Kathryn and Joe sat down to talk about a couple human interest stories in law. Joe discusses the story of AXDRAFT, a Ukraine-based legal tech provider (part of the Onit family) and its struggles and triumphs in the face of an ongoing catastrophe while Kathryn talks about an Afghan judge who fled the country with her law degree sewn into her clothes. All this and a brief chat about ILTACON.
Special thanks to our
Joe Patrice: Hello.
Kathryn Rubino: Hey, how are you doing, buddy?
Joe Patrice: I’m good, I’m good.
Kathryn Rubino: That’s good to know.
Joe Patrice: Can I get through this?
Kathryn Rubino: You’re going to, so I’m going to say yes. This way, it seems like it’s my idea.
Joe Patrice: You know, if you want to enter the show, you always can at any moment.
Kathryn Rubino: I don’t. I want to interrupt you, it’s the same reason why you like interrupting me with sound effects.
Joe Patrice: I’m Joe Patrice from Above the Law. I’m joined by my colleague, Kathryn Rubino, and we’re here with a bit of a special episode.
Kathryn Rubino: Special episode.
Joe Patrice: It doesn’t seem all that special to your side, but I guess we can discuss why it’s special.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah.
Joe Patrice: Which is the subject of —
Kathryn Rubino: See? You are going to interrupt me.
Joe Patrice: Perish the thought. The reason this is a little bit special is we’re kind of recording this extra early, so we’re going to be less —
Kathryn Rubino: Timely.
Joe Patrice: Time sensitive about the actual news of the week. The reason we’re doing that is because — well, those of you who are —
Kathryn Rubino: Plugged in to the exciting world of legal technology.
Joe Patrice: For those of you who know that.
Kathryn Rubino: That tickled me, I enjoyed that.
Joe Patrice: For those of you who are aware of that universe —
Kathryn Rubino: Or perhaps listened to your other podcast, The Roundtable.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that’s true. That the ILTACON conference is taking place this week, and therefore, that’s a job that we’ve got to do and go down and cover that. And that means we don’t really have time to be recording a podcast.
Kathryn Rubino: So, what it’s like as a journalist, when you go down to cover it? I’ve only been to one, and to be honest, what mostly I remember is the location, because it was at Disney. My favorite place on Earth, as it should be everyone’s, because it’s literally the happiest place on earth.
Joe Patrice: Fair enough. This year, we’re in National Harbor, which is outstanding.
Kathryn Rubino: Not the happiest place on Earth.
Joe Patrice: It’s not. It’s like this weird conference facsimile village outside of Washington DC.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s like a facsimile of a town.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I think that’s a fair way of describing it. Anyway, we’re there having this conference. It is a large conference, brings together a lot of international and the global law firms and legal departments coming together, especially aim towards the legal technologists. That’s usually IT people, but also a lot of operations folks and so on. They come together to have a series of sessions that are interesting about what’s going on in legal technology, but also as one does with these sorts of conferences, there’s an exhibit hall where a lot of the mover and shaker vendors come to peddle their wares.
Kathryn Rubino: So, you’re going to get a lot of branded high-lighter.
Joe Patrice: It’s always possible that there’s some swag.
Kathryn Rubino: What’s the best piece of like conference swag that you’ve got throughout the year, because you’ve been covering LegalTech Conferences for a number of years for ATL.
Joe Patrice: There’s a few different things, so I don’t use it very often, but the objectively best thing I got was an Apple watch.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, that would qualify as the nicest bit of swag.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. But I also go to these things. I use a lot of the — I think I’m actually currently drinking from something I got at ILTA. This particular thermos yeah, I got from ILTA. Yeah, so useful stuff like that. Anyway, but you get to hear a lot about what’s going on in the industry, what they’re hearing from clients. Clients talk to us about what they’re hearing from vendors. It’s a good opportunity to take the temperature. A lot of the vendors tying their releases surrounding the conference.
Kathryn Rubino: So, it would be news coming out of the conference.
Joe Patrice: You hear about new features. We just heard in advance of the conference documents just told us about a new automation feature that they have, which is kind of cool. I got to see a demo of that, that was fun. But yeah, that’s a lot of what the show is. But yeah, that’s what it’s like to cover it.
Kathryn Rubino: That sounds like a good — I imagine there might be some parties as well to attend.
Joe Patrice: There are a few parties which obviously are very serious business.
Kathryn Rubino: Very serious business, no alcohol involved.
Joe Patrice: I take them as seriously as you would expect I would.
Kathryn Rubino: It leaves a lot of room for interpretation or not much room at all.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So, we don’t have a particularly long show today, but we wanted to get something out there that talks about a couple of stories that are not so much time sensitive, but we still thought we’re very interesting from this last week.
Kathryn Rubino: Speaking of legal technology.
Joe Patrice: Yes. So, first of which, we will talk a little bit about legal technology, though we are going to do that after we take a break, because that’s what we do.
Kathryn Rubino: To hear from our sponsors.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that’s what we do when we come to the conclusion of — all right, well, this is looking down. I see that we have a bunch of messages, but.
Kathryn Rubino: Oh, no, I’m busy right now because I’m recording a podcast, if only.
Joe Patrice: Yes, if only when you were doing your legal work, you had someone else handling and intaking those calls.
Kathryn Rubino: Right. So, you can focus on the tasks that you are trying to accomplish and not get distracted by telephone calls when you can have a virtual receptionist take care of that mundane work.
Joe Patrice: So, let’s hear from Posh about exactly that.
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Male: Today’s legal news is rarely as straightforward as the headlines that accompany them. On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we provide the legal perspective you need to better understand the current events that shape our society. Join me, Craig Williams, in a wide variety of industry experts as we break down the top stories. Follow Lawyer 2 Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.
Joe Patrice: All right, so, we have a bit of a legal tech story out of the gate. I had an opportunity this last week, actually it was really great. It’s a story that I had actually covered back at legal week, the more spring show in the LegalTech world. But there I spoke on it about some of the stuff that they were doing and what came up because it was obviously on everyone’s mind. That show was only a week or so into the Russian invasion of Ukraine and we talked about how Ukraine has a somewhat of a thriving IT market and for that reason there are a lot of Legal Tech connections there including AXDRAFT, which is part of the Onit extended family which is based in Ukraine and they told me there about the hard stuff about evacuations and making sure every employee was fine and all.
Kathryn Rubino: What did it all entail?
Joe Patrice: Well, that’s actually what I want to get to. So, that was the conversation I had back in March and as time has gone on, we’ve had a lot of other things happening which unfortunately force you to budget your time. You don’t want to lose track of the important issues. And this one, I got an opportunity this week to follow up, to talk a little bit more and that gave me an opportunity to talk to Yuri Zaremba, who’s the co-founder and managing director of AXDRAFT who’s currently in leave and I got to talk to him about how all this went down and yeah, pretty harrowing.
Kathryn Rubino: I can imagine.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, he had a plan. One of the things he told me was that they had thought through that this could possibly happen. We hear these reports that apparently many people in Ukraine did not think this was really going to happen, that this was just posturing AXDRAFT though took it very seriously and had a plan to evacuate everybody and to —
Kathryn Rubino: So, those project management skills are coming in handy, when you also need to evacuate your country.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, so they were based in Kyiv. They had a plan when things started going. They executed the plan, had buses to move everybody out of Kyiv to leave which is on the westernmost side of the country which has not been anywhere near, there’s been some rocket attacks but not near any of where Russian troops were and they had pre-booked hotels and office space so that they would be able to keep working because as a company that services international clients, they didn’t want to have interruption and they also set up some folks in Frankfurt, Germany for some of the client facing stuff and they managed to keep the company going. Got out there and now they have a permanent base there.
And they had the first semester, listen to me. The first quarter of the year was obviously rough to the extent that, not that they were disrupted, but lots of people they sell to where at stuff. So, the first quarter was not great but the second quarter was their best quarter ever, which is astounding, the resilience of that.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure, in the middle of literal war.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. And ultimately, the Ukrainian forces have pushed the Russians out of the Kyiv area. And so, some of the folks have gone back there. So, they now have a permanent base in Lviv and they also have some folks back at the old ways.
Kathryn Rubino: So, they’re staying in Lviv or?
Joe Patrice: I mean, that’s certainly where the bulk of their employees are now as I heard. But some folks went back to Kyiv because Kyiv is now — Yuri was telling me about 75% open is what he would estimate, the restaurants and places are —
Kathryn Rubino: So, things are largely back to normal or from his perspective?
Joe Patrice: Yeah, that they’re doing what they can there. So, yeah, things are largely back to normal there. Obviously, there were some issues with how one’s day to day routine was disrupted. Yuri told me that, when they first were given the okay to go back, he actually told folks maybe wait a while.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure.
Joe Patrice: Because there were like parks where you would walk your dog that were closed off from landmine concerns and stuff like that. But he says it’s getting back and that’s one of the things and one of the messages he had to his team, when they evacuated, they kept working. As he said, like everybody’s got to do your part and our part here is to keep generating revenue and keep paying our taxes so that we can keep fighting.
Kathryn Rubino: That is in fact how wars are funded, right?
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: Taxes.
Joe Patrice: And so, yeah, he said that our mission is to keep making money for the country. And that’s what they’ve been doing and, yeah, it’s still an ongoing crisis. He was very clear that he wanted people to remember that. But he’s hopeful now for the — more hopeful now than he had been that they aren’t going to have to go backward and do more evacuations and stuff. But that was a story we had that. It was very interesting. It’s good to kind of hear.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s something you don’t always think about in your say, “oh, I’m in legal tech.”
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: And also —
Joe Patrice: It’s certainly not what you bargained for when you —
Kathryn Rubino: Would you think you’re signing up for.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: But I guess that’s sort of the horror of war, right? Is that it affects everyone.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Yeah, no, definitely. Well —
Kathryn Rubino: It was good to see that at least the folks at AXDRAFT are doing well.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Very good and, yeah, no, great work on their part. Thankfully everybody’s okay and, yeah. Okay, yeah. So, we’re back.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. Also, kind of on this human-interest tax that this episode’s fallen under. There was a story in CNN about —
Joe Patrice: I’ve heard of them.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, yeah. They’re kind of big deal.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I’ve heard of that outlet.
Kathryn Rubino: But they had a story about Fawzia Amini, an Afghanistan Judge. She headed the Elimination of Violence Against Woman Court. And so, presided over all sorts of cases where women were victimized either by partners or by whatever kinds of crimes. And all that kind of changed last year when the Taliban took over Kabul. One of the things that they did once they took over the city was to shut down the court. They fired all the women and according to Amini, they also froze their bank accounts. This is the moment when she said she began to plot her escape from Afghanistan. She also has four children, daughters and very concerned that her entire family would become targets because she had taken on this sort of leadership role not only as a woman judge, but also on that particular court. And she was able to flee the country — and this is what I also thought was very interesting is that it was actually her legal connections that helped get her out of the country.
A UK solicitor, the Baroness, Helena Kennedy, actually had been to Afghanistan organizing the country’s efforts to create a Bar Association and got a lot of contacts from women in the country as a result. And when the Taliban took over, she started getting calls about, I’m in danger. I’m hiding in my basement. I don’t know what to do. Is there any went out there kind of that can help? And she was able to fundraise a bunch of money, charter planes.
Amini talked about getting her family by bus that had a 12-hour bus ride with the headlights off because they were afraid of being seen to get to a charter plane where they were then able to leave the country. But she also has friends who are still there that were remained unidentified fully because of fear of retribution, obviously. But talk about how that they’re still very, very fearful for their lives, that they’re treated like prisoners. And they feel like their entire life has been stolen by the Taliban.
You know, the problems didn’t end when they were able to flee the country. She talks about, first of all, one of the most sort of poignant/heartbreaking images from the story is she talks about cutting a hole in her dress and sewing her law degree.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. I mean that that’s awful. But you know —
Kathryn Rubino: It’s just you want to be able to like prove her credentials no matter where she round up. So, she’s actually currently in the UK. Currently, her focus is on learning English, getting her children in school, something that women girls are not currently allowed to do in Afghanistan. But Helena Kennedy actually talked about how she thought that it would be so easy to get refugee status for all these women that she was getting out of the country because these courageous women taking a stand against the Taliban, all these kinds of stuff. And it’s actually proven very difficult. There’s international standard, different countries have different processes, different forms to fill out. And it’s kind of been a mess to figure out where all these folks who were able to get out will go wind up, and what status they have in the country that they have wound up in.
So, definitely an ongoing problem and story, but I think that it’s something that we don’t pay enough attention to sort of the — because there’s so very many problems, but there’s a mess left in Afghanistan and women like this are the ones very much left holding the bag. And they talked about they had dreams for the country that they felt was on the right track and it’s been pushed backwards. And it’s heartbreaking to think about this woman’s story and the steps backward that she’s taken.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. So, today’s episode was very much on the humanitarian crisis and a conversation about Legal Tech.
Kathryn Rubino: There was connection there.
Joe Patrice: There were. There was a tonal shift in the show, I think it’s fair to say.
Kathryn Rubino: This is not our typical show, I normally don’t get choked up in the middle of the show. But bad things, we should feel things when we hear stories about bad things that are going on in the world.
Joe Patrice: Well, with that, I think we’re done with this short kind of special event episode. Thanks for listening. You should be subscribed to the show so you get episodes when they come out you can give reviews, stars, write things, do all that sort of stuff. You can check out our other shows. I’m on that Legal Tech — that weekly Legal Tech.
Kathryn Rubino: See you, don’t know the name of it.
Joe Patrice: Journalists Roundtable.
Kathryn Rubino: You can also subscribe to Thinking Like a Lawyer which most of the time.
Joe Patrice: Which you can get episodes when they drop.
Kathryn Rubino: I know. But I was also going to say that most of the time they’re not this much of a downer.
Joe Patrice: Wow, that is correct.
Kathryn Rubino: That what I was just going to say.
Joe Patrice: That is correct. You can also listen to The Jabot, which is Kathryn’s other program. You’ll see other offerings from the Legal Talk Network. Follow us on social media. I’m @JosephPatrice, she’s @kathryn1, the numeral 1, read Above the Law.
Kathryn Rubino: You could follow ATL on Twitter too. It’s at ATL blog.
Joe Patrice: That is right. We also have an Instagram, although I can’t remember what that is.
Kathryn Rubino: I think it’s ATL blog too.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, okay, anyway.
Kathryn Rubino: Follow the other shows on the Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: I already said that one.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, I wasn’t listening to you Joe.
Joe Patrice: See, that’s the problem. Like it’s —
Kathryn Rubino: It was that really what makes me the superstar here.
Joe Patrice: All you have to do is follow the dulcet tones of my voice. Everything will work out fine.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean, then I would absolutely fall asleep, right? Like let’s be very clear.
Joe Patrice: All right, so with that done, I think we’re finished and we’ll chat with you again next week.