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

Friday, January 8, 2016

Manifesting 2016

Last week, when Z and I returned from a palliative visit back to Washington, we spent the first weekend of the New Year making and studying our manifestation collages for this year. 

Z's was adorably concise:

By the time the year is over, we will have two dogs. We will also visit Arizona (including camping). Z will attend cowboy camp and learn how to ride a horse. And we will live, once again, in a small town (I didn't have the heart to tell her that the "small town" she chose for her collage was actually a street in Memphis).

My collage is a bit more ... ambitious.

This year - I pray - my various projects, risks, opportunities, obligations, and loves from the last few years will come to a productive bloom. Some - like my fellowship with B Lab - have a predetermined end date. Others - like becoming a licensed attorney for resilient local economies and re-establishing a home west of the Rockies - are a bit more nebulous in their ETAs. In large part, this is because I feel quite driven by my Duty of Care: care of myself, yes, but mostly care of those I love.

The care of someone or something differs from the care for the same.  Care for connotes actions but also feelings and taste ("I do not care for Faux News or artichokes"). Whereas Care of solely connotes actions. What must be done to keep that about which I care in good condition? We take care of our stuff, if we want it to last. We take care of our children, if we want them to thrive. And sometimes, we take care of our parents, for the same reason, prompting a reversal of roles that is both empowering and terrifying.

My mother is facing a common but scary illness, and though it was caught early enough that her prognosis will likely be good, there's still a lot of uncertainty. But the one thing about which we are certain is that I will need to step up and help take care of my mother at some point, in ways that I have not done before.

At the same time, I must take care of Miss Z (who, like me, is impatient to move back to Washington). And I must take care of myself as I fully reboot my career and pursue my entrepreneurial goals (a niche law practice and homestead B&B).

The language of duty reads like an imposition but I experience it more often as an opportunity. I have the opportunity to figure out how to take care of my Mom. So many of my friends and family have lost one or both parents. I'm sure that my relationship with my Mom will evolve but at least we have a relationship to nurture.

On those nights when I stare wistfully at my 1st edition copy of Go the F*ck to Sleep, while my beloved, sleep-drunk five year old is in full banshee mode, I nevertheless appreciate the opportunity to be her mother and take care of her. And then I enjoy a glass of Washington red wine.

And when I look at my collage with impatience and anxiety, I challenge myself to focus on the opportunity that a new year, combined with my talents, ambitions and dreams present. I don't know if by the end of 2016 I will have done even half of the things represented in the collage. But I know that I am very fortunate to have no small amount of pluck and luck as I embark on my 2016 journey. And I am so very fortunate to be able to put family at the center of my values and my aspirations.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I just can't - #TamirRice #AliveWhileBlack

On Monday, I binge-watched Netflix and finally watched The Butler. I found it to be a profoundly moving meditation on race, politics and family. The final scenes with Barack Obama's election captured the feelings of grief and release and hope that I fully admit I felt both on Election Night and when I went to DC for the inauguration. Grief for all of those who had to - truly had to - die to make it even possible for "someone like him" to ever be President of the United States. Release of the suspicion that maybe America would never fully become what it could be and should be because it was too beholden to the racist, sexist and brutal foundations of its own origins. Hope that We were finally, truly, on a path to healing, reconciliation and creation of an equitable, just and more perfect union.

The Butler ends with an elderly Mr. Gaines walking tall to meet President Obama. But it reminded me of a little boy I saw on Inauguration Monday.

1/22/09: I saw this kid several times during that afternoon: always playful, happy and radiating a sense of awe that was utterly contagious.

He's probably 12 or 13 years old by now, but back then he was just a little boy who stood a little extra-tall as he played. He was clearly awe-struck and though I never spoke to him, I remember observing that he seemed to play with purpose. He, even he, could be President some day. And as I turned off the credits for The Butler, I remembered that little boy and said a little prayer that he still believes he can grow up to be anything he wants to be.

And then I checked Facebook.

And I cried. No. I began crying because the fact is I have been crying for days now. Tamir Rice is not the little boy I observed in Washington, D.C. on January 22, 2009. But he could have been. They are ... or would be ... about the same age, after all. And I pray that the little boy has not been and never will be Tamir Rice. But he could be. 

He could be if he thinks that he can play with a friend's pellet gun in an open carry state.

Three boys playing Cops & Robbers in NY, 1948
He could be if the wrong scared, white cop sees him as a "demon" or as a grown man, instead of the adolescent boy he really is. The wages of the perpetual cruelty of vicious hate and cowardice are always paid by the most vulnerable.

Tamir was playing with his friend's pellet gun. He could have hurt someone, maybe even shot an eye out by accident. But it wasn't this potentiality that killed him. It was cowardice, cruelty and a latent racist hatred that killed him within two seconds of showing up on the scene. It is possible to empathize with the cop, not because his fears were reasonable (as the prosecutor suggests) but because those unreasonable fears have been so normalized. Racism does tend to show up more as fear than as pure hatred. As Morgan Guyton, has observed:
What we’re running up against is the inadequacy of the modern Western conception of justice. Because racism manifests itself as a collective sin that feels more like weakness than malevolence, even when a society’s racism commits murder through the “errors” of nervous individuals, it just doesn’t feel right to punish weakness and fear. So weakness and fear don’t get punished. 
Not only do they not get "punished," they get normalized by invocation of the objectively reasonable standard as judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene

It was reasonable for an officer who was found unfit for duty in his previous police gig to be hired without a thorough background check.

It was reasonable for the officer to jump out of a moving patrol car and shoot a 12 year old in the stomach from 4 - 9 feet away.

It was reasonable for the officer to claim on his police report that he gave numerous warnings, when the two seconds that transpired between his arrival and the shots make that impossible.

It was all reasonable because of fear. And we don't punish fear. No matter how unreasonable it is.

And yet, when I try to convey to my white friends, many of whom I love like family, that the only thing that scares me about moving to a beautiful small mountain town is my uncertainty about the white folks in it, they accuse me of being paranoid, or worse, a reverse racist. They don't understand ... and maybe don't want to understand ... that I am afraid of white fear. I am afraid for myself but more so I am afraid for my daughter, my nephews, my black friends and their children. 

I know what it looks and sounds like when people of color circle in and embrace each other as we grieve, yet again, for yet another unpunished murder of another one of our children who had the audacity to believe that s/he was free to be #AliveWhileBlack, in the presence of cops or white folks in general, without irony, subtext or shuffling. It sounds a lot like the silent wailing that chokes the throat and squeezes the heart until the ache, the ache, the ache just stops. It sounds like the gasp of disbelief, the not here, not now, not again, disbelief. It sounds ... exhausted ... weary ... hopeless ... trapped. How do I make a home for my child when the specter of that sound and soundless horror looms?

The last two nights, the last thing I saw on the bookshelf before I took off my glasses and turned off the light was Stephen Colbert's book, I am America (And So Can You!). It's a funny book. But the title reads like a taunt right now. 

Can I be America? Can my daughter or that little boy from the Inauguration? Tamir couldn't be. America didn't let him. White American fear didn't let him. We don't need to ride the tide of fear and demagoguery to make America "great" again (whatever the hell that means). We need America to become America because for too many of us, it never has been.

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.