Today's podcast gives you a peek behind the scenes at Modern Law with Client Advocate Kendra Stephanski, who is typically the first contact people speak with when they call Modern Law for help.
In this episode, we hear about Kendra's work on the DEI Committee (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) where she explains why she believes in it and how she's driving the efforts to serve all varieties of cultural, racial, ethnic and gender influences. Because Modern Law continues to grow and bring in new talent to help others with their family law issues, Kendra explains why she's intent on opening up avenues of outreach through DEI.
This podcast is a must listen for anyone considering where to work in the world of family law.
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Billie Tarascio: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. I am your host, Billie Tarascio, owner of Modern Law, Arizona Family Law Attorney, and Win Without Law School. And today, I am joined by Kendra Stephanski for our podcast for the day. Kendra, I said that right, right?[00:01:00]
Kendra Stephanski: You did, yes.
Billie Tarascio: Okay, good. Fabulous. You smiled. So I was like, did I screw this up? But no,
Kendra Stephanski: it's perfect.
Billie Tarascio: Good. Fantastic. Kendra, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Kendra Stephanski: Thank you. I'm really excited to be here. I'm doing good. It's Friday, so I'm excited to kind of go into the weekend, but loving everything that's happening so far and just really excited to have my turn on the podcast.
Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. So Kendra is a client advocate. She is one of the first people to speak to people who are calling in. She's also the head of our DEI committee and you were recruited to the
firm by a current member. Is that right?
Kendra Stephanski: Yes, that is correct. So I was, I moved to Arizona in January and I was looking for a job, looking for a job, looking for a job and A family member of mine was like, you should try modern law, and I'd never worked in the law field before it was something I've always been interested in, but was completely unfamiliar [00:02:00] to, and so I tried it and I sent in my resume and my cover letter and all of that and I initially was rejected.
The job had been filled, and Vanessa, our HR gal, told me, you know, we'll keep you kind of in the loop if something happens. And then like a day or two later she goes, Hey the position's actually open. Do you want to interview? And I said, yes. And the interview was amazing. And I kind of knew right after that, that I was ready ready to join the team.
And then I did that week. Awesome. I love
that. And you DEI committee?
Yeah. So I got involved with DEI officially about a month ago, maybe a month and a half ago. It's always been something that I'm really passionate about. I was interested in joining when I first got here, but I wanted to settle a little bit and see kind of how everything went.
But yes, I am the chair of the DEI committee. I'm really, really excited to see how that continues to grow. [00:03:00] It's something that's always been very important to me, and I know that the people on the committee also find it really important. So I'm excited. I'm excited to see how it grows.
Billie Tarascio: What drew you? You said it was something you were always interested in.
What drew you to DEI?
Kendra Stephanski: So, being a white woman, there's a certain level of privilege that I have being an American white woman. I actually went to the most, one of the most racially diverse high schools in the country, in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was like number seven in the country. So not that I didn't see color, I just wasn't aware how other people in the rest of the country and the rest of the world were treated based on their skin tone, because that didn't happen where I was from.
There were other things, of course, that indicated how somebody would be treated, but that wasn't one of them. But I was always raised to be very patient and supportive and accepting of people, and so when I moved to college, I went to college in a much smaller town, and [00:04:00] it was baffling how different...
non white people are treated. And then the more that I learned about it and the more that I explored intersectionality, the more I learned that it's pretty much except every, pretty much everybody except cis straight white men that have some sort of thing kind of falling against them. And so it was important to me to learn about that because I wanted to understand it.
I've always been very curious and so I wanted to, to see what I could do. And then having a couple of intersectional identities myself, it was important to learn how to speak up for myself and then speak up for other people. And then the more that I learned, the more I realized, you know, that people are, and this is people in general, right?
We're not talking about specific people in my life that, that believe, but, but the system and, and these, these like kind of buzzwords that come out a lot because of my skin tone are more inclined to listen to me. [00:05:00] And so I found comfort in knowing that I have the ability to take that attention and bring things to light that these people may have not noticed before.
I got to train myself on how to be aware of things that I was saying and things that I was doing that fed into further harming disadvantaged communities. Or, you know, kind of whatever. identity it was and then I moved into DEI because I, I really think it's important that, especially for us, you know, being in family law, I think it's really, really invaluable that we reflect accurately the communities that we serve the best we can, right?
And we can't do that until we know who we are, and we know who our communities are, and we find the gaps in the communities that we serve, right? Something that I'm going to keep repeating to us and to our firm is that there's nothing wrong with any of the identities that any of us have. Like I said, I'm a white woman.
I'm head of the DEI [00:06:00] committee. And there doesn't have to be any shame in that. The only reason it's important is because we need to know where the gaps are so that the committee can then campaign for different hires so that we can better reflect the language necessities of the community that we serve, so that we can have guest speakers and attend events and things like that, so we can round ourselves out in a way that makes us more able to connect with the people who need us, and then show up for them in that way.
Billie Tarascio: I really like that and I, I think DEI is so important for, to really look at intensely and one of the things that we're looking at is things like neurodiversity. What do our, do our policies support people who might be Jewish or have different types of religious backgrounds? How do we make sure that we're providing space for everyone to feel Not only just welcome, but connected [00:07:00] in an environment.
So that's, what's really important to me internally at Modern Law, that everyone is able to show up as their full selves and allow us to get to know them and support them, whomever they are. It's also incredibly important as lawyers that we understand the dynamics in order to be the best advocate on behalf of our clients.
And it's interesting that you, a white woman, are the head of the DEI committee and some people might think how inappropriate. But at the other, on the other hand, like we should all be standing up for DEI. And as you said, when we, who are non minorities, And we are minorities in that we're women, but when any non minority says, I care about this, it's good for the whole community, right?
Kendra Stephanski: Exactly.
Billie Tarascio: But there is some controversy there. There are some minorities
that would like white people, white women, white men to stop showing up or in that [00:08:00] way. Have you seen any of this?
Kendra Stephanski: I have kind of a personal, I'll give a personal example you know, because I wasn't born open to DEI, I definitely had to learn.
And one of the examples is, so I'm Pagan, so we practice smoke cleansing a lot. And when I first started, I was saging, and saging is a closed Indigenous practice that is not permitted to be used by people outside the community. It's very sacred to them. And what has happened is it has, in a white person's attempt to understand it, has then taken it.
So there's a difference between respecting and stealing, right? So I can still smoke cleanse, that's not the issue. The issue is, is the gathering of the sage and the blessing of it and the rituals that go into it. I'm not part of that community, so I just don't have that right, and that's okay. There are, there are things that my family does that other people don't do, and there are [00:09:00] things that my religion does that other religions don't do, and that's fine but when I was asked by an Indigenous person, they said, Kendra, you know, that's really important to my culture.
Is there a different way that you could do that? Yes, of course. I had no idea.
Billie Tarascio: What was it that they were asking you to do differently? Because I'm, I'm unaware.
Kendra Stephanski: So just the, the sage itself. So the process of smoke cleansing is something that's very important to people who practice spirituality. But it's the content of what you use.
So like burning kind of common herbs, incense, things like that is just perfectly normal, perfectly acceptable. But sage in particular, in the process of saging and smudging which I don't know that much about because I'm not in that culture, is not appropriate for me to use. And so my job as somebody who was doing something that was inappropriate is to say, I'm sorry, I had no idea, I will stop.
And then that's the end of the conversation, right? Because if I continue to [00:10:00] apologize and I continue to project my shame onto this person, I have now made it about me and how I feel and the conversation is no longer Can you respect this practice? It's, well now I feel bad, so I need to make everybody aware that I feel bad, when that's not helpful either, right?
Let's take responsibility. And then just move on. So now I educate people, other pagans who do it. I say, you know, that's really not something that we should be doing. Obviously, I can't make you stop, but I would highly encourage you to find different ways to do that. I know it's important to you. And I stopped doing it.
I don't, I donated my sage to a different Indigenous person so that it doesn't get thrown away. It gets used in the way that it's supposed to, and then I went about doing something else.
Billie Tarascio: Really interesting. Because I, I, I grew up Catholic and I think the Catholic religion uses sage, but maybe not, but I'm fairly confident they do.
So, I mean,
Kendra Stephanski: I don't know. Yeah, it's it's [00:11:00] definitely something to, to look forward to and that's something that I also want to highlight when it comes to DEI is we don't, obviously the majority doesn't want to make the conversation about ourselves, and It's important to have these conversations and acknowledge our feelings about these things and admit when we don't know something and when we have to learn and You know, there are a lot of things changing all the time, and it's important to, as long as you're coming from a place of you're really trying and you're really doing your best, I mean that's really anybody could ask for.
And my best in that scenario was donating the sage and then not using it again.
Billie Tarascio: Sure. Yeah. So what types of initiatives, do you have on tap as the DEI chair at Modern Law?
Kendra Stephanski: Yes, I'm very excited. So we are looking at getting, hopefully, getting a Spanish speaking intake person, a Spanish speaking paralegal, and a Spanish speaking attorney.
That is kind of [00:12:00] the largest barrier that we've run into as far as reaching community, especially here in Arizona. So many people speak Spanish. And we don't want to continue to turn them away because that's the only thing, right? They are probably wonderful clients and we could really help them and the relationship could be there.
We just don't have that language bridge built yet, so I'm excited for that. We are attending Pride in October, which is so wonderful. I'm so excited. One of the things I really love, just kind of as an aside about modern law, I was actually thinking about this earlier, is modern law is not tolerant, it's supportive.
And there's a huge difference in that, right? Like, in other places that I've worked, you know you can be queer, but we don't want to know about it. You can be a different religion, but don't talk about it. Here, it's, no, we need to know so that we know how to show up for everybody in the right way. And we want to learn, and these things are important, and so we've done a lot of presentations, we've celebrated Pride Month.[00:13:00]
More than I've ever celebrated Pride Month at any company before, and it's been fantastic.
Billie Tarascio: It's been really interesting, and it's been really employee driven. And the rest of us just show up and we're along for the ride and it's a good time, but it's interesting how pride has really resonated with modern law and it's been a lot of fun.
Kendra Stephanski: Yeah, yeah, I'm excited. In July, we're going to start discussing we have a speaker coming in who's going to talk about implicit bias in the court system. And kind of how. Things that we really don't consider on a day to day inform the decisions that we make and the way that we address our clients and the way that we address other attorneys and other parties and things like that.
So I'm really excited for everybody to start kind of centering in on what their values are and then being able to perform in that way, right? Because the other thing is, you know, like I said, I'm not born knowing how to do DEI, you know, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It's something that I have to work for every day.
It's a decision you have to [00:14:00] Decide that you're going to, that it's going to be important to you. And so I'm excited to kind of be the leader in making the firm more comfortable than it already is, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the corporate world. But continuing to be kind of like a lighthouse in that situation is going to be really, really exciting.
I'm looking forward to it.
Billie Tarascio: That is exciting. That is very exciting. Kendra, thank you so much for coming on the show and for sharing a little bit about you and your background and everything that you do for modern law and especially your work on the DEI committee, but also your work as a client advocate.
Thank you for being here. And if you all have enjoyed this show, please download it, like it, comment on it. As you heard, we are very much open to Spanish speaking folks. Lawyers or other
types of legal professionals who might be interested in modern law. So if you know somebody who would be a
good fit, please do send them our way.
And Kendra, thank you again. Yeah. Thank you, Billie.
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