Brittany is a lawyer.
Mission & Philosophy.
One of my first assignments at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism was researching and writing a blog post on the future of the legal profession. For a young law student with only one year under my belt, it was a bleak topic. At first, I found the myriad articles on the dismal job market, the ever-bloating tuition bubble, and the rapid replacement of lawyers with technology to be overwhelmingly negative. It truly made me question why I want to be a lawyer, and whether or not I will ever be able to help anyone in achieving justice.
While many of my professors have been inspirational on some level, there was one course and one professor at Chicago-Kent that was particular instrumental in guiding my pursuit. In the fall of 2015, I took Professor Ron Staudt’s Justice and Technology practicum. The course spoke to me as someone who was looking for alternative ways to meet the legal needs of underserved communities. My goal was and is now to help people address their own legal issues without having to pay the high costs associated with hiring a lawyer. I learned that technology can be used to a lawyers’ advantage – that rather than replace lawyers, technology can increase efficiency, eliminate rote tasks, and mitigate human error. Further, technology provides a cheap way for those most in need of legal assistance the help themselves in areas where the legal community ignores them.
In the Justice and Technology practicum, students apply their legal research skills to the needs of legal aid organizations across the country. For example, I was tasked with integrating a standard questionnaire for an Illinois financial discrimination complaint. By breaking down the questions in the questionnaire and using the Access2Justice software, I helped created a guided interview wherein the person making the complaint could answer simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, and the end result was a fully-prepared document they could simply file or send to initiate the complaint process.
The short-term objective of the practice is to provide legal services to working creative individuals and entrepreneurs in Chicago’s artistic community. By working directly with clients, I will gain the experience and understanding necessary to develop strategies for developing legal technologies that can be made available to artists on a much wider scale. That is, the long-term goal is to take the legal expertise I will develop over time and translate that into an online tool that aids artists in the same areas that the practice engages in.
Before moving to Chicago in 2006, I saw myself carrying on the family legacy in St. Louis, Missouri. I am the youngest of my family’s fourth generation to be born and raised in St. Louis, where my father started and ran his own chiropractic practice and where my mother is a registered nurse at a large hospital. Until recently, I had always thought that I would return to my hometown and settle there. I came to Chicago in order to attend DePaul University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in American Studies. Shortly after graduation, I started working at Groupon, Inc. At the time, it was still a fledgling company, in its startup phase. For three years, I worked in the Customer Support department before deciding it was time to move on and pursue a more meaningful line of work. After much deliberation, I chose to stay in Chicago and began law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Over the past 10 years, I have struggled to find my path. Before coming to law school, I was hesitant to invest in a legal education because of the state of the job market, and because of the debt I knew I would incur. My fear was that I would spend the next 20 years toiling for a firm or in an area of law that I was not passionate about, in order to pay off student loans. Rather than matriculate directly to law school from undergraduate school, I earned my income by working 9am-5pm, and spent my off-hours dabbling in the Chicago stand-up comedy scene. Along with 3 others, I co-produced an open-mic night once a week, and from there I made other contacts and assisted with producing other shows and occasionally making guest-appearances on local podcasts. In addition to lending a hand with various comedy projects, I found myself eagerly volunteering whatever services were needed on short film projects that my friends and contacts were working on.
From working on comedy shows, short films, and other creative projects, I found myself doing really gratifying work that I loved. As a much younger person, I saw myself as creatively inclined, and fancied myself somewhat of an artist. As I got older and gained more experience, I realized: I am not at all an artist. One would think this would be a major setback or in some way a disappointing realization. However, what I realized was that my skills are not grounded in the creation of art, but rather, the cultivation and proliferation aspects. Where my peers were writing and developing concepts, screenplays, shows, and films, I was in the background, making sure that we had the funds, resources, and the time to put the ideas into action. I was researching what paperwork and licenses were needed. I was making sure that we had the required signatures and permissions. After 10 years of searching, I realized that my contributions to the art and entertainment world may not be as glamorous as I had once envisioned, but they are wholly necessary. Once I knew that I could be good at something that is necessary to a field I care deeply about, I was ready for law school. Just knowing that I would have a direction and a path to reach my goals eliminated the fear of debt and the uncertainty that had earlier stood in the way.