In Attorney at Work’s A2J Q&A series, Mary Juetten checks in with leaders and entrepreneurs working to solve the access to justice problem. This time, Missouri attorney Laura Berlin tells us about her passion for clients as their advocate and the importance of educating the public on the resources available to them.
Laura Berlin was introduced to me by Sarah Kieny, who I interviewed here in 2018. As the supervising attorney at the LegalShield Missouri provider firm Dubail Judge P.C., Laura is passionate about access to justice with an emphasis on customer or client service. She was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 2003 and practices in a wide variety of areas including nonprofit organizations, probate, real estate, landlord and tenant law, estate planning and corporate law. A Missouri native, Laura attended St. Louis University School of Law and is Phi Beta Kappa.
- When I was a kid I wanted to be: A florist.
- My greatest accomplishment: Learning how to walk again at age 18.
- Never forget to: Make a full stop and look both ways.
- I work best: Under pressure.
- My best ideas come from: Group discussion and visualization.
- The toughest lesson I’ve learned is: People are not always what they seem.
- My pick-me-up is: Flowers, sunshine and pasta.
- My attitude toward life is: Positive — I love life!
- Best advice I’ve ever received is: My dad said he saw the fabric of society changing in the ’70s — he told me he and my mother decided to raise strong, educated daughters who could get good paying jobs that would always be in demand. Also this: Always make your boss look good.
Describe your morning routine.
Stretch, drink a cup of cold coffee and listen to classical music; check email, news and social media; pack my lunch and make a quick breakfast to go; off to work I go.
Where do you like to work?
I like to work in the office at my desk, but in the last year, I have transitioned to working remotely regularly. It provides flexibility so that I can work from home or a hotel room if I’m on vacation or at a conference.
What’s your email strategy?
Responding to emails: I organize by importance and flag them for follow up. I respond to the most pressing as soon as possible and the rest within the day. Sending emails: I try not to pepper people with too many emails — it’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed with a full inbox. If it’s a simple question I’ll send you a quick text.
What’s your best productivity habit?
Focus. When you are on a roll, don’t stop. When you are making mistakes or are distracted, take a break. Being productive is about recognizing when you are doing a good job, and accepting when you are not. Don’t waste your time.
What’s your favorite productivity tool?
My cell phone — you have a computer in your hand. Maximize its capabilities and let it work for you.
What’s the one habit you wish you could kick?
Throwing things in the junk drawer — the “I’ll deal with that later” attitude.
What do you let slide?
Mail. With everything done electronically now, I frequently forget to check my work mailbox until the end of the day, or even the next day. In fact, I let it slide at home too. Days go by before I remember to check — or I get a text from my aunt asking if I got the care package she sent two weeks ago.
What’s your nightly routine?
Dinner with friends or family, do a little work, check emails/texts/social media, check my calendar, consider clothing needs and food options for the next day, organize my files and return them to my briefcase, double-check the front door lock and crawl into bed with a book.
Deeper Dive into Dubail Judge, P.C.
How do you define access to justice (A2J)?
No matter your walk of life, the balance in your bank account, your age, gender or color, you have an advocate available to help you navigate the legal system.
Tell us about your connection to access to justice.
I have been enabling access to justice for Missouri residents for over a decade as the supervising attorney of Dubail Judge, P.C., the LegalShield plan provider law firm in St. Louis, Missouri.
How are you solving access to justice for your clients?
Providing benefits under the LegalShield contract by consulting with their members on a daily basis and helping them maneuver through the legal system. Being a voice for the voiceless.
What role does technology play in access to justice?
Vital — it gives you the ability to connect with people in a way in which they are most comfortable.
Do you see the “digital divide” (access to technology) as an issue?
Yes, but it is getting less and less — the gap is closing as cell phones become more affordable and more prevalent.
Do you see client knowledge of legal issues (or the education gap) as an issue?
It’s getting less due to the availability of legal resources to the general public. Lawyers no longer have a monopoly on legal information. My job is to efficiently educate clients about the legal issue they are facing. It becomes a problem when clients cling to false assumptions or bad information they may have been told by a friend or seen on the internet. We help with the application of legal information to their specific need within the confines of the legal system.
What have you had to change based on feedback?
Customer service is important in every industry. Every client comes with different pre-conceived notions of how their interaction with you will flow. Listen to your client and get a feel for how they want to be handled. Do they want to chat with you as they would a trusted friend, or would they prefer you be succinct and direct?
How are you growing the firm?
Investment in technology to make us more efficient and responsive in delivering quality legal services and to make our clients more engaged in the process.
Where does funding come from?
We benefit from individuals, or consumers, seeing the value of a membership to a legal service. We get paid on a per capita basis to ensure them access to quality, reliable legal advice.
What is your best tip for supporting access to justice?
Educating the public about the resources available.
Where is the A2J movement going?
My hope is that it becomes the number one issue with bar associations across the county. Lawyers can then be free to leverage the technology that is available to the benefit of the public at large, who have traditionally and historically been shut out due to lack of access.
Where are you going?
I remain committed to changing the way legal services are delivered.
Elevate by LegalShield 2019
I am really looking forward to meeting Laura at the Elevate by LegalShield conference, which takes place June 20-22 in Denver.
Read additional A2J interviews by Mary Juetten here.