How did you become involved in legal tech?
I got interested in legal tech a few years back when Miguel Wills, Founder of the ATJ Tech Fellows, produced the first Social Justice Hackathon at Seattle University School of Law. As a legal aid executive director at the time, I was inspired by watching the interdisciplinary teams of lawyers, law students, and technologists problem solve and come up with digital solutions to increase access to justice. Soon after, I decided to transition from my legal aid leadership role and went out on a limb to start a new adventure called popupjustice. The idea came to me in my meditation room, and the vision is that “A virtuous cycle of invention is necessary for a more equitable and just society, where different ideas meet and people come together to imagine, invent, and build community.” I would call it a social justice startup, operating at the intersection of technology, justice, pop culture, and communications.
Last year, I had the opportunity to redirect my career immediately after I finished as Executive Director of Columbia Legal Services and served as an Inaugural ABA Innovation Fellow, a short 10-12 week fellowship for mid-career attorneys focused on an access to justice-related tech project.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
My specific project I have focused on while an ABA Innovation Fellow was the creation of an interdisciplinary scholar-advocate matching platform, ithinksam.org, a knowledge market for a meeting of the minds where people with potentially complementary expertise and a shared goal can meet and match up to do something: whether policy, practice, or some other project. Another project I am working up is the Rural American Digital Lab, an effort between Heritage University and Whitman College to create an innovation lab for not only experiential learning and innovation for rural-based students, but also a lab for innovating rural community based solutions, which potentially includes access to justice, healthcare, agricultural tech, and other regional issues.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that you find yourself returning to or that was particularly formative for you?
It is all still new to me and so I am learning every day.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
I think gamification of access to justice issues can be an interesting approach to community outreach and education about a variety of legal issues and legal rights. The experiential and dynamic process also lends itself to the empathy and engagement. At the same time, the outcomes and experiences can also be useful for educating people about why policies and practices might need to change. In this regard, for policy and other decision makers, reentry simulations—where you are trying to educate people about the complexities and difficulties related to securing basic needs and getting back on their feet for people who are reentering society after finishing their prison sentence, is one example of how gamification can be an education and enlightening tool. Poverty simulations for policy makers and other decision makers, might also be a method to have a more enlightened and informed discussion about the cross-sector systemic issues that need cross-sector systemic solutions.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Jump in. There are many of us who will catch you. There is so much good hard work to do. Justice reform needs more diverse perspectives at all levels, from policy, practice, to products and from design to deployment.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
Claudia Johnson, another sister-in-justice who has made this year’s list, is someone I very much admire and am inspired by. Beyond her work as a technologist innovating access to justice platforms and forms, she is also sharing her knowledge and helping to mentor and welcome other technologists of color to join the community of to deliver tech-justice to people experiencing injustice because of life at the margins. She is one of the few people who inspired me to take a leap of faith to re-imagine justice beyond the courtroom and halls of legislative power, and into the communities we serve.
Feature image by #WOCinTechChat