Tell us your story. What kind of law do you practice? How did you get to where you are today?
I'm a small but scrappy corporate and intellectual property transactional attorney. Most of my clients are startups and small businesses. I do mostly business and trademark law. Occasionally, some employment counseling and real estate are thrown in the mix.
I graduated from law school during the Great Recession. I didn't have a lot of options for work and wound up working at a Plaintiff's wage and hour class action firm in Beverly Hills. I'll admit that I did not love litigation off the bat. I definitely slept on the couch in the office a few nights writing some winning motions, but it didn't fit my personality. I tried switching sides and went to a defense firm in Burbank, California, but it still didn't feel right. So I decided to pack my bags and take a chance by moving to Colorado with my husband. I had to retake the bar exam because California does not have reciprocity with any state, the ethics exam, and pay all the fees again. It was about a year-long process. In the meantime, I was looking for jobs. The universe had other plans. I decided that if no one wanted to hire me to do corporate work that I would start my own law firm and practice what I wanted to practice, which was corporate law and intellectual property. I founded Summit Law Solutions now Basecamp Legal in 2016 and have never looked back.
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
My great aunt was a flight attendant on the first plane to hit the twin towers on 9/11. This event impacted many of my decisions in life. First, I ended up going to New York University to do my undergraduate degree in communications. I was the first in my family to go to college. I thought I was going to go into public relations and work with journalists for the rest of my life. During my junior year, I saw a want ad for internship down at the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and something told me I had to apply. I wound up getting an internship with the first blind judge of the United States. The judge was working on one of the 9/11 cases, and while I was sealed off from anything having to do with the case, I took it as a sign. I really enjoyed working with his law clerks and watching him in the courtroom. This is very cliché, but I went into law because wanted to help people.
Was it a smooth road becoming a lawyer and getting to where you are now? If not, what are some of the struggles you encountered?
I think we all get to where we are meant to be eventually, but in the early years, it was a very challenging road. I would say there were bumps, crashes, and failures. I really struggled financially. I was the first in my family to go to college and also the first to go to law school. I took out many student loans as most lawyers do. When I first got out of school, I was making very little. I lived with my parents, commuted almost three hours a day to work, and worked twelve to fourteen hour days. Then I made a bit more money, and I worked for a firm that had a 2150 billable requirement. I struggled and saw very little semblance of balance during those first five years.
Now, owning my own firm, there is still that struggle to find balance. But I derive so much more satisfaction. I stay up at night wondering if the clients are happy, thinking about marketing strategies, and the never-ending to-do list. I work twice as hard, but I think I like it because it is for myself and at the same time helping others.
What are you most proud of as a lawyer? What sets your practice apart from others? What do you love the most about what you do?
I really love the work I get to do with my clients. I get to talk to them at the point where they have decided to go out and try to make their dream, inventions, ideas a reality. I'm actually proud to be approachable. I'm often told lawyer aren't approachable or kind. I think that sets Basecamp Legal apart from others.
Also, we don't just take an agreement and say this worked for all the other guys so it will work for you. We try to understand the behavior, the goals, and the why behind the business. For example, we do B-nups, which are business prenups (operating agreements). We sit down and go through a proactive mediation with the partners to go through the behaviors that we see take businesses down, come up with peaceful solutions, and then write an operating agreement that fits the business.
We try to understand the behavior, the goals, and the why behind the business.
Technology is a massive part of our practice. You get to see your file 24/7. You know if I am working on it or not. And we try to be transparent about the billing process.
I think that lawyers, like doctors, should be holistic. We should do our best to work collaboratively with our clients and the other side to be efficient problem solvers, counselors, and trusted advisors.
If you could change, improve or disrupt one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
I would change the court system. I would move almost all cases to an alternative dispute resolution model with mediation and arbitration for cases that cannot settle in mediation on an accelerated discovery schedule. As a former litigator, people will destroy themselves to "win." In the process, they almost always lose even when they win. People spend years, tens of thousands of dollars, and emotional energy on the process. The system is woefully inefficient and denies access to justice to those who can't afford to play by the rules. In the end, the only person who wins is the lawyers. The adversarial system has set the stage for people to treat each other terribly during the process. And while I am generalizing, I do think we as a profession can do better the way we treat each other and our clients.
What are you doing when you're not lawyering?
It depends on what season it is. If it is the summer, I'm outside hiking, rock climbing, and mountaineering. The law firm is named Basecamp Legal after all. In the winter, you will find me on a mountain skiing. I took up skiing when we moved to Colorado several years ago and I am hooked. My husband and I love to travel. We are always trying to go to new places. I'm also working on a book in all my spare time.