Barn's burnt down
I can see the Moon.
~ Mizuta Masahide

Monday, April 20, 2015

Single Parenting Through Law School: Career Planning, Interviewing andOwning Your Story #lawschoolmom

Image source:

Perhaps more than "traditional" law students, law students with children really need to establish a game plan early for what they want to do after graduating. It does not have to be crazy specific (i.e. "I'll graduate in May XXXX, sit the bar in NY that July, and begin as an associate, practicing ABC law, in a boutique Manhattan law firm by mid-August"). But you should have a pretty good answer to some of the following questions by the time 3L starts:
  • What kind of law work do you find compelling? Litigation? Transaction? Administrative law? Legal project management? Translating legal processes into plain English?
  • What practice areas or subject areas can you see yourself geeking out on? If you have more than one geek-out interest, what one or two areas seem the most underserved by legal services?
  • Who are the major players and rising stars in the practice area and related law work that interests you?
The answers to these questions do not have to be voluminous. For example, my responses to the above are:
  • I really like transactional law for micro to medium-sized business. I am also interested in: clarifying legal processes and business development strategies for clients; applying Lean to my future law work; and developing a visual roadmap to the administrative law related to economic development and social enterprise.
  • I geek out over social entrepreneurship, impact investing, the outcomes-oriented sharing economy, urban agriculture and gardening.
  • Oh boy...that list is long and compelled me to create several custom Twitter lists: La vie en tricoleur; Design Thinking; Socent USA; Socent UK; Oh CanadaLegal Tech & ReInvent Law; Community Wealth; and Washington State (O Leavenworth & Cave I miss thee).
While doing this kind of groundwork is a good idea for ANY law student going into 3L, it is especially important for student parents because despite the fact that much of 3L is an uphill battle against 3LOL ennui, it goes by fast and job searching and interviewing take up A LOT of time. If you put time into answering the three questions above before starting 3L, your job search will be more efficient, and you'll have more time to prepare for interviews and the many ways prospective employers will ask you, without really asking you, "How can you, as a single parent, do the job for which you are interviewing?"

Granted, it is possible that the employer won't know that you are a single parent and a law student. But if you are anything like me, you've had pics of you and your child as your Facebook profile photo, you may even have listed volunteering at your child's school as recent volunteering experience. Or friends and family may have tagged you in play date photos or family events on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc., etc. However the prospective employer finds out, they likely will and it behooves you to think through how you will respond to questions like the following (H/T to HR World for these questions):
  • Are you available to work overtime on occasion? Can you travel?
  • You'll be required to travel or work overtime on short notice. Is this a problem for you?
  • What is your experience with "x" age group?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
I recently accepted a job offer from an organization I have long admired, for an awesome one-year fellowship with a very good salary, health benefits and a child-care subsidy. During the telephone interview, the interviewer asked about my plans for my child (I had mentioned volunteering at her school in my application) if I were selected for the fellowship program. I told her the truth: I decided to apply to the fellowship after I saw that it offered a child care subsidy because it signaled to me that the company respects its workforce and genuinely wants to develop a diverse community of people at different life stages, but with complimentary skills. I've been a high-functioning single mother throughout law school and I'm sure that the skills I have honed through this experience, coupled with the subsidy provided by the company, will insure that I continue to bring my best self and my best work to work and to my home. Later, during the two-day in-person interview, a different interviewer expressed some concern about my ability to manage the demands of the position. I politely but confidently pointed out that applying project management, networking and efficient resource management is a life ethic for me. I'm not saying that my response sealed the deal for me on that job, but it didn't appear to hurt, because a little over a week later, I was offered the position.

That positive interview experience coupled with a recent unpleasant experience with a university student newspaper really underscored the importance of owning and telling my story. Recently, in his column for The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman wrote about Heidi Grant Halvorson’s new book, No One Understands You And What To Do About It. I've not yet read Halvorson's book (it's now on The List), but I was struck by Burkeman's summation of ego bias: "what matters about you, to someone else, is whatever has most meaning for them, not for you." This may not be particularly revolutionary, but it is important to remember.

I recently forgot this lesson, and found my story warped nearly to the point of defamation by a careerist "journalist" who transformed my story and family into a cipher for struggle and drama that landed her the cover story but completely erased the competence, resourcefulness, joy and triumphs that have figured prominently in the life I have built for my daughter and I. It was an annoying way to relearn the lesson that people will project upon me their own preconceived notions about who a single mom law student must be. Rather than be surprised by this, I need to be as ready as I had been in the job interviews to own my story, tell my story and integrate the lessons and skills I have learned into the next chapter of my prospective employer's story.

An employer needs to know that who you will be as a co-worker and/or employee, will be someone who can manage her family responsibilities in a way that does not undermine the work at work. And you need to know the type of work that interests you, and how the skills you have honed finding your school/family life balance will enable you to transition to work/family life. Know your story. Own it. Share it. And make it work for you as you transition out of law school and (back) into the working world.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

#WeekendReads: Highlights from #CommunityWealth Generation Beyond the V/Alley #socent #impinv #sharingeconomy #law #msulawsm

Every Monday the that I curate updates and as my schedule permits I chip away at reviewing the articles during the week. Below are some of the articles that stand out as significant conversations about social enterprise, impact investing, the sharing economy and the law.

  • Worker Cooperatives and the commons - three good reads and a video
    • Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-Op at a Time (video). This video not only profiles worker-owners who have successfully built worker-owned cooperatives, it also breaks down the process of developing a cooperative into discrete steps. Granted, at 22 minutes, it's not as substantive as a session with a lawyer who has cooperative formation expertise BUT it is a VERY good start for organizations contemplating this structure to review the video and start thinking through the governance structure that makes sense for the talents and goals of the members, the products they will produce and the consumer market they will serve.
    • New York City Invests in Worker Co-ops — and Equitable Growth. I generally prefer to highlight efforts elsewhere, but in light of the high costs for living and for business in New York City, I am inspired by the city's decision to invest "$1.2 million this year in developing worker-owned businesses in low-income communities and communities of color. It's the largest investment in such businesses ever made by a city government in the United States."
    • Apparently Mondragon Cooperative, based in Spain, has a tumblr. I don't really get tumblr, but the more I learn about Mondragon, the more I believe that their model merits very close scrutiny and broad implementation.
    • The New Greek Government Endorses Commons-Based, Peer Production Solutions. Greece and Syriza's efforts to retool the Greek economy into a commons-based, bottom-up, peer-production model with transparent national governance should be interesting to track. The focus on implementing these efforts first in education and small business development, rather than rushing to nationalize everything may well place Greece on better footing to make a more effective transition. And the focus on transparent governance should help mitigate corruption.
  • Efforts to improve the data analysis for the "social good"
    • Calculating the Social Cost of Policymaking - Maryland's former governor and potential presidential hopeful, Martin O'Malley, oversaw a cost effectiveness analysis of state fleet vehicles and included net present value plus (NPV+), "a new way to include social and environmental impacts into the overall cost of something. The concept is an expansion of the more common NPV analysis that calculates the lifetime value of a purchase in present terms by incorporating upfront costs with potential savings and expenses down the road, all while accounting for inflation. The "plus" adds tangential factors like the cost of environmental degradation and benefits like ecological resiliency."
  • Green energy and energy cooperatives
    • How and Why Utilities Make Solar Look Expensive. This is an interesting critique of Tucson Electric Power's apparent effort to dismiss solar power investment despite Tucson's abundance of solar energy. It's a bit snarky and the author takes the utility to task for "exaggerating [solar power's] cost" by inflating the cost by 45%. If, despite the snark, the analysis is accurate, then this is something Tucson residents (like my mom) need to challenge.
    • Community-Owned Energy: How Nebraska Became the Only State to Bring Everyone Power From a Public Grid. "In the United States, there is one state, and only one state, where every single resident and business receives electricity from a community-owned institution rather than a for-profit corporation. ... In Nebraska, 121 publicly owned utilities, ten cooperatives, and 30 public power districts provide electricity to a population of around 1.8 million people." Though the bulk of the energy is generated from coal and nuclear, the community has voted to increase investment in renewables (especially wind turbines) fairly consistently since 2003. Way to go Huskers!
  • With Lent now in full swing, I was also pleased to see that shared "What Catholic Social Teaching Can Teach the Sharing Economy". As Catholics go, I'm more Dorothy Day than Opus Dei, and a large part of my faith and spiritual practice has to do with the developed tradition of Catholic social teaching: preferential option for the poor; subsidiarity; solidarity; the commons; and family values (which is not as easily partisan as too many people on the left and right like to believe). It's also worth noting the recent Guardian Lifestyle piece, It's Nice to Be Nice, as a welcome reminder and companion piece to Catholic Social Teaching.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Call Me a #SocialMedia Luddite BUT Influence ≠ Expertise: Thoughtsre: #Facebook #Patent via @kevinokeefe #msulawsm

So I had a spit-out-the-Earl-Grey moment this morning as I was browsing Twitter, and it was prompted by Kevin O'Keefe's blog post about this:

Kevin O'Keefe, "Facebook patents method to determine a lawyer’s expertise," Real Lawyers Have Blogs (Feb 17, 2015),

This is the visual breakdown of Facebook's 2012 patent for identifying experts and influencers in a social network. Though the patent does not focus on lawyers and Kevin acknowledges as much in his post, Kevin is dead on that if (when?) this patent is used to vet lawyers, it could be a professional game changer.

Essentially, with the patented method, Facebook can track both the rate of sharing of information and its root (the original share). Based on that information, Facebook expects to identify influencers and experts (emphasis added).

Why I nearly gagged on my tea:
  1. The patent is strictly in service of Facebook advertising. The patent abstract states that the information gleaned would "[use] the identified experts and influencers for advertising, social grouping and other suitable purposes." Hint: those suitable purposes are NOT access to justice, improved access to accurate and current legal information, or even improvement in the delivery of legal services by attorneys and other legal service providers.

    Thus, the patent method only highlights the influencers to improve targeted marketing. Which is FINE, since this is Facebook's business. But let's not overstate the value of what this method does. Which brings me to:
  2. Influence is not expertise. Influence is at best an indication of engagement, and at worse is merely savvy marketing. In a perfect world, the only legal information that would be shared via Facebook would be, you know, accurate. But at times - in the parlance of passive wrongdoers - mistakes are made. And sometimes items are shared precisely BECAUSE they are wrong to illustrate a point about the person or organization who originally shared it.

    Now I'm no programmer (as my frustrating quality time with Code School determined last summer) but if the patented method (algorithm?) ONLY tracks rate of sharing and origins (or the "root") of the share, but fails to glean the accuracy of the information shared, then Facebook needs to stop calling this a patent for identifying "experts."
BUT if Facebook figures out how to partner with services that CAN glean accuracy and currency (e.g. Cornel Legal Information Institute, Bloomberg Law, Westlaw, or Lexis) then this really could become a helpful service for clients seeking to use Facebook to find attorneys with relevant substantive expertise and for attorneys seeking to demonstrate their expertise. Granted, there may be issues with respect to ABA Model Rules 7.1 - 7.6, which address how and where attorneys should share information about legal services, particularly where an attorney "thinks out loud" on Facebook.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Is this a "thing" yet? #ClimateChange Relocation and #Localist Economic Development Specialist #placemaking #dreamjob #MSULawSM

It is totally possible that I may have missed something during the fog that is law school, but it seems that most discussions about the expected population displacements due to climate change focus on climate refugees from island nations and rapidly desiccating subsaharan nations. This makes sense of course because for many of the citizens of these nations the evacuation need is now, rather than in some more distant future.

Domestically, the discussion seems to gloss over the fact that if the projections are correct (See NASA's recent megadrought projections for the next 35 years), millions of American citizens will soon need to relocate from flooded coasts or drought-ridden communities, most likely to other locales within the United States. With Central California wells already running dry and the ferocity of recent hurricanes displacing hundreds of thousands of people (e.g. Katrina: 400k people and Sandy: 776k), the need to think about and plan for relocation is now.

At the same time, other communities in the country are rebounding from the Great Recession and are actively pursuing strategies for locally-owned and operated, sustainable economic development (See Cleveland, the BALLE case studies, Richmond, VA). This is particularly true for communities that are off the beaten path or are reinventing themselves as post-industrial locales.

So, why not combine the needs of climate change relocation with the needs of localist economic development? Put another way, where will all the amazing companies and organizations in, say, the San Francisco Bay Area go when the sea levels rise, the heat waves become chronic, the water runs out, and/or the Big One hits?

Proactive planning for relocation should be part of any climate-change threatened organization's or individual's emergency management plan and long-term projections. BUT the best relocation planning would take seriously the organization's or individual's role in becoming a community partner in placemaking in its future home.

Essentially a community development strategy of disaster avoidance and prosperity creation needs to be part of future planning. A proactive embrace of relocation as an opportunity rather than a chore can prove to be a very good decision for business, communities and for individuals' quality of life.

A Climate Change Relocation and Localist Economic Development Specialist would be part Hollywood location scout, part matchmaker, part community mediator, part designer, and part lawyer. She would help relocating businesses and individuals identify communities in more stable zones that are or could be excellent partners for the business' or individual's talents and goals. She would also work with communities hoping for an influx of good neighbors and good business by helping those communities complete a soul-searching SWOT analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Communities hoping to welcome new neighbors and businesses have to recognize that they can rarely control who those people and businesses will be (exceptions: formula business zoning and other zoning & building code strategies), and thus they need to be sure that they are ready to grow and learn with their new neighbors.

Certainly a specialist who is a skilled facilitative or transformative community mediator can help with these conversations. If she also has a design thinking sensibility she can help insure that the process is empathetic and responsive to both the migrants and the communities. And as a lawyer, she can facilitate the numerous transactions incumbent in relocating businesses and individuals (e.g. real estate transactions and syncing business and estate needs with the laws of the new state).

Admittedly, that's a lot to ask of one person, but then again, this is the era of the purple squirrel job description. Personally, I see this need to help individuals, businesses and communities plan for the effects of climate change as an argument for a multidisciplinary practice where relocation specialists, mediators, business-savvy service designers and lawyers work together to help communities, businesses and individuals prepare for and embrace the inevitability of change.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Week in Review: #CommunityWealth Generation & #Socent News Beyond the V/Alley via @OuiShare @nytdavidbrooks @DemocracyCollab

Reviewing the articles collected in this week's edition of Beyond the V/Alley, I have decided 1) that my future practice must include significant attention to administrative law, and 2) I still want to dual qualify as a solicitor in the UK because I am impressed by many organizations in the community wealth development and impact investing circles.

The articles and video that stood out to me in this edition of Beyond the V/Alley, include:
  • Michael Shuman's GritTV interview on "Moving Your Money" followed by a short profile of the Cero cooperative in Boston, MA:

  • David Brooks' editorial, "How to Leave a Mark" not only appears in this edition, it was also was frequently shared on Facebook and Twitter, and for good reason. He distinguishes socially responsible investing (largely a strategy of avoiding the bad) from impact investing (a strategy of building the good through targeted community investments). It's a good, balanced and succinct read.
  • The Stanford Social Innovation Review article, "US Economic Mobility and Investing for Impact" links to the recent Aspen Institute & Georgetown University report, The Bottom Line: Investing for Impact on Economic Mobility in the US. This is a pretty substantive report "with a focus on deal flow and returns. [They] did not set out to complete a comprehensive state of the field survey, but instead to understand how the investments of active investors could help build economic security for families." The report zeroes in on impact investing for outcomes in education, community economic assets (e.g. reducing the costs of recidivism and affordable housing), and health and well-being. As a law student, I find it curious that "law" is rarely expressly referenced in the full report (except with respect to tax laws), though federal, state and local "policy" is ubiquitous and appears to function as a euphemism for administrative law (See pp 127-128 of the report, which is a chart of the most important federal statutes related to community-based impact investing). At any rate, I look forward to reading the full report...soonish (ahhh, law greedy with my time).
  • The business headlines this week are a bit ... odd, but Assets & Opportunity Scorecard (via the Democracy Collaborative) is an interesting resource for "for data on household financial security and policy solutions." From the About page: "The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is a comprehensive look at Americans’ financial security today and their opportunities to create a more prosperous future. It assesses the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 135 outcome and policy measures, which describe how well residents are faring and what states can do to help them build and protect assets."
  • Anyone who is interested in the nexus between local impact investing, community development, and transparency in governance needs to follow the progress of the new Office of Community Wealth Building in Richmond, VA. It was established last year to coordinate poverty reduction and wealth building initiatives. Richmond, VA and Jackson, MS are piloting potentially transformative and scalable models of prudent public-private partnerships and other community-based initiatives. They are definitely communities to watch.
  • There are two very awesome conferences soliciting proposals, and I am very put out that I cannot attend either of them. 
    • A call for proposals for the 2nd Annual #FLOSS4P2P conference in London is accepting proposals through February 28th. So, if you have a project that is "building software for peer production and organization, with a focus on distributed ones," then you might want to get your proposal in soon. It sounds like a very interesting conference particularly if the projects leverage P2P technology to support effective and efficient cooperative enterprise. Plus it's in London, and as I plan to dual qualify as a solicitor in the not too distant future, my inner Anglophile really wants to attend.
    • The third OuiShare Fest in Paris will explore the theme "Lost in Transition" during "a three-day festival about the collaborative society" from May 20-22, 2015, and it seeks proposals for sessions and content that will further discussions and actions in collaborative social development (e.g. "collaborative consumption, open source, makers and fablabs, coworking, crowdfunding, alternative currencies and horizontal governance." It sounds a lot like the SHARE conference I was invited to attend last May, but OuiShare appears more focused on collaborative society and not as focused on the collaborative workforce as Peers seems to be. Sadly, I won't be able to confirm this in person this year, but perhaps you will. If you make it to OuiShare, having learned about it from me, please note: I really love Cyb√®le, an eau de toilette by Galimard. In case you were wondering. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#CommunityWealth Generation and #Socent News Beyond the V/Alley Highlights

While the Silicon Valley in California and the Silicon Alley in NYC are well regarded as hot spots for innovation, including in social enterprise, I have begun tracking developments in social enterprise and community wealth generation beyond those two focal communities. To that end, I created a, Beyond the V/Alley.

While there are many notable articles and videos in this week's edition, I'd like to particularly draw attention to:

I do not generally think of "Goldman Sachs" and "positive social impact" as complimentary realities. However, the summary process map of how their social impact bonds function in public/private partnerships strikes me as particularly useful. Too often would-be high impact social programs can be sidelined by program mismanagement and/or mission creep. This process map succinctly lays out the importance of division of labor (e.g. the project manager, service provider, and evaluator are different entities) can help a project proceed smoothly and insure that the vital outcomes for the key community, institutional and investor stakeholders are met.
Granted, I think care should be taken to insure that the investors have not been complicit in creating the social ills that the bonds seek to redress (e.g. banks that shamelessly red-lined neighborhoods should not then be able to structure social impact bonds for blight-busting in such a way as to maximize their payouts). But that is a conversation for a much bigger process map.

Written by LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) Director of Research Chris Walker, this report highlights early-stage results from LISC’s Building Sustainable Communities initiative. The report demonstrates how a comprehensive community development approach that targets investments in affordable housing, economic development, edu­cation, health, and safety can significantly raise incomes and decrease unemployment in low-income neighborhoods. Also included are case studies in Providence, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Chicago.

This is a short news article and video profiling the successful transition of a local market into a worker cooperative. It does not discuss legal strategy (for that, a good start would be the SELC's Think Outside the Boss handbook - bearing in mind the need to adapt the information for your actual jurisdiction).

This profile of the Community Purchase Alliance is one of my favorite stories out of last week. It speaks to the power of leveraging the purchasing power of anchor institutions to not just save money but to also invest in just and sustainable businesses that prioritize the three Ps: people, planet & profit.

I am a gardener in withdrawal, and as I carefully pour over my Baker Heirloom Seed Catalog, I have looked forward to the day when I could help keep heirloom seed varieties alive through seed sharing with seed libraries. Unfortunately, that activity has irritated some state legislators. This campaign aims to keep seed sharing legal. 
There MANY other articles and videos on the that are worth exploring. These are just a handful that struck me as particularly timely. Take a look and comment below on what you think I should have highlighted instead.