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Show Notes

Debbie Foster engages with Christy Burke, a trailblazer in the legal tech industry. From early experiences in her family’s business to founding her own successful PR and marketing agency, Christy shares invaluable insights and anecdotes, offering a glimpse into the evolving landscape of legal tech entrepreneurship.  

Links from the episode:  

Connect with Debbie on LinkedIn     

Connect with Christy on LinkedIn 

Powerful Leaders Swag Shop    

[9:19] Paying it forward

[12:43] Consulting & problem solving

[30:26] Unwavering positivity

  • Transcript


    Debbie Foster (00:03): 

    Welcome back to The Powerful Leaders No apologies podcast where we celebrate fierce, fabulous females making waves in the legal world. I’m Debbie Foster and I’m excited to introduce you to these women who are leading the charge with their bold leadership and influential journeys ready to be inspired by their powerful stories. Here’s the show. I am super excited today to be here with someone I’ve known for a really long time, and also someone who really has been instrumental in how my business was built from the very beginning. My good friend Christie Burke is here with us today. Hi Christie. I’m so glad you’re here. 


    Christy Burke (00:45): 

    Hi, Debbie. Great to be here with you. 


    Debbie Foster (00:47): 

    Christie. Our history goes way, way, way back, but I’m going to pull out one little moment that you and I have joked about for years and years and years. There was a time that you came to our office at the very beginning, and I remember thinking when you came in as a marketing consultant or really just a consultant helping us thinking about what did we want to do with this amazing business that was barely off the ground. And I remember the decision to invest in that back then. I don’t remember how much it cost, but I remember thinking, this is probably the biggest investment in the business that I had ever made, and we brought you into our office and you facilitated a workshop for us. During that workshop, you had us write a song. 


    Christy Burke (01:39): 

    I remember 


    Debbie Foster (01:42): 

    For whatever reason that song was to the tune of hot cross buns. 


    Christy Burke (01:48): 

    Yes, I remember. 


    Debbie Foster (01:51): 

    That was probably 20 years ago, 18 years ago, something like that. Something 


    Christy Burke (01:57): 

    Like that. 


    Debbie Foster (01:58): 

    I still vividly remember. I remember what room we were in. I still remember everything about that. Your career has evolved so much. I mean, there was a big story before that 


    Christy Burke (02:11): 

    Since hot cross buns. Since 


    Debbie Foster (02:13): 

    Hot cross buns. Yeah. I wonder, do your clients still, when you meet with them, do you have them create a song and is it ever to the tune of hot cross buns? I don’t know. 


    Christy Burke (02:21): 

    No, I have to say you were one of the kind in that one. We never did it again. We broke the mold. We couldn’t recreate that. 


    Debbie Foster (02:28): 

    Well, we still talk about it. I mean Dell and I still talk about it because Dell was there. Greg was there. We still have a bunch of members from our team who have worked here long enough to remember Hot Crust buns and I’m going to have to bring that up to Greg, but I would love it, Christie, if you would not mind telling your story, what are you doing now and then let’s kind of travel backwards in time. 


    Christy Burke (02:49): 

    Sure, I’d be happy to. Thanks, Debbie. That just brought back the memory for me, the really vivid memory of our workshop there. I will never forget it either. It was in the early days of my business. Now here I am quite a few years later. I’ve had my own PR and marketing agency for almost 20 years now, and specifically in legal tech. So legal tech is like my home away from home, my family reunion, and right now I am based in New York City and running this great agency. We have clients all over the world helping them get their brand awareness, doing media outreach, helping them get the content and the thought leadership they want out in the world. It’s been a fabulous adventure for me and it’s hard to believe that it all started. I think I was answering the phones at my family business, which was a software company in the legal tech space. I think when I was a teen and even in the summers when I was in college long time ago, my parents had technology companies. They started with a computer leasing company. Then it was a software company and I was involved kind of literally stuffing envelopes and entering in the Rolodexes and answering the phones and cut my teeth in the business world that way. So kind of fast forward to after I graduated from college, I was a teacher for a while. I was a high school teacher. 


    Debbie Foster (04:16): 

    Oh, wow. I don’t think I knew that. 


    Christy Burke (04:18): 

    No, you didn’t know that. 


    Debbie Foster (04:19): 

    I don’t think I knew that. Well, 


    Christy Burke (04:20): 

    I’ll tell you, it made me lose my fear of public speaking because you’re speaking in front of high school students who do not want to listen to what you’re saying. But it was great bootcamp training, let’s put it that way, for a communications career. And then I worked in the publishing and advertising industries and I finally ended up helping my parents who were running Worldox, which is a document management software company that’s now been acquired by Net Documents. But for many years I was familiar with the company and I came in to help them with some PR and marketing and kind of stuck. I love the industry, taught myself the PR business. I had been more of a marketing and sales person before that. So that was my crash course in PR and got to know the editors and of course Venable people like Monica Bay and other fabulous icons. And over time it’s been a great experience. I’ve worked with a lot of companies. I’ve helped startups, I’ve helped large companies and everyone in between. And some of the companies I’ve worked with have become unicorn companies and soon unicorn companies and acquired and become really successful and I’ve been very honored to be a part of that. 


    Debbie Foster (05:39): 

    That’s a very cool journey. And I don’t know that there have been many other companies, world docs that have been so instrumental in our journey at Affinity way back in the day when we learned about this document management program, and it was when Lawyerist were just getting computers on their desks. That’s crazy scary. It really wasn’t that long ago. And this document management program that would help them really, these Lawyerist were struggling with naming their documents with eight characters, three and this amazing program called World Docs where suddenly they could name their documents anything they wanted to name them was like manna from heaven. It was like a miracle had been delivered and that was your family’s business, which laid an unbelievably amazing foundation for Affinity’s business. We’re really closely connected. And I couldn’t talk about World Docs without saying what you already know to be true that I have a top three list of people in this industry that have been so amazing for me to work with and people that I’ve really looked up to. And your dad, Tom Burke is one of them. And I just absolutely adore him. And I know he is retired now, but one of my most treasured things for so long was getting to spend time with him one-on-one at Legal week every year and just hear about his thoughts about the industry. And he really was such a leader and I love that you got to be a part of that, not just because it was your family business, but because you really were instrumental in building that. So very cool part of our story too. 


    Christy Burke (07:21): 

    Oh, that’s a wonderful connection. You and affinity are also part of the foundation for legal tech in my eyes. And I remember way back when so many things were different, legal tech New York was the biggest event of the year and it was the chance to see everybody and hear all the new products. And now so many other organizations have popped up and it’s a fascinating and huge industry now. But I remember telling people, they’d say, which industry do you work in? I’d say legal tech. They say, is that an industry really? Are there a lot of companies that do? I said, yes, there are hundreds of companies. And you go into the Hilton and you see aisles and aisles and aisles and aisles of companies that are doing interesting things. But it is a niche within a niche and I think it’s always been very interesting to me. I’ve found it fascinating and it’s always been something that my dad and I could talk about. And my mom was also instrumental in building the company in the finance and HR and of things. So I really couldn’t have found a better commercial home for myself, let’s put it that way for sure than this. And having an example of entrepreneurs in our family really helped me know that I could make it work with my own business 


    Debbie Foster (08:41): 

    For sure. And I think that there’s a pay it forward. Part of that we learned from entrepreneurs, and I’m positive this is true for you because I know you’re incredibly generous and charitable. Who else can we help? Who’s the next people that are starting something and how do we invest our time in them to talk about having the scary thoughts about leaving that stability and starting your own business and being worried for a long time? I mean, still there are days when I’m like, what if no one else calls? And here we are 25 years later. I doubt that’s going to happen, but still, you still worry about those things. So I love that idea. Your dad certainly and your mom too, who I love your mom as well, but they really did pay it forward with all of those companies that were invested in their company in talking about their entrepreneurial journey and their journey of running a business. And so we pay it forward and that is how we pay tribute to all of those people who did that for us when we started our companies. 


    Christy Burke (09:43): 

    Absolutely. I completely agree. 


    Debbie Foster (09:45): 

    Yeah. So let’s talk about the companies that you’re working with now, and I think about how you can invest your time and share your knowledge with the companies that are either just getting into legal tech or who are in legal tech but really want more awareness around their brands and legal tech. What does a day in your life look like leading them through that journey? 


    Christy Burke (10:08): 

    Well, I have a different day every day, and that’s one of the things I like about it the most is that there’s very little repetition in my day. Every day requires different creativity, different people, different experiences. I could be working with the startup that’s just entering the legal field that doesn’t know anything about legal tech. Maybe they came from big tech or other areas, or I’ve even worked with mathematicians that came up with a software product and then they wanted to market that. And then some of the clients are huge companies that have internal PR people and they’ve been trying to get into legal, they’ve been trying to get to know the publications and they’ve not been able to get traction. So as a specialist, I’m brought in to help them with that. So it really runs the gamut and I’ve really enjoyed working with a variety of companies, whether it’s software companies, services companies like Affinity and the where they have a lot of smart people that are figuring out how to solve problems, but also law schools and even law firms and even accounting firms that market to law firms. 



    So it kind of jumps from people leave, they go somewhere else, they recommend me. I get brought in and I try not to say no to any project if I can because I figure if I bring in the right team of people, I can figure it out. So maybe I need to bring in a PhD who knows organizational dynamics to help me run a focus group or I need to bring in an event specialist to help me put together a summit on legal innovation. I do that. So that’s how I kind of keep the burners going is I try not to say no. And I try to be super responsive. One of my clients is like, I think you’re actually clairvoyant. You’re kind of a mind reader because you practically respond to my message before I even hit send. 


    Debbie Foster (12:06): 

    I love that. And something you said just reminded me when I first started doing this, I didn’t really know much about legal, it just kind of fell into my lap. It was quite accidental how it happened. And I had this one law firm client who was one of my first, I think it was really technically my second law firm client, but and she still practices today. Her name is Mary Lou Wagstaff, and she’s just always another person I’ve really looked up to in legal. But I remember when I started, she started giving our name out to people and I went and met with this firm and I was sitting at their conference room table and I said, what kind of law do you practice? Now this is, I don’t ever ask that question anymore because now that information is readily available. But in the 1990s that was not readily available information. And the guy looked at me and he said, eminent domain. And I was like, I have literally never heard those words before in my life. 


    Christy Burke (13:02): 

    What would that be? 


    Debbie Foster (13:04): 

    And I was just like, oh, okay, so write it down. And I remember getting back to my office and calling her and saying, what is eminent domain? And she explained it to me and my whole career has been, I don’t necessarily have to know everything. I just have to know the right people and know when to get the right people involved. So just like you said, I want to learn more. I don’t say no to projects, I just make sure I get the right people involved. That’s right. What team of people are you building in your corner to help you do whatever it is that you want to do next? And that sounds like for a company going into legal tech, having someone like Christie who’s been there, done that has lots of T-shirts to prove that you’ve been there, done a lot of them. We do lots 


    Christy Burke (13:50): 

    Of T-shirts. Too many too. 


    Debbie Foster (13:52): 

    It’s so many now that we’re like, no, thank you. We actually give that to someone else. We don’t use that 


    Christy Burke (13:57): 

    T-shirt. Keep the bag, keep the T-shirt. I’m okay. Thank you. 


    Debbie Foster (14:00): 

    We’re good. You’ve walked that path before with many people in many different companies, and I love that from a consulting perspective, that’s what we get to do for our clients is everybody wants to know how everyone else is doing it. And we just so happen to have that information because this is what we do for a living and being connected to people that if we don’t know the answer to something, we can find the right person. 


    Christy Burke (14:23): 

    Absolutely. And I think what you had just alluded to is really strong for consultants because we see problems coming across our desk every day a client is coming to us or a prospective client is coming to us to solve a problem that we see and solve on a daily basis. I think the challenge for an internal PR and marketing person might be that they’re just seeing from that one company’s point of view and they’re having to find a creative solution based upon what they know about that one company. Whereas a consulting firm or an agency like ours, we’re seeing lots of different kinds of companies grappling with a variety of problems, and we’re helping them solve them as our day job. And you get to see what works and what doesn’t work. So someone will say to me, we were thinking this, this, and this, and I’d say, how about this and that, because that will work better in my experience. You could go forward and you could put a lot of money into that, but in my experience, it hasn’t paid off. So rather than take a risk on that, let’s go with something that we know is going to really move the needle. 


    Debbie Foster (15:32): 

    Absolutely. It’s like I sometimes tell our clients, it’s kind of like playing shoots and ladders. We’re the ladder. You don’t have to go through all of those other steps that might lead you down a shoot. We’re just going to help you to the ladder. That’s not to say that there won’t be any shoots. Sometimes that happens, but we can help you with the ladders. 


    Christy Burke (15:51): 

    I like that. Yeah. And we can tell you which shoot to take and catch you at the bottom. 


    Debbie Foster (15:56): 

    Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Okay. So any pivotal moments or decisions that you want to talk about or anyone who’s really been instrumental in your journey that you want to share? 


    Christy Burke (16:10): 

    Well, I think one of the most pivotal moments I can think back to was when I decided to start my business. I had been working at World for four years and wasn’t really sure whether I wanted to take the leap for that. And I think a lot of people find themselves in that position. Like you said before, you’ve got security, you’ve got salary, you’ve got the sure thing in one hand and then you have something uncertain in the other. But I really felt like I wanted to invest in myself and I wanted to go for it. And I was lucky enough to have some people that I had known for many years during my time that approached me and said they wanted to work with me. And I always say my business sort of started itself and I just ran to catch up with it because it started going and I was like, I better go catch it. 



    So after many years of having seen my parents as successful business people and even generations above theirs in my family have been business owners. So I figured I had some mentorship too, and I could ask my mom or my dad. They were both great business people for help, but I really wanted to do it on my own in a really deep way because I think it was so much my accomplishment that was important to me. And I really liked helping people. I really liked working with clients to help them transform their businesses and grow and develop and get more revenue so they could hire more people and realize their vision. That was exciting to me. I love that aspect of entrepreneurship, which is very divergent. It opens up, it can get as big as you want it to get, 


    Debbie Foster (17:58): 

    For sure. Yeah, I feel like that whole starting your own business and your analogy about I had to run to catch up with it, I sometimes feel like I’m doing some of that now, the whole running to catch up with it. And I think part of sharing these stories is about normalizing that the journeys aren’t always smooth and sometimes it’s ahead of you and sometimes you’re ahead of it and it’s just kind of a back and forth, but that’s part of your day looks different every day. That’s part of the excitement is what’s going to be on the plate today and where do I get to use my problem solving skills and my industry knowledge to really help someone else solve a really big problem that will make a very big impact on their business? And I know that’s really rewarding to me, and I’m sure it is for you too. 


    Christy Burke (18:50): 

    Definitely. I think really making an impact for people is something that you can take home with you every day because it’s hard. Sometimes it’s hard and things don’t always go the way that you expect them to. That’s one of the hardest things for me to adjust to is when something that I’ve carefully planned and babysat and made sure everything was going to go and something else comes in and knocks it on its side, that is the hardest thing that I’ve had to deal with. That really flies in the face of being a control freak and wanting everything to go perfectly all the time. And sometimes you have to deal with that, and that’s a reality. 


    Debbie Foster (19:33): 

    And from a marketing perspective, especially true, two funny things. First, someone told me a long time ago, you waste 50% of your marketing budget. The problem is you don’t know which 50%. Right? So trying to figure out what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. And one other funny thing, something you said, just immediately put this memory in my head, something well planned that doesn’t actually work out. A few years ago at Legal Week, Beth Thompson and I, for my former co-host, we had this dinner planned with a software vendor and she had put so much effort into figuring this out and making this work. And it was at that little French bistro that’s right behind the New York Hilton in that 


    Christy Burke (20:21): 

    Remy, is it that one? 


    Debbie Foster (20:23): 

    I can’t remember the name of it, but there’s supposed to be like 30 people there or something like that. And we had a $5,000 minimum. Oh, wow. And Beth and I got there and we were the only two people that showed up. 


    Christy Burke (20:35): 

    No. Oh, the worst. 


    Debbie Foster (20:37): 

    We ended up calling one of our friends. He came over and then we ended up reaching out to the software company and we’re like, your people didn’t even show up. And a couple of their people showed up and there ended up being, I don’t know, five or six of us with a $5,000 minimum. We ordered almost everything on the menu. I ended up getting six bottles of wine that I took the next day to a client who was right across the street to spend our $5,000. But it’s a great example of a lot of effort that went into a marketing event and you’re like super excited. This is going to be so fun. And then you’re sitting there because guess what? People say yes to lots of different competing things, and then they just decide what they’re going to do on the last day. And apparently our offer was at the bottom of that list, and that just didn’t work out as planned. But we’ve ended up having lots of good laughs over $5,000 at the French restaurant in New York City. 


    Christy Burke (21:29): 

    Well, you made the best of it, it sounds like. But that’s exactly the example too of something, the best laid plans. I remember years ago when ilta was held at LaQuinta in Palm Springs. I don’t know if you remember when it was there, and it was like 115 degrees outside. It was just crazy. They told us to not even roll up the windows on our car because it would implode from the inside out, from the built up heat was that. And the air conditioning broke in the exhibit hall. So not only were the people like me working in the exhibit hall absolutely drenched with sweat the entire time, but nobody wanted to come into the exhibit hall because it was an oven in there. And La Quinta is laid out, so you have to walk from your bungalow. It’s not like a hotel that’s all air conditioned. 



    You have to walk half a mile sometimes to get to the exhibit hall. So by the time you got to the exhibit hall, you’d be already a mess. And then to top it all off, we opened our containers at the end of the show to pack everything up, and we had some spare fluorescent light bulbs, and they had actually exploded because the warehouse where they stored all the containers, there was no air conditioning, so they exploded and there were shattered glass over everything, and we actually had to empty out shattered glass from all of our containers before we could load the booth back into it. I was like, could anything else go wrong? 


    Debbie Foster (23:01): 

    And that’s like glitter. It was the worst. They probably found shattered glass in those boxes for years. 


    Christy Burke (23:07): 

    I am sure. I’m sure. Because you can’t get rid of that. 


    Debbie Foster (23:11): 

    You cannot, my 


    Christy Burke (23:12): 

    Goodness. And I think the pist resistance. So on the way home, I was carrying my heavy laptop on my shoulder or whatever, and then I got a pinched nerve in my neck on the way home. I was like, well, that tops it all off. I think that’s about as bad as it could get. 


    Debbie Foster (23:28): 

    I mean, yeah, the stories, it really doesn’t ever go as planned. But the moral of the story is that you just don’t ever stop trying. You try something new and you think differently. And you can bet that when we schedule dinners now, even though they still don’t always go as planned, we absolutely do multiple RSVP check-ins with people, give us your cell phone number. We’re going to text you because we’re like, we don’t need another $5,000 minimum. Right. Yeah. So you learn from all those 


    Christy Burke (23:58): 

    Things. We’ll pick you up at your hotel and we’ll drive you there. 


    Debbie Foster (24:01): 

    Exactly. Exactly. Okay. So I’m curious, any big projects that you’ve worked on or any initiatives that you’ve worked on that you’re super proud of that you want to share? 


    Christy Burke (24:11): 

    Well, I’d say work has been great. And my one that I wanted to talk to you about was Clio, where I was involved with Clio, literally when they founded the company. And it was me and the two founders, Jack and Ryan, who we exhibited at a solo show in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And it was so small at that time and they had a great idea and a great product. Now they’re valued over a billion dollars. They’re a crazy awesome success story and still just as nice as they ever were. So I was happy to be their PR and marketing for the first several years and then years now they have their own in-house staff and they’re doing amazing things. But it’s stories like that where it’s very grassroots and you’re there feeling like, we’ve got to make this work. We have to make this work. And I felt like I was really in there in the foxhole with the founders. And that is such a rewarding experience for me because you see people that have a great product and they are making a success of it because of hard work and diligence and vision. So that’s one example of something I’m very proud of having been a part of that success story in my career. 


    Debbie Foster (25:41): 

    So I didn’t know that either. And wow. I mean, well, we could talk about that for an hour. What an amazing success story that has been. And you’re absolutely right. Even where did I just recently see Jack at tech show just a couple of months ago? And he still is one of the most down to earth founders and someone who really believed so strongly in his product from day one. Even when there were people, I could have potentially possibly been one of them that were like, no one’s ever going to put their data in the cloud. I might’ve actually said that out loud to them way back when and look where we are now. So what a cool story. I love that you were a part of the beginning of that. 


    Christy Burke (26:24): 

    Definitely. Yeah. And they had the temerity to stick with that cloud first approach. And like you said, a lot of the people at the time were like, what are you talking about? Why would we do this? Especially really with small and solo firms. But it was kind of a beacon, I think. And now it’s the rigor right now. It’s what everybody’s doing. 


    Debbie Foster (26:48): 

    Yeah. I remember listening to Jack speak maybe five or six years ago or something like that when they dropped Clio Cloud. And his point was, I will not say it as eloquently as he said it, but his point was like, of course it’s the cloud. I don’t need to say that anymore. I don’t need to say cloud because of course it’s the cloud. Why wouldn’t it be the cloud? There isnt really another option. And I remember that really resonating with me and thinking like, what a journey. 


    Christy Burke (27:15): 

    Definitely. Yeah, 


    Debbie Foster (27:17): 

    They were certainly thought leaders before their time and obviously had some really amazing marketing coaching from the very beginning. 


    Christy Burke (27:25): 

    That’s great. Thank you. 


    Debbie Foster (27:26): 

    Love it. Okay, Christie, last question we ask everyone, what is your leadership superpower? What’s the thing that sets you apart, something that you think is really a valuable asset that you bring to the companies that you work with? And just for you as a person contributing to the bigger picture overall good in the world. 


    Christy Burke (27:47): 

    Well, I took a look at the long list you sent me, which thank you for sending that. It was actually fun going through and thinking, what would my superpower be if I could be a superhero? And the one that really spoke to me was unwavering positivity, because I feel like my job, which is public relations and marketing, is to advocate and represent companies and product and service companies and talk about how great they are. And that goes perfectly with my personality, which is to always see the positive, to always see the opportunity to not get too hung up on pitfalls and obstacles and things that went wrong and push through and get through to the other side and win. So that was what really spoke to me. I think there is a sense of the media, where the media often is looking for how things are changing, where the money’s going, what the trends are, and sometimes getting a positive story told in the media can be challenging because they’re more often covering something that’s maybe not going as well, going wrong, scandals, whatever, people having trouble. 



    So I think focusing on the positive, but in a realistic way where you’re not expecting someone to tell your story just because you’re a nice person. I want to persuade someone to tell a story about my client because they’re doing something really groundbreaking, really interesting, not like what anyone else is doing. And I think having a positive attitude and saying, we could definitely do this, and a can do attitude is important, but my sister always says to me, she says, I tell my friends, if you’re ever on the set of survivor and you look over and you see Christie, just leave, you’ll not win. She’ll win. She’ll not cheat, but she’ll win. 


    Debbie Foster (29:48): 

    I love that. Well, if ever there was going to be a day that I’d go on the Amazing Race, I am not going on Survivor, to be perfectly clear, it’s never happening. I would love to have you in my corner as my amazing race partner. 


    Christy Burke (30:00): 

    Alright, that’s a date. That’s a date. That sounds good to me. 


    Debbie Foster (30:03): 

    Christie, thank you so much for being here. It’s been just a real pleasure to kind of relive all of those memories and talk about the 25 year-ish journey that we have had. And you have obviously built a super successful company and it’s a really inspirational story. So thank you for coming on and sharing it. 


    Christy Burke (30:22): 

    Thank you so much for having me, Debbie. This has been great. 


    Debbie Foster (30:27): 

    And that’s a wrap. Are you feeling inspired? Take that energy and go make a difference today. And don’t forget to subscribe to keep up with our latest episodes. And if today’s show really resonated with you, share this episode with your friends and colleagues. You’ll also find some resources and ways to connect in the show notes. So until our next episode, get out there and change the world.