize my client portal is essential. A lot of my clients are not technologically fluent so having something simple is well. And you know I work all over my Mac, that’s my office. I love my Mac. I’ve stumbled onto so many different products but I still go back to using my Apple Notes, keeping a list on there. My Google Calendar, my email, Dropbox but that’s pretty much the most of it and besides using tools like Zapier and Integromat to connect everything.
Melanie: Oh, I always hate to see an exciting series of New Insights come to an end but this is Melanie’s last question for Starlet. And I want to make sure and thank Nota by M&T Bank for their support for this segment. To learn more visit trustnota.com. Terms and Conditions may apply.
My last question, in light of the recent pandemic is do you think remote proceedings will continue past COVID and why or why not?
Starlet: Remote proceedings are interesting. I had a three-day construction litigation dispute by arbitration right before the thanksgiving holiday and three days of Zoom and putting forth evidence via screensharing was absolutely exhausting. However, when we talked about basic motion practice, I hope that it stays so that we don’t have to waste our time and our client’s money and driving to courthouses waiting for docket calls, something that can be done in five minutes. Now, you should take three hours and it cost the client accordingly. I do hope one day to be back in the courtroom when it comes to evidentiary hearings and trials. And I think there’s a lot lost in some cases without being in person. We had a case where the size of our client in relation to the size of the defendant matter.
And it’s very hard to portray this different in size that could lead to our client being reasonably intimidated by and threatened by the opposing party when you’re not in person. And I’ve played some games with Zoom asking somebody to walk away or show their gate, sometimes these matters but it’s just not as effective as being in person. And I also think, it’s probably difficult for the trier of fact for the judge to really read people on Zoom sometimes. There is something about eye contact, and the way a person carries themselves that I think shows a lot about their character and in a strange way, body language and these subtle signals are important and that does not translate well on Zoom. But for all those other things, I hope any judges that are listening say, “Yes, let’s keep them on Zoom and save everybody time and money.”
Adriana Linares: So that was our last question in the second series of New Insights. Thank you so much Melanie for coming on New solo.
Melanie: You’re welcome. Thank you for inviting me.
Adriana Linares: If you’re a listener and you’re interested in being one of our guests for New Insights, shoot us an email at [email protected]. Starlet, thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate it.
Starlet: Adriana, it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you through this process and I really appreciate the opportunity to be on your podcast. I love what you’re doing to help young lawyers and all of us in the legal community. I think it’s so important that we create authentic connections with one another and give people more resources as they grow their practice. Melanie, I wish you the very best and please feel free to let me know if I can ever answer any of your questions offline again.
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That’s always a really good reminder for listeners is really want to find an area of law that you’re passionate about and that you love.
Kimberly Felton: I think I got lucky because I just happen to stumble into that and easily could’ve been something else, but I think that there should be more encouragement to branch out and try different as opposed to going on one track in law school.
Adriana Linares: I agree with you. I agree. Well, I’ve always said and I say it on this podcast all the time. The happiest lawyers I know are the ones who are practicing in an area of law that they support, that they love, that they’re passionate about. So there’s just — and you know back to mental health and wellness and all the issues that we see that lawyers can have because it can be such a stressful job. I think that’s just an important reminder.
Kimberly Felton: The statistics don’t lie. Building out innovation litigation, I was looking at the burnout rate and how many women are exiting the profession before 10 years, and it all ties in together. Not knowing what your practice area you want, being in a toxic environment, having a family that depend on you, it’s all connected.
Adriana Linares: A lot of stress. You’re a superwoman. Like so many other lawyers I know and just humans in general, I know so many superhumans and you definitely fall into that category.
Kimberly Felton: I appreciate that. I feel like I’m just stumbling through the day and figuring it out.
Adriana Linares: So as an immigration lawyer — so you’ve got Afterpattern which I’m going to ask you a little bit more about now. And then you sort of used the basics on your computer, your mail and all that. Do you use any special immigration software?
Kimberly Felton: I use CampLegal because what’s great about it is it puts all of the information into the forms for you and it translates for the client automatically. There’s a lot of great components to it. I don’t use it as much as the other pieces just because it doesn’t integrate with everything as well yet but it’s a fairly new company.
Adriana Linares: And this specifically immigration. I haven’t heard of this.
Kimberly Felton: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Okay. So good. People can go google that if they’re interest in finding some immigration software.
Kimberly Felton: I was going to say, there’s other options out there. There’s something called Docketwise but ultimately, I got to put in the plug. If you take the time to build it out in Afterpattern, it can do what these systems are doing already.
Adriana Linares: Okay. So, let’s talk about Afterpattern because I am sure that I started to go into the back of people heads when they heard you say you built it yourself.
Look, this is not for everybody guys. So, listeners, don’t go out there and think you have to build something. There are turnkey solutions, and we know what all of those are. But if you have some desire and sophistication and obviously there’s a learning curve and you mentioned very briefly there’s an advantage to building out a practice management system that works specifically for you.
So, talk a little bit about that and how Afterpattern, if you haven’t already covered it has been able. How did you find a product like Afterpattern? It’s not legal specific.
Kimberly Felton: And actually is. It’s built by Lawyers for Lawyers. It started as an access to justice project and it became much more.
Adriana Linares: Awesome.
Kimberly Felton: Yeah.
F Adriana Linares: I’ve never heard of it. We’re going to have to have the people on.
Kimberly Felton: You definitely should.
Adriana Linares: Okay.
Kimberly Felton: Thomas’ officer is fantastic. The product, I think I learned about it at the ABA Tech show and then I started looking into it more and there is a learning curve but it’s completely doable. I mean, that was — it breaks down into blocks and components. And then once you figure out the logic to it, it’s very much like legal analysis, if this, then that, or this plus this, or this does not mean that. And so, I started playing with it. The first thing I built on it was a self-screening tool for clients to figure out if they were eligible for DACA. That way, they don’t need to call me and waste our time to find out if they can get DACA. They can go plug in a couple of answers and as soon as they don’t meet the criteria, it will tell them and not waste their time.
Adriana Linares: Or yours.
Kimberly Felton: Right. And then I was trying to figure out how to do a comprehensive intake to screen people for all different kinds of immigration relief because that’s the problem I noticed. There’s people eligible for things like a VAWA, U Visa for crime victims and a T Visa for trafficking victim. They’re not screened as often as they should be. I wanted to figure out how to get all of these questions in to figure out “Can we do this for them? Is those possible for them? Is there this avenue? What strategy can we follow that will lead them to permanent residency?” Problem was the document 13 pages long and that is not efficient. And there’s no way I’m going you get a client to fill that out and there’s no way a client is going to sit down with an admin assistant and fill that out and that not be a waste of time.
So, I tried to figure out what I could do about it. And I ended up deciding to put it into Afterpattern and have it. So, the question is populated based on the answers. That way, I didn’t have to write skip this, or try to direct them in a way that gets confusing and it became a less than 10 minute quiz that bills up that 13-page packet, but the best part is at the end, it fills in these check marks for different areas of immigration that they’re eligible for based on the answers that they’ve given me. It also flags if there’s going to be any potential problems, and then it’ll also tell me to look further to see if they’re eligible for a waiver.
Adriana Linares: Wow!
Kimberly Felton: And with that, I’ve been able to screen people so much faster and honestly being able to offer a quick 15-minute phone call for free instead of them hesitating to pay for an hour of my time. I think it’s a really good way to also give back to that community that needs to be careful where they spend their money.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. That’s great. That’s amazing. Well, seriously, you sound like a superwoman. So, you have the air about you that sometimes you don’t feel like you are a superwoman which just ingratiates you even more, but you’re a superwoman and I know that you own it when you need to. I just want to really say you’re very impressive and amazing. I appreciate your time today. If people want to find friend or follow you. How can they reach out legally-mom?
KimberlyFelton: Underscore. Its legally_mommed like a play on Legally Blond. I hsad too. My office with pink and gold, so.
Adriana Linares: Of course, it is.
Kimberly Felton: Same thing on Twitter, same thing on Instagram, same thing on Clubhouse, Facebook. You can find me under KimberlyFelton. I’m pretty easy to find. The same thing on LinkedIn. And then the name of my firm is Onward Immigration and it will always lead back to me. And then there’s innovation litigation for people who need help with streamlining.
Adriana Linares: I think that’s great. That’s awesome. I’m so glad. You took the time from practicing law, helping other lawyers, helping your clients, raising your kids and taking care of your house and husband, and I’m sure he’s helpful too.
Kimberly Felton: He is amazing.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kimberly Felton: 0Without him, this would not be possible. To be able to —
Adriana Linares: Yeah. I’ve read a couple of your writings, you have said he has been very supportive and an important part of your success and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having a partner like that.
Kimberly Felton: It’s essential honestly, and I appreciate that a lot of women don’t have that.
So, whenever I get the chance to give him credit where it’s due absolutely. I mean, we kind of reversed roles, you know, he’s deployed before but in the military so my support went then, and then he’s giving it back to me now.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. Well, thanks so much Kim. Totally appreciate you coming on today.
Kimberly Felton: Thanks so much for having me. This was awesome.
Adriana Linares: You’re awesome.
Adriana Linares: All right everyone, sadly, we reached the end of another great episode of New Solo. If you would like what you’ve heard today, please tell your friends about New Solo. Give us a good rating. Actually, I want to ask everyone to please go on iTunes and give us a good rating. I don’t have that many on there because I’m not very good at asking for that. But if you would take the time to do that, I really appreciated that. That’s be great. It helps other people find a podcast too. So, we’ll see you next time another episode of New Solo.
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Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com