With Veteran’s Day this week, we decided to focus on a group that faces professional hurdles that most lawyers don’t. Attorneys married into the military find themselves moving around the country or overseas every couple of years, which presents a problem in a practice still largely geographically fixed. Joe chats with Michelle Richart, a military spouse who finds an avenue to keep her career moving as a freelance attorney. Kristin Tyler of Lawclerk also joins the show to talk specifically about how Lawclerk helps connect freelancers with projects.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Logikcull.
Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer
Making The Profession Work For Military Spouses
Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture, all while Thinking Like a Lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: Hello and welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law. I am not joined by my co-host today unfortunately because it is way too early in the morning that we are recording this, but we will try to soldier on and have a good show in any event.
So in honor of Veterans Day, we decided we would talk about military spouses and in particular lawyers who are married into the military and have to deal with all the struggles of being a lawyer while also moving around every couple of years. How do they do that? Well, one way they can do that is through freelancing, and that’s why we brought back I think we’ve talked before about LAWCLERK. We’ve got on today Kristin Tyler from LAWCLERK who is going to talk about that platform, and we have Michelle Richart, who is a military spouse and an attorney and a user of LAWCLERK about how she uses the platform to do her job.
So, Kristin, I’m going to turn to you first. We’ve talked a little bit about LAWCLERK on this podcast before, but for reminding people what is the mission of your platform?
Kristin Tyler: Sure, hey Joe.
Joe Patrice: Hey.
Kristin Tyler: So, at LAWCLERK our mission is really simple. We are working to help connect busy attorneys with our nationwide network of freelance lawyers for project work, and so the whole idea is that we’ve built a system to make it easy, that when attorneys are feeling really slammed, overwhelmed, whether that’s on a once in awhile basis or an all the time recurring basis they can tap into our system, connect with a freelance lawyer and get a piece of work done we call those projects. And so it’s a very flexible way for both attorneys to either get help or get a little work when they want to fix some workup and we see that there’s an overabundance of legal talent out there that could be put to work and we hope that our system at LAWCLERK is the delivery mechanism to achieve that goal.
Joe Patrice: Yes, so I’ve seen this platform as it’s evolved. It’s difficult to do in a podcast form, explain like how easy it is to use, but I’ll do my best. So, you basically can post the jobs that you need help with, and this is particularly important for smalls and solos who sometimes get overwhelmed with a filing that’s just due soon and you can post this is what I need, this is what I’m willing to pay and freelancers from around the country who sitting at home can look and say, oh, I can do that for that price and just jump on. It’s literally that simple. There are little boxes, you do it, you hit it, and you’re good to go.
There’s also been an update to it over the last year or so that I want to talk about with you. Could you talk about the team’s process a little bit?
Kristin Tyler: Yeah, yeah, that’s one of our best features. So, early on our early adopters, now our power users came to us and said, hey, this is great, I love it, but I really want to work with the same couple of people on repeat just over-and-over, like every time I have a demand letter I want Jill to write it, every time I might have emotion I want Bob to have the first crack to give it a draft.
And so what we did was we built a team — a feature called TEAMS and so now the hiring attorneys can create their own teams and those could be for different types of law, different types of projects. So, for example, one of our most robust users is an attorney and a small town in Wisconsin. She is a general practitioner like a lot of small town lawyers and so she’s built a team for general research, she has a family law team, she has a bankruptcy team, she has a criminal team, she has a research team, and so whenever she has a piece of work, all is in one of those categories. She sends it to one of the two or three lawyers she has on each of those teams.
So in essence, this small town lawyer in Wisconsin, who’s a general practitioner, Solo, she now has a virtual law firm of about 14 associates that she can tap into to get the help she needs when she needs it without the overhead of traditional hires. Plus, if someone like that was going to make a hire, they’re probably going to hire one associate attorney.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Kristin Tyler: And really there’s no one magical unicorn associate that can do all of those different types of work and do them as well as the freelancers came with their expertise.
Joe Patrice: So, at this point I’m going to take a brief break and talk about our sponsor. So today’s episode is brought to you by your significant other. You know the person whose texts, calls and stamps you’ve been ducking to plow through an endless doc review project. Make better decisions, save your relationship and work smarter with Logikcull: eDiscovery software that gets you started in minutes. Live in the now, create your free account today at logikcull.com/atl.
So we are back, talking about LAWCLERK. So team’s structure we just covered and how you can build out your kind of ninja squads for every different thing that you want to do as a practitioner, so transitioning a little bit, let’s talk about like what it is to work with the system. So I want to bring in Michelle here.
Michelle, can you explain to us your involvement with this product?
Michelle Richart: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I am a freelance attorney, I kind of fell into that. I’m a military spouse and we move all over the country in world. In the past 13 years that I’ve been an attorney and so I kind of fell into freelancing and I actually know Kristin way back from our law school days, in Nebraska and I became aware of LAWCLERK through communication with her and it has been a good opportunity for me just to get extra work when I have — I do freelance on my own but then this has allowed me an opportunity to join both teams and to do individual projects, which I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do.
It’s also been great for me with our lifestyle moving around and having small children. I can take as much work or as little work as I want to at that time, which has been a great — a great option for flexibility for me personally and for our family.
Joe Patrice: The military spouse angle, we’ve talked about this a little bit before — it’s a group of lawyers that is often overlooked because there’s a lot of moving around and there’s been discussion I know of at the state levels of what to do with bar passages and so on because you’ve got qualified lawyers who all of a sudden have to jump to another state. Do they have to take the Bar again? Should there be an exemption for military spouses, and this is something of a way around that by allowing you to practice in places where you can practice as a freelancer?
Michelle Richart: Exactly, exactly. I’m a part of a group called the Military Spouse JD Network which is a Bar association for military spouses, and we’ve worked in the past like nine years to ease licensing burdens for military spouses as we do move state to state and we’ve got like 39 jurisdictions that have passed accommodations in that — during that time.
However, that it’s not always as smooth or seamless as you’d hope it would be, and for example, I was living in Germany for three-and-a-half years. So companies like — and options like LAWCLERK provide that opportunity to keep my career afloat during these transitions, in these moves, but also at a workload that I want, if I don’t want to work full-time or 60-plus hours a week, it gives me that option, it’s been great.
Kristin Tyler: Joe, I don’t know about you, but until I kind of got more into working with Michelle and it took some time to educate myself I wasn’t really intimately familiar with the challenges about these military spouses. Yes, licensing issues are one of those, but on average they are moving every two to three years. They are often moved to military bases that are incredibly rule. Most military bases are at least 50 miles from a major urban city. I didn’t know that, and so that poses another big challenge to trying to find a job in like a small town, and of course, then you have the known transient nature of military spouses and some employers are reluctant for that.
I can tell you that on our site the hiring attorneys I have worked to love hiring the military spouses. That’s one of their favorite categories of freelance lawyers that we have, and so we’re hoping to fill that void, but they really have some unique challenges that — on top of the normal practice of law, which is never easy, throws extra difficulty into just day-to-day life.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I don’t know if this has ever come up on the show before but I also work at the military — US Military Academy at West Point. So I’ve had over the years tons of students who have been married, and some of them have married lawyers and I’ve seen them move around and what do they do.
Thankfully a lot of them have got managed to get jobs that don’t require being in one place working with Bar prep companies and stuff like that where the moving around hasn’t been an issue, but it was definitely an early on worry like what am I going to do when I suddenly have to move out to El Paso?
And so this kind of brings truth for me how this product can really help with that and I also think you were saying that military spouses are one of the preferred categories, which doesn’t shock me because it would seem there’s probably, and probably unfairly, a bias in people’s minds that, oh, why is this person a freelancer, but with the military spouses, it was kind of a built-in reason. It’s obvious why this person is freelancing.
It’s not because something went wrong in their career, it’s just they have to move.
Kristin Tyler: Exactly, that is definitely one of the stigmas were working hard to try to overcome is, who are these freelance lawyers and not to take away from the military spouses but our freelancers come from a lot of different backgrounds.
A lot of them are government employees and say County prosecutors or they work for a School District and they just want to moonlight a little bit to make some extra money because how else is a lawyer going to pick up another four grand to pay for braces for their kid when they need a little extra cash if they’re working as a public defender or something. There’s a lot of times you have someone who is like a public defender or a county prosecutor. With a really specialized knowledge they are in the courtroom all the time, their skills are sharp and they are willing to come in and help do some research or drafting for you to get that work done.
Of course we’ve got a lot of solo attorneys all over the US that when their practices inevitably take a downturn as the practice of law can do from time-to-time, they’ll come in and do some freelance work. And of course we also have these awesome retired freelancers, which is to me another one of my most favorite categories. We have a lot of people that just love-love-love the practice of law and don’t want to fully give it up when they retire, yeah, they want to see the grandkids, yeah, they want a golf, maybe they want to travel but they also enjoy writing so long and thankfully they can continue to put those skills to use through us.
So definitely we as a profession have to get over any stigma that may be out there about freelance lawyers because from my experience they are some of the most talented and qualified lawyers I know.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, so Michelle, what kinds of projects have you taken on? Obviously you can’t go into confidential details, but what’s the manner of work that you’ve managed to get through this?
Michelle Richart: Well, immigration is something that I practice exclusively for several years when we were living in Texas, and so, that’s the type of case that I usually feel most comfortable doing when those projects come around. So employment based or family based immigration cases, but also to touch back on what Kristin was saying about the military spouses, I will say, you know, our first assignment out of law school with the military was Abilene, Texas so. And there is a bias about military spouses moving to these smaller communities like why are you in Abilene, Texas? But it’s changed a lot, like the landscape has changed, which is great.
And another thing I also want to bring up with military spouses is like, one, there’s some statistics and studies that we’ve done with MSJD and that show one out of every two military spouses have attorneys have done what they call geo-bachelors, Geographic bachelors living apart from your spouse for a certain period of time. I did it for three years, I lived in Dallas and we are in Abilene, but doing this freelance lawyering allows you to still maintain that career without having to be Geographic bachelors, that wasn’t necessarily an option back in. I think it was like 2007 to 2010 when I did that.
So it’s great now to have this kind of an option so we don’t have to maintain two households and all the additional struggles of moving but then also separating from your spouse and moving again. So, yeah, it’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed being a part of LAWCLERK.
Joe Patrice: So immigration issues obviously are a huge deal even within the military where you end up with — years ago I had a occasion to talk with a colonel who did a lot of immigration work within the Pentagon and was telling me that one of the biggest issues that they face are these situations where soldier meets somebody overseas, tries to come back, think everything is okay, and it’s a nightmare and like they just don’t understand, and yeah, she said it’s a huge challenge that she dealt with all the time, just within the military, we don’t necessarily think about immigration as an issue within the military proper, but it’s out there.
Michelle Richart: It very much is out there, very much is.
Joe Patrice: One other – oh, so this is a fun story that I have talked — when I last saw Kristin we talked about so I’m going to bring it up for all the listeners, so.
Kristin Tyler: Uh-oh, I hope I remember the story.
Joe Patrice: Well, no — so this high-tech system where you can find the right freelancer for whatever, seems as though this is something that is only available to us because of the advance of technology, but you’ve found out that this sort of a system existed in the past and it seems absurd that it ever could have in the past but talk a little bit about that story.
Kristin Tyler: Yeah, that’s right, I remember. So I saw Joe couple of weeks ago at the Clio Conference in San Diego and like chess before Joe had stopped by to say, hi, I had been talking to this self-proclaimed hippie lawyer from Vermont who had been practicing like over 40 years to give you some perspective on his age.
So self-proclaimed hippie lawyer from Vermont came over to tell me just why my company was really nothing new because he’s been doing this for ages. So I was like, oh really? I was like, well, tell me about the company you worked with because he said I worked on the company just like yours 30 years ago, and I was like, oh really? Like you tell me about that.
And he said, yeah, he would just fax in your request or you would mail it in when you’d wait a few weeks and you’d have to go to the judge and ask for more time because you had to tell them that you had faxed, sent your request to the freelance to like your brief and you’d have to ask the judge for more time because you’re waiting to get the fax back with your brief, and I mean, I love it, yes, it makes us chuckle, but I love it too because it also just shows that really what we’re doing at LAWCLERK is nothing new, people have local contract for lawyers for decades we’ve just hopefully made it a lot easier than faxing and mailing and asking the court for continual extensions of time because you’re waiting for the revert back.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I can’t imagine how that would have functioned or who would have thought to do it in a world where you didn’t have the power of the Internet to allow you to make these connections rapidly like LAWCLERK does, who would have even thought that this was a good idea.
Kristin Tyler: Right. The problem is that.
Joe Patrice: Well — so, Michelle, are you — to ask a personal question, are you in the process of potentially moving again soon or you where you are for a little bit?
Michelle Richart: We actually just moved earlier this year. This actually might be our last move. We moved from Las Vegas and we’re now in Colorado Springs based at the Air Force Academy, which is a great place to be, but yes, my husband has three years left in the military and then we’re looking at retirement. So, we are excited and hopeful that this is our last transition, but I will say, a life of moving every few years is you kind of get into this routine and the itch to move every few years, so we will see how that goes. But yes, we just moved to Colorado Springs and are loving it.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean, I’m obviously somewhat biased from my background, being at an academy is certainly a better gig than some of the places you can end up.
Michelle Richart: That isn’t true.
Joe Patrice: Yeah — no, so that’s good to know. I wouldn’t think I would get tired of moving, I don’t know, so if it becomes a routine I guess then maybe you’ll live your life moving from place to place still, I don’t know, but I think you should try staying in one place for a while, may be you’ll get used to it anyway.
But even when you do that you have no reason to give up on freelancing because even if you’re in one place you can utilize this platform, and for all the attorneys out there who are not freelance but who may need some help, you have a big project coming up, you have some big — what in — we’ve always thought about the contract attorney thing from the review side, but it’s not really anymore, this is research, writing, first drafts, motions practice, it can be anything, and so if you’re out there listening and feel like your practice needs a quick boost of staffing, this is an option that you should be looking into.
Michelle Richart: Absolutely. Thank you Joe.
Joe Patrice: Yeah – no, absolutely. So great. Oh, and I guess, I’ll say it again LAWCLERK, so I shouldn’t have just said, oh, this is a good thing, I should have said LAWCLERK is, see, this is where you know you’re dealing with an amateur podcaster by not saying it all right.
Well, thanks to both Kristin and Michelle for joining us to today. This is our Veterans Day episode so we’re talking about military spouses, I guess if that wasn’t obvious. So thanks for joining us and thanks for keeping us informed about LAWCLERK.
Kristin Tyler: Thanks Joe and huge shout out and thanks to all those military spouses like Michelle out there or just hats off to you guys, it’s hard enough being a lawyer, let alone, juggling everything else you guys have to juggle. So, we really appreciate the sacrifices your families make.
Michelle Richart: Thank you very much.
Joe Patrice: Well, and thank you all for listening, if you aren’t already subscribed you should. You should give us reviews, not just the stars, but also write something it helps the algorithm figure out that we’re a real show and move us up those rankings.
You should be following me on Twitter, I am @JosephPatrice. You should be reading Above the Law, you should also listen to The Jabot, which is Kathryn Rubino’s podcast and you should listen to the other offerings from the Legal Talk Network, including there were some On the Roads recently from that Clio Cloud Conference that we mentioned a few minutes ago. So you can catch up on all the happenings at that conference by listening to those.
And with all of that I think we’re done. We will check in with you again next week. Bye.
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