How did you become involved in legal tech?
Purely by accident! I was hired as the Legal Operations Manager at HP back in 1999 before legal tech was even a thing. Over my many years there, legal tech boomed and I tagged along for the ride. During that time we started to see more and more tech solutions emerge, and legal operations became a viable career path. At one point, I started to reach out to others in my field, eventually forming CLOC (the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) with them, and ACC also started a legal ops branch, so information about technology became readily available to anyone who sought it. The legal tech transformation has been amazing to watch thus far, and with sophisticated clients demanding better solutions along with the infusion of all kinds of funding, I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
While in-house, my goal was to implement world-class technology for my legal department. Now that I’ve been consulting for the last year and a half, my goal is still the same, and it’s no surprise that technology is the number one request from clients. Developing IT strategies and roadmaps, and the selection and implementation of systems, keep us quite busy. We’re often asked to help select and implement very specific solutions like contracts management, e-billing, and knowledge management, but more and more we’re being asked to help with the development of technology roadmaps, which is very exciting because it shows that companies are starting to think about technology in a more strategic fashion rather than just random implementations.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that you find yourself returning to or that was particularly formative for you?
This is a tough one because as a “vendor” there aren’t a lot of formal resources out there for us. In my current role, I basically do the same thing I did in-house for 20 years, but rather than just one company, I now represent about 25. I’m not selling any particular solution—I’m tech agnostic, but networking organizations don’t allow consultants like me to participate, and this puts us, and ultimately our clients, at a disadvantage. From my experience, crowdsourcing is the best way to get information on a specific solution. Those networks allow you to ask questions about solutions like, “How do you like it? Was it easy to implement? How is their customer service?” But even though I’m representing many in-house departments, I can’t participate in these discussions directly. So instead, I have my clients reach out to their organizations, and I reach out to my network of consultants who have been great about sharing their experiences with certain solutions. Nonetheless, I do think there’s an opportunity to really bring this ecosystem together rather than keeping the solution providers and advisors at arm’s length, and I hope that changes in the near future.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
Hands down, it’s blockchain. I’m not an expert in this area, at least not yet, but from what I’ve been learning, blockchain has the potential to remove the barriers caused by institutions. Getting financial aid to war-torn countries can be done for next to nothing with blockchain. I think this technology is going to prove every bit as important as AI, if not more so. And I think AI + blockchain will solve our significant access to justice issues.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Do it! Law is a great place for women to begin with, and legal tech is a burgeoning field in need of smart women. If you’re in the legal field now and have an interest in technology, I would latch on to a tech project with your operations and IT teams and learn everything you can. If you’re in IT and interested in legal tech, talk to your legal operations manager or even your company’s GC to find out their tech priorities. Either way, roll up your sleeves and get started. Diving into a project is the best way to learn about legal tech.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
This is a terrible question because I’m going to forget someone and feel awful about it later! But I’ll give it a shot. Just focusing in on technology, not the broader umbrella of legal ops, the women I reach out to for advice are Lucy Bassli from InnoLegal Services (formerly Microsoft), Monica Zent from Foxwordy, Nancy Jessen from UnitedLex, Susan Hackett from Legal Executive Leadership, Mary Lucas from Busylamp, Lisa Konie from Adobe, and Misha Delarkin from Flex. These women have given me great support, friendship, and advice along the way. They supported me when I made the huge, scary move from in-house to consulting, and they give me great tech advice, making me better at my job and more valuable to my clients.