This community of legal professionals is showing how anti-racism and technology can change the legal system for good
Featured in this Story of Awesome: Designing The New Legal
Launched May 2019
Designing the New Legal is a paid community that teaches people across various roles in the legal industry about how anti-racism and technology can change the legal system for the better.
The Spark: After years of successful in-person events, Kimberly Bennett created the Designing the New Legal community to explore the intersection of innovative technology and anti-racist practices.
Kimberly’s Mighty Moment: “At the core, anti-racism and rethinking ideas around well-being are aspects of our community that draw people in. There are a decent number of lawyer communities, but our community has a passion for having the hard conversations. Our members resonate with that.”
Practicing trademark and brand strategy attorney Kimberly Bennett strongly believes that our legal system is deeply flawed. She also believes that educating her fellow legal professionals on the intersection of anti-racism and technology is the way forward.
Bennett and her two co-founders—marketing manager Jen Downs and criminal defense lawyer Erin Gerstenzang—had spent years hosting successful in-person events that brought together legal professionals in the Atlanta area to learn about anti-racism and technology’s role in fundamentally changing the United States legal system.
And in 2019, the three transformed their popular in-person gatherings into a quickly growing online community on Mighty Networks: Designing the New Legal.
We chatted with Kimberly to learn more about how shifting their organization to a hybrid online community opened up a whole new world of possibilities for them—from more engagement with people around the world to more opportunities to grow and market their business.
What inspired you to launch a dedicated community space?
We grew out of a meetup. When I moved back to Atlanta, I joined this meetup around advancing the legal profession with technology, because our profession is outdated. At one event, I met Jen Downs and Erin Gertstenzang, and we decided one year that we were going to create a conference. After a few successful years of doing those conferences, we were known as Atlanta Legal Tech.
And then last year, we thought, “Oh, maybe we should move our in-person events to have some connection in between.” Because we were mainly event-driven and people loved our events and wanted to stay connected. So we started the Designing the New Legal community, thinking this would be a great way for us to connect in between events.
Why are people drawn to join your community? And what kind of experiences do members participate in in your community?
At the core, anti-racism and rethinking ideas around well-being are aspects of our community that draw people in. There are a decent number of lawyer communities, but our community has a passion for having the hard conversations. Our members resonate with that. So I think being comfortable and wanting to support a community and a network of those in the legal industry that want to have the hard conversations, that want to move their businesses forward is what compels people to join.
“There are a decent number of lawyer communities, but our community has a passion for having the hard conversations, our members resonate with that.”
We do co-working sessions about business, we do workshops about anti-racism. So it’s meant to be this place where you can feel whole and authentic, and you can have the real honest conversations about what it means to build a business in a time when we need to face some harder conversations about the industry in which we work in are continuing to develop and foster.
Why was it important to start an online community for Designing the New Legal?
I think the digital community allows you to work with more people. I’ve met people across the world that I just couldn’t connect with in an in-person event. Just having the broad connection that it’s done, it’s allowed people in our community to stay connected in between events, and allowed us to still be an event-based business, but in the virtual space.
How did you find Mighty Networks?
I wanted to be off of Facebook. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been very disappointed with how the platform has operated. And I wanted to have more control. So I’ve run several Mighty Networks and tried to decide on how I want to do my business.
“Mighty Networks has helped me deliver on the vision I had for discussing and connecting with other people in the legal industry about anti-racism and technology’s role in change the system.”
My firm had a version, I had one, a version for something else. Mighty Networks has helped me deliver on the vision I had for discussing and connecting with other people in the legal industry about anti-racism and technology’s role in changing the system.
What has your Mighty Network allowed you to do that you couldn’t elsewhere?
I love how Mighty Networks is developing and growing. I love that it’s community-centered. I believe heavily in recurring revenue and I think it’s great for sustainability. Mighty Networks provides a platform that sustains that. I loved how it was organized and how it has continued to develop.
It is the right platform for how we wanted to show up for our community, which was some content, but much more heavy on community, not heavy on content. Heavy on connection and community, and co-working conversations that we can have in a space that didn’t feel like you were lost and you were trying to find things that you couldn’t find because an algorithm was taking over your entire feed.
What’s working within your community? What are some challenges you’ve been facing?
Right now we do two community sessions every month, and we offer several mastermind sessions ranging in topics from anti-racism, well-being, future-proofing, and more. We also have a happy hour, where we highlight community members and we’ll talk about what’s latest and greatest in our community.
I also have my coaching program inside of Designing the New Legal, and so members have access to that too. And we have some of our private sessions, but then they also become a part of the broader conversation about anti-racism meets innovation, meets wellbeing.
“I think continuing to double down on the anti-racism meets innovation meets wellbeing, and to just evolve and what that means for us as co-founders and how we show up is what we’re constantly asking ourselves.”
I think challenges are like still making sure we’re providing value to our members. Our community isn’t your traditional just learn this and go. We are more like a base network that provides resources and connections to help you grow, but it’s not meant to be the magic bullet community. So I think continuing to double down on the anti-racism meets innovation meets wellbeing, and to just evolve and what that means for us as co-founders and how we show up is what we’re constantly asking ourselves.
What’s keeping you energized about your community now?
For us, Designing the New Legal is really trying to show that there’s a community of those in the legal space that want to have these conversations around anti-racism and technology’s ability to make the legal system more just.
“If you are involved in the legal industry, this is not a lawyer-only community. This is a community of those that are in the legal industry that wants to help change the legal system to be more anti-racist and care about people’s well-being.”
This isn’t a new conversation. I’m a Black Lives Matter supporter. And I’ve been a part of that movement for years, since when it first really kicked off. And so I could see this as an iteration of that. If you are involved in the legal industry, this is not a lawyer-only community. This is a community of those that are in the legal industry that wants to help change the legal system to be more anti-racist and care about people’s well-being.
It’s been a great experience having a space to feel like you could be your authentic self all the time. I feel that way, and I hope others in the community do as well.