In Attorney at Work’s A2J Q&A series, Mary Juetten checks in with lawyers, bar leaders and entrepreneurs working to solve the access to justice problem. This time, we turn the tables and ask Mary to answer questions about her own career path and thoughts on access to justice.
After interviewing several amazing attorneys who support access to justice, I am excited to complete this interview myself. I want to share some of my ideas and tips and also encourage others to reach out with their thoughts on access to justice.
I have taken the path less traveled to the law. I started with accounting, moved to business, spent time as a vice president at a large community college and even was the director of finance in Canadian Big Law. My second career started when I attended the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University from 2008 to 2010. Instead of practicing, I created a software platform, Traklight, that helps small- to medium-sized companies identify risks and intellectual property to understand what legal steps they need to pursue. As I pitched this technology, I had to explain the technology, process review and data and metrics to many lawyers and then ended up starting and selling Evolve Law. During that time I wrote two books to help attorneys — the latest on the data-driven law practice is available on Amazon here.
Then, in the fall of 2017, I decided that my semi-retirement plan would be enhanced by the ability to practice law. So I took the bar in February of 2018 in Washington State — more than seven years after law school graduation (not advisable!). I am now Of Counsel with Nimbus Legal and working on a master’s degree in Global Legal Studies and Alternative Dispute Resolution, which includes teaching a spring 2019 class titled Access to Justice Through Technology. I consult to large legal companies, including LegalShield, where I am an access advocate.
- When I was a kid I wanted to be: A pediatrician, despite hating blood.
- My greatest accomplishment: My two kids, now adults.
- Never forget to: Be polite and say “please” and “thank you.”
- I work best: With music and other people.
- My best ideas come from: Very long showers.
- The toughest lesson I’ve learned is: Sometimes you must just let go.
- My pick-me-up is: A book or a walk.
- My attitude towards life is: It’s the journey, not the destination.
- Best advice I’ve ever received is: What others say is often about themselves.
Describe your morning routine.
I have a new routine after a car accident last summer because the old one did not include any self-care. I start with stretching, coffee and then at least 10 minutes of meditation. I am trying not to check email until I have had my coffee and the “work” day starts at 8 a.m. in my time zone. My goal is to move that to 9 a.m. and stop at 4 p.m. That is not happening, but I have come a long way from 6 a.m. calls.
What is the first thing you “check” each morning?
Used to be my phone and email, now it’s whether my husband has turned on the coffee. And if any family member has texted me, which includes the adult children!
Where do you like to work?
At home. I can work anywhere and have written, including parts of my books, on airplanes, trains, the backseat of our truck and the proverbial coffee shop in many countries. I am self-motivated, so working at home or remotely is not an issue, but I prefer my desk and counter (for the standing work).
What’s your email strategy?
Inbox zero. I try to stay on top of my various inboxes (yes, sadly, I have four email accounts). I try to only read an email once and reply immediately or keep as a reminder. For me having more than 25 emails in my inbox is a bit overwhelming. I also have a serious no ghosting approach, unless it’s a spam email. I will always respond within 24 hours in some way, even if it’s to say that I will have to address the email later. Please note this applies to emails, not the LinkedIn messaging system, which is 90% spam.
What’s your best productivity habit?
Writing it down — mainly on Post-its — and a daily list. I joke that I raised my kids on Post-it notes — we all had different bedtimes and rose at different hours — I kept some of the funny notes from my door that demanded coffee or begged to be left to sleep. When my daughter sent me a photo of the first Post-it list that she made for her boyfriend with his reply, I was so proud!
What’s your favorite productivity tool?
Not the Post-its but my phone. Not to stay connected but instead to make lists, jot down ideas and look things up. Plus, it’s how I meditate.
What’s the one habit you wish you could kick?
Personally, it’s eating cheese. Professionally, it’s saying yes too much. I have been working on it for about a year and I think I am about half-way there.
What do you let slide?
Not much professionally but I am very bad at booking vacation plans. I love the planning, not the booking.
What’s your nightly routine?
While I was studying for the bar, I watched Law and Order nightly, but now I try to stay away from screens other than my Kindle. I always have one business book, one self-care book and one easy read on-the-go book. I try not to work after dinner unless it’s a volunteer task or school related. We walk after dinner and then I make sure I have checked the schedule for the next day.
Deeper Dive into Juetten Law, Nimbus Legal and Traklight
How do you define access to justice (A2J)?
Beyond the 80% justice gap to those who do not even know that they need a lawyer or realize that they are putting themselves or family wealth at risk, I think of access to justice as more like access to legal services for all Americans, of all economic levels and also small business owners.
Tell us about your connection to access to justice.
I feel passionately that we should all volunteer and do pro bono work, but that is not enough. The average American cannot afford an attorney, so it’s a bigger issue. I am fortunate to be able to put a spotlight on the issue and interview awesome people who are helping this cause.
How are you solving access to justice for your clients?
On Juetten Law, I provide a free personal and business legal checkup for anyone who wishes to see if they need a lawyer — part of the educational gap that exists. And with clients at Nimbus Legal, we are providing certainty around their legal fees by using a flat-fee model.
What role does technology play in access to justice?
Taking a client-centric view, technology makes the delivery of legal services more affordable and accessible. Technology is the great equalizer, particularly between large and medium firms versus small practices. With today’s solutions, in many cases, there is no need for fancy bespoke offices and on-premises servers.
Do you see the “digital divide” (access to technology) as an issue?
For the majority, I do not. I see the statistics around the use of smartphones in the U.S., and if we can provide access to legal services via a phone, then we do not have to worry too much about the digital divide.
Do you see client knowledge of legal issues (or the education gap) as an issue?
Absolutely. Much of my work with Traklight and also as an access advocate with LegalShield focuses on creating content to help with the education gap.
What have you learned the hard way?
You have to be very careful who you go into business with or hire. I have made some bad judgment calls that have caused great pain. But as I mentioned above, I have let it go.
How are you growing Traklight and your law practice?
As part of Nimbus Legal, we provide outside in-house counsel services on a subscription model for medium-sized businesses. We are actively onboarding new clients as the practice grows by word of mouth. For Traklight, our focus is providing the platform for attorneys or companies who wish to educate potential clients and allow them to self-evaluate their risk levels.
What is your best tip for supporting access to justice?
Be open-minded. A few years ago in Denver, I listened to lawyers talking down the Limited Licensed Legal Technician (LLLT) program that at the time had just launched in Washington. I could not believe the level of arrogance and protectionism. With an 80% market to address, we should be open to any and all types of solutions, including legal technicians and changes to law school curriculum.
Where is the A2J movement going?
I am hopeful that the momentum felt over the past couple of years will continue. With more change in the legal industry, from inside and outside, I see that we can reach a tipping point. However, we need to accelerate the pace of some of the state initiatives around legal technicians.
Rather than each state studying the same problem for a couple of years only to create the same solution as others, why don’t we work on national legal technician programs?
Where are YOU going?
My motto is onwards. I am splitting my time between the practice of law; writing and teaching; and running Traklight, all with a focus on improving both the education and justice gaps.
Read additional A2J interviews here.