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HCBA Past-President's Kim Lowe's Blog 2015-16
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Kim Lowe served as the 2015-2016 HCBA President. Views expressed here are her own.

 

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Top tags: President  Law Schools  ABA  Access to Justice  Golf  Google  HCBA  HCBA office  Heroes  Internet  Kermit the Frog  Movies  MSBA  Networking  New Lawyers  Pro bono  Real Estate  Snow White  Social Media  The Gambler  Transactional Lawyer  Zombie 

Hug him and squeeze him and call him George! Hug all your bar associations this week!

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, September 21, 2015

The Abominable Snow Rabbit is by far my favorite Loony Tune’s cartoon. While the entire short film is over six minutes long, this clip is the best part https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JlVqfC8-UI.  Why, you ask, am I watching a cartoon while I encourage you to hug your bar associations. The operative point is to hug all your bar associations; belonging to just one probably won’t meet all your professional needs and this cartoon is just a fun way to encourage membership and involvement (the “hug”).

Like many of you I am “co-barred” (I belong to a district, state, and national bar association). But why, you might ask yourself, does one lawyer need to be co-barred? For me, the answer to this question is very clear: each of these different bar associations provide uniquely different valuable tools to my practice and my professional career. No one bar association can provide a lawyer with all of the tools he or she needs to prosper in this profession.  Here is how I look at my co-bar experience:

  • The ABA provides me with access to information and other lawyers who are specialized in a subject matter practice area that is dictated by federal statutes and agencies. I am an active member of several committees of the business law section and the tax law section and through these committees I am able to interact with and bounce ideas off of other lawyers who are in these “federal” practice areas. It makes more sense to obtain this connectivity at the national level. 
  • The MSBA provides me with opportunities to focus on the parts of my practice that are state law specific by allowing me to spend most of my active MSBA membership time working with other member-practitioners in the for-profit, nonprofit and limited liability company space since the statutory framework for this legal work is state specific.
  • The HCBA provides me with opportunities to connect with other practitioners across practice areas and to focus more specifically on parts of my professional career and obligations that are interpersonal in nature (versus subject matter specific) such as pro bono, practice development skills, and relationship and network building.


Of course my co-bar experience is unique to me. Other members will find other and different value from the various bar associations. What I realized early on in my legal career is that one bar association cannot be all things to a member. The various bar associations intentionally operate in concert with each other and collectively provide members with the tools they need to succeed and prosper as a member of the legal profession. 

Tags:  ABA  HCBA  MSBA 

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Hi! My name is Kim and I am a real estate Bridezilla: A lesson in client empathy.

Posted By HCBA President, Kimberly A. Lowe, Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Updated: Monday, September 14, 2015

So, sometimes I just need to remember to just step away from the ledge and roll with it. For example, I am in the process of selling a house. I have found the entire experience frustrating and intolerable. It’s not that my agent is not doing a great job. He is. It’s just that I am a control freak, so allowing someone else to speak on my behalf has brought the real estate equivalent of Bridezilla that lingers in my soul out into the open.

Since I am neither happy with the situation nor how I have acted throughout the process, there must be an important lesson for me to learn. And this lesson, of course, must be relatable to being a lawyer. All roads lead to Rome in my blog world.

As I consider which pop culture songs best relate to my situation, two come to mind:

As I ponder my own frustration as a real estate Bridezilla, I realize that that best musical theme for this situation is Winwood’s, since “rolling with it” is what all of us should do when faced with frustrating situations. As much as Rage Against the Machine embodies my frustration, I do still need to function as a competent adult even if I want to reach through my iPhone and my agent and throttle the would-be buyers of my home. I take a deep breath and roll with it!  I sit cross-legged and chant soothing dulcet tones to myself. I release the inner control freak in me and let all my anger go. NOT!!!! But I try.  

I can reflect on how my experience as a “client” informs how I serve my own clients.
I know now how clients must feel when they are in the middle of a legal dispute or a legal situation where they must rely on us to be their voice and advocate in the legal system: frustrated and unhappy and angry and afraid! And that is exactly how I have felt through the house selling process. So when clients delegate their personal and economic well-being to us as lawyers, we need to be mindful and respectful of what they are feeling.  A lesson we can all appreciate as members of the legal profession.

And now I am going back to my day job . . .

Tags:  President  Real Estate 

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You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em ...

Posted By HCBA President, Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, August 31, 2015

While I was enjoying brunch with friends yesterday at The Wild Onion on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, Kenny Roger’s The Gambler played on the background music soundtrack. I wasn’t paying attention until the chorus came up and all of us started to tap our toes and mumble these famous lines: 

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

(Full lyrics and video available here.)

You have to admit, it’s a catchy chorus. But more applicable to us, the song tells the story of a cross-generational conversation (on a train) about how to navigate the business of life. While the message is applicable to any “profession,” the concept of the gambler is a remarkably appropriate symbol for lawyers who must navigate make-or-break economic and personal decisions throughout our professional lives. From law school to retirement, lawyers have to make choices that impact their journey through the profession, the practice and the business of law. 

Let’s consider…

  • The recent college grad considering law school. Is law school (and by default the legal profession) a good choice right now?  What law school should the grad attend – the highest ranked school or the school with the best financial aid package?
  • The law student. How hard should the 1L study? How important are those first year grades? Are bar classes more important than clinics or practice-specific courses?
  • The private practice associate in a mid-to-large size law firm. How many hours need to be devoted to becoming a partner?  Do these associates even want to become partners?  How can these associates start a family, build a book of business, become and be a “center of economic activity” with the current unrest in the legal business?
  • The mid-career lawyer in private practice.  Is there a good time to transition from firm to firm, firm to solo, private practice to in-house, private practice to the bench or government? 
  • The vintage lawyer. When is the right time to transition out of practice into retirement? 

Lawyers are dealt many hands throughout their legal careers. They need to constantly be considering whether to hold, fold, walk away or run away. The irony of The Gambler is that the operative word in the lyric is not “consider,” but “know.”  As lawyers, we are trained to research and analyze and apply the law and advocate and problem solve for our clients. We are not trained to know for ourselves. We could all use a train ride to nowhere with the gambler who can tell us what we need to know.  We could all use that ace that allows us to win every hand.  Absent a train, a bottle, a cigarette and a wise gambler, we have each other and the connections that being a member of the bar association provides. 

Tags:  President  The Gambler 

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Posted By HCBA President, Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, August 24, 2015

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”
  Maya Angelou

* * *

Let’s talk about heroes (or she-roes!) and how important these mythical beings are to all of us as people and legal professionals.

I’m a child of the seventies, and you cannot be a child of the seventies without having seen Kermit the Frog on early seasons of PBS’ Sesame Street or on The Muppet Show and its various film and television spin-offs.  Kermit’s famous song, Bein’ Green (you can watch it here!) was my—and hundreds of other kids’—favorite song as a child. Whenever I feel like the odd-person (or frog)-out, I simply mutter “It’s not easy being green” to myself and I just feel better. But more than just reminding me of my childhood, Kermit the Frog (the character – I’m sorry to tell you, but Muppets aren’t real), with his vast, still-growing body of work (the Muppet Show is back!!!), represents a “person” I really admire. His self-deprecating persona and his sometimes frenetic but loving leadership of his offbeat cast of characters inspires me to be better.  And that is precisely what a hero (or she-ro) does: inspires us to be better people than we would be without them.

As a lawyer, I have many legal heroes—and not all of these legal heroes are lawyers or fictional characters (see my prior blog post “You Can’t Handle the Truth” here). Sometimes these heroes are simply called “mentors,” “senior partners” or “sponsors,” and sometimes they even lack official titles altogether.  Regardless of title or stature, however, each hero is as important as the last. 

When I first started practicing law, I learned more about being a lawyer from the paralegals in my office than from the partners for whom I worked. They guided me through forming my first companies and reading my first UCC searches. No fancy titles or degrees—just women (I have only worked with one male paralegal in 18 years of practice) who had worked in the legal industry for a long time who were knowledgeable, patient and great teachers. Of course, I must also celebrate my pro bono client heroes. Working with micro-entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs of low or no means, and being able to help these brave people change the course of their own and others' economic justice has made me want to be not only a better lawyer, but a better person. 

I celebrate all my heroes legal or otherwise and thank them all for the differences they have made in my life.  Who are your heroes (or she-roes) and how do these people (or frogs) fit into your life and your legal practice, or both? 


Tags:  Heroes  Kermit the Frog  President 

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Because the Internet Told Me to: Jousting with Google

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday: I was meeting with two new clients who had hired me to help them form a new technology start-up social business. Even before I could ask them about their business they were whipping out their laptops and pointing at pages from various websites. They proceeded to tell me about everything they read online and what the internet had told them to do with the formation of their new enterprise. I listened and responded and explained and, in many ways, debunked the myths propagated by various "experts" residing within the hallowed halls of a Google search. In the end, they have a properly structured start-up enterprise that looks nothing like what the internet told them to do. We end the meeting with them asking me why the Internet was so wrong on all of these issues.

Tuesday: A law clerk is in my office discussing a project. As I lay out the project and give her marching orders, she asks me if she should use Westlaw. I choke, knowing the bills that could be run up by an enterprising law clerk trying to figure out something with a paid resource, and immediately say she should use Google with the firm statement: "Everything you need to do this project is available on the Internet." 

What is going on here? Why is Google "wrong" for a client but "right" for a law clerk? Am I just trying to run up a legal bill to justify my existence as a lawyer, but then just turning to the same resources internally?

With the rise of free legal advice websites like Nolo.com (waving the banner of “Law for All,” linked here), blogs by business pioneers who have “been through it before,” and the ever dependable Internet forums like Usenet and FreeAdvice, the temptation to simply ask a question and have it answered—all from the convenience of your living room’s easy chair—can be too much to overcome. In fact, according to a 2011 poll conducted by the American Bar Association, nearly six out of ten respondents claimed they would turn to free online services rather than a lawyer, with that number increasing to two thirds for those respondents under the age of 35 or with an income of less than $35,000 a year. With so many available resources and a willing base of participants, it would seem that Google should be a very effective and useful tool for a person to gain some sound knowledge on their legal issues.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Put most simply, a legal education and specialized knowledge in an area of the law gives a lawyer a better lens than a client when it comes to navigating all of the information on the internet.  When a client comes to me with Internet "advice," it is usually in the form of a blog or article or some sort of legal equivalent of WebMD. Just like I always seem to have cancer when I use the Internet to self-diagnose a cold or why I still end up calling (and paying for) a plumber when I have a leaking faucet, even though I watched 25 YouTube videos on how to fix a leaking faucet, Internet "advice" is not really advice. It’s a bunch of information that all of us can access from the comfort of our tablet or smartphone. In order for the information to be actionable it needs to be filtered and applied to the specific circumstances and goals of the client. 

So how does a lawyer respond to the "Internet" advised client?  Don't joust with Google! You will lose, since we use the same tool to do our job that clients use to try to do-it-themselves. Find those resources or sites or bloggers that provide complete, accurate and understandable information and share these resources with your client. Or better yet, produce your own online resources and information and give it to clients and the world at-large for free. 


Tags:  Google  Internet 

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