IT Help Atlanta with Rick Higgins: Honey Shaw, DeWoskin Law Firm and Chris McCaleb, Georgia Association of REALTORS
On this edition of “IT Help Atlanta,” host Rick Higgins welcomed Honey Shaw to discuss her law firm’s work on behalf of clients, and Chris McCaleb to address the work his association does on behalf of Georgia’s realtor community. “IT Help Atlanta” is brought to you by TeamLogic IT, your technology advisor.
Honey Shaw, Associate Attorney, Dewoskin Law Firm
DeWoskin Law firm is a small trial litigation firm based in Decatur, Georgia. They specialize in personal injury litigation but also handle criminal defense and consumer debt defense matters. They serve both Fulton and DeKalb counties as well as the surrounding metro areas. Honey Shaw is an associate attorney at the DeWoskin Law Firm.
Honey earned her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law. In addition to her litigious work, Honey is a registered mediator with the Georgia Office of Alternate Dispute Resolution. Prior to her practicing law, Honey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish at the University of Georgia. When she is not working, Honey enjoys pickling vegetables, walking her dogs, and watching rugby.
Chris McCaleb, Director of IT, Georgia Association of REALTORS®
The Georgia Association of REALTORS® is the largest trade association in the state, with more than 43,000 members across Georgia.
Chris McCaleb has been the GAR Director of IT since 2014.
About the Show
“IT Help Atlanta” profiles small to mid-market businesses and highlights how those companies use technology to succeed. An archive of previous shows can be found here.
About Your Host
Rick Higgins is Owner and President of TeamLogic IT of Dunwoody, GA. Rick’s firm is part of a national network of locally-owned service businesses, providing comprehensive IT services to the small-medium sized business market.
They offer managed service for networking, cyber security, data and email, as well as hardware and software support in addition to a variety of consultation and preventative maintenance services. Rick’s personal and corporate philosophy is simple: Stand up, be bold, and tell the truth.
Rick: Welcome, everyone, to the “IT Help Atlanta” radio show, the show that profiles, small and medium, mid-market businesses, and highlights how those companies use technology to succeed. “IT Help Atlanta” is brought to you by TeamLogic IT, your managed services technology advisor, specializing in cybersecurity, cloud, and business continuity solutions. TeamLogic leverages cutting edge technology to solve all types of business problems. Go to ithelpatlanta.com for audio archives of this radio show and to learn more about our sponsor, TeamLogic IT.
I’m your host Rick Higgins, and today’s special guests are Chris McCaleb, the director of IT for the Georgia Association of Realtors, and Ms. Honey Shaw, an associate attorney for the DeWoskin Law Firm. Welcome, guys.
Chris: Hi, there.
Honey: Thank you.
Rick: Good morning to both of you. And thank you for being here. We’re gonna do the interview process. We’re gonna start with Chris. And Honey, if you’ll just hang on for a minute or so, and we’re gonna get to you. But Chris, let’s start in with you. Tell the audience who you are, and what do you do?
Chris: Okay, so, I’m Chris McCaleb. Happy to be here by the way. Thanks for having me on, Rick. I am the director of IT for the Georgia Association of Realtors. That’s the state association for anyone that’s a realtor in Georgia. Of course, realtors will have a local association, and then the state. And what we do for realtors is we provide the ongoing education that they need to have to maintain their realtor status, as well as a full set of legal forms and conference opportunities. So, I am the IT director for the association. And it’s actually, even though it’s for the entire state, it is a small business, because I support primarily a relatively small staff. So, that’s what I do.
Rick: So, that’s great, Chris, thanks. Give us the success story. How have you helped folks? And I know you help both, not just the folks that are internal within the Georgia Association of Realtors, but you help the clients as well.
Chris; Yeah. So, I think that one of the big things that we, which is probably common to a lot of companies, is that when I came into it, about eight years ago at this point, it was still kind of in the process. It was still, basically, a very traditional shop. It’s a small shop. It’s just got a lot of giant servers hanging out in a dark server room. And having gone through the process of moving incrementally into the cloud, and then having, you know, having the finance team or the leadership team say, “Hey, do we not have these expenses anymore of this hunk of metal in the closet?” And I say, “No, we don’t. It’s in the cloud.” And of course, there are expenses there. But it just opens a lot of stuff up for us.
And it’s ideal for what we are, for the smaller company. And still in the process of doing it, but…and to my happiness, they’re very open for that kind of change, too. So, that’s been a good experience.
Rick: You guys do normally, during normal times…you know, here we are, it’s June 24th, or some 16 to 17 weeks into the COVID situation. We’re not fully shut down here in Georgia, but we’re trickling back. I think that was the word you used earlier, are trickling back into work. And we’re seeing that in our client base as well. Are you guys at all back in your classroom for the in-class stuff?
Chris: We’re not. And it’s been an interesting transition, just like for everybody in the world. But for a company that essentially puts on events, you know, whether they’re education events or whatever, and like a lot of other companies, we have become experts in Zoom. I mean, Zoom has made…you know, the video conference company that we’ve centered on and they’ve made it incredibly easy. And, you know, the professional development team at our company has…frankly, they’ve always been on the forefront of that kind of thing even before me.
And so they were ready to pivot very quickly. There’s some regulatory stuff around it, around, you know, whether the continuing education credits will apply if you’re not in person, but they’ve navigated that. So, we’re not yet in the classroom fully yet. We’ve just done a couple of one-off events where people are spaced out very, you know…with a lot of distance, but…and I think that will be how it’ll continue for a while. And it’s also been interesting, too, to get the feedback from members who have said, “Wow, this really works out. We could have been doing this all along.”
You know, and, of course, there’s no substitute, of course, for…or it’s not the same, of course, as in person. But you know, this technology has been there for a long time. So, maybe that will be a very slight silver lining out of all of this.
Rick: Have you seen that your, and I know you guys watch this pretty closely, have you guys seen your roles, your membership roles, increase, decline, stay steady? What are you seeing on that?
Chris: I don’t think we’ve seen any kind of decline yet. It’s probably a little early to tell because, you know, just kind of the cycle of things like this. But it’s one of the things that, you know, we’ll be watching very, very closely, and of course, it’ll depend on the market, and that kind of thing, too. But leadership has been really working, you know, around every cycle to try to make sure that we can pivot to do what we need to do during these strange new times that we’re in.
Rick: So, that kind of covers your client base, and that they’re not back yet, quite yet. But what about your staff, your internal staff, what’s that process of coming back to work look like for you?
Chris: So, what we’re looking at right now, for the last two or three weeks, we’ve had skeleton staff in the office. And they have sort of staggered our hours. I think even down to the point where, and I was speaking to you about this earlier, of trying to kind of do the calculation of whose office is physically in proximity to another one. So, let’s not have two neighbors come in on the same day. So, we’ve been staggering just…either the head of the department, or one member of the department. And about two days a week, you know, depending on what the thing is. I’ve been working from home. I mean, it feels like 30 years, but I guess what has it been, 3 months? I don’t know.
Rick: I know.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve started to go in two days a week for the last I guess, whatever month. And, you know, I’m met at each door with masks and hand sanitizer, and we have a sort of a set of protocols. But we’re planning to open up a little bit more in July and, you know, have had a lot discussions around that. And there’ll be more people in. But leadership has, you know, made it clear that they want people to be comfortable, you know. And so yeah, it’s been a positive experience in terms of how they’ve set it up for us, I have to say.
Rick: You know, you said that you guys were able to pivot very quickly for remote with both your classroom activities and your staff. But, you know, that’s a credit to you, Chris, for the work that you’ve done. And, you know, full disclosure to the listening audience here, Chris is a client of ours, and we’ve known each other for some four years or so. You know, and the work that you did to prepare for that, did you find that you yourself and your project scopes, did you have to pivot at all on your projects? Did you have to bring something new in and change your mind? Or did you just continue to keep doing what you’re doing?
Chris: You know, I’m really lucky that I have the position that I do. I’m a one-man show. And I’m lucky that I have the position that the staff are very self-sufficient. A number of them were already working remotely. We have a government affairs staff, for instance, that primarily do work, you know, down at the capital and that kind of thing. So, they are, basically, remote already. So, my projects end up being sort of a lot of support, and development of sort of the web applications we have.
So, you know, that’s continued as it’s gone. What I found is that I have to do a lot of checking…just like anybody, I have to kinda do a lot of checking in online with people to make sure they’re doing okay. And then, of course, they do the same with me. So, I’ve been very lucky, and it hasn’t had to be a huge pivot to do that. Pretty much we were kind of on the road to do that, just kind of goose the accelerator a little bit on it.
Rick: Gotcha. So again, Chris, we’ve known each other for a while now, and I know a little bit about your background. I know that in your past, you’ve worked for very large companies. But the Georgia Association of Realtors, at the end of the day, really is a small business. How do you like the difference, or I should say this…I should ask you this way, what do you like about working for a small business compared to the big business environment?
Chris: Yeah, it won’t surprise you I bet to learn that you get to, not only because I’m the head of the department, but because it’s smaller, you can move a lot quicker. You can pivot a lot quicker, and you have because you know…and the needs are a lot smaller. So, there’s a lot less meetings, with your team, around an initiative that might be going on. And if you learn of something that’s a great idea, that you wanna bring on, or something that you need to phase out, you can move on it fairly quickly. And I’m extremely lucky that I have, like I’ve said, management that is…they trust me, and I’m also lucky that I’ve found some, to give you guys a plug, some really good allies.
You know, so I know that if I have gotten myself into a corner, or in over my head, I know who to call. And it’s just easier to do all that when it’s a smaller company. And, you know, it’s been a fantastic professional experience to come to something small from something big, because I’ve been in organizations that are global, and there’s so many advantages to that. But a lot of the decision making, a lot of the, you know, the big picture is just completely out of my field of vision. And you know, I have my own little hat, my own little corner of the world to deal with.
But coming into a smaller company after that, and sort of having been prepped for it, for being a generalist, I should say, I do everything from…I met somebody whose desktop to figure out why Excel is not working, and then I’m also, you know, developing web applications for the company. So, the large company gave me a very good background to come into a small company. And it was…you know, it’s been very good. It’s been very good to be able to try stuff out that I want to try out and get to do it very quickly.
Rick: That’s great. And thanks for the plug. Chris, what’s an aspect of your business that people don’t generally think about, but that you wish people would ask you about?
Chris: I think that, you know, when we had talked about this question earlier, I came at it from the perspective not just of this business, but I guess all of support. And this is to kind of focus on sort of the level…the part of it that I’ve been interested in is…you know, I love the geeky stuff, but I also love being able to just kind of help somebody personally out. That’s kind of help somebody out with their job. And the thing that I wish that people would ask me about, in a general sense, more is am I doing, whatever this process is that I’m doing at my desk, is there some way I could be doing it differently?
I think everybody kinda comes to working on a computer in a different way. And I’m kind of I’m always astounded at sort of like the assumptions, and sometimes the really strange labyrinths that people put themselves through to get some basic tasks done. And sometimes I think maybe I should just kinda sit behind them in their office for a while and watch how they do things. And some people are very savvy with computers, some people are not. And I wish, this is not a very high-level answer, but I wish people would say, “Hey, how can I be doing this better? Do I really need to go through 32 steps to create this spreadsheet or is there something simpler?”
Because there’s nothing better…to me, the best thing is when you’ve provided somebody with an answer or a tool that is just gonna make their job easier, so they can actually do their job and not have to worry about the tools of their job. So…
Rick: I think that is a high-level answer because you’ve just told us how you are fulfilled in your work. I mean, what’s [crosstalk 00:14:30]
Chris: Absolutely, yeah. And, you know, the people I work with are… When somebody is grateful to you for something that kind of is you didn’t even think it was, you know, an obstacle, it’s a really nice feeling, too. And you know, and some people…but some people just have their own process, too. And that’s okay as well. You know, you just wanna be there to help them if they need it.
Rick: Yeah. Yeah. Okay, great. Well, Chris, I wanna wrap up with you. But tell the audience how to get in touch with you. What are the best avenues for that?
Chris: Sure. If they wanna get in touch with me for any reason, the best thing, and just I won’t make anybody memorize an entire email address now, but our website is garealtor.com. That’s for Georgia Realtor, it’s garealtor.com. And I’m right there in the staff section. Can’t miss me. I’m the only guy in the IT department. And if you ever have any questions about any part of it, I’d love to answer them or get you to somebody that can.
Rick: Chris, thank you so much. I’m gonna wrap up with you, and pivot over to interview with Honey. But before I do that, I wanna read our commercial blog…blurb one more time. “IT Help Atlanta” is brought to you by TeamLogic IT, your managed services technology advisor, specializing in cybersecurity, cloud, and business continuity solutions. TeamLogic leverages cutting edge technology to solve all types of business problems. Go to ithelpatalnta.com for audio archives of this show, and to learn more about our sponsor, TeamLogic IT. So now, Miss Honey Shaw, the associate attorney for the DeWoskin Law Firm. Honey, tell the audience who you are and what do you do?
Honey: So, as you said, I am an associate attorney for the DeWoskin Law Firm. We’re based out of Decatur. We are a small trial litigation firm. We serve mainly DeKalb and Fulton Counties. But we go all over the metro area. And we handle three main practice areas. Our specialty is personal injury law, which I’ve been working in for about the past three years, three and a half years. And we also handle criminal defense cases and consumer debt cases. But mainly, we practice in plaintiff’s personal injury.
Rick: Honey, how do you guys find your clients, or how do they find you, I should say?
Honey: Well, I am lucky enough that the founder and partner at my law firm is one of the most popular men in DeKalb County, I would say. We can hardly walk into a courthouse, restaurants, you know, sometimes even the sidewalk, and everybody knows who Dan DeWoskin is. So, that’s a big contributing factor to our client base. But there’s three attorneys that make up our firm. We all network very heavily, and we try to, you know, put as much stock into the clients that we are currently seeing so that then those turn into more referrals. So, a big part of our client base is, you know, client to client referrals.
Rick: Gotcha. So, give us a success story. It doesn’t have to be anything recent, just something that you’re really proud of where you helped somebody.
Honey: Oh man, one of my first cases, one of my first criminal defense cases, was a juvenile case. And a big part of that, you know, you’ve got scared kids, you know, maybe made a mistake, and then definitely concerned parents. So, parents worried about college admissions, obviously, you know, maybe even jail time, but it’s just a lot of anxiety in those cases. So, I really appreciated the fact that I was able to get in and not only calm down, you know, the juvenile who was being charged with a criminal, you know, citation, but to also, you know, be able to be with his mom, both in and out of the courtroom and, you know, let her know that everything was gonna be fine.
We were working hard. She had a good kid. You know, we were able to sit down with the solicitor and his case and get everything cleared up for him. Everything dismissed. And I got a thank you card from both him and his mother. And a thank you card from, you know, a teenage boy was unexpected, but probably one of my favorite things that I’ve received to date from many of my cases because it just kinda shows that despite the results that we get, we do really put in the time for our clients, and we want them to feel that we’re paying attention to their case from point A, you know, to Z. And so just being able to be a resource and a calming presence for his whole family when he was going through that was one of my favorite, favorite stories to tell.
Rick: I’m really glad you picked that story to share because it profiles something really important about you, and that is that you don’t just do personal injury work, but you do criminal defense work as well.
Honey: Right. We like to say, we do specialize in personal injury, but we do like to say, “You know, if you wanna sue somebody, just give us a call, see what we can do for you.”
Rick: Yeah, I have a list of about 30 people I want to get with you after this call. I wanna sue [crosstalk 00:20:35]
Honey: Okay. We’ll do that.
Rick: No, I’m just kidding. Did you always wanna be an attorney?
Honey: I actually had no idea. I would say maybe even up until my third year of law school, I wasn’t sure. I definitely did not think that I was going to be a litigator. I was handling tax matters. When I was in school, I was working as a student attorney, and I was settling cases with the IRS. But even before law school, I thought I was gonna go into some sort of policymaking. And I think that I made the pivot from maybe legislative, government, or politic work when I was in that third year of law school after I’d finished constitutional law, and then when I had, you know, gotten a couple years of working in a law firm, working, you know, settling cases for people.
And getting that face to face interaction, I think is really what made me want to become an attorney is, you know, talking to people about, you know, for example, their tax issue. And then being able to interpret the law was just so incredible to me, because it seems like this, you know, almost, you know, other language to some folks? Because it is. I mean, it’s confusing. We call it legalese. And so I think it’s really great to be able to take somebody and say, “You know, you’re not stupid for not being able to understand this. You know, I still don’t understand a ton of the law that I don’t specialize in.” But being able to be that resource for people, really is what changed my mind, and made me want to pursue a career where I was working with people and, you know, advocating for their positions.
Rick: So, great answer. I know from some pre-interview work that you and I did, that you also work in mediation. How is being a mediator different from being an attorney and which kinda work do you prefer to do?
Honey: Oh, that’s a tough question. To answer the first one, mediation is entirely different from being an attorney, because you are not advocating for either party. You don’t represent a party, and you are not a decision-maker. So, a mediator is completely separate from an arbitrator. You know, you are effectively a go-between for parties to negotiate a, you know, mutual settlement. I really enjoy alternate dispute resolution. I think that it is a growing trend in the legal field. I think there used to be a lot of attorneys who would dig their heels in at the, you know, mention of mediation because you don’t have the opportunity to, you know, do all of the drama in the courtroom that you’ve been working so hard towards.
You know, you don’t get your day in court, and some clients really want that. But in some cases, and you know, as we see more today, especially in personal injury cases, you know, most of our clients, I would, you know, almost say, all clients are really not looking for that billboard $1.5 million settlement. People are looking, you know, to have their injuries taken care of, and not have to worry about some hulking, you know, hospital bill. And mediation is a really great tool to get both parties in and to say, “You know, look, this is what they’re dealing with. We only need this amount of money to cover this.”
And I think it just takes a big contentious factor out of, you know, negotiations. You lay eyes on people. You’re not just negotiating over the phone. You know, you’re talking to one another about what the actual stakes of that civil suit are. And then you’re able to reach a common, you know, decision, and it just takes a lot of that anger and emotion that can kind of come out in a trial out of it. And I do appreciate that part of mediation. But I am a bulldog when I need to be for my clients. So, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love litigating.
Rick: How has COVID affected you and your work? I know that you said you like to be, you know, in the room with people and, you know, working with people and looking them in the eye. But have you been able to do that here in the last 15, 16 weeks?
Honey: We have adapted very smoothly I think, and there’s the beginning when, you know, the supreme court order in Georgia has been extended twice now to keep courthouses closed. So, although we’re not able to do a whole lot from a filing and, you know, actually going to hearing standpoint, we are utilizing FaceTime, Zoom, Houseparty, every sort of visual communication tool that we can find, and making that work with our clients. And we’re also, you know, very kind of surprised at how everybody else has transitioned. You know, we just took a video call from the jail yesterday.
And we do miss the people part of it. I think that we could say for our whole firm, you know, people are the main reason why all of us do what we do. But we are making as many efforts as we can to, you know, keep in touch with our clients. And that has been one of the benefits, I think, is for all of us to, you know, get together on all of our cases. And although we do work very closely, on a lot of our cases together, you know, some things I handle myself, other things my partners handle, you know, on their own. So, this has been a kind of interesting and great time for us to get to know some of our clients that maybe we weren’t working with as much.
Rick: Great. So, DeWoskin Law Firm is, at the end of the day, is a very small business in terms of employees. What do you like best about working for a small business?
Honey: So many things. I love the other two attorneys that I work with and work for. They are two of the greatest attorneys I’ve ever met. They both have phenomenal backgrounds that I think really provides, you know, kind of rich background for our firm. And I fit really nicely between the two of them. So, it’s great that, you know, as I’m in the beginning of my legal career, that I have such phenomenal resources that I can work so closely with on, you know, a ton of variety of cases. And that’s also the benefit to our firm is that we can be a little more picky when we want to in choosing cases. And then we can, you know, choose what sort of things we want to bring to the firm.
And that was very early on expressed to me, you know, like, “Hey, we want to see you succeed, and we want you to help our firm succeed. And you know, if you think that this is gonna be successful, then speak up. So, it’s definitely a groupthink sort of environment. And I appreciate that we bring everybody into our, you know, discussions about strategy and how to approach things, you know, and our paralegal keeps us all running. I mean, she’s the greatest and the best and we would be nowhere without her and, you know, our office manager as well. So, it’s just everybody who is here is contributing an equal amount, you know, to our successes, and then everybody is there to, you know, share in the failures, and then to regroup and get back on the horse. So, it’s just a very kind of positive environment.
Rick: Yeah, failure is not about getting knocked down. It’s about getting back up because no one goes through life undefeated.
Honey: And especially not in my field.
Rick: Right, right. What is…? This is my favorite question, Honey. I always ask this question. What’s an aspect of your business that people don’t tend to think about, but that you wish people would ask you about?
Honey: I think that, you know, a lot of people forget to kind of ask who their attorneys are. I think that it’s just kind of like, “You’re an attorney. And that’s your only character trait.” And like I was just saying, you know, I wish folks would, when they came to do consults with us, you know, want to get to know kind of who we are without us throwing it in their face. And you know, because we don’t want it to come across as, you know, listen to all of our accomplishments and accolades.
But I think it’s a very important factor to consider when you’re choosing an attorney, you know, what sort of background does this person have? What are their specialties? What have they done, you know, previously? And I think that’s why we are such effective attorneys and advocates for our clients is because of the experience that we all bring, you know, by the other partner, Alex Merritt, is a former ADA for DeKalb County. So, he brings a total, you know, different perspective to criminal defense cases, than, you know, I would have. And Dan is a former and is still post certified sheriff’s deputy. So, you know, he brings an interesting perspective to things as well.
So, we have all of this kind of… And Dan and I were both in the same Georgia State mediation clinic. He just…I think 15 years before me. But we have that sort of background that helps us, you know, make decisions in our cases. And when you ask your attorneys what they have done previously, it kind of sheds light on maybe who do they know? Are they going to be in a… You know, are they familiar with this courthouse? Have they mediated before? You know, have they even taken other cases to mediation? So, just getting to know your attorney, I think, is just a wildly important thing. Because you’re gonna be working with them for a really long time. And that’s another thing that people don’t realize is how long litigation actually takes. And it’s a couple years. So, if you hate your attorney, or if you didn’t know something about them because you didn’t ask, it’s gonna make that process much more difficult for the both of you.
Rick: Well, I think that that aspect, that you just mentioned, is your number one biggest competitive advantage in this world, Honey, because nobody hates you. Everybody loves you.
Honey: I want you to follow me around everywhere, Rick. Tell everyone that.
Rick: And I’m not saying that to be funny. I’m genuinely saying that to the listening audience, and I compliment you on that aspect of your personality because you really are a genuine person.
Honey: I appreciate it. Thank you. Right. I do try my best, and I would definitely say the same for you.
Rick: Thank you. Honey, tell the audience how to get in touch with you.
Honey: So, it’s very easy. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. But as our listeners can hopefully tell, now, I do love to talk. So, you can always call my office at 404-987-0026.
Rick: And the domain for the website of the company [crosstalk 00:33:04]
Honey: And it is atlantatrial.com. Very easy.
Rick: Okay, atlantatrial.com. No hyphens, no underscores.
Honey: No hyphens.
Rick: All right.
Honey: No nothing.
Rick: Right. Honey, thank you so much. So, that’s a wrap for the interview part of the show. Folks, go to ithelpatlanta.com for the audio archives of this radio show, and other radio shows that we’ve done in the past and to learn more about our sponsor, TeamLogic IT. For my guests, Chris McCaleb and Honey Shaw, I’m Rick Higgins, and join us next time on “IT Help Atlanta.”