women of legal tech

Women of Legal Tech: Vanessa Davis

The Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech initiative is intended to encourage diversity and celebrate women in legal technology. This initiative launched in 2015 with a list of innovators and leaders in legal technology and with this year’s additions, that list now includes over 80 talented and influential women leaders. Every Thursday, we will be featuring a woman from our class of 2018. This week we have Vanessa Davis!

Vanessa Davis, Vice President, Legal & Managing Product Counsel at LegalZoom. Find her on Twitter @butnickdavis.




How did you become involved in legal tech?

I started my legal career on the usual path, spending my early years at very traditional law firms. I realized fairly quickly that the traditional path wasn’t going to work for me. I think I had too many “whys” to ask of too many people. I found a company called FindLegalForms that was looking for someone to help with writing and editing legal content. I thought I would be a great fit for the role, so I applied and I got the job. It opened my eyes to the consumer side of law and to the different ways that legal services could be provided.

What projects have you been focused on recently?

One thing I’ve been focused on over the past several months is working with my Law Without Walls team as a mentor (go Ghairat!). Seeing the team go from nothing to an actually viable product prototype in weeks was truly inspiring. For those who are doubting how thoughtful, dedicated, and innovative the current crop of law students is, I invite you to get involved in LWOW and take heart.

Some things I’ve been working on internally at LegalZoom relate to our re-imagining of the customer experience. Historically, in the world of online consumer legal services, the focus has been on document-based solutions. There are a number of reasons for this: UPL regulations and ease of marketing, automation, and dissemination of forms. But there has been a shift across the board to more process-based solutions: how can you partner with a customer to solve broader problems over a longer time horizon? I have been working across our suite of products to ideate and implement solutions that move us from a transaction-based platform to a continuing customer relationship.

Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that you find yourself returning to or that was particularly formative for you?

Twitter is actually an amazing legal tech resource. You have, if not the complete universe of legal tech participants, a sizeable percentage. Once you dip your toes in, you realize a) that it’s a pretty nice bunch of folks b) news and opportunities are being shared regularly c) if there’s something you’re missing, you can request it and someone is likely to answer or direct you. How cool is that?

I also find myself using Feedly quite a bit to organize feeds from legal and tech blogs. It’s significantly more efficient than visiting each site directly and lets you stay up to date on the latest news and collate it for further distribution.

What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?

I take a rather broad view of the word “technology.” I think technology is anything that changes the way we do what we do. Pencils are a technology and recipes are a technology. On that note, an essential “thing” I think lawyers should be looking at to benefit society is themselves. Lawyers are a technology. What are we using this technology to do? What are the problems we are trying to solve and what are the problems we should be trying to solve? That is, are we focused on the right things?

What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?

My advice would vary depending on the woman: you can’t push people to be who they’re not. If you are an outgoing sort of person, use that: meet other people who are doing what you want to do and reach out to them. Go to meetups. Go to conferences. Talk, talk, talk. If the thought of this terrifies you, try something different: read, learn, and experiment until you become an authority on a topic. Then write about it. There are whole fields of legal tech work that are just starting, and you can become the go-to person on a subject if you put your mind to it.

Also, just keep your eyes open. Notice things in your legal life that drive you crazy or that don’t make sense. “Why do we always print this out and then re-upload it?” “Why are we still getting wet signatures on this kind of document?” If there’s not a good answer to your question, come up with an alternative. Then see if there’s a market for your alternative. Start your own company!

Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!

I have to give a shout out to the incomparable Nicole Bradick, CEO of Theory & Principle, who is simply a force of nature. She starts companies (plural!) and succeeds. She gets things done. She supports other women. She leaves it all on the dance floor. I want to be more like Nicole.


Feature image by #WOCinTechChat

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