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Marlene Gebauer: Welcome to the Geek in Review. The podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert: And I’m Greg Lambert. Marlene, we are hunkering down awaiting Hurricane Laura to come on shore later this afternoon so I’m hoping that the power will stay on long enough for at least record this episode.
Marlene Gebauer: My lights are flickering. I don’t know.
Greg Lambert: So everyone wish us both luck as Marlene goes through her first Houston hurricane.
Marlene Gebauer: We no longer have snow days for school but we do have hurricane days. I didn’t get everything from outside that can fly away inside. I got water I got gasoline I got coolers to fill with more water. And most importantly, powdered sugar doughnut
Greg Lambert: Oh yeah, that’s a must.
Marlene Gebauer: Right? Because it ain’t a hurricane without powdered sugar donuts. Oh, and beer Of course. Yeah, of course. You’re in donuts. It’s what’s for hurricane dinner.
Greg Lambert: Well, for me, it’s what’s for dinner every night. So hopefully we’ll make it through this without problems. I think it’s probably going to go a little bit east of us. So fingers crossed. But enough of that let’s jump into this week’s information inspirations.
Greg Lambert: So Marlene, we talk a lot about data scientists, but it actually may be more the social scientists like Dr. Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Library and Information Sciences – go librarians. So those are the actual voices that we may need to listen to. So Dr. Tufekci has gotten a number of things right over the past 20 years. And in fact, she just was in a New York Times article that says just exactly that. But especially when it comes to how people react during a crisis, and how manipulating people via technology will almost always have negative outcomes. So the most recent example was her fight back in March with the CDC. When at the time you may recall the CDC was actually advising that only medical personnel were mask and that the public would not benefit from wearing of protective gear. And it turned out mostly because the CDC was afraid there would be a run on the protective gear.
Marlene Gebauer: Mm hmm. I remember that
Greg Lambert: She has been very quick to spot when government leaders as well as some of the tech leaders out there have these ulterior motives and trusting the public with the truth. While we live in a society that exists within our little filter bubbles of belief. Dr. Tufekci mentions that we can’t manipulate the truth in order to try to work around it. She stated that “we think of the society is this Hobbesian thing as opposed to the reality where most people are very friendly and most people are prone to solidarity.” It’s hard to see at the moment with everything so politicized, that her suggestion to focus less on spinning the information to fit the narrative. And let’s get back to the the old boring days where, you know, nameless experts and bureaucrats come out with reports that analyze the information and, you know, give us a conclusion on what’s the best possible reaction that we can we can do and get from the public. On a side note, I learned that she was a keynote speaker at a prior CALI conference.
Marlene Gebauer: Oh Nice.
Greg Lambert: So you know, thanks, Debbie Ginsburg, for pointing that out. And I’ll put a link to that on the on the show of her presentation at the Calico conference.
Marlene Gebauer: So as a newly minted consultant, I took advantage of the new LinkedIn premium. And I’ve gotten some really interesting connections. And one of those is David Heim-Buck, who’s the founder at Hidrant, which is a start up in the home repair space. Now in this model, firefighters are the people who were handling your home repairs. So you’re contracting out to a firefighter who is on his or her off schedule time. So for anyone who doesn’t know, firefighters, you know, generally work a couple weeks on or so they live at the station, and then they have a couple weeks off at home. This is essentially the gig economy for firefighters. And the cool thing about this model is it has adapted so it’s already moved into a B2B model where companies are calling for the services, and some firefighters are supervising COVID testing sites as a result of that. Now, I’m still noodling about how Hidrant can secure a foothold in the legal op space. And it has me thinking about how we can use previously unidentified resources to support legal ops and innovation. Now, I think there might be some rich opportunities here. And in the meantime, if you want to invest in the Kickstarter program, we have a link on the blog.
Greg Lambert: So Marlene, my second inspiration is getting the lawyers here in Texas, talking about the possibility of their clients being served via their social media or their Twitter account? Yeah, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously approved a proposed amendment to Rule 106 here in Texas of the Rules of Civil Procedure last week, that allows for a plaintiff to serve a defendant in a civil lawsuit, “electronically by social media, email or other technology.” So this seems to be available to plaintiffs who have tried all other options of either face to face service or through certified or registered mail and that didn’t work. The court is currently allowing for public comment, but it seems like this is probably a done deal, and beware you might be served via your Twitter account after December 31.
Marlene Gebauer: That is absolutely fascinating. It’s like Twitter legitimize as a communication medium, like not just to rage or post memes you know, you know, like we do
Greg Lambert: yeah. Well, I’m sure there’ll be some test cases starting on January 1.
Marlene Gebauer: Oh, I’m sure. So speaking of raging, I hinted on LinkedIn that a recent New York Times article should be an inspiration. And so it shall be! Is facial recognition, a form of protected speech under the First Amendment? Well, Floyd Ambrahms, you’ve heard of him right Greg, is going to make an argument for his new client Clearview AI.
Greg Lambert: Oh, boy.
Marlene Gebauer: So yeah, I so so this is making me insane. Greg as a huge supporter of first amendment rights, but also a big proponent of privacy rights and ethical AI. My head is just exploding at the moment. Yeah, so Clearview AI scrapes billions of photos. That’s billions with a B, Greg, of social media and sells access to the database to law enforcement. Police upload photos and the app matches faces and then brings up other related pictures. Now Ambrahms says the premise of the case is the right of the company to create and disseminate information. But do they really create it though? Or is it taken without consent? While people agree to various privacy policies on social media platforms. Are they agreeing to this? Is it intended to be public speech? Is it public speech? This is really going to be a fascinating case and has the potential to set some groundbreaking precedent. And that wraps up this week’s information inspirations.
Greg Lambert: Andrea Markstrom not only had to jump into the deep end of taking a new role at CIO at a law firm, she did it while the firm was right at the beginning of merging with another firm. And if that wasn’t enough, a major pandemic hit less than 10 weeks into her gig Marlene.
Marlene Gebauer: Yep, yep. That, you know, it’s like, you know, when it rains it pours.
Greg Lambert: Yes, it does. So she’s pretty good at handling multiple problems at the same time, but Believe it or not, that’s not really why we asked her on the show today. So we actually wanted to talk to her about one of her other passions. And that’s the passion to help other women professionals, not not just in the legal industry, but across the spectrum. So Andrea started the i.WILL foundation to do just that. And we wanted to learn more about her efforts in collaborating and leading other professional women.
Marlene Gebauer: Andrea Markstrom is the CIO for Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister. She’s also the founder and CEO of i.WILL, Inspiring Women Igniting Leadership and Learning. Andrea, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.
Andrea Markstrom: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
Greg Lambert: Andrea, you and I talked a few months ago for my In Seclusion podcast. And you were at that time had been tossed into the deep end there at Taft, as you just started as the firm CIO at the beginning of the year. So before we jump into the i.WILL I want to, I want to just check in on you and see how you’ve been doing since then.
Andrea Markstrom: I’ve been crazy. Needless to say it’s been very busy definitely went in, heads down, learning just about the firm and meeting the firm in my new role. And right off the start to I don’t know if everybody is aware, but we combined firms as well right at the jumpstart of the year. So we were very busy integrating our two firms and then with the pandemic, quickly pivoted to ensure everybody could successfully work from home and, and throughout that whole period of time continue to work on integration and whatever we can do to provide innovative and value added services not only for internally for our firm but also for our clients. So it’s been busy, but it’s going really well.
Greg Lambert: Good.
Marlene Gebauer: Okay, so you’re you have a merger happening. And then you have the pandemic happening. How are you adjusting to sort of getting people to know one another and communicate and collaborate with without the ability to actually go and meet one another?
Andrea Markstrom: So like many firms, we quickly deployed collaboration technologies, so be it Zoom, Cisco’s platform and working alongside not only internally but with our clients on you know, whatever collaboration platform is required and needed, we provide that and that’s available and quickly get everybody up to speed. That adoption rate went skyrocketing. And I think you know, slight silver lining that we were able to see as one of the outcomes with the pandemic is that we got really close together very quickly. Combining two firms, part of it was getting to know each other. And right before the pandemic, we had a partner retreat, as well as I did what I called the listening campaign and went out and met as many people as possible. And then with the pandemic, we continued to bring everybody together. Daily, you know, daily stand ups, we had a creative task forces with various partner groups and the administrative teams. And it was a constant conversation that we started immediately. Really focused on employee engagement, knowing that everyone is they have a, you know, a different situation with what they’re going through. And just to be very mindful of our employees and staff and make sure that they’re safe, and also that they can be heard and there’s a forum for that. Along with our collaboration platform, it’s that constant conversation and over communicating is, is something that we did.
Greg Lambert: It sounds like you didn’t let the crisis go to waste that everyone kind of was focused and being able to kind of speed up the process that would normally take probably a year or two to do.
Andrea Markstrom: Right. And you know, what was important for us is to make sure we listen to understand what people needed. And that was the key is just really getting that understanding and then delivering upon that.
Marlene Gebauer: So, Andrea, we wanted to talk with you about the project that you created back in 2017 called i.WILL. Tell us a little bit about the story behind creating i.WILL.
Andrea Markstrom: Yeah, one of my dreams has always been to create a space or a forum for women to support each other. One of my passions is empowering women. And I’ve always wondered, how can I create that form and how can we come together? Just a quick story on how i.WILL really came to be. Prior to my role at Taft. I was the CIO for a firm out of New York and I was one of those commuters so I commuted back and forth every week from Minnesota to New York, did not know many people in New York and attended dinners and events and started meeting some amazing women leaders, not necessarily from law firms, not necessarily from technology, women from all different industries and different roles and levels. And I asked them, you know, are there any women’s professional networking groups here in New York to you know, that I can start to be involved with and, and there’s some fantastic, amazing organizations and I found some of them to be exclusive. So you know, C-level only or women and technology or women and legal tech and some of the women that I met, I thought, you know what, I’ve always this has been one of my dreams I I’d like to try to start this and to make it a forum that’s all inclusive, so not specific to a certain industry or a certain level. Let’s make this wide open for all women all roles, all levels and start. And I spoke with a couple of my friends one Patek, she’s with the floor and now on i.WILL advisory board say, all right, if I set this up, will you come? And if I build it, will you come? And I just said, it’s time to start. I’ve always thought when you can get incredible women together, we can do incredible things together. And it’s just it’s time to start. So that is how the initial meeting came to be. And I’ll fast forward to today. So i.WILL we have now chapters in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, soon to launch in Fort Lauderdale, hopefully in Houston. Marlene. I believe. We have over 400 members and continually growing every week. So it’s been just grassroots growth and really fun to watch it.
Greg Lambert: Well, let’s dive into the organization itself. Can you just tell me what the mission of i.WILL is?
Andrea Markstrom: Yeah. So our statement on who we are. And what we want to do is, we’re an inclusive forum for women from all industries, all professional levels, to network, inspire and learn from each other. And that’s really key. We are strong women, we are smart women, we have experience, we all have a story to share, and we can learn from each other. And that is the base foundation is learning and inspiring each other or learning from each other and inspiring each other in all levels in you know, be it helping women accelerate their career, or helping women if there is a challenge that they’re going through within their not only professional but perhaps their personal life. We can all generally relate to that and help each other and it’s a forum to lift each other up. And maybe I’ll mention, you know, as part of the mission, we’ve got really what I would call three pillars to i.WILL. So we started with the networking events and continue that. Initially, they were in person, and I really miss being able to do those in person. But we’ve shifted our events to now being online. And it’s been initially it was somewhat of a shift for me, I didn’t know how that would work. But it’s been really a fun experience to watch it because our reach has grown significantly. I mean, we’ve got women from all over the country that are now a part of our networking events. So the networking component has always been part of i.WILL and having a speaker to talk about an important topic or a topic that is interesting to our community is what we do with our networking events, and then always have that networking components. At the end, we save time for Zoom breakout rooms. So in smaller groups, people can really get an opportunity to get to know each other and share stories and and learn from each other. So the networking piece is one pillar. The second pillar is I always believe in giving back and paying it forward. And throughout, i.WILL we’ve partnered with some amazing nonprofit organizations that really focus on supporting women and have provided thousands of dollars in donations back to those organizations. A couple of examples in New York, we support the Coalition for the Homeless, they have a program called First Step, which helps women that you know, have been in a situation where either they are homeless or find that, you know, they need to try to get back into their career and that program provides them the building blocks to do so. And where we can help not only in monetary donations, but also helping them write the resumes or help do roleplay with interviewing, and help them launch back into a career. In Minnesota, we recently partnered with the Tubman Organization, helping women and families in a domestic abuse situation and help provide various program but also resources so they can get back on their feet. The aspect of giving back is our second pillar. And the third pillar is we just launched a grant fund called i.WILL Accelerate. And that is all about what we say is helping women launch their dreams. And it’s an investment fund to help women start their businesses, be it small or large, we’d like to contribute, we’d like to invest and we’d like to help wherever we can. So those are really our three pillars. That makes up i.WILL.
Greg Lambert: So Andrea beside yourself who else is involved in the leadership of i.WILL?
Andrea Markstrom: You know, I can’t say enough about I mean, i.WILL would not be i.WILL without our amazing advisory board. So I’m grateful and lucky to have. I mean, we’ve got an advisory board that is very generous and giving up their time. And I can’t say enough for their help. And just I just like to mention the advisory board. And again, it’s that is what this is all about is coming together to empower and lift women. So its members from the community Shawn Swearingen, Christie Burke, Norma Knudsen, Shannon DesMarais, Anna McGrane, Aikta Wahi, Lisa Popadic, Julie Koch, Chris Van Horrick, Kami Holtz, Jeanne Marie Boswell, Carla Olek, Theresa Piazza, Gina Petrella, Nita Singer, Janice Rahm, Kim Barrett, and Shamyla Lando. I mean, that’s my tribe we hear often like building your tribe. And that’s what i.WILL is it’s building your tribe and we are here to do that for women across the country.
Greg Lambert: What do you do to attract new members into the organization and other kinds of speakers and participants as well?
Andrea Markstrom: We’ve been so I’ll just say, I’m just grateful. It’s been word of mouth. And it’s been a very grassroots effort. People invite their colleagues, their friends, it’s been very grassroots and very, I’m just grateful for people spreading the word. And that’s what we ask is, you know that people spread the word. And it’s really focused on the fact that we are all inclusive. And so we have our members span from we’ve got, you know, C-levels, to fashion designers, to photographers, to entrepreneurs, to startup founders, to students. We have some students from Brooklyn Law School, for example, from NYU, so it’s really, we, you know, invite everyone. The other piece too, it’s free of charge to join, so.
Greg Lambert: So you don’t have an excuse not to join?
Andrea Markstrom: Exactly.
Greg Lambert: I mean, you’ve been going on since 2017. Can you talk to us a little bit about some of the accomplishments that you’re proud of?
Andrea Markstrom: Yeah, i.WILL, the first is just being that forum or that platform for women to come together and learn from each other. So I’ll focus a little bit on just some examples of that the networking events that we’ve had, and we’ve been blessed with having some amazing speakers. For example, we just launched a series called Stories of Strength, where we brought together three speakers that spoke about some of their challenges that they’ve been through. One lost their business and what she went through and how she came back. The other you know, some personal challenges and start, you know, starting a business but having some personal challenges with family and how did how did you manage that? And the theme around that is, it takes perseverance and resilience to continue to move forward and to thrive and to succeed. Part of that event is, and I think that’s really the community speaks to itself, is having that space where people can really talk about some personal stories. And they do. They share very personal stories. And that’s, that’s one way where we’ve been able to learn, not only from them, but then we take some time at the end to network with each other and people, I mean, it’s about opening up and sharing, sharing what you’re going through, and you get some great advice and input right from there. We launched another series recently talking about having those difficult conversations or how to have the conversation about talking about race, politics or gender in the workplace, that extended into how do you have that conversation with your family or with your friends, and with all of the unrest that has had recently it’s been really tough and tough to have some of those conversations and how do you start them? We were just grateful to have some amazing speakers join us for that event. Jillian Powers, CIO for Lathrop, and Kim Barrett, the paralegal administrator for Latham, talked about their experiences and what they’ve gone through either as women of color or transgender and how to have those conversations and super powerful to learn from them. Not only what they went through, but what can we learn to have those conversations productively and be able to either be a part of bringing goodness throughout, you know, maybe within the workplace but also within your community. Another event that was just I can’t say enough about the need that I think a number of us are going through is reflecting on who we are and our careers. And I know some folks are in transition. I mean with the pandemic, I know a number of businesses have suffered. And and it’s really caused for people to pause and reflect on who they are what they want. And so we had, she’s incredibly inspiring Coré Cotton. She’s associate General Counsel for one of the large financial institutions, Grammy winning artist, she’s been singing and forever and she, we’re blessed to have her talk about her program called Accelerating your Career. And so what do you need to do? What steps do you need to take to continue to grow? Grow who you are and grow your career, some of the learnings from that is and really the empowering message is it’s time to step out of your box and take the courage and drive forward. Part of that is creating your community all around you. She had a great message sisters investing and sisters, and you know that that is i.WILL all around, it’s creating that community. So those are a few examples of our networking events that I’m really proud that we’ve been able to deliver. And the other piece I’ll mention is through this community, it’s been really fun to observe just different relationships, happening, different friendships. We’ve seen people take career trajectories, off to another industry that through meeting people through these events, that they’ve been able to really take and launch for themselves. So it’s been a really fun observation.
Marlene Gebauer: Well, I mean, I love this message of outreach to one another and the community and you’re sharing your knowledge with others to sort of help them get through similar circumstances. And also the notion of the community support, particularly now when you know so many people are really struggling. This is just really a wonderful thing. So I, you know, I commend you. I’m going to shift for a second and talk a little bit about virtual meetings. As with most everybody, you know, meetings of i.WILL have have gone virtual. So how are you able to leverage the virtual meetings to move the mission that we discussed forward?
Andrea Markstrom: So shifting from in person to virtual it was, I didn’t know if that was going to work. We went in with the approach of let’s try it is very similar to how we’ve started i.WILL, let’s try it
Marlene Gebauer: Because these are very sensitive. They’re sensitive conversations, right. I mean, that’s, you know, people are sharing, you know, very personal things. And, you know, oftentimes I think we kind of associate that with a very sort of face to face small type of group environment rather than something that’s on the Zoom meeting.
Andrea Markstrom: Yeah, it’s, I’ll say it starts with that energy of the group. When we come together for one of the networking events, I mean, there’s just so much energy. And that is noticed throughout the event. So we look forward to continuing to expand the reach with that.
Greg Lambert: Well, speaking of events, I was scrolling through my social media. And I noticed that the last meeting that you had, at least the last time I saw, was a collaboration with ILTA. ILTA being the International Legal Technology Association. And I think there may have been another one or two organizations in there as well. How did that go?
Andrea Markstrom: Yeah, it was such. I’m just so grateful for this partnership. And a huge thank you goes to Joy Heath Rush, who’s the CEO of ILTA. Michelle Gossmeyer, Catherine Monte, and Nita Sanger, who really helped bring our two organizations together and ILTA’s got an amazing women’s community called Women Who Lead and came together to bring what is our first series, the Stories of Strength. And our approach that we both went in with this partnership is there’s no reason to compete. We have, you know, women’s organizations and communities. It’s not about competing, it’s about collaborating, and growing together. And again, kind of going back to when you get incredible women together, we’re just stronger together. So that’s how we approach it. And the first event that we had, we were really just incredibly lucky to have Donna Payne, who within the legal industry is widely known. She brought forward to us and discuss with us a really important topic about building a personal brand. And she brought forth so many amazing and incredibly important tips that we need to be thinking about. An example it’s about being mindful, you know, your, your personal brand, how do you present yourself ? Everything from in person to your digital presence, the message being, you are in control of your own narrative. You own your story. And so how do you develop that? And what’s the story that you want to tell? We had a couple of individuals, one Carrie Caffrey from Davis, Wright Tremaine and then Samantha Surillo, from ILTA, who’ve been working with Donna on their personal brands and lucky that they shared their journeys on you know, how they’re starting to build their brand. It’s having a an important topic, one that we can learn from, but then hearing stories, I mean, that just like jumpstarts, the whole event, and it was, you know, people just talking about what they’re doing, or they ask questions about what do you think if I did something like this, and they could get direct advice right away. So that was our first one we’re super excited for. That’s our launch, but we’ll be collaborating more coming this September.
Marlene Gebauer: Well, that sounds super, super exciting. So tell us what other plans you have. For i.WILL going forward. How can people listening to the podcast get involved?
Andrea Markstrom: Yeah, as far as getting involved, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message. And we will add you to our distribution list. We send out our event notices through an email distribution list as well as we’ve got our LinkedIn posts that talk about how to sign up and get involved. It’s as easy as that. Our plans moving forward. So I spoke about the partnership with ILTA’s Women Who Lead. We also have another partnership that I’m super excited about. And that is with an organization called The Fourth Floor and it’s out of New York and focusing on bringing together GCs and women founders, and how to get on boards. So we are having an event in September in partnership with The Fourth Floor or the event is Board Boot Camp. So if you’ve ever wondered about how to get on a corporate board, or what do you need to do. That’s the event attended some really great advice and information, as well as female founders will be at that event, looking for members for their boards. So it’s a really great opportunity just to learn more and get involved right away. Another partnership that I’m excited about is with a fashion designer out of New York, her name is Aysha. And she went through her business, when, you know, went through quite a bit through the pandemic and she’s had to rebuild her business. We’ve partnered with anything from i.WILL in purchasing a product she’s giving back a percentage of that to i.WILL Accelerate. So how can we help support her and she’s giving back supporting us it’s all about women supporting women. So those are a couple of partnerships. And then we are really excited to announce our first in giving back through, i.WILL Accelerate. So we’ll be opening up very soon. Women founders, or women wanting to launch their businesses how they can send in their pitch, and we will be awarding that first grant very soon. So a couple of exciting things coming up.
Greg Lambert: I say sounds very exciting. Yeah. Oh, Andrea Markstrom. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today. This is great.
Andrea Markstrom: Thank you. Thanks for having me today.
Greg Lambert: So Marlene, I’m not sure how she manages to do all of what she does, but I’m glad she does and and I’m glad that there’s a foundation like i.WILL out there helping.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, I really appreciate Andrea and all she’s doing and I look forward to to seeing what the next chapter will bring.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, I kind of want to be a fly on the wall for the women on the board meeting that’s coming up there.
Marlene Gebauer: So yeah, me too. Me too. I think that’s going to be a really good one. So before we go, we want to Remind listeners to take the time to subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Rate and review us as well. If you have comments about today’s show or suggestions for a future show, you can reach us on Twitter at @gebauerm or @glambert or you can call the Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca. Thank you, Jerry.
Greg Lambert: And I hear Jerry he’s got a new album coming out in October.
Marlene Gebauer: So really, that’s great. That’s wonderful news.
Greg Lambert: All right. Bye, Marlene.
Marlene Gebauer: Okay, bye-bye. Stay safe.