Lauren Blair / Louis Goodman - Podcast Transcript


Lauren Blair / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experience has been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect. She is the founder of a Chicago based employment law consulting firm. She provides legal advice, strategies and risk management for businesses and individuals on a wide range of employment matters and litigation. She has worked in midsize firms in Chicago, Morristown, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. She has written for Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine, and she has an online blog called Working It, which offers an urban professional perspective on women’s issues in the business, civic and arts communities. Lauren Blair, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Lauren Blair

Thank you. It’s great to be here, Louis.



Louis Goodman

I’m very happy to talk to you. I have been very impressed by the information that I have received about you. And I’m wondering if you could tell us where your offices are located.



Lauren Blair

I’m located in the beautiful and approaching briskly chilly Chicago, Illinois. I now work primarily from home, which is more common than it used to be. So I work in the area that I live in, which is a neighborhood called West Town. But for decades, I practiced in Downtown Chicago.



Louis Goodman

Tell us a little bit about what type of practice you have?



Lauren Blair

I now do more consulting than litigation. I’d say for the past six years, I have been handling a lot of executive compensation issues, and transition issues. So essentially, when individuals are looking to join a corporation or leave a corporation or renegotiate with the corporation, then that’s when I get involved. I usually represent the executive side that’s through my consulting firm, I also do a lot more freelance writing than in the past. It’s something that I really like to do. So I also freelance with a website called Free Advice, calm on a variety of legal matters. And also insurance matters as well. And so that’s kept my writing skills sharp.



Louis Goodman

Tell us how the Free Advice website works?



Lauren Blair

Well, it’s designed to help the general public who are looking for lawyers or legal advice on a variety of issues from Landlord Tenant issues, to you know, my sweet spot, which is Employment and Labor Law issues, Family Law issues, Insurance Coverage Claim issues and the like. So it’s just a trove. It’s a resource with a lot of information on legal questions that a lot of folks have on a variety of issues. And if folks feel that they need to connect with a lawyer, then freeadvice.com has a tool that allows them to put in their zip code, and they can be directed to a lawyer in their area.



Louis Goodman

Well, I think that one of the issues that we are facing as a society in the United States right now is the problem of people’s access to the legal system and people’s access to lawyers and legal information. It seems to me that a website like freeadvice.com helps people get information that they might not otherwise be able to get. So I think in that sense, it’s a really good service.



Lauren Blair

It really is. I know as a lawyer, maybe Louis, you experienced this too, you might get questions from friends and family who know you’re a lawyer that has nothing to do with your area of practice. And so you can try and give some general guidance and maybe steer them to maybe some referrals. So I can go to this website and get you know, get a general working knowledge of this area of law. See if it answers my general question. And then if I want to go further, neat, feel like I need legal advice, then it allows you to search and that legal resources go up.



Louis Goodman

So this brings up three questions for me. One is how do lawyers get involved with the freeadvice.com website, how does the freeadvice.com website fund itself, and three, what do people need to do in order to access advice on it?



Lauren Blair

Okay, I’ll take the last part first, you know, it’s really as easy as plug is going to your Google search engine and plugging in, you know, how do I, what is a, you know, just the general natural language searches that people do on and for any variety of reasons or searches that they’re doing these days. And as somebody who freelances for them, I know that they freeadvice.com does make sure that they are working very hard to make sure that they’re using keywords, and that they’re answering the questions that the consumer has on certain legal issues. It’s, you know, not just a click here. And then we want to sell you a lawyer. We really do try being the number one mantra is, are you answering the question that the consumer is asking. The other two questions you had maybe a little bit above my paygrade? Because as a freelance writer for freeadvice.com I am really not, I don’t go behind the curtain. So I am not really that knowledgeable to talk about their business model and business platform. And the first question you asked about how do lawyers affiliate with them. I will get back to you on that. Because again, in terms of lawyers who are going to be the resource if the public wants to put in their zip code, and how can they get Lauren Blair in my zip code? As a lawyer, I’m really not sure about how Lauren Blair goes and puts themselves in freeadvice.com database. So I am not a lawyer resource for fre advice, calm, I’m a freelance writer for them.



Louis Goodman

And they compensate you for that?



Lauren Blair

Oh, yeah. As a lawyer, what are we taught?



Louis Goodman

I mean, we have paid up front.



Lauren Blair

We get paid, and we like to get paid by the word or the hour, you know, either way. So yes, they do compensate freelance writers very flexible, again, because I do because as I’ve matured, in my practice, I am doing more with it. I’m not, I don’t feel limited to just be a litigator who works on briefs and sends out discovery and response to discovery and presents motions and goes to court, you know, which is what I pretty much was, I won’t call it a rat, Louis, but it certainly was the formula that I feel that I was stuck in for probably the first 20 years of my practice. And so now, these last 5/7 years, I allowed myself a little bit more freedom to play around in, think about more business opportunities that I can leverage with my legal career skills and degree.



Louis Goodman

Were you from originally?



Lauren Blair

Chicago, Illinois and North Side Lincoln Park neighborhood.



Louis Goodman

Is that where you went to high school?



Lauren Blair

I went two years to Lincoln Park High School, a fantastic Chicago public high school institution. And then my final two years, I went to a very near boarding school in Lake Forest, Illinois, it was about 60 miles from downtown Chicago, so not long at all. And so I would board there from Sunday evening to Friday evening, then take a train or hitch a ride with a fellow student and come back into the city and spend the weekend at home. And it was ideal. I loved it.



Louis Goodman

What was the name of that school?



Lauren Blair

Force Academy



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from Lake Forest, where did you go to college?



Lauren Blair

I went upstate New York to Cornell University, another fantastic institution, had a blast. I loved it.



Louis Goodman

I know I went to the University of Rochester, so you know, just up the road.



Lauren Blair

So you know what I’m talking about. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful part of the country.



Louis Goodman

It really is. People don’t realize that but the upstate New York and the Finger Lakes area is really amazing.



Lauren Blair

Yes. And that’s it.



Louis Goodman

Now, when you graduated from Cornell, you ultimately went to law school. Did you take some time off or did you go straight through?



Lauren Blair

I went straight through. I graduated from college in 91. And so economically the country was, I don’t know, technically if it was a recession or what was going on, but it was a really sluggish job market. And I really didn’t have any path or idea of what my path should be. I pretty much took stock in what my skills were, and tried to match it a career that I thought was suited to my skills and where I could exploit my skills. And I love to write, I’m not shy to talk and pumped for public speaking. And then the best postgraduate, you know, pass for me was in the law.



Louis Goodman

So you really took analytical look at things.



Lauren Blair

Very analytical, absolutely. I think, Louis, I am the first one in my to go to college. I really didn’t have a playbook or a lot of guidance. So it really was a lot of figuring things out as I went and trying to be very pragmatic about what am I going to do here? I went to Chicago, Kent College of Law, and that’s affiliated with the Illinois Institute of Technology.



Louis Goodman

Well, I’ll tell you something else I’m just kind of interested in, which is, it sounds like you know, I mean, you said that your family did not have a lot of formal education. You’re the first person that graduated from college, your father had a sixth grade education, your mother graduated from high school, yet, they sent you to, presumably a very good boarding school for two years. And you went to Cornell, which is an Ivy League school to go to college, there must have been some sort of parental push towards education.





Lauren Blair

Absolutely. Both of my parents are very, very bright, really smart people. You know, I learned the word erudite when I was a very young child, because my mother is one. She’s a walking encyclopedia very bright. My life, my dad to not only was very personable, but just a lot of street smarts, to be sure, but also very savvy. And I think even more than my mother, both of them wanted to pursue higher education, but I think my father really felt like he missed out. And in going to high school with his education, I mean, you know, he was, my father was Irish, north side, Irish and Chicago, very poor, poor Irish family. And my mother is African American. And she grew up in Inglewood Chicago, which is, you know, now, it’s a very, you know, poor poverty stricken neighborhood with not a lot of resources.



Louis Goodman

What was it like growing up mixed race in Chicago?



Lauren Blair

Growing up biracial in the city in the 70s and 80s, was probably a whole lot less traumatic than it would have been growing up in a suburb or a small town, there was just a lot of variety. I really did have a great experience growing up in the city of Chicago, there was a lot of freedom, and a lot of diversity and independence, which I think, again, helped develop me to the kind of independent person that I am, that I’ve become.



Louis Goodman

Right now you are doing this Free Advice and consulting kind of law. I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your history and experience practicing in law firms, because I know you’ve worked in several law firms. What sort of work did you do? And what did you think of that?



Lauren Blair

Yeah, I have had a long career as a lawyer. And I would say, first and foremost, I would identify myself as a litigator. And you know, here’s the battle, here’s the issue. It’s you, the judge, the opponent, you know, your adversary, maybe a couple of witnesses, and then the bell rings. Somebody is going to win. And you know, it’s a real, I was deeply gratified when I won in court.



Louis Goodman

What do you really like about practicing law and being involved in a legally related field?



Lauren Blair

I think the legal career has served me so well. And being able to analyze and read situations, it’s just made me a better thinker. You know, be candid there a lot of things I don’t like about the practice of law, the law school training, the legal profession where we are today, but I do like the tools that it has given me to be, you know, a great thinker. Those skills are portable, and I can take them anywhere.





Louis Goodman

Would you recommend to a young person thinking about a career to go into law?



Lauren Blair

You know, I would, I would be candid and say, I’m not definitely, not the person to paint a rosy picture of a law career for everyone. It is not for everyone. But I would encourage anyone with an interest in the law to find some way to get legal experience. When I talk to young people or young lawyers, I like to talk with them about how do you succeed? How do you make money at this career?



Louis Goodman

Yeah, well, not to interrupt.



Lauren Blair

But no, please.



Louis Goodman

Let’s, I mean, let’s get to that. What about the business of practicing law? You know, how’s that gone for you? And how is that either met or different from your expectations?



Lauren Blair

Yeah, you know, when young people start anywhere, they’re learning and they’re not as confident or maybe they’re a little more timid. But new lawyers tend to just view themselves as worker bees, right? How many billable hours can you generate? But what I think they need to understand is that for young lawyers on day one, they need to start thinking about developing business, and that the business felt development seeds that they plant today will grow if they’re properly nurtured. And these relationships are continued and support, they can grow into serious potential business 5, 10, 20 years in the future. And I will also say that, when young associates had the confidence to speak up to a partner, then partners had the confidence to give young associates more opportunities, because confidence is a key component of being a successful lawyer.



Louis Goodman

Is there anything you know now that you really wish you knew before you started practicing?



Lauren Blair

You know, I do, I think I was reticent to blow my own horn, it probably couldn’t tell that from listening to me or talking with me now. But lawyers have to really be good at advocating for themselves, which is an indicator of how good they can advocate for their clients. I wish I would have given myself permission to blow my own horn with partners.



Louis Goodman

Well, I think that there’s something that I’ve been hearing a lot lately. And that’s the matter of personal branding. And how even if you’re not working for yourself, or working for a small firm, that even if you’re working for a big firm, that whoever it is that you are, one needs to work on their personal brand, I think you’re sort of getting to that notion.



Lauren Blair

You’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly right. And here, and it’s not only that you should be branding, I would highlight the dangers of not being in charge of your own branding. Because if you’re not in charge of your own brand, somebody else will be and they will, you know, be the narrator of who you are, which could affect your trajectory, especially in larger law firms. So yeah, what I was at one point in my life in my firm, the head of recruitment, and when young associates were hired, I would pull them aside. I want everyone to win. So my secrets are your secrets, like there are no secrets, I will tell you. But I would always say, at a minimum for the first three months. Hopefully, these will be just good, good habits that you have, that it is so key that you get in, you know that you’re there before the partners get in, and that yousare there when the partners leave, you know, and that sounds so simple. And maybe it sounds silly, but that’s part of your brand. It’s your image, then you are seen as somebody who is diligent, responsible, and billing, because that’s what partners want to see that you are generating for them. At that level.



Louis Goodman

What do you think’s the best advice you’ve ever received?



Lauren Blair

Find a champion, not a mentor.



Louis Goodman

Well, that’s interesting. What do you mean by that?



Lauren Blair

Mentors are great. We all need them. But what people really need is a champion. And my definition to me, a mentor is somebody with experience who can tell you how they succeeded. A champion is someone in a power position, who actively helps you succeed. That’s what I mean by a champion.



Louis Goodman

You’ve seen the legal system from a number of different perspectives. Do you think that it’s fair?



Lauren Blair

I think that it’s slow. I think, you know, no system is perfect. I think it strives for fairness, but can’t achieve it 100% of the time. I know that, you know, the saying that the wheels of justice turn slowly, and I know the judicial system is slow. And that’s in part to the due process that people are entitled to, but those procedures can be exploited.





Louis Goodman

I’m gonna shift gears here a little bit, what’s your family life been like, and how has been involved with the law and practicing law affected that and fit into it?



Lauren Blair

I think it probably convinced both of my kids that they don’t want to practice law, that not by actively discouraging them, but just for them seeing a lot of the long hours and the stress. I am fortunate to have two great teenagers heading off to college, and one’s in the middle of their high school career. And, you know, because my husband and I are both lawyers, then we inject a lot of analytical discussions in our daily interactions with our children. So I think they become then more astute observers, because we’re having conversations. But I also think, interestingly, Louis, I remind them to really find their joy, try and connect the dots to the things that they love to do, and that they’re good at.



Louis Goodman

Have you had any interesting travel experiences?



Lauren Blair

Oh, my gosh, I was so fortunate. I turned 50 in 2019. So that year, I pretty much was traveling. I think this is how I justified it in my mind as well that I’m turning 50. So let’s just make this a year of travel for my 50s. It felt a little extravagant and decadent at times.



Louis Goodman

Where’d you go?



Lauren Blair

Well, I went to multiple places in Europe. I went to France a couple of times. I went to Spain a couple of times, to France couple of times, different places in HN. I went to South Africa, which was my first time in part of the world. Went to Morocco a separate time. And then there were also trips to, you know, throughout our beautiful country. So you know, New York and New Orleans.



Louis Goodman

Any place you really liked?



Lauren Blair

Ohio even was great. I found South Africa to be really interesting. I thought that there was a lot of opportunity there for young people.



Louis Goodman

Any recreational pursuits that you enjoy doing to kind of clear your head when you leave the office?





Lauren Blair

I walk my dog a lot. My dog is a very big dog and he must be very lucky. We do afternoon walks and they’re about an hour, they could be an hour and a half. Sometimes it really is my time to clear my head and and breathe fresh air. And my family is a family of snowboarders. I’m the holdout skier, I ski less than less. But as a family, we do enjoy our time in the mountains when we’re going away for vacation.



Louis Goodman

Yeah. Where do you go to ski and snowboard?



Lauren Blair

Our favorite destination is Whistler up in British Columbia. Yeah, about two hours north of Vancouver.



Louis Goodman

How do you define success?



Lauren Blair

To me success is when you are pursuing your joy.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say Lauren, that you and your husband came at some real money, let’s say $3 or $4 billion. What if anything, would you do differently in your life?



Lauren Blair

I’m so petty. But I would have a live in maid. Because I live with my husband, two teenagers, a big dog and my mother. I think I would probably explore more. I think the best way I can truthfully answer that is, when I think about my retirement plans with my husband, the goal is to travel together. There’s just something about traveling the world and getting a firsthand perspective of other people, other places, other cultures, languages, etc. It increases your intelligence. You just become smarter. You really do.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand and there was one thing in the world, the legal world or otherwise that you could change what would that be?



Lauren Blair

If I could wave a magic wand? I would try and replace hate with love in people’s hearts right now.



Louis Goodman

Is there anything you want to talk about that we haven’t covered?





Lauren Blair

This has been so enjoyable.



Louis Goodman

We’ve had such a great time talking with you, extemporaneously.



Louis Goodman

How can people find you and get in touch with you to ask you for some free advice or some paid advice or to talk?



Lauren Blair

Sure, you can reach me at [email protected] You can also go to my website, Lauren Blair Consulting, as well. You can find me on LinkedIn as well. Lauren Blair Consulting. Louis, this has been a pleasure. I really appreciate the opportunity to be on your podcast, and share some my experience with you and your listeners.



Louis Goodman

Lauren, I really appreciate your joining me on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It has been a pleasure to talk to you. That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. I promise I’ll respond. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information. Thanks as always, to my guests to share their wisdom. And to Joel Katz for music, Ryan Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Lauren Blair

I think we’re seeing maybe a pattern here. This is almost like therapy.

Louis Goodman

Louis Goodman

Louis J. Goodman is a former Deputy District Attorney and experienced Alameda County Criminal Defense Lawyer, and can help you understand and exercise your Constitutional Rights.

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