Karen Jacques is anything but your typical attorney. And her office–well it’s anything but your typical law office–in more ways than one. Hold on to that thought. I promise, we’ll get to that later. But first, let me tell you a bit about Karen and what makes her–and her practice–so unique.
Finding the right focus
Karen’s solo law practice, based in Kincardine, Ontario, focuses on litigation, workplace safety and health law. When she first established her law firm, Jacques Law, she’d already spent a few years with a large law firm and then moved on to practice law in-house with a large electricity generator company.
According to Karen, she was always drawn to helping people even before she became an attorney. “I’ve always had a career primarily focused on health and safety in some way, shape or form–professional swim coach, National lifeguard instructor / trainer, recreation management–and I always knew I would go back to school some day,” she explains.”So, when I was the Safety Services Leadership Advisor for the Canadian Red Cross and took on some new job responsibilities that were adjudicative, investigative and legal in nature – it clicked. I HAD to go to law school! I still wanted my career focused on health, safety and disabilities, but I wanted to focus on the systems, policies, processes, etc. And I was hooked on the concept of seeing justice served.”
So when she opened her solo practice, it simply made sense to focus on areas of practice that would allow her to help her clients navigate health and safety-related claims. Because for Karen, not only are these areas of practice interesting, they provide personal fulfillment as well: “Each time I assist a client in obtaining their needed accommodation, prevent insurance-claim fraud, or help a company improve safety processes, I feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction.”
Solo practice–a perfect fit
After spending the first part of her career working for large legal employers, a solo practice seemed ideal to Karen for a number of reasons. After her stint as in-house counsel, Karen explains that her choice to hang a shingle had everything to do with autonomy: “When I decided to return to private practice, I wanted to do it on my own terms. I have a young son and I really wanted to find a way to balance having time with my family, being a litigator and continuing my quest to make a contribution to the state of health systems and supports.”
And, having a solo law practice where she runs the show makes it possible for her to have both a successful career and a fulfilling family life: “My long term goals are to maintain my work-life balance where I really do get to put my family first and still have a very fulfilling and satisfying litigation and dispute resolution focused career. I also want to be able to savor every minute of raising my son, while providing him with a strong foundation for his own life-journey. And last but not least, I want to hike Mount McKinley with my husband and son.”
MyCase–the obvious choice
One of Karen’s favorite quotes is from Walt Disney: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We KEEP MOVING FORWARD, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious … and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
So, it should come as no surprise that, unlike some lawyers, Karen had no reticence about using 21st century tools like cloud computing in her law firm instead of traditional server-based legal software. After all, choosing the path less traveled comes naturally to her.
Even so, once she’d made the decision to move her law practice to the cloud, she wasn’t sure where to start. There were a number of different cloud-based law practice management platforms available and choosing the right one for her practice seemed an arduous task–at first. But she turned to her colleagues for recommendations and after that, everything fell into place: “I took some sage advice from the Macs in Law Offices (MILO) online group and decided to do an extended trial of a few systems and enter at least a few real files into each system. Initially I planned to rotate which system I opened a file in, and then copied to the others. It was a lot of extra records work initially but it was worth it to better understand which worked best for my work style.”
According to Karen, it quickly became obvious that MyCase was the the perfect fit for her firm: “It didn’t take long before I would simply open MyCase to open a file, even if it wasn’t supposed to be MyCase’s turn. And then I stopped entering the data in all the systems until I was left with just MyCase. It simply worked, was easy to learn and did not have glaring omissions.”
There were even benefits to using MyCase that weren’t readily apparent at first. “The client portal was a major bonus,” she says. “I didn’t go looking for one at first but quickly saw the benefits and during my trial I had some clients try the different client portals and they strongly preferred the ease of navigating the MyCase portal.”
Practicing law–with clouds on the horizon
For Karen, cloud-based MyCase provides the flexibility, portability, and convenience to practice law on her terms: “I fully embrace the cloud as much as possible. I use MyCase, a VOIP phone system, an internet fax system, and have a paperless office. There’s no need for expensive IT support on site and cloud-based tools like MyCase offer more security and stability than I could ever hope to provide on my own. Because of the cloud, my data is safe from on site fires, computer crashes, and more. And, just as important: my law clerks and I can truly work from anywhere, anytime. So, sometimes this is my office:
Basically I can pop in at any beach and get some work done while giving my soul a boost. And living on the shores of Lake Huron, I take full advantage of that.”
Now who can argue with that?