How did you become involved in legal tech?
I went to law school to gain the skills and credibility to make a positive social impact. After graduation, I practiced for several years and was drawn to tools and processes that increased the odds of better client outcomes. As the junior lawyer on most teams, I was also often tasked with “dealing with the tech.” I eventually made the leap over to the tech side as a product manager for an early e-discovery company, and have been in various roles ever since. My current role also lets me leverage my background in change management consulting and psychology. It’s a dream job—visionary leadership, freedom to experiment, access to first movers, and a really good reason to ask questions of everyone I meet.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
I’m part of the awesome team at Nextlaw Labs, which launched in 2015 as a “skunkworks” for innovation at Dentons. It was intentionally created outside the traditional law firm structure with the mission of reinventing the business and practice of law via technology. We initially identified some specific challenges facing the legal community and rapidly scaled up a portfolio via our investment arm Nextlaw Ventures, creating a community of 10 cutting-edge, dynamic legal tech startups (a second fund is being raised now to increase the portfolio).
In accelerating these solutions into Dentons, we learned a lot about navigating the process of driving innovation into Big Law and proactively predicting client needs, devising strategies, and providing resources. We’re now expanding our toolkit to deliver “innovation as a service” consulting to Dentons and its ecosystem, doing everything from bringing transparency and better communication methods to lawyer-client relationships, to managing client co-development projects and developing practice-wide innovation strategies.
On the personal side, I’m channeling my passion for access to justice on the Board of Directors for VLSC, the Alameda County Bar Association’s pro bono arm. VLSC is a fantastic organization with high-impact programs, and I’m helping connect the dots for them by co-designing a system for virtual volunteering, implementing tech like Upsolve and finding potential collaboration opportunities with organizations including Oakland’s Civic Design Lab and the Harvard Access to Justice Lab. I’m also excited by the much-needed evolution happening in legal education and trying to keep my finger on the pulse of those developments. I’ll be part of the advisory board for UC Hastings’ LexLab when it launches later this summer—an innovation hub and incubator at my alma mater.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that you find yourself returning to or that was particularly formative for you?
It’s a work in progress, but I think Dan Linna’s Legal Services Innovation Index is providing a crucial benchmark for the industry’s transformation. Firms, law schools, and product offerings need to be assessed and tracked in a standardized way in order for us to make measurable progress in advancing legal services through much-needed innovation and collaboration. The Index is also a great way to get a high-level view of what’s happening and where in legal innovation.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
A specific example I’ve been thinking about lately is leveraging smart contracts for disaster relief. If perishable medical or food supplies must be climate controlled for rapid delivery in chaotic and difficult circumstances, smart contracts could maintain a chain of custody and accountability, tracking and flagging conditions along the way to ensure compliance with contract terms, and allowing distribution agencies on the ground to mitigate the risk of unwittingly distributing dangerous or ineffective supplies.
At a high level, there are a growing number of legal tech nonprofits, law school initiatives, and companies like Paladin leading the way here, combining sharp legal minds with a passion for democratizing access to justice through the conscious application of technology to underserved areas. Tech has the power to amplify the impact of people’s actions and accelerate the move toward a more equitable society. It’s one of the areas I’m most excited about.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Find your people. The other women on this list are a great place to start! Take every opportunity to connect, network, and learn as much as you can about the transformations taking place in the industry—change is happening in real time.
Develop relationships with great mentors who value your perspective, encourage your passion and support your career development. I’m currently part of Legal Geek’s Women in LawTech mentoring program, a global community focused on connecting, educating, and inspiring women, and supporting a pipeline of female talent in legal tech startups, legal services, or in-house legal. And informal Slack groups, like the one started by Nicole Bradick, are an excellent place to trade resources, ask questions, share insights, and find mutual support.
Bring a scientific approach: daydream/hypothesize about where legal tech is going next, then seek out data to disprove those hypotheses, and you’ll find yourself with some intriguing pathways to investigate.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
I have been profoundly inspired by Margaret Hagan’s work heading up the Legal Design Lab at Stanford, a cross-disciplinary team that applies human-centered design to creating legal products and services in incredibly diverse and important use cases. After she invited me to the Law + Design Summit last fall, I felt like everything on earth needed a design approach magic wand! It’s for good reason that legal design is fast becoming an industry buzzword and a core focus for Nextlaw Labs. The opportunities for implementing innovation in the world of law via legal design consulting are boundless.
Feature image by #WOCinTechChat