Member Highlight: Amanda L. Kool

1. Tell us a little about yourself and the educational or career path you took to get to where you are now?

I’m a born and raised Kentuckian who moved to Boston for law school over a decade ago. By the time I decided to go to law school, I had been working in nonprofit arts management for a few years and was ready for a change. Law school promised to be a career shift and one in which I could continue to work for the public good, but I didn’t know any lawyers and wasn’t sure what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. I spent my law school years interested in and exploring environmental law, land use, and agriculture – likely a result of my rural upbringing – as well as intellectual property, but didn’t feel drawn to becoming a litigator. Luckily, the Northeastern University School of Law “co-op” model afforded me four opportunities to gain hands-on experience in various areas of law. As a result, I was able to discover that transactional law was a solid fit for my skill set and interests.

A few years out of law school, I landed a fellowship position in the Harvard Law School Transactional Law Clinics, where I was developed the Community Enterprise Project. In addition to representing scores of amazing small businesses and nonprofit organizations, I’ve been fortunate to undertake larger projects to help immigrant entrepreneursfood trucks, and self-employed individuals who receive public benefits, just to name a few. This job marries the practice of transactional law for the public good with the dynamism of a law school clinical environment. I’ve been able to exercise my creative spirit to grow a program while drawing from the energy and experience of students, colleagues, and our broader community. It’s been a dream.  

2. What specifically drew you to working with social enterprises and democratically-led organizations, such as cooperatives?

My experience with cooperatives and other social enterprises began as a result of our clients, who regularly come to our office with innovative ideas for how to structure and govern their businesses. A few years ago, we noticed a dramatic uptick in clients interested in forming worker cooperatives and noticed that too few lawyers were well-versed in that area of law (including us), so we created a Massachusetts legal guide to worker cooperatives. We also conducted trainings for people interested in forming worker cooperatives as well as for people interested in working with them, like lawyers and other technical assistance providers.  Ricardo, Sara, and the rest of the team at SELC were invaluable in helping us create the guide and we’re honored for our guide to be included in the state-by-state resource section of www.co-oplaw.org.

3. What do you find to be the most challenging about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

I think the most challenging part of being a lawyer is staying informed: keeping abreast of changes in the law, learning from other lawyers about new contract templates or ways to structure certain provisions, and understanding the evolving business landscape in which our clients must operate. I’m so grateful for the folks at SELC and others around the country who are generous with their time and knowledge to help keep us all in the loop. 

4. What do love most about being a lawyer [or law student, legal apprentice, or other legal professional]?

I love to help people and empower people to help themselves. This job provides opportunity to do both in spades.

5. What are some of the needs you see in your community that you are hoping to address through your work?

Like many people, I’m concerned by the deep-seated discontent in our country that has surfaced across the political spectrum in the wake of the most recent presidential election. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, like any transactional lawyer, I believe we can move forward by navigating and leveraging our common interests, beliefs, and goals, and I believe we share many. If I think of my country as my community, then one profound need I see in my community is the need for additional legal support in rural America. Many of our rural communities are grappling with disproportionate levels of poverty, a healthcare crisis, and a raging opioid epidemic, and there are currently far too few lawyers to handle the work that needs to be done.

In my next career move, I hope to address the rural access to justice crisis and support economic development in rural communities. I see tremendous opportunity for the proliferation of worker-owned businesses in communities that have been hurt by disinvestment, outsourcing, and mechanization in single-industry economies. I’ll be transitioning with my family to Kentucky in the coming months, exploring opportunities to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from my work with communities in Greater Boston to communities in Central Appalachia and beyond. I’m excited for what lies ahead.

6.  What, if anything, would you change about the legal profession or legal community if you were in charge?

If I were in charge, I suppose I’d try to devise a way to have less people in charge so that more innovative means of delivering legal services could percolate to the surface. Goodness knows the legal community could do a better job of providing access to justice for all.    

7. Who is your ideal client or what is your ideal project?

I’ve had so many! Any work that is forward-thinking, collaborative, and that generates a positive social impact is ideal to me.

8. What do you like to do when you are not practicing law [studying, or working]?

I like to go for long bike rides or find other excuses to be outside. Any activities that involve my family and friends, adventure, or live music are also right up my alley.  

9. What are your “go to” resources and current sources of inspiration you can share with the Next Legal community?

I am constantly inspired by my colleagues near and far and believe our greatest legal resources are one another. I am also keen to learn from non-transactional lawyers and non-lawyers alike, as there is so much we can gain from breaking out of our silos.