But the life journey I've been on has taught me how to be better at both. And raising a wonderful, strong-willed and shockingly intuitive four year old challenges me to continue to grow in my listening and sharing skills. Professionally, I look forward to developing my new career path (from academic administration and university teaching to law and legal entrepreneurship), with a commitment to hone my listening ear and heart, and develop a deeper understanding of sharing. Doing so will make me a more effective advisor and advocate for the resilient communities with which I hope to work.
Yet, the prospect of foregrounding that commitment is by no means an obvious one because I am in law school and law too often emphasizes centralized authority that regulates the bejeezus out of the innovative zeitgeist at the heart of the sharing economy.
This tension between law and innovation figured prominently in panel discussions and informal conversations I had at the SHARE conference in San Francisco in May. The topics that captured my attention the most were: grassroots legislation reform; homesharing law wins (here and here) and setbacks; the trifecta between regulation, entrenched market interests (especially with ridesharing), and sharing; the tension between dead capital and venture capital in sharing economy platforms; and questions of access, equity and inclusion. There were some people who felt strongly that if the laws didn't work, then simply skirting the law was a valid response. But overwhelmingly there was more of a willingness to work with regulators as co-creators of the sharing economy, which I found to be a more reasonable position.
Regulators are people too. Work with them as if they are part of the #SharingEconomy. How will you build trust with them? #2014SHAREBut attending SHARE did not only afford me the opportunity (thanks to generous support from Peers.org and SOCAP) to listen to the incredible speakers and others in more informal gatherings, it also presented me with an opportunity to spend several hours with my professional role model, Janelle Orsi, founder of the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Admittedly, I was a little worried that I may have rubbed her the wrong way even before we met. I had contacted her several months before about the prospect of coming to Michigan to run a Legal Tools for the Sharing Economy workshop for the student organization I co-founded, the Resilient Communities Law Society. Mind you, it's not like my follow-ups had been like that paperboy in "Better Off Dead" (well, maybe a little bit). But Ms. Orsi took my enthusiasm in stride, was personable and allowed me to observe intakes at one of the SELC's Legal Cafes.
— Karen FrancisMcWhite (@accidentalhippy) May 14, 2014
Essentially SHARE 2014 and connecting with Janelle Orsi reaffirmed my commitment to growing a new career as a legal advocate for the sharing economy and community resilience. I came to law school convinced that I would focus on community-based urban redevelopment and urban agriculture, and rather than pivot after two years of law school, I think I've widened the aperture a bit.
That widening is largely thanks to the incredible learning and professional development experiences I have had through the MSU ReInvent Law Laboratory. ReInvent Law has introduced me to pioneers in legal design, services and reform, and given me opportunities to develop the project I came to law school to build: MiHomestead.com. I unveiled the first iteration at ReInvent Law London last summer and continued to work on it through a subsequent presentation at ReInvent Law NYC, and for a pitch competition.
So when ReInvent Law London 2014 took place last week, I followed the Twitter feed for #reinventlaw as closely as the four-legged menagerie I am pet-sitting allowed. Last year, I had been so nervous in preparation for my talk that I did not adequately do one very important thing: listen to the other talks. This year, I "listened" to the feed and heartily wished I could be at the conference. Hopefully the videos of the talks will be uploaded soon, especially the following:
- Kanan Dhru, Research Foundation for Governance in India, Lawtoons: Law Made Fun through Comics
- Ivan Rasic, LegalTrek, Lean: Can NewLaw Learn from Tech Startups?
- Mårten Janson, Fondia, Legal Departments as a Service
- Siobhan Duncan, Westminster University Law, Affordable Justice - Prepaid Cards & the Legal Services
- Frédéric Pelouze & Alexandra Uhel, Alter Litigation, The Paris Bar Incubator: Towards Innovation in the Legal Market
- Carlo Rossi Chauvenet, legalPAD/We Have the Future, Law is Not Enough
I continue to work on MiHomestead, but I am well aware of startup statistics (even as I adopt a Lean approach) and am stepping up my research of other avenues for combining my interests in law, the sharing economy, food system reform and community resilience.
Of course I am also aware that the year I finish law school is the year my daughter starts kindergarten, so whatever I do professionally and wherever that journey takes us must be a good parenting decision for my Washington-born, outdoorsy-and-artsy, and London-loving little girl (Sidebar: she has an airplane roller bag that she keeps by the door because "I might need it to fly somewhere" says the child who at four has already been on over two dozen airplanes).