In this episode, I am excited to have Janine Sickmeyer on to talk about her journey in starting her legal tech business and the importance of mindfulness and wellness for her and her team.
Janine is the CEO and Founder of NextChapter, a web application for attorneys to prepare, manage and file their bankruptcy cases online. Janine is particularly fascinated in the intersection between law and technology, and is passionate about sharing her story with female entrepreneurs and business leaders to help them overcome challenges when starting a new venture. In addition to being a legal tech CEO, Janine is also a wife and mother to two, with twins on the way!
- Both boundaries she sees for female business founders, and how she avoids burnout for herself and her employees in a legal tech startup.
- How mindfulness plays a role in developing relationships with employees and clients.
- The importance of philanthropy in your business, and how it aids in personal growth for herself and her employees.
For more information, visit: jeenacho.com
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Janine Sickmeyer: [00:00:01] When you can take time to think more clearly about it about the situation and just being aware of what the actual problem is and how to resolve that. It’s just you know it’s going to help the employees and clients.
Intro: [00:00:18] Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:41] Hello my friends thanks for being with us today. In this episode I’m so happy to have Janine. She is the CEO and founder of Next Chapter a web application for attorneys to prepare manage and filed their bankruptcy cases online. She is particularly fascinated with the intersection between law and technology and is passionate about sharing her story with female entrepreneurs and business leaders to help them overcome challenges when starting a new venture. In addition to being a legal tech CEO she is also white a mother of two with twins on the way.
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 6 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 I hear from lawyers that they know they should practice mindfulness, but they don’t have the time. I always tell the lawyers just that it was 6 minutes to a point one hour of all the hours he dedicate to your client work and others don’t deserve to have a point one hour to yourself mindful pauses is designed for lawyers like you to fit into your hectic schedule. Think of it like taking your daily vitamin to boost your wellbeing. Head on over to Jeena Cho. Com to learn more. Check it out and the show notes. And with that huge Janine Janine welcome to the show.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:02:08] Hi Jeena thanks so much for having me and thanks for all you do for legal professionals.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:15] Thank you so much. So to get us started. Love to have you give us a 30 second introduction of who you are and what you do.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:02:22] Of course.
[00:02:23] So as you said I am CEO and founder of Next Chapter and next chapter is a web application for attorneys to prepare and manage their bankruptcy cases online. Prior to this I was a paralegal in the bankruptcy field. It was on the consumer side. I did that for several years and I just I saw a need in the market for something like Next job there a web based application. There are other applications that are a desktop in that space and I created next chapter just out of a need to fill the market. So I’ve been doing that for almost five years now and we launched about two years ago and it took about two and a half years to build but now that we are. You know kind of established Jeena out there we were just trying new things and to get new clients and adding new products. And it’s been been a really fun venture.
Jeena Cho: [00:03:23] Yeah I peak you and I connect that because the listeners probably know my husband and I have a bankruptcy. So I think we may have met like net worth. Can get help.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:03:34] Actually yeah actually I remember this because I was in San Francisco for Dreamforce which is a sales force compromise. This was back in 2013. So this was right there as getting started and we met up at Peets Coffee. I sent you an email to see if you would talk with me just about you know. Being a bankruptcy attorney. And I knew that you and your husband were you know innovative and looking into I could just tell from your website. Frankly I believe at the time so when you love from Web sites or you know a little a little dated. And I was like well maybe I could meet up with her and see what she would think about this idea. So I remember meeting with you for coffee and sharing you just sketches and talking about it before it was even a product.
Jeena Cho: [00:04:28] So I learned Yeah yeah we remember that. Yeah. Sure. Thanks
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:17:07] Yeah it was it was funny because I met with a lot of investors on that trip and basically anyone that I could talk to. I was like I’m going to try to reach out to any bankruptcy attorneys any investors you know potential clients whoever I have. It was like researching kind of. Experience for me. So it was really it was really cool.
Jeena Cho: [00:17:24] So you know it’s kind of rare being a female founder. I’m curious if you can just share a little bit about that journey of becoming an entrepreneur and starting a tech company.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:17:35] Yes it is. It is a little bit rare especially about five years ago. And in the legal market and even more narrow the bankruptcy market. So there. You know. I feel like it’s starting to kind of come around. You know there’s a lot more female founders that are starting tech companies but there’s still not enough resources out there for them. And I’m actually. Playing with the idea of starting my own typecast and I don’t know writing a book to help female founders. And I’m I’m working on that now. It’s you know a little bit of a challenge to fit in with my current current position here and also with all the kids on the way.
[00:18:13] So it’s it may take a little bit of time but I have some pretty good ideas of how you know what women are looking for when they’re trying to start a tech company and how challenging it can be I guess to get out in front of investors especially when they’re you know kind of wondering when the next step of your life is going to be. And it’s you know I don’t think that that’s always.
[00:18:32] That’s always important when it comes to business if you’re you know looking to start a business.
[00:18:36] It’s OK if you also want to start a family you know. Right.
Jeena Cho: [00:18:39] And of course men do it all the time. We’re not the person responsible for raising the children. So yeah. So I know you have like lots of balls in the air that you are juggling you know how do you keep yourself from burning out. How do you go about nourishing yourself and maintaining your well-being.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:18:55] Well it’s for me personally. I do a lot of a lot of the physical wellness where I’m going to bar classes.
[00:19:01] I do yoga. I’m doing spinning you know running a lot of that really helps me just kind of unwind and you know free balance after a long day either you know with kids or with the business with with work. We actually do a lot. And next chapter to kind of avoid that burnout and help kind of get everyone back together and you know just have a little more human interaction because we’re all behind the screens all day long talking to our clients and trying to find new ways to find clients. And we actually we have a lot of remote employees too. So we think our team is 14 right now. And there are six of us in our headquarters so the rest of the team is anywhere from Serbia to New York to California. And we actually we do like annual retreats to bring everyone together to make sure that we’re not just working in that set and you know day in and day out. So we do a lot of our annual retreats involve a lot of team building activities and bonding and personal development. And it’s it’s a lot of fun because it gets us together. And I think that’s one of the you know one of the main things that we’ve been able to help with avoiding burnout for them I know especially our developers and you know the designers and those kind of more task oriented positions.
Jeena Cho: [00:20:19] And I know that you are a proponent and a practitioner of mindfulness. How did you end the practice saying that it should go about getting into mindfulness.
[00:20:29] Yes. So when I was first starting the next chapter it was very lonely. I feel like you know just building a company from scratch can can just be a difficult thing. And I was working in the coffee shops and you know late nights and I didn’t have an office yet. You know and Next Chapter was just this idea that I was like I’m passionate about. But it felt you know very stressful too.
[00:20:53] And so as much as I loved it there was a lot of anxiety that came with that and I had a lot of loneliness just developing with a few you know a few people through the Internet. And that was it. So I started to take to mindfulness and work on myself when I you know I found that it was just getting very overwhelming to start a business by yourself. So I started meditating. I.
[00:21:16] It’s not something that comes easy. That was that was something that I had to practice every day. And you know it’s weird at first you’re like What am I supposed to be doing or thinking about. Am I doing this right. Well yeah but I feel like after I started to develop this habit it was actually very very enlightening and helped me bring back you know all of that stress and kind of let that go and just spring back you know what my actual goals were and think more clearly about how to resolve issues. I actually do a lot of that now with my children too with Elouise about my daughter. She’s two and a half and before bed time she’s you know a little wild up or kind of a grumpy mood or something. I will you know I’ll say let’s sit down together and practice our breathing and just you know dim the lights and all kind of have this exercise together. And we’ve been doing that since she was you know six seven months old and I was like why don’t start now. And then she gets it. You know she’s like you know when my son’s a little wound up he’s only one and a half surely he needs to take three deep breaths relax. Guess cute things you know kind of involve that men and some of their favorite little shows. They also talk about it. You know Daniel Tiger is like OK when you’re upset count for you know and so she she can relate to that too.
Jeena Cho: [00:22:30] And how have you found your mindfulness practice helping you in terms of how you relate to your employees and your clients.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:22:38] Oh yeah I think I think that’s when you can take time to think more clearly about it about the situation.
[00:22:45] And a lot of times just being aware of of what the actual problem is and how to resolve it. It’s just going in you know it’s going to help the employees and and clients feel like you know you’re actually encouraging them connecting with them better. It’s I mean with my employees now I can you know we have a lot of customer support that we deal with with an application like Next Chapter. And so there’s a lot of attorneys that are using our product that you know may have run into a snag or a bog or something like that and it can just be very stressful for everyone in the office because we’re in a very tight space. So there’s like six of us in a very small room so we kind of feed off of each other. You know if there’s a difficult client. All of us are kind of in it. And so I’m like you know we we need to find a way to not let these things bother us and just take a break like Get out go on a walk. Just go to yoga. I mean all like basically everybody goes to work out through the middle of the day must be a great way to come back and feel energized and relaxed and really you know once you come back to that to the desk you’re like oh that wasn’t actually a big deal.
[00:23:52] I just needed to get away for a minute and think about what you know the actual problem is so. And then you know it we like to do a lot of our activities together through the day. I think that it will be things like cooking classes or you know we do a lot of volunteer work together. And I think all of that also helps. The company and ultimately helps our clients just feel like we’re connected and better mindset about about the business.
Jeena Cho: [00:24:17] What are some of the things that you do in your business that makes your business stand out that makes it unique and makes it different from other perhaps other tech companies.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:24:26] So from the very beginning of the business giving back was something that I really wanted to involve in our company and it was it was something that we were all of us were passionate about who kind of started next chapter. And I wanted to find a way to be able to help debtors you know file these bankruptcies but we didn’t want to be a consumer facing product at the time. So we kind of found a way to do that through this this one on one model which is is actually inspired by sales force. They they give back the same way. And it’s like an integrated philanthropy. We’re able to give 1 percent of our equity 1 percent of our time and 1 percent of our product to those and underserved markets. So for us the way we do that is by allowing the attorneys to use the product for free for any pro bono cases. So it’s it’s been really nice to be able to include that. And you know I know that it’s not easy for every company to be able to get back in the same way I think for technology though you can do that with you know students or you know with us we also allow law school students to use next chapter for free. Sometimes professors ask us for their bankruptcy classes if they can use it to you know have their clients or have their students practice. And I think that’s you know I think that’s really cool.
Jeena Cho: [00:25:43] Now I really loved Tad. Thank you so much for your time and for joining me today. Before I let you go the name of this podcast is called The Resilient Lawyer. What does it mean to be The Resilient Lawyer to you.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:25:54] Well I think striving in life after all of the struggles and challenges that it takes to build a company.
Jeena Cho: [00:26:01] W. Onderful Janene for the listeners that are out there that want to learn more about you and your company what’s the best place for them to go and do that.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:26:08] So you can find next chapter online next chapterB.K. dot com or find us on Twitter. Next chapterB.K.
Jeena Cho: [00:26:14] Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Janine Sickmeyer: [00:26:16] Oh sure. Thanks so much for having me.
Closing: [00:26:17] 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. As always, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at [email protected] Thanks, and look forward to seeing you next week.