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A2J Interview
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Spotlight on Access to Justice

Keri Coleman Norris: Moving Forward With LegalShield

A2J Q&A with LegalShield's SVP of Regulatory Affairs.

By Mary Juetten

In Attorney at Work’s A2J Q&A series, Mary Juetten checks in with leaders working to solve the access to justice problem. This time, Keri Coleman Norris discusses the three challenges consumers face when accessing legal services, and LegalShield’s goal to use technology to “put the law in the palm of everyone’s hand.”

Getting to Know Keri Coleman Norris

Just about three years ago I was introduced to Keri Coleman Norris, the then-incoming president of the Group Legal Services Association (GLSA) board and executive with one of the oldest legal plan providers, LegalShield. Keri’s enthusiasm for access to justice through her work with LegalShield is contagious. I have learned so much from her work within her community and across the nation.

Keri is Senior Vice President Regulatory Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at LegalShield’s headquarters in Ada, Oklahoma. She describes her job as “fantastic and challenging, within a growing and innovative company that allows me time to spend with my family, which all live in Ada.” Keri is a native of Ada and practiced law in both Oklahoma and North Carolina before returning home to join LegalShield.

Quick Takes

  • When I was a kid I wanted to be: A high school English teacher.
  • My greatest accomplishment: Finding a work-life balance.
  • Never forget to: Say “please” and “thank you.”
  • I work best: With low-key music in headphones, a cup of tea and some sunshine-filled space.
  • My best ideas come from: Long nights, a run or a bath.
  • The toughest lesson I’ve learned is: Everyone is good, but not everyone is kind.
  • My pick-me-up: A cup of hot tea while overlooking the water.
  • My attitude toward life is: Positive because I know that the days may be long in this life, but the years are fast.
  • Best advice I’ve ever received is: Always write a handwritten note of praise, thanks or kindness.

Productivity Habits

Describe your morning routine.
I wake up early, before the sun so I have time to myself. I do my devotional online, then go for a run, a walk or another workout (usually with a friend). Then I try to have two or three cups of tea before cooking breakfast for my teenager to get us all out the door on time. Next, I spend time each morning to prioritize my day, review my calendar and make sure I am prepared for what the day may bring to me.

What is the first thing you “check” each morning?
My Bible App on my phone. Then, I check the weather app to make sure the temperature is right for a morning workout.

Where do you like to work?
I like a good balance. Some days I like to work from home at my dining room table and other times I like to be in my office near my colleagues where I can collaborate easily.

What’s your email strategy?
Right now, it is to find a strategy to deal with it!

What’s your best productivity habit?
Using Jira software to facilitate my sprints and focus on timely delivery of projects. (LegalShield uses the Agile methodology for all projects.)

What’s your favorite productivity tool?
My calendar.

What’s the one habit you wish you could kick?
Spending too much time “responding” to email when I want to and need to be creative and productive. My creativity and productivity come at random times; I try to make the most of those moments. But once I have an idea that I know will work, I move on it.

What do you let slide?
Emails.

What’s your nightly routine?
Family dinner and conversation. A long hot bath with a couple of chapters of a really good book. 

Deeper Dive Into LegalShield

How do you define access to justice?
Connecting attorneys to actual clients to solve real, everyday legal problems at an affordable cost.

Tell us about your connection to access to justice (A2J).
LegalShield has been focused on A2J for 46 years, long before there was a term “A2J.” It’s what we do. It’s the only thing we do here. It’s been a pleasure working with LegalShield for 15 years, connecting over 1.77 million families with lawyers in real time for solutions to everyday legal problems.

How are you solving access to justice for your clients?
Technology. Putting a law firm in the palm of everyone’s hand. LegalShield is not in the business of replacing attorneys. Rather, we see technology as the way to make the law more “relational” by making it easier for a consumer to find and connect with a lawyer for a small monthly fee.

What role does technology play in access to justice? 
It is the only way to really move the needle on A2J. Technology doesn’t replace lawyers. It is a tool that benefits both clients and lawyers.

Do you see the “digital divide” (access to technology) as an issue?
More and more people have a smartphone; the latest research is as high as 90% of all Americans have a smartphone. Add to that LegalShield’s research that younger generations use their phones exclusively to search for a lawyer, and it is obvious that the digital divide is closing. Putting a law firm in a mobile app, just a tap away, makes lawyers accessible and accountable. I think there will be a day soon when there will be no digital divide.

Do you see client knowledge of legal issues (or the education gap) as an issue? 
I believe consumers face three challenges when accessing legal services. First, they often don’t know they even have a legal issue. Second, they can’t find an attorney to help them. Third, even if they solve the first two issues, they can’t afford high hourly rates.

So, how do we solve this as a profession and a legal services industry?
Closing the “education gap” is the first step. At LegalShield, we have a free mobile app for everyone to use, ask common legal questions, engage with our chatbot “Erin” and ask for general questions, such as “what is bail?” or “what is adverse possession?” When a consumer can find some general help on their own, it makes the next steps of identifying an attorney, and actually speaking to one, that much easier.

AI, chatbots. FAQs and similar information are not a replacement for lawyers. Rather, these are tools to help educate a consumer about legal issues and make them feel empowered about what questions to ask a lawyer.

What have you had to change based on feedback?
I learned the hard way that the one constant thing in this profession is change.

How are you growing LegalShield?
LegalShield, the original A2J legal services provider, is growing every month. We have a “startup” mentality with over 45 years in the space. We are constantly thinking and rethinking how we can create and use technology to help provide more legal services.

What is your best tip for supporting access to justice?
It takes all of us to get involved, make changes and push forward.

Where is the A2J movement going?
A2J will be successful when every American has access to affordable attorneys. There is a need. There are lawyers who can help. We need to make it easier for everyone.

Where are you going?
Forward.

Elevate by LegalShield 2019

The call to access to justice is not possible without attorneys like David. We can all play a part in improving legal services in this country. Come join us at the Elevate by LegalShield conference, which takes place June 20-22 in Denver to learn more.

Find more information about LegalShield here and about Keri Coleman Norris here.

Read additional A2J interviews by Mary Juetten here.

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Mary Juetten Mary Juetten

Mary Juetten is founder and CEO of Traklight and has dedicated her more-than-30-year career to helping businesses achieve and protect their success. Mary is also a practicing attorney, licensed in Washington state, and Of Counsel with Nimbus Legal.  In 2015, Mary co-founded Evolve Law, which she sold to Above the Law in 2018.  She was named to the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center 2016 Women in Legal Tech list and the Fastcase 50 Class of 2016. She is a LegalShield advocate and served on the Group Legal Services Association Board. Follow her @maryjuetten and find her books, “The Business of Legal: The Data-Driven Law Practice” and ”Small Law KPIs: How to Measure Your Way to Greater Profits,” on Amazon.

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