Welcome to Powerful Leaders, No Apologies.
Beth and Debbie are joined by Joy Heath Rush, the CEO of ILTA (International Legal Technology Association). Joy shares her inspiring journey through the world of legal technology, reflecting on her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated industry and the valuable lessons she’s learned along the way. Discover the secrets of her leadership superpower – leading with love and grace – and gain insights into the Women Who Lead initiative, a groundbreaking movement empowering women in technology.
Links from the episode:
[6:53] Starting with an Honest Acknowledgement
[9:48] Leading with Love
[14:08] Earning Respect & Letting Others Shine
[22:18] Women Who Lead Initiative
Debbie Foster (00:03):
Welcome to the Powerful Leaders. No Apologies podcast, a show about women who are ready to own their power and change the world. My name is Debbie Foster.
Beth Thompson (00:12):
And I’m Beth Thompson. Our guests are fierce and fabulous women who are making a difference in their personal and professional communities. Are you ready to be inspired? If so, stay tuned and also check out our website at affinityconsulting.com/powerful leaders. Here’s the show.
Debbie Foster (00:34):
Beth, we are back for another episode. I know I say it all the time, like I’m really excited for this episode, but I’m really, really excited for this episode. It’s great to see you.
Beth Thompson (00:45):
I cannot believe it either. I know we’ve both been looking forward to this particular episode for quite some time. It’s crazy. This morning I was on our page looking at all the episodes, and I cannot believe we’re up to around 20 episodes now. It was amazing to scroll through and think about all the guests we’ve had and just super excited about today. Can’t wait to get started.
Debbie Foster (01:08):
And here’s a news hot off the presses item. The merchandise link is in our show notes for this episode. We finally have some merch.
Beth Thompson (01:20):
Very exciting. Cannot wait.
Debbie Foster (01:22):
Yeah, so I’m going to let our guest, who probably needs no introduction in the legal technology world, but she’s going to introduce herself. Anyway, super excited. Beth and I just got back a couple of weeks ago from ILTACon in Orlando, and it was amazing, an amazing conference, maybe the best ILTAcon ever, and we are super, super lucky today to have with us the queen of all things, ILTA Joy, Heath Rush. So Joy, welcome to powerful Leaders. No Apologies.
Joy Heath Rush (01:57):
Well, no apologies and no pressure, Debbie.
Debbie Foster (01:59):
No pressure. No pressure.
Joy Heath Rush (02:02):
But I’ve been looking forward to this too. I mean, it’s just a conversation among friends. I mean, for those of you listening, Beth and Debbie and I refuse to admit how many years as a group we have known each other, so we’re just not going to go there. But I’m Joy Heath Rush. I’m the CEO of ILTA, and I’m pickled pink to be here.
Debbie Foster (02:20):
Well, Joy, I would love for you to give us the, I know some of the name drops of where you have been prior to ILTA are really impressive, and we would love to hear a little bit about your story, what brought you to ILTA.
Joy Heath Rush (02:33):
Yeah, I would love to talk about that. I mean, first of all, I will say I’m an accidental legal technologist because I was a geek in high school. I was on the math team and all that geeky stuff, but I went to a liberal arts college. I went to Georgetown and I had placed out of my entire college math requirement by all the math I took and everything in high school. So I haven’t even taken a math class or a computer science class since high school. That was a long time ago. But I went to work in an organization which was, now it’s a WeWork or a Regis or something like that where a bunch of small companies share space. And it was mostly small law firms, two person, three person firms. And I was getting pressured, pressured to go to training on word processing, word processing.
It was 1981. I was like, no, no, no, please, no, I can do other, don’t send me. I was so sure I was going to lose my job and I finally couldn’t put it off anymore. And they sent me off to training. And at lunch I called my colleagues and went, this is awesome. This is the greatest thing ever. And I can honestly say I’ve been doing legal technology since that day, and after my first child was born, I wanted to work at night so I could be with my child during the day and one of the few places that had 24 hour work, the kind of work I want to do or law firms. So in those days, it was a newspaper, and if you are listening to this and you don’t know what a newspaper is, don’t tell us. We don’t want to know.
But you used to look for jobs in the newspaper. And the first job I looked at, the first job I applied for was with the global law firm of Cly Austin, and I interviewed and got it and ended up being there for 28 years. But I started out doing word processing in the evening, and there wasn’t any other technology in law firms in the 80s, a little word processing. Some firms had some automated accounting. And so when PCs started to come along, I can remember the managing partner of the DC office literally walking up to my desk and dropping, how many of you remember the gray word perfect manual and the blue workbook with the butterfly on it? I know you’re nodding out there. I know you are. And literally dropped it on my desk and said, you have two weeks to learn this and be ready to train the secretaries.
Debbie Foster (05:11):
Joy Heath Rush (05:11):
I was like, okay. And really my career in technology progressed in that way. It’s like, you do this, can you do that?
Debbie Foster (05:21):
Joy Heath Rush (05:23):
I did. I figured out I could learn it, and I ended up moving into IT once there was an IT department. That didn’t happen until 1990 something 88, and I’ve been doing it ever since. And after spending 28 years there, I spent four and a half years at what then was a small company and is not now a small company, and then came here, but I was involved with ILTA beginning in 1995. It was called LawNet. And I went to my FirstNet conference at the Biltmore in Phoenix. I was hooked. I started volunteering when I was a sponsor. I had been on the board of directors, I’d been elected president of the board of directors. So I felt like I came into this job having seen the organization from a number of vantage points, which I thought gave me some unique qualifications.
Debbie Foster (06:20):
For sure. I remember when you started at ILTA, I’m sure Beth does too. And thinking the worked in a law firm worked for Latara, come to ILTA, what a great marriage of being in all of the different places, all the different communities and the people in the industry that ILTA serves. And you actually being able to say, yep, been there, done that. I know how that works. So that was a really great win for ILTA when you joined for sure.
Joy Heath Rush (06:53):
Yeah, and I mean we call this about leadership and without apologies. I mean one of the things I’ll never apologize for is to be being transparent. And when I was interviewed for this role, I think it’s not telling tales out of school, there were 97 applicants when I got this job and when the board interviewed me, I said, look, let’s be right up front about this. If what you’re looking for as a professional association executive, that’s not me. I said, I’ll become one. I’m one now, but five years ago I wasn’t. I said, but if what you need right now is someone who knows the organization intimately, who is passionate about the organization, who knows the industry well, who has relationships and is a good experienced leader, yeah, take a chance on me and I’ll become an association executive. But you have to be clear that that’s the choice you’re making. And I think that kind of transparency, which is an honest acknowledgement of what you do well, but it’s also an honest acknowledgement of where you would need to grow. You just can’t go wrong, in my view, when you do that.
Debbie Foster (08:01):
I think the other thing about the way that you lead that I find so impressive and admirable as a volunteer for ILTA and being on the ILTACon planning committee for the last couple of years, you’re kind of like a celebrity. When Joy comes in the room, people are like, there’s Joy. And I just at the last ILTA Con, there was someone on my team who gave me the, there’s Joy. And I was like, you could actually go talk to her. She’s so approachable and will answer literally any question that you ask. You are just such a servant leader and ready to talk to anyone who wants to talk to you about all of these things that you’re so passionate about. And I think that’s really cool.
Joy Heath Rush (08:48):
I appreciate it, Debbie, because I think that accessibility is so critical, and if that’s not something that you want to do, there are certain kinds of leadership roles that are not for you, and that’s another area where you need to acknowledge it. I mean, I can remember having a conversation with one of my staff several years ago about a really hard volunteer interaction that they had had, and this person wanted to know how to do it better next time. And I said, I want you to think as you grow in this organization, you’ll have more of those. And not because people are mean or bad, I mean they’re passionate, they have strong opinion, but it means if you want to grow, that is a skill you’re going to have to master. And it is a skill that you can develop. I mean, Debbie, I think I’ve told you this before, but I don’t know that I’ve told Beth, I’m a very outgoing person.
I love people, but also left to my own devices. If I went into a room of a hundred people, I’d look for you, Debbie, and I’d go and I’d talk to you because I know you well, right? But that’s not my job. The way I serve is to make sure that everybody feels welcome included. And again, it’s a skill. It’s a decision that you make about that. Again, for the people listening who are thinking about their leadership portfolio, you have to think, what is that ability to command the room? Do you have to have that? What is that ability to, this sounds bad, but in old political terms, used to call it shake hands and kiss babies, and that makes it sound like it’s not sincere. That’s not right. It’s totally sincere, but you have to be willing to do that and to do it very authentically in order to lead people with love. I think that’s just so important.
Beth Thompson (10:48):
Well, and because ILTA is so driven by volunteers, you need to be that type of leader in order to have people want to follow, you want to give up their time, want their organizations to be supportive of them giving of their work time many times. So we’re spending our workday here altogether now, and I think in order to be able to have that type of support from your employer or even as an individual wanting to volunteer, Debbie and I both volunteer with ILTA now. You need that type of leadership. And I think that’s one thing that you’ve brought to ILTA that has been just hugely successful, is your ability to have people want to follow and want to volunteer and help and pitch in.
Joy Heath Rush (11:34):
Well, you guys are making me feel great about myself, so thank you. This is, I will say, honestly, people ask me, it’s like, how big is your team at ILTA? And I was like, well, it kind depends on how you count them. So if you talk about the professional staff whose paychecks are paid by ILTA, that’s 28 people. If you talk about the army of volunteers who produce content, put together local meetings, help with roadshows, write blogs, then it’s about 400 and it’s mission-based. People aren’t doing this. They have to, they’re doing it because they love the organization. And just knowing you have that corpus of people who love the organization enough to do it. I mean, how does that not make you want to get out of bed in the morning and get going? It’s inspirational. Honestly.
Beth Thompson (12:26):
I would love to take a little bit of a step back. One of the things that we often like to talk about are any challenges that you’ve faced throughout your career and how you overcame them because of course, we have people listening that are in all different phases of their career, and I know a lot of people have been helped and inspired by learning how we have all overcome some of the challenges. And you mentioned the development of the IT department when you were at Sidley, and I’m imagining there were probably few females, but I’m curious, as a woman in legal tech, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced over the years and how did you overcome?
Joy Heath Rush (13:07):
Yeah, it’s a great question. And there are a couple of them I can think of that kind of apply across years and genders and everything. One is that first job at Sidley, I was brought in over several internal candidates and I was brought in from the outside. That could happen to anybody that’s listening to this. Sometimes those internal candidates are gracious about you being there and are trying to help you succeed. Sometimes they self-select out of the organization because they weren’t picked and sometimes they go out of the way to make your lives miserable. They just do. That’s human nature. Getting through that, because I was young, I was 25 or 26 when I took that. That feels like a kid now is I had to have enough oomph to get through it. Now is I belong here. I’m here because I have the right skills, but that doesn’t mean anything wrong with your skills.
Let’s figure out what I do well, what you do well. So that was a really big challenge is earning the respect of those people that thought they should have had my job, who all by the way ended up being wonderful team members and friends. But it wasn’t easy. I would say the second one, and it’s a similar situation, is when the firm moved me from DC to Chicago. So I went from one of the outposts to the mothership, and again, there was this kind of sense of you’re an intruder, you came from the outside, who do you think you are to be in this role? And one individual in particular, whom I had known for a long time, and I thought we had a great relationship until I got moved to Chicago. And I ended up asking her to dinner. And I said, look, what do you need?
What do you need from me? What do you need me to do differently? What do you need? And so you’ll see a theme here. And then a third one in my career at Sidley was the CIO job came open and I applied for it and didn’t get it. Of course, I was very disappointed, but having had the experience of coming in outside over someone else, I was going to make sure that the new CIO had my 100% support to do whatever they needed to do. So my first meeting with him, he had a bunch of questions. We talked, and at the end he said, what questions do you have for me? And I looked at him and I said, what can I do to make you be successful? And he sat up in his chair and he goes, Joy, in my whole long career, nobody has ever asked me that question.
Wow, that’s what it’s about. What is your role in making that other person successful? And I learned that over those previous two experiences. I didn’t know how to articulate it the first two times, but that time I did. And what I would say is a lot of really challenging situations you can address by trying to figure out how you can make other people shine and people respond to that. Now, of course, if you’re not sincere, don’t go there. If you can’t bring yourself to do that with authenticity, it’s worse than not doing it at all.
Debbie Foster (16:30):
Joy Heath Rush (16:30):
But again, it’s a skill you can practice. And if you think about wouldn’t it be great if that person could do this, could do that, here’s how I can help them. Again, it’s something you can get jazzed about. Definitely. Those are some challenges. I do have to say though, Beth, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the only woman in the room.
I mean over and over again. I used to always joke about it. You know why? You can always remember my name. I’m the only woman, right? There are a couple of Chrises, there are a few Johns. I’m the only woman can remember my name, or I’m the only woman on the call. You recognize my voice. But that’s a subtle way of communicating that maybe we need to think about gender balance. But my daughter and I, and then I promise I’ll stop yaking, my oldest daughter who’ll be 38 soon. I don’t know how that happened, but that’s another story belongs to a lot of feminist organizations and she marches and I think it’s great. I’m proud of her and she wants me to do more of those things. That’s just not me. I mean, I support her. It’s not me. I said, honey, my version of feminism and I’m in my sixties has been to spend my whole career in male dominated industries competing and succeeding, and that’s how I do it.
Debbie Foster (17:47):
That is such a point too Joy. I mean, I think Beth and I also have spent a lot of time in rooms where we are the only woman. If you’re going to be in legal and technology, you just up your odds of being in a room where you are the only woman or one of two maybe. But one of the things we talk about a lot on this show is how leadership is a journey and we’re always growing and we’re always learning new things and we’re learning from each other. I would love it if you would share with us and with our listeners who’s inspiring you. Are you listening to any podcasts? Are you reading any books? Do you have anyone you follow? What lights you up and gets you thinking about, because I know you believe in the leadership journey. What’s next for you as a leader?
Joy Heath Rush (18:36):
There’s no question about it. And I do enjoy reading and I enjoy listening, but I confess I’m more of a student of human nature and I like to watch people whose careers I admire. For example, it has been my pleasure these many years to watch Judy Flournoy journey through leadership. And she came up as a woman through the technical side of the house. She was a developer. Now there are a lot of CIOs who don’t come that way anyway. They come from more the business side of the house, but she was a developer. I have always watched her career with great interest and the dignity that she brings to everything she does. So she’s someone I’ve really watched, someone who, and I know she’s going to be embarrassed when she hears this, probably Judy is. Andrea Markstrom, I know you’re going to listen to this and I know you’re going to be saying no, no, you shouldn’t mentioned me.
Andrea is younger than me. Of course everybody is these days, but Andrea is younger than me. But watching her, what I would call meteoric rise, really, it has been an absolute pleasure and it’s what can I learn from that? Part of what you learn is that maybe some of the things that you thought you were doing wrong, you didn’t because they worked for someone else. I’ve had so many people running joke at Sidley used to be, you’re an HR nightmare because you hug everybody.
Debbie Foster (20:04):
Joy Heath Rush (20:07):
Andrea’s like that too. And I’m like, wow. Yeah, it does work. It’s not an anomaly. Andrea is incredibly authentic. She has had, as I think you both know, a very interesting journey, particularly during her college years that she kind of got started and how transparent she is about that and her learnings from that and the fact that it didn’t make her bitter about people, it made her more want to embrace people and lead with love. So as I said, sure, there are things I read and stuff, but it’s people I watch. I’ll say though, my favorite of all time management book is an old one, so forgive me here. It’s called The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. It’s a very short read. Love it. You can get through it in an hour and a half. See, you can’t see our video. Debbie’s nodding. Yes.
Debbie Foster (21:06):
That’s a great book.
Joy Heath Rush (21:08):
Got such practical, one of my very favorite quotes from that is, anything not worth doing at all isn’t worth doing well, right?
Beth Thompson (21:16):
Yes. Right. That is true. I love the examples that you gave. As you know, we interviewed Judy early on. She was one of our first guests and we thoroughly enjoyed interviewing her. And we have Andrea actually scheduled already. She’s coming up as a future interview, so you didn’t even know to plug that episode, but that will be coming up soon and we can’t wait to share her story because she is absolutely inspiring.
Debbie Foster (21:41):
Well, and we heard her at Women Who Lead, which actually I think that would be a great question for you, Joy, why did ILTA to start Women Who Lead? I mean, we heard Andrea speak at that event, but Beth and I were also completely blown away sitting in that room with a diverse group of mostly women that ILTA was able to bring together that we learned-LJ was a guest on our podcast just a couple of weeks ago. We met her at Women Who Lead. I mean, what an amazing event that was. So I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about the Women Who Lead Initiative. Yeah,
Joy Heath Rush (22:18):
That’s great because this was a totally volunteer driven thing. So some of the people who are right at the beginning, probably the two that need to be called up the most are Judy and Catherine Monty. I think some of you may know she, I’m not sure what her title is these days, but she heads knowledge and innovation at Fox Rothchild. And they came to the board of the time, which I know because I was on the board at the time and said, Hey, we really want to do something to help women move forward in technology. And originally it was a, look, we’re going to be an independent group that kind of loosely affiliated with ILTA. And what they really wanted was to use our listserv technology because 15 or 20 years ago, whatever it was, that was cool, it was cutting edge and we were happy to provide that accommodation.
And then the group expanded and people like industry veterans like Kathy Riley, Kelly Cahoot from Davis Wright Germaine, also tremendous leaders, got involved. And the mandate of the group went beyond this exchange of information through the collaboration platform to doing programming. And then the committee grew and amazing next generation leaders like Michelle Gossmire and the amazing Melanie Prevost, and then more recently Kelly Cage and Drea Webster from Novartis. And there are others I’m missing that have gotten involved and well, can we do this well? Can we push a little bit further? Can we do a little bit more? Can we do more? And we’re like, yes, of course, let’s do it. Because they deliver. They’re ambitious, they add value, and they embody what ILTA is about, which is sharing information of all kinds, but sharing information that enhances our careers in a pretty tough business, especially for women. I was at a, we call it ILTA Connect in the uk, it has a little bit different branding, but it was a women who lead event here last night. I’m in London right now, and one of the speakers was the general counsel of a tech company who’s a woman. And we were laughing about the only woman in the room. She said, yeah, yeah,
Debbie Foster (24:49):
Yeah, even over here.
Joy Heath Rush (24:54):
And we had someone who had literally just gotten out of law school up to someone who’s retired, everything in between in terms of ages, ethnic background, native languages, all kinds of things. And it was an hour presentation and they stayed two more hours. Now granted the wine was good, but they stayed two more hours just exchanging stories. And women who lead helped ILTA create that space for women in technology. And there were men there too, but men that want to enable women in technology. Yeah, it was a grassroots effort for sure.
Debbie Foster (25:34):
I love it. And we will link in our show notes to the ILTA Women Who lead page, so people who want to stay up to date with the latest and greatest can do that. And I think where we are going to go now, Joy, is we ask the same question at the end of every episode to all of our guests. You’ve already talked about a lot of really cool leadership superpowers, but I want to know, what is your leadership superpower? If you had to pick one, what would it be?
Joy Heath Rush (26:02):
Oh, I genuinely love people, Debbie. I really do. And some are more lovable than others. Naturally, I will say occasionally when a partner has screamed at me, I have to stop and say, I bet his parents and his children love him, and that helps me. But honestly, there’s something to love about everybody. And when you go into it with that attitude, and I truly do makes a lot of things easier for everybody. I was visiting a friend recently, and I’ve met her family for the first time, and she has a child who’s autistic, which, and again, Debbie, I know my son, my adult son is autistic and a fabulous individual. If I do say so my time,
Debbie Foster (26:50):
I have to tell you, Joy. I have to tell you, I spent some time talking to your son at Delta. We walked back from the yacht club to the dolphin, and then I sat with him at lunch. And you talk about someone who is so super proud of his mom and also, I mean, he is crazy proud of you, and he works for Latera. And my goodness, if they would let him tattoo his body with Latera and only wear shirts and pants that said Latara, he would do it. He’s like, company guy 1 0 1. I loved, loved, loved talking to him. So sorry to interrupt you, but I forgot all about that until you said it.
Joy Heath Rush (27:30):
Because he’s a super person. And I think he has that same superpower actually. And this friend of mine has a daughter who’s autistic, and we hit it off right away and I comment about it and she said, well, she understands people who are genuine and you’re genuine. And I try to be, I try to be, but that to me is my superpower. Plus I’m a really, really good hugger. I really am.
Beth Thompson (28:01):
That’s a great skill to have. And on that note, we are so happy we finally got to do this. I know all of our schedules got crazy and with ILTACon, it’s been a pleasure. It was well worth the wait. We cannot wait to have our listeners tune into this episode. We just thank you so much for joining us.
Joy Heath Rush (28:20):
The pleasure was so totally mine. And I’ll be ready for the next group hug.
Beth Thompson (28:26):
You got it.
Debbie Foster (28:26):
We will too. Thank you, joy.
Joy Heath Rush (28:28):
Beth Thompson (28:32):
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to Powerful Leaders. No apologies. Be sure and subscribe to our show and help us spread the word by sharing our show with your network,
Debbie Foster (28:43):
And check out our show notes at affinityconsulting.com slash powerful leaders for resources and ways to connect with us. See you next time.