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Time With The Boss - Tracy James, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri

Tracy James
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri


Website: www.lsem.org
Industry: Legal Services/Nonprofit

Education: B.A.; Political Science and History, Rice University; J.D., University of Nebraska

Family: My husband, 3 sons and 1 daughter.

What is your mission?
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri is a nonprofit organization providing free civil legal services to the low-income community in 21 counties in Eastern Missouri since 1956. Community Economic Development offers legal help to entrepreneurs and neighborhoods remediate vacant and abandoned housing through the legal process.

What was your first job?
My first job ever was when I was 15 and worked at a fast food restaurant called Danver’s in Houston.

What was your worst job?
My worst job ever was as a telemarketer selling prepaid legal plans while I was in college. I hated cold-calling people asking them to buy something. Relationship-building is a much better way to sell someone an idea, especially if I believe in it.

What led you to your industry?
When I was a homeless teen in Houston, a guardian ad litem accompanied me through the court process. Later, my mother sued her employer for gender discrimination where she ultimately lost, but I really thought I could do a better job than my mother’s attorney did for her.

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?
Creating a new program that I manage called the Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative. We help City residents and community-based organizations in the City of St. Louis reduce the problem of vacant, abandoned, and blighted housing through legal tools. This program will help stabilize neighborhoods and create more affordable housing.

Who is your industry role model?
Alyce Herndon of Grace Hill Women’s Business Center. She sees opportunity in others, especially African-American women entrepreneurs who are aspiring to be successful for themselves and their families. Nationally, Marcus Lemonis of The Profit.

How do you try to differentiate your business from others in your industry?
We are a nonprofit law firm and have a niche practice: not too many lawyers want to offer free legal services to low-income communities.

What’s the hottest trend in your industry, and are you going to jump on board?
Incubators. I would love to start a free/low-cost incubator for low-income entrepreneurs in Cortex where it could be more holistic: offer business-counseling, accounting and legal services.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
Seeing what our clients face on a daily basis to make a better life for themselves and not being able to do more for them.

What’s the best part?
Seeing the wins: helping a single mother of three start a successful business that gets funded, expands and hires employees; knowing we did the legal work to help her become successful.

What best advice would you share with new entrepreneurs?
Three pieces of advice: find a niche, develop a business plan, and don’t sign contracts without a lawyer first reviewing it.

What book is on your nightstand?
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Genetic genealogy.
Submitted 2 years 299 days ago
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