[Podcast] RL 61: Dina Eisenberg — Adapting to the Evolving Law Practice and Becoming a Modern Lawyer

In this episode, I had the pleasure of changing things up and interviewing Dina Eisenberg. Dina Eisenberg Esq is the award-winning Legal Ops Strategist who teaches lawyers to delegate, automate and design a law practice that fits their life. Learn more about her coursework and consulting at http://OutsourceEasier.com.

Topics Covered

  • Dina explains how modern law is evolving and different ways lawyers today can leverage their time to better to adapt and utilize their most precious resource while avoiding common mistakes.
  • The advantages to automating and outsourcing your social media branding, blogging, and other daily tasks that can take you away from where your time could be better spent.
  • Where she sees law going in the future and how lawyers will change, her thoughts on “limited license legal technicians”, and how getting more information to the public and pro-bono work is not the end of lawyers careers.
  • Issues facing women of color in the lack of representation in the legal profession and facing adversity of stigmas and qualifications set on us.

You can learn more about Dina and her work at:

Her Website : http://OutsourceEasier.com
Her Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/groups/109742476315873/

Twitter : @DinaEisenberg

 

Questions? Comments? Email Jeena! hi@startherehq.com. You can also connect with Jeena on Twitter: @Jeena_Cho

For more information, visit: startherehq.com

Order The Anxious Lawyer book ? Available in hardcover, Kindle and Audible

Find Your Ease: Retreat for Lawyers

I’m creating a retreat that will provide a perfect gift of relaxation and rejuvenation with an intimate group of lawyers. Interested? Please complete this form: https://jeena3.typeform.com/to/VXfIXq

MINDFUL PAUSE: Bite-Sized Practices for Cultivating More Joy and Focus

5-week program. Spend just 6-minutes every day to practice mindfulness and meditation. Decrease stress/anxiety, increase focus and concentration. Interested? Please complete this form: https://jeena3.typeform.com/to/gLlo7b

Sponsor:

Spotlight Branding provides internet marketing services exclusively for solo & small law firms.

Unlike most internet marketing firms, they do NOT focus on SEO. Instead, they specialize in branding their clients as trusted, credible experts, increasing referrals, and ultimately driving growth.

For our listeners, Spotlight Branding is offering a complimentary website review. Go to: SpotlightBranding.com/trl

Check out this episode!

Transcript

Jeena Cho: [00:00:00] Hello my friends, thanks for joining us today. In this episode, I am so delighted to have Dina Eisenberg. Dina is an award-winning legal ops strategist who teaches lawyers to delegate, automate and design a law practice that fits their life.

[00:00:23] Before we get into the interview, if you haven’t listened to the last bonus episode go back and check it out. I shared a Six Minute Guided Meditation Practice to help you let go of stress and anxiety. It’s a preview for my new course, Mindful Pause. So often lawyers tell me things like, I know I should practice mindfulness but I just don’t have the time. And I always tell lawyers, you know what, just start with six minutes. Just start with .1 hour. Of all the hours you dedicate to your clients, work and others, don’t you deserve to have at least one .1 hour to yourself?

[00:00:58] Mindful Pause is designed for lawyers like you, to fit into their very, very hectic schedule. Think of it like taking your daily vitamin to boost your well-being. Head on over to jeenacho.com to learn more or check it out in the show notes. And with that, here’s Dina! Dina, welcome to the Resilient Lawyer. I am so happy to have you.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:01:20] Oh Jeena, I am delighted to be here and to chat with you. I know that we’re going to have the best conversation ever.

Jeena Cho: [00:01:26] I am so excited and I love that we have a mutual friend Stephanie, who I guess has told you that we were going to break the internet. So let’s see if we can make that happen.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:01:35] For sure, for sure. Let’s do it.

Jeena Cho: [00:01:37] All right, so let’s just start by having you give us a 30-second introduction to who you are and what you do.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:01:44] So I am a legal ops strategist, which basically means that I love to help lawyers learn how to streamline and automate and delegate in their practice so that they actually design a practice that they love to work in and serve their clients in.

[00:02:02] I did practice law. People ask me all the time, I practiced, I was a prosecutor. And I practiced in the area that was kind of sad. I prosecuted doctors for sexual misconduct.

Jeena Cho: [00:02:12] Oh my gosh.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:02:13] So, very heavy but necessary work and I walked away from it with a lot of respect for those women and some new skills around how to stand up for yourself and make your way in the world.

Jeena Cho: [00:02:26] I love that. I also started as a prosecutor too. So we also have that in common.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:02:31] There you go.

Jeena Cho: [00:02:32] So, walk me through. How did you go from being a prosecutor to going — you know, I’m going to do this thing — legal ops and help people delegate, automate and design a law practice?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:02:44] It is a patchwork quilt, I have to tell you Jeena. It was one of those things so, you know I was working with the women…and really what they wanted to know and the world to know is that, “I’ve been done wrong, and I want to have my day in court.” Which is what everybody wants when they go to see a lawyer. But they didn’t have the ability to do that. They didn’t have the information or the knowledge to make it happen and that’s why they came to me.

And while I wasn’t happy as a prosecutor, I knew that I wanted to help more people stand up, say what was true for them and use the knowledge to have power over their own lives. And so, that’s why I went to law school actually. You know, most people don’t know why they go. I went to law school because I wanted to be able to give people more power to have the information to change their lives. Because I grew up in a family where that didn’t happen. And I saw what can happen when you have the right information, you can make good decisions. When you don’t have that information, you do the best that you can. So I’ve always had my career focused on helping people gather information to turn that into power to make things happen.

And from that, I became the ombudsman at Bank of America, where I had 60,000 employees across the domestic U.S. come to me on a daily basis and say, “I need help managing my life, I need help managing the emotions I have at work, I need help understanding other people.” And I really enjoyed being in the business environment as a lawyer, because it sort of balanced me if you will. So I had all this sort of emotional content on one side around being a conflict expert. And then the sort of more rational, analytical side, looking at business and doing the analysis of why problems happen. And that really led me to be more curious about how I can help people deal with their work life on a day to day, and particularly lawyers, because I’d been away from the law for a while. I had an incident where these two guys made me cry over being a lawyer. They were just so nasty that I thought I never want to be associated with the law again. And it took me about 10 years to get over that.

[00:04:57] And so when I got curious about being a lawyer again I started looking around and I thought, “Oh my gosh, you know my brothers and sisters at the bar are struggling.” They are not using the most up-to-date technology to drive their practices, to make it easier. But worse than that, they have so burdened under these emotional chains of feeling guilty, of feeling afraid, of feeling burdened. And I knew that I could impact that, right, because I’d worked with folks who had been in conflict with themselves or with others. And I knew I could share some tools around being emotionally smart and stronger and resilient. So you didn’t get buffered around by all the emotions of practicing law, because the law is very intimate. I know people won’t think of it that way, but I think of it that way. You’re intervening in someone’s life when they’re at the most challenged, they’re on their worst behavior, they’re stressed, they’re angry, they’re upset. And then you get to intervene, and you’re going to get some of their emotion on you.

[00:05:56] There’s no way to avoid that. We have to be able to manage it. And so far, lawyers learn in law school emotion is bad, it’s suspect. We don’t want to deal with your emotions.

Jeena Cho: [00:06:08] Right. Good lawyers don’t have emotions, which is one of my favorites. It’s like, no you’re a human being I’m sorry you have emotions.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:06:15] Right, right! So if you’re stuffing your client’s emotions down because it makes you feel like you’re more effective in your work, you’re also stuffing your own emotions down and you know like I do, the emotions have to go somewhere, they’re like matter they never disappear.

Jeena Cho: [00:06:30] So walk me through, when you start working with an attorney, who are sort of your typical clients that you work with and what does that journey look like? It seems like you’re doing a lot, like you’re helping people with sort of sorting through their own emotional world and kind of working through that. But you’re also helping people sort of design law practices and helping them delegate and automate. So walk us through that journey, what does that look like?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:06:57] Yeah it is actually both, it’s the tactical, practical side figuring out what are we going to offer to clients, you know how are we going to increase our revenue. We’re at a really pretty exciting time right now in the law. I might be one of the few people who thinks that, but we have an opportunity to change the way that we’re delivering legal services. And so I like to encourage lawyers to think of, particularly solo ones, small-firm lawyers, to think of that as the opportunity for them to leverage their time; create ways for you to share your legal knowledge that don’t necessarily involve you.

Jeena Cho: [00:07:31] Can you give us an example of what that looks like, what would be an example of something that lawyers can do to leverage their time that doesn’t actually involve them doing? Which is what most of us do right, trade time for money.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:07:43] That’s exactly it. So right now I think that it’s a great opportunity for people who are doing transactional law, so your consumers, and there’s a segment of your people who come to see you who maybe are not your ideal client, maybe they can’t quite afford you. Why would you let that segment go away without helping them? You could create a guide or a short mini-course to help maybe a pro se client in a divorce, or maybe in an immigration matter, learn enough to be able to help themselves.

So you derive a small bit of income based on your legal knowledge that you’re sharing with them. They still get the help they need even though they can’t maybe afford your regular rate, you’re able to assist them. So maybe a course, something like that. I’ve been encouraging people to talk about how to select a lawyer in your category. So for instance, if you’re a family lawyer, people don’t really know how to pick a divorce lawyer or the difference between a divorce lawyer and a family lawyer. That’s a point of education where you can help somebody understand, okay here is the distinction between the two things. Here’s what you’re looking for in a family lawyer. Here are the credentials you’re looking for, but here are the personality traits you’re also looking for.

[00:08:59] This is going to be the kind of person that you want to select because clients don’t know how to pick lawyers right, they’re just really picking based on somebody else’s referral. If you could educate them on what would make a good choice, then you become more likely to be a good choice.

Jeena Cho: [00:09:15] Yeah. I mean that makes so much sense and you know, having practiced bankruptcy law for many, many years often like a lot of clients don’t even realize they need a bankruptcy lawyer. They don’t realize, oh right, I have you know $500,000 of tax debt. And they don’t think like, oh I need to go see a bankruptcy lawyer, they think, I need to go see a CPA or a tax attorney. Often the tax attorneys don’t even know that the client maybe should be referred out for a bankruptcy consult. So yeah, I love that but you know as I was listening to you talk about sort of creating these online courses, I can also hear sort of the objections from the lawyers right, going, “Oh my gosh, if I sell this little booklet then the client’s going to sue me for malpractice because they’re going to assume that I’m their lawyer.” Or there’s some sort of ethical obligation for me to enter into an attorney-client relationship. So what do you say to those attorneys?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:10:09] Well you know what, that question came up live when I was giving a talk in New York about a month ago. That question came up and I’m honest with people, it’s an area where we’re still in a grey spot. I’ve reached out for some ethical opinions, I’m doing some research. But I think that we can proceed because if you put the right disclaimers in place and help clients understand what you’re offering, why is this any different than what we’re doing now with unbundled services, right?

[00:10:43] It’s not any different. It’s just explaining how the message and the information is being shared in this vehicle as opposed to some other vehicle.

Jeena Cho: [00:10:52] I’m sure that one way that lawyers can leverage their time. What are some of the common mistakes you see lawyers make all the time, like what are your top let’s say three things that lawyers should just stop doing immediately?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:11:03] Immediately? Do we have like a couple of hours? This is my pet peeve…

[00:11:10] So the only thing that lawyer should be doing is practicing law and building relationships. Everything else could be delegated or automated. We just don’t think that we should give those things up because to your point, we are afraid things will go wrong you will get blamed. Or we sort of drank the kool-aid at law school and we think that there’s nothing that we shouldn’t be able to do. So, of course, I have to do that myself. Very destructive attitude. I think lawyers should stop answering the phone, first thing right off the bat. There is no reason for you, in a solo or a small firm, to be answering your own phone. One, it’s a distraction. And if you’re up on contact switching, which means that once you’ve answered the phone it takes your brain between 5 to 20 minutes to get back to the task that you were doing before you stopped to answer the phone. So it seems like five minutes, but it’s actually more like a half an hour of wasted time. And you know, we’re reporting now that lawyers are only billing for 1.76 hours a day.

Jeena Cho: [00:12:16] Yikes, yeah!

Dina Eisenberg: [00:12:18] Isn’t that horrible?! So if you’re answering the phone, you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot. So stop answering the phone. Stop working on your own web site people, please, please!

Jeena Cho: [00:12:29] I am totally there with you. Unless for some reason, actually I think there are people out there that really like love it and they love to tinker with them and they like actually want to learn how to code or whatever. But I think like 99% of us, yeah like hire someone to go and do your website for sure.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:12:51] That’s exactly it, it’s not your thing unless you went to design school. And there are actually is some disadvantage to having an ugly, non-functioning website. If you don’t have the time to keep it updated and keep the content fresh, then you need to hire someone to help you do that. You can hire a virtual assistant who is a legal writer to write your content, to keep your blog updated.

[00:13:16] When I go to a lawyer’s blog and I see that the last entry was June 2014 you know what happens, right? Off the list, because that means if they can’t be bothered to update their website, how do I know they’re staying up to date with the latest law to help me?

Jeena Cho: [00:13:33] Or at least just take your blog down. I mean, I actually question whether every lawyer needs to have a blog, like I almost feel like that’s sort of the standard operating procedure advice. Like every lawyer should be on Twitter and Facebook and have a blog. And I think that might be pretty good advice for people that do consumer-facing work. But I don’t know that every lawyer needs to have their own Twitter handle and I see so many of these, especially like some of the big law firms, all they tweet about is like, I don’t know just stuff that I can’t imagine that any of their clients are looking at their Twitter profile thinking, “I’m so glad that partner won that award of the year.” It’s like no one cares, like stop.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:14:18] So the blog thing, I actually think you need to have a blog. I think the blog is a way to have a conversation, and you know I use my blog to talk about the things I want to talk about that are important. So that’s for me the use for having a blog, that you can start having these conversations you know, put ideas out, share information. It doesn’t have to be you, right? You can do the one that sets the agenda for the blog. So you use an editorial calendar that plots out the content for the year and you find somebody else to write it, it doesn’t have to be you doing the writing. But I think it’s a way to express ideas and that’s how people hire us. They read our ideas and how we think and then they decide, okay I like that thinking, I want this person to help me solve this legal problem.

Jeena Cho: [00:15:01] Yeah. I guess the other question or concern might be if that’s the point right, so that someone actually reads my writing or the writing that’s on my blog and says, oh I want to hire that lawyer based on sort of the tone or the conversations that the person is writing. But if you’re not actually writing the content, are you actually able to you know, sort of put your personality or who you are out there in an accurate way?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:15:30] You know what, that question comes up all the time, will somebody get my voice? Yes, somebody will get your voice! And since you’re providing the oversight, in terms of the topic and how you want to shape the interview or the article, they’re going to write it, you’re going to review it again. So you have another opportunity to look at it. It takes less time to edit than it actually does to write, so you’re still saving time and the voice will still be the same. It’s always so funny to me, people cling to that one point but we all wear designer clothes, right. I have to say, I don’t think Ralph Lauren is in the back with the sewing machine, zipping out you know outfits for all of us.

[00:16:09] He directs his staff and his vision is you know, recreated by other people. I think the same thing can happen when you write a blog.

Jeena Cho: [00:16:18] Yeah. So I will agree with you because, for such a long time, I was completely against the idea of hiring someone to do any writing for my website. And recently I launched a program and I was just struggling with the sales page, like just writing the content. And I almost feel like, you know, like writing my own resume. I can write anybody else’s resume all day long and do a fantastic job at it, but it was like writing my own resume and it was hard. It’s really hard. And I was talking to a business coach and she was like, you know what just hire someone to do it. And I was like, (gasp) I couldn’t possibly! No one else can get my voice, but you know what, I did. I hired someone, he did such a fantastic job and I edited the hell out of it and actually made it my own. But you know, I would say I probably kept about 70% of what you wrote, and I got it done. And I think that’s really the important, key highlight here. If you’re not regularly blogging anyway, maybe just consider hiring someone. Because then really the only thing you have to do is edit and just get it out there into the world.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:17:26] I so agree with that. I mean, it’s about the communication, not necessarily who creates the communication, so keep doing that. The other things I think we should stop doing is you know, really stop doing the social media and it’s to the point we just had. You want to be president, you want to be offering relevant content, but finding that content and then delivering it is hours that you don’t necessarily have to spend in your day to do that. You can use automation tools to gather up that information like Google Alerts and Google Trends is where other places where you can find that information. Somebody else can be curating it, sending it to you in the morning to look at. You can pick the ones you want and your social media manager can then go ahead and create the post that you’re going to push out across your platforms. It doesn’t have to be you, you just have to give the oversight.

Jeena Cho: [00:18:17] Yes. And I’m a huge fan of Buffer, which automates a lot this and you can put your favorite blogs on there and just grab you know, really great posts and share it with your audience. And you know, I have a virtual assistant that manages that for me and it’s like, it’s made life so much easier.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:18:36] It is! And for folks who are not going to get the virtual assistant, which you and I both know is a good thing to do, there’s a tool called Opscalendar by Brian Castle. And what I love about that particular tool is that it sits inside your blog. So once you finish that blog post, or whoever’s writing it for you, you can then immediately schedule social media. So it’s not like, “Oh I forgot to do it, I didn’t have time.” Right there, you switch over to the Opscalendar and you can set it to post for you in different outlets, so Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and over different days, you can actually post you know, this week and have it deliver the post next week, the week after, or the week after that. It’s a great way to recycle all your old posts.

Jeena Cho: [00:19:24] I love that, is that like a WordPress plugin?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:19:27] It is.

Jeena Cho: [00:19:28] I learned something new today, I am definitely going to check that out. Because I have so many blog posts on my website and I just feel like, it’s great content but it’s just now sitting on my blog and I’m not really getting any mileage out of it, so I love that.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:19:45] Opscalendar is a great way to recirculate all that stuff, and that saves you time. Because people maybe didn’t catch it the first time around. So now you don’t have to write something new.

Jeena Cho: [00:19:57] I love that. So maybe we can transition, this feels like a good next topic for us to talk about. So where do you see the future of law going? We talked a little bit about you know, lawyers offering online courses and really leveraging their time more. But you know, what’s sort of your bigger vision or you know, where do you see the law headed in the next 20-30 years?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:20:25] Oh, 20-30 years. Okay I was just thinking 10…

Jeena Cho: [00:20:31] Why not, start with 10, yeah.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:20:33] You know what, in 10 years I think I imagine us having more hybrid practices, so that there’s still some of the elements of a traditional practice, but that more and more lawyers create other digital assets that create income streams for them. So it is not just trading the hours for the time, that you have courses, that you have books, that you teach courses or workshops. That just going to court is not the only way that legal knowledge is shared with people.

I’m really excited about how much unbundling is going on, I hope that trend’s going to continue because I think it gives us so much more opportunity in a couple ways. One, the opportunity for access to counsel. I’ve been saddened and very saddened to discover how little access people have. As I’ve been studying more, so I think as we begin to break down the legal matter into it’s smallest bits and then say that we can offer you that little bit based on how much you know, budget you have at the moment, is a great thing, good for lawyers who are able to boost their income a little bit. Good for clients who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get that help. So I’d love to see a lot more un-bundling.

Jeena Cho: [00:21:53] Yeah. What do you think about you know like, in Washington State and some other states, they’re starting to have these limited license legal technicians come on board?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:22:04] I know it won’t be a popular opinion, but I like that idea.

[00:22:09] I think that you know, in some ways, it will give lawyers a chance to give up that part of practicing law and focus on maybe larger issues, societal issues that we could focus on and really use our talents. Not so much on the transactional day-to-day stuff, so I see that as a good trend.

Jeena Cho: [00:22:27] Yeah. You know and, I wish I had the study at my fingertips, but it was something like, you know there’s like millions and millions of cases that take place in the U.S. where the person can use a lawyer but they can’t afford one. And I looked at those numbers and it’s sort of, the point of the study was that like you know, like a lot of these bar associations are creating these, legal clinics and maybe taking on a few thousand more cases. Like no amount of pro-bono work, like literally every lawyer in this country can just start working pro-bono for free for 40 hours a week, and we still wouldn’t be able to meet all of that unmet need. And so I think that leads to a question of, what do you do for the folks that you know, don’t qualify for a public defender, that are going in and representing themselves? And it could be something pretty simple like, you know doing a will or a simple divorce or whatever it is. And I think we really need to figure out a way to empower people to do those things.

[00:23:35] Exactly. And I don’t really see that being a threat to my job. Even though I think bankruptcy is one of those areas that I think will become more and more automated and I think that the will leave bankruptcy lawyers more freedom to be able to take on those cases where WE are actually needed. To have like, a simple bankruptcy case like I think you can actually create (a lot of bankruptcy lawyers are going to be angry at me for saying this) that we can actually probably create an intake questionnaire that is sophisticated enough to be able to spit out a simple, chapter 7 bankruptcy petition that that person can then go and file themselves.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:24:16] I agree, I agree. And how much fairer would that be? I learned the other day this kind of astonishing fact that more people of color actually go to chapter 13 because they can’t afford the fees for a Chapter 7. And maybe they’re not aware of the fees and maybe I’m incorrect in that, but it seems like if there was another mechanism to help people either deal with that small fee or get the help to work through that process, it would be great.

Jeena Cho: [00:24:40] Oh how interesting, because yeah I mean, most courts will allow you to make installment payments. I mean it’s a separate application, which again is kind of crazy, like there’s this $360 fee but you have to fill out this whole other application so you can make installment payments and then you also have to provide supporting documents and it’s just like, I don’t like, how do we realistically expect a pro se client to know that and to be able to fill out those forms? And so, yeah there’s just a lot of different layers of issues that we need to sort through. Is just like, how difficult it is to actually access the courts…

Dina Eisenberg: [00:25:23] That’s right. I think it’s just the technical aspects that people fail on. They don’t know the way to navigate the court, what form to use, even how to address the court personnel is also daunting. And so if we can have ways for people to either get that information or get the assistance, that would be great. I know we’ve been focusing a lot on low-bono and I like that trend, but it’s hard to get people on board with that.

Jeena Cho: [00:25:55] Yeah. And then whenever I see the Bar Association kind of wanting to ban the legalisms of the world. I mean to me, it’s almost like trying to stop the tide. Like, it’s already here, you know. I mean like automation and Google become smarter and information becomes democratized. You know, I think lawyers sort of thinking, I’m just going to sit on all this legal knowledge and that’s what they’re going to pay me for. Uhmm yeah, I don’t know.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:26:29] Not anymore. Consumers are so much savvier now in terms of what they’re willing to pay for. It hasn’t escaped their notice that we’re not the only way to get things done. And so, I think smart lawyers are figuring that out and saying yes, of course I want to present as many ways and options for me to be able to help you as possible. Pick the ones that work for you and work for your budget. That, I think is the smart way to practice law now, as opposed to holding on to the traditional ways of doing it, being exclusive in terms of the knowledge and sort-of lording that over people, which is what law has been in the past.

Jeena Cho: [00:27:06] Yeah, yeah. I’m debating on whether I should have you talk about lawyers, I’ll give you two potential options or maybe we can do both of them in very short bursts. Talk about what lawyers can do to sort of stay ahead of the trend and not become irrelevant is one, and also talking about the women of color in the legal space, because I think that’s very relevant to the conversation.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:27:37] Yeah let’s just go for it. Let’s talk about that one. I might get myself in trouble, but you know it won’t be the first time.

Jeena Cho: [00:27:45] So speaking of your vision for law practice in the future, you know I just read another study from the National Association of Women Lawyers and it’s just disheartening. Even though women, women of color, people of color have been going to law school at a much, much higher rate for the last several decades. We’re just not making that much great progress in terms of making it to partnership in law firms, equity partnerships. And you know so, obviously for people that are not able to see us like, we’re both women of color and you and I were just chatting before we got started on the interview about just, that feeling of like going to a legal conference and seeing the entire panel of speakers be white, or more likely white male, and how that impacts us as women of color.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:28:40] I’m so happy we’re having this conversation because I don’t think there’s been enough discussion around how challenging it is to be a woman of color in the law profession. You know, now when I look at articles and things that come up through conferences, I look at the pictures. And if everybody looks the same. I’m less likely to go to that conference. Now that’s a bad thing for a couple of reasons. One, it’s bad for them because they’re not going to get the benefit of my knowledge, my expertise, and my different perspective. It’s bad for me because the conference is not going to see me as an equal who has something to offer them.

We are so behind, and I don’t mind saying I’m 55, and I remember when I first started out and ended my 20’s, I was part of a group where they were going to bust the diversity question wide open and bring more people of color into the law profession. How is it that 30 years later we are still talking about this? The only reason that can be so I think is because some folks are holding the notion of what the success model should look like in play. And it does not look like you or me. And that’s what is keeping things from moving forward. We can talk about the change all we want, but until people start admitting that when they see a woman lawyer they don’t necessarily think the top of the class, they don’t necessarily think outstanding leader. More often than not they think, is that the court reporter? It’s just so annoying.

Jeena Cho: [00:30:20] It is super annoying. So I want to back up a little bit so, you know when you see a list of speakers and none of them look like you, what’s the impact that that has on you?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:30:36] It’s very hard for me to believe that my perspective is in the room when I don’t see anybody that looks like me in the room. And I don’t necessarily mean it in a harsh way, that people are intentionally trying to exclude me. Although I’m sure that some of that is true. It’s just that (and I’ve actually been in a room when this has happened) if there’s no one there to say, “Please take another look or ask another question.” There is a group-think around, okay. Let me see if I can explain how this happens. So, for a long time was an ombudsman. I would go to senior-level meetings where would be talking about who’s going to move up to the next level. And there would always be you know, a woman candidate. Sometimes the woman would be of color, and people would agree she would be wonderful. And then somebody would say the code word, which is “seasoned”. “I don’t know if she’s seasoned enough.”

Jeena Cho: [00:31:35] Or, “She’s too nice. Or not nice enough.” Or too assertive, or not assertive enough.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:31:42] Unless there’s somebody else in the room to say, “Come on, really? What do you mean by that?” Then everybody else just nods and they go on to the next person. So I think it’s the same thing, when someone who doesn’t look like you is not in the room, I don’t think our perspective gets in the room. I don’t think our brilliance is considered, and there’s a loss for everybody when that happens.

Jeena Cho: [00:32:04] Right. Yeah for me it’s the sense like, “Oh, I’m not invited into this space.” Now it may not be intentional, and I want to make that very clear. Because often when I point out the lack of diversity on the speakers, the organizers will tell me, “Well it’s not intentional.” And I’m not saying that they all sat around and said well, we want to make sure that we only allow white folks to speak. None of us are saying that, but the actual impact that has on people of color or women of color is not, oh I’m not welcome in this space. And I don’t think that if you’re sort of, the white lawyer like you even know what that experience is like, to walk into a space where you’re like, “Oh I’m not invited.” Because that never happens because you’re always the majority.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:32:52] And to take that one step further which is the other piece of it is, I’m not welcome and I have to defend my right to be here. I cannot tell you how many professional meetings I’ve been at where someone has said, and it shocks me, “What are you doing here?” Okay. I think I’m at a professional meeting networking, you’re here at the same meeting – wouldn’t I be doing the same thing you’re doing? Right? It’s, that kind of attitude makes it very hard to walk into a room because you know your armor has to be up, you have to be on, and you really have to be spending a lot more energy managing things other than being in the conversation and making that connection.

Jeena Cho: [00:33:34] And I think this is such a relevant conversation when we talk about the future of law, because as lawyers we serve the public. And you know, the truth of the matter is that the population of the U.S. is becoming incredibly diverse. I mean I think it’s something like, by like 2040 we’re not going to have a single race, right, like white people are no longer going to be the majority race. And so I sort of feel like, how are we going to serve a population that’s going to become more and more diverse over time if we’re still lacking in diversity as a profession ourselves? Can we truly relate to the experience of the other, if we’re not actually welcoming diverse perspectives?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:34:28] I love this conversation. I love this conversation because it’s not one that, hopefully, our having this conversation will spark other people to begin to question what they can do to move this issue along a little bit. Can you ask, you know, I wonder why there’s not a diverse panel? Can you suggest names, because often to your point Jeena, I’ve heard people say, “Well we couldn’t find anybody.”

Jeena Cho: [00:34:55] Or my other favorite, “Oh, we just pick the best speakers.”

Dina Eisenberg: [00:35:00] There you go, of course, that wouldn’t be you. So you know, we just have to ask people to be more aware and ask more questions. As women of color and lawyers of color, we can’t always be the ones asking this question.

Jeena Cho: [00:35:14] Nor are we actually, nor do we have the power to be able to change it because we’re not on the organizing committees at these, you know 6,000 people conferences. And so my husband’s white and we’ve had a lot of these sort of difficult conversations, and I think sometimes it’s really hard to say like as a white person say, “Hey, you know what? Every single speaker is white, and that’s a problem,” because I almost feel like the other people in the room are going to look at you and be like, well why do you care, you’re white?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:35:47] What’s it to you?! Exactly, I think that is exactly right. I think somebody who decides they’re going to stand up and speak about this is very brave because it really will point out to other people that you are different and not necessarily going along with the group think that goes with white privilege. So, I’m applauding the person who does that quite a bit. I admire that person.

Jeena Cho: [00:36:12] Yeah, and I don’t think that you need any sort of justification or reason to say you know what, diversity and inclusion matters to me. I don’t think you have to be like, “I want you know I think diversity inclusion is important because my wife is Asian,” or “Diversity inclusion is important because my cousin is black.” I mean it’s like, you don’t need any justification to say like you know what, I believe in diversity and inclusion as a principle. And this matters to me. And I think every person can stand up and say this is something that’s important and it matters to me, regardless of what your race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, so on and so forth. Yes.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:36:55] We have to be able to stand up for each other and protect each other when necessary. And that you know, that used to be something that was one of the guiding principles of this country, not that I want to get into politics, but it doesn’t seem to be anymore.

Jeena Cho: [00:37:11] Yeah, I know. And I just feel like these types of conversations are so needed right now but we don’t have the language, we don’t have the tools to be able to have these conversations in a civil manner.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:37:25] That’s exactly it. Very hard, you know I always say that the most underrated skill that we don’t recognize is listening. Listening is an amazing skill that will really bring you so many gifts and keep you out of so many scrapes if you use this tool. But we don’t listen to each other anymore, we don’t even listen to ourselves to be perfectly honest.

Jeena Cho: [00:37:49] Yeah, yeah. And I think listening to ourselves is a great place to start because if we don’t have self-awareness it’s really hard to actually know what your position is and be in the world.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:38:01] Something we don’t spend enough time talking about.

Jeena Cho: [00:38:07] Yeah. You know I feel like I need to have you come back on the show so we can devote like another episode on this specific topic, because it just doesn’t get talked about very often and I’m just really kind of shocked that you know, even in 2017 just the lack of diversity inclusion and so many legal spaces, I mean particularly like legal technology and it’s just shocking. And if they’re going to claim to serve the public but they completely lack diversity in themselves like, are they really in the best position to be able to serve an incredibly diverse group, like the public.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:38:50] The short answer would be no.

[00:38:55] Yeah I would, I would love to come back and talk about it. You know it’s funny, I’m interested in talking about this and I’m interested in effecting change and making things happen. I’m scared that there are so few people of color in the legal profession and that we don’t have the words that we should have. I’m scared that there are so many women who are in what I would call “the pink ghettos of law” who never even think about moving to other more profitable, lucrative areas. It’s like, oh yeah, we can have a long conversation.

Jeena Cho: [00:39:29] But before I let you go, so the name of this podcast is the Resilient Lawyer. What does it mean to be a resilient lawyer to you?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:39:37] Oh my gosh, great question. You know, I think resilience is about admitting that you’re not always strong. That there will be times when you will break down, that you will need help, and that you ask for that help when you need it. And that’s a lesson that’s really hard for lawyers to embrace because we’re used to being the ones who give the help, we’re used to be the ones who are the rescuers, not the ones getting rescued. But I like to say that if you cannot rest, if you cannot give yourself that time you need to heal, how can you be effective in protecting somebody else? You can’t, you can’t give them your full self.

[00:40:25] So I think that self-care really is a tool that lawyers should embrace. Not just because it’s good for you; it is. I think that meditation is something we should be doing, we should be doing nature baths, we should be embracing our emotional selves. It’s good for you but it’s also good for your clients. The more you’re in touch with your emotions and how to manage them, the more that you can be in touch with their emotions and help them manage them. I had a great conversation with someone the other day about social media and family law, and they were saying how crappy it is when their clients go on to social media and talk about the case. I was like, “Yeah that is crappy,” and they really, the lawyer’s really upset and getting frothy about it, and I was like, “Okay, I totally get that. And can you see where, from their perspective, they needed that vehicle and you didn’t give them any other choice about what to do?” Right. So you knew they were going to be upset because family law clients do get upset, you knew you didn’t want them to be on social media, but you didn’t give them any alternative. You just said don’t do it. Why didn’t you give them any other tools to cope with that?

Jeena Cho: [00:41:34] Yeah, it’s so challenging. That level of emotional intelligence and empathy and compassion. These are all things they don’t teach you in law school.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:41:51] They must now, right? It’s been a while since I’ve been in law school. But now there are some courses on that, right?

Jeena Cho: [00:41:58] I think a couple here and there. But certainly not taught to the masses, I think a lot of law professors still cling to the Socratic method, sadly I know.

[00:42:12] Dina, for people that want to learn more about your work or want to connect with you, what are some ways that they can do that?

Dina Eisenberg: [00:42:19] Oh I would love to be in touch with the listeners. They certainly can join me on my website, which is outsourceeasier.com. I’m on Facebook, my Facebook Mastermind is The Intentional Lawyer’s Club. Where we’re talking about “three-exing” your income and chilling. Yeah, I’m a big chill girl. Certainly, you can find me on Twitter at @dinaeisenberg.

Jeena Cho: [00:42:45] And I have to thank Twitter for bringing us together, where I also find a lot of my guests. It’s such a wonderful tool, so I am happy to be living in this time where we have all these amazing tools that we can leverage for connecting with others.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:43:02] We are so blessed.

Jeena Cho: [00:43:03] Yes. Dina, thank you so much for joining me today. It was such a delight.

Dina Eisenberg: [00:43:09] Oh you know what Jeena? This has been the highlight, not only of my day, but I’m going to say the whole month. I am looking forward to getting to know you so much better and having so many more conversations. Thanks so much for having me.

Jeena Cho: [00:43:20] Thank you.

 

Closing

Thanks for joining us on the Resilient Lawyer Podcast. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please tell a friend. It’s really the best way to grow the show. To leave us a review on iTunes, search for the Resilient Lawyer and give us your honest feedback. It goes a long way to help with our visibility when you do that so we really appreciate it.

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you next week.