While trimming flowers, an old friend walked by and stopped to ask how I was doing. He read my blog article from a few weeks ago, “The UP Tour kicks off with a visit home,” about my search for a healthier way to be a lawyer and the creation of Taproot. “It sounded kind of serious,” he commented. He’s not the only one who asked – thanks for the love.
A year ago, I expected to be disabled for life and without the certainty of a diagnosis. I could live with being comfortable most days, and I searched for the right lifestyle to give me more comfortable days. This summer, that expectation changed, and I will make a full recovery! My body is a miracle, but it isn’t my body that changed me forever – it was the people I encountered.
Beautiful friends and family wiped tears away and took time off of work to be with me through uncomfortable, disappointing appointments. More life altering were the interactions with people (and their systems) who viewed me as broken, unworthy, unstable, untrustworthy, imperfect, risky, stupid, crazy, difficult. (I could go on and on). At a certain point, you start to believe them, and it was traumatic.
The trauma I experienced parallel those experienced by people seeking legal services for a complicated problem. These systems are complicated and overlap other systems. They create a significant reliance on professionals. Whether you can afford them or not, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage without one because professionals possess information people need to understand the system and solve their problem. Entering into either system with a problem may significantly impact other areas of your life including financial, emotional wellness, career, relationships, and anything else tied to your basic needs.
Today these problems are compounded by bad tech and training that are not thoughtfully or intentionally implemented within. Here is my favorite example: It’s commonly known today that everyone learns differently. Despite this, our current, traditional systems promote practice-management software that requires uniformity in communication from note-taking to the clients’ requirement to view records on yet another portal.
As I’ve explained in another blog post, “Tech at Taproot,” I love tech, but I won’t use technology only for the sake of using it because it’s the latest trend or makes something easier in an isolated manner. I want to use tech that I know will serve my team and clients in meaningful and humane ways.
I told a part of my story and health journey to let you know that I know there are better ways to treat law clients and meet their specific needs. Studies show that more than 80% of consumers with legal need choose not to hire a lawyer because they can’t afford it (American Bar Association and Legal Services Corporation. Additionally, in 2015, Martha Bergmark, attorney and advocate, reported that civil legal aid programs turn away almost two-thirds of the people who seek their assistance.
Taproot Law was borne out of this knowledge and the team is continually exploring the next level of design to better meet the legal needs of people who have unique and often complex experiences. Through my experiences as both a person with a medical disability and a lawyer who has had to navigate entrenched, traditional systems, I’m committed to making legal processes more accessible and affordable to all the people not receiving legal services.
And, I’m going to use my reclaimed voice to advocate for my clients and design more effective strategies and products to make sure clients can confidently navigate the legal system and using their own voice. Our products and services are grounded in experiences and research that is grounded in a trauma-informed culture, recognizing that our lived experiences are complex and inform the ways in which our daily lives play out.
Thanks to all of you who have reached out after reading my story–I’m ever grateful that you’re listening and please know there’s a lot more exciting things to come at Taproot! We’re getting ready to launch a newly designed website and blog platform, and I’m having a ton of fun designing new client-centered products. Certainly, more to come!