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Jennifer McGlone: “Embrace Your Customer”

We should give serious thought to the right to counsel being a right that extends beyond when you are facing serious criminal charges and jail time. So many people face legal issues that have long-lasting, serious life consequences if they are not handled correctly — people lose their homes, custody of their children, their jobs, their health […]

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We should give serious thought to the right to counsel being a right that extends beyond when you are facing serious criminal charges and jail time. So many people face legal issues that have long-lasting, serious life consequences if they are not handled correctly — people lose their homes, custody of their children, their jobs, their health benefits, their credit and businesses they spent years building. We need to be willing to invest in legal care for everyone, in all these areas, if we are going to make real, lasting, positive change.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer McGlone.

Jennifer McGlone brings 20 years of professional experience as legal counsel to Silicon Valley tech. companies — from startups to international market leaders — to launching LawChamps. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Jennifer received her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her J.D. from Stanford Law School, on public policy Fellowship studying systemic issues that prevent consumers from fairly accessing the judicial system. She’s excited and energized by the opportunity tech presents to open up the channels of access to legal services for all.

Jennifer and her wife, Dee, met at Stanford and were part of the landmark civil rights litigation, In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (Cal. 2004), marrying in 2004 when then-mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and then again in 2008 after the California Supreme Court declared access to marriage a fundamental human right, which ultimately led to the United States Supreme Court’s landmark civil rights’ decision Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). She has both personal and professional experience with how the legal system changes lives and communities.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I first went to law school and relocated to San Francisco, I’d often go out in the evenings with my father, who is an Irish tenor and pianist. I would be sitting there, listening to my Dad sing, and as soon as people learned I was in law school, I would suddenly be inundated with cocktail napkins with people’s names and numbers. People have legal questions and they simply don’t know how to get help.

I do not know how many times I had to explain, “I do not have your power of attorney because you sign a cocktail napkin; please consult with a licensed lawyer!” I finally decided to do something about those stacks of cocktail napkins: that’s what the LawChamps platform does, connects individuals, families, and small business owners with lawyers when they need them, to protect who and what matters most.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

My best story is really not my own story; it’s the story of our attorneys. When the pandemic hit, and we were incubating LawChamps, we started reaching out to the solo and small firm attorneys who would become LawChamps members. Across the board, they were all concerned with how to be of service during tough times.

We started hosting a series of virtual meet ups during which people could ask questions in real time and our attorneys would answer. They explained eviction moratoriums, what it meant to be an essential worker, what a furlough was, how to apply for a PPP loan, and more. We then posted those videos and they were a real hit.

That’s the positive side of technology in action; it can amplify a message and be used to reach those who are traditionally underserved. With our help and our platforms, those attorneys reached thousands of people, for free, out of the goodness of their hearts.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My most vivid memory of a mishap is trying to “film” a spot introducing LawChamps when at home during the pandemic. By “film,” I mean my 12-year-old son pointed a smart phone at me and pressed “record.” After we “filmed” twice, I realized I had forgotten to wear any makeup at all, but the picture held steady, which was a real “win.” What I learned from this is that it’s alright to be scrappy and just do what needs to be done as best you can in the moment.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

There’s a reason people spend years in law school — laws are messy, complicated, subject to interpretation and hard to understand. There are just some situations in life you shouldn’t handle on your own, and that includes handling your own legal problems.

I often think about how lawyers help people in eviction cases. Study after study has shown that Black, LatinX and female renters are disproportionately evicted. When people go to eviction court without a lawyer, they lose 90% of the time. With a lawyer by their side, they win 90% of cases. Traditionally. 90% of landlords have attorneys, while only 10% of tenants do. This creates a power imbalance that makes many tenants feel hopeless, and encourages them to accept untenable circumstances, take whatever deal is offered, move out upon demand, etc. Lawyers help us become a more fair and equal society.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

During the earliest days of the COVID-pandemic, our phones were ringing off the hook with people needing help. I remember one woman — a single mother — called and was crying because her landlord had started a series of loud construction projects all around her unit. in an effort to get her to move out. She was working from home, and would lose her job if she couldn’t work from home successfully.

What I did for this particular woman was point her to our directory of resources, where she could read up on her rights and find sample letters to use to send to her landlord. We also spoke about what she would do next, and when she would need to consult an attorney. I explained we could connect her to one near her, and that our service was free to consumers. I remember when she stopped crying, and how her voice sounded hopeful when we hung up, because she had a solid plan of action. That type of day is what LawChamps is all about.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I firmly believe that just as we need better access to quality education, to quality medical care, we need access to the law and legal representation for everyone. If we are going to make “liberty and justice for all” anything other than aspirational, we need to make sure people have the ability to consult with an attorney, at least to an extent commensurate with the potential consequences of not doing so (e.g., if someone is going to lose their house, their children, their job, their health benefits, their businesses, then a one-on-one consultation with an attorney is in order).

Many people don’t get legal help when they need it most; estimates are that between 62 to 87 percent of adults have a legal issue that goes untended each year. And it probably goes without saying, but the easiest way to and lose your rights is to try to “go it alone.” We need to get more legal education, direct legal services, and alternative legal services into the hands of everyday people. Any innovations that move the profession in that direction should be nurtured and embraced. If we are going to have a more “just” society, it starts with opening up the channels of access.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

What I try to do as a leader is find people who share my belief and commitment to what we are trying to achieve, then I trust them to give it their all and I rely on their professional judgment. I stand as a resource and thought partner for my team, but they are the experts in their respective fields. It’s their commitment and energy that is our most valuable resource, and that’s the resource I try to nurture and appreciate most as a leader.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone would have hammered these lessons home for me:

  1. Resilience & Perseverance — sometimes, running a business is about staying alive until you find what works;
  2. Agility — be willing to question your basic assumptions and don’t be afraid to pivot;
  3. Execution — you’ll never change the world unless you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work;
  4. Embrace Your Customer — they will tell you what they want and need; it’s your job to listen and empower them; and
  5. Teamwork — success as a leader is setting up the team to succeed with or without you.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We should give serious thought to the right to counsel being a right that extends beyond when you are facing serious criminal charges and jail time. So many people face legal issues that have long-lasting, serious life consequences if they are not handled correctly — people lose their homes, custody of their children, their jobs, their health benefits, their credit and businesses they spent years building. We need to be willing to invest in legal care for everyone, in all these areas, if we are going to make real, lasting, positive change.

If we do not empower people to get legal help when they need it most, then we are signing-off on a system that doesn’t change: where the power imbalances that already exist in our society are perpetuated. Our legal system was designed to be a check and balance against the more egregious social injustices, but in order for that promise to be realized, people who face injustice need adequate legal representation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote I’ve shared most often with my team as we build LawChamps comes from a story my great-grandmother shared with me: “Crazy Henry Ford just buzzed the toll road again!”

When my great-grandmother was a girl growing up in Detroit, in the horse and buggy age, the toll keeper would complain that Henry Ford would ‘buzz” the toll road without paying because he had no money, testing out his “crazy contraptions.”

I always tell my team not to be afraid to dream big, be scrappy and just and “buzz the toll road,” because you are changing the world.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Michelle Obama. She grew up in the South Side of Chicago and she understands the value of representation, including legal representation, and how transformative it can be for individuals and communities.

Michelle Obama is the type of lawyer, and the type of person, we want to partner with as we build LawChamps. My favorite quote of hers is “Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

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