How did you become involved in legal tech?
That question is going to show how long I’ve been in this game. I started using technology as part of my litigation practice early on in 1997 and my use and knowledge of it have grown exponentially as a result of my e-discovery practice with ESI Attorneys. A big part of our practice is reviewing and identifying technologies that will benefit both our practice and that of our clients, and recommending and implementing those solutions. We are working every day with our client’s technology, so it gives me an opportunity to see what works in business that can be leveraged in legal.
In 2011, I took the next step in legal tech by creating eDiscovery Assistant for our use at our firm. By designing and developing an application from scratch, I learned the complexities of development, what project management really means, where the holes are in legal tech and in e-discovery specifically, and the importance of having a lawyer involved in the design of a product built for lawyers. I now have both perspectives on technology—from the development and user side—and they have given me insights into what we can do better, faster, cheaper, as well as what ESI is available for discovery and how to get it.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
eDiscovery Assistant is our primary focus on the development side. Back in 2011, we needed a tool in our practice at ESI Attorneys that provided access to e-discovery case law, rules, and information at our fingertips. Traditional legal platforms were too clunky, so we built our own. As colleagues asked for access, we built eDiscovery Assistant out into a subscription-based web tool that we released late last year.
eDiscovery Assistant is a legal research and learning center for lawyers and legal professionals that touch the e-discovery process or need to understand technology. We are building a community of users who need to stay up to speed on developments in e-discovery on demand who can leverage each other’s knowledge to solve their issues. The explosion of e-discovery case law (over 900 decisions in 2017 alone) and changes in rules across the country means that the traditional legal research platforms can’t give lawyers the answers they need without a tremendous amount of digging. That’s problematic—first because clients don’t want to pay for research and reinventing the wheel, and second because lawyers would rather focus on the merits of the case. eDiscovery Assistant rethinks the delivery of legal research and legal education by creating a proprietary tagging structure for our case law to reduce research from hours to a few clicks. And our Learning Center (coming in mid-May) provides short, practical videos and other content to teach lawyers what they need to know when they need to know it. One of our biggest challenges has been that information in the legal space is very inconsistent in format and in sources of the data—even judicial decisions are all formatted differently. It makes putting that information in an easily deliverable format much more difficult than many people understand.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that you find yourself returning to or that was particularly formative for you?
Because we built what we needed, I use eDiscovery Assistant almost every day. We also use review software regularly on the firm side as well as analytics tools that help us get down to key data faster. In terms of formative software, of course, traditional legal research tools are what I cut my teeth on; we just needed the next generation that focused primarily on e-discovery, so we figured out the specific need and built ours for the next generation of lawyers and legal professionals.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
Generally, software that allows lawyers to collaborate and stop reinventing the wheel. My answer is broader than the question you asked, but some of the societal legal problems I see are the result of lawyers having to continually figure out the same process over and over again. What if public defenders had access to a database of tools or forms or materials curated from across the country that let them help a client better inexpensively by leveraging what other lawyers have learned? What if a social security or a disability lawyer had the benefit of knowing what successful arguments have been made on behalf of other clients across the country? We have so much data that can be used to provide better service to clients, but we are not using it and collaborating. Lawyers operate (even at large firms) like little fiefdoms. Technology can help us collaborate and do more for our clients faster. The benefit of technology for lawyers is that we can stop doing, doing, doing all the time and get back to what we are paid for: thinking.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Just do it. If you love the law and you love technology, the industry needs you. The legal profession operates far behind the curve of traditional business, and we need to catch up faster. The opportunities for building are immense and the market is just developing on the buyer side. Well thought-out technology that can allow us to leverage the brainpower of attorneys across the country looking for the same answers to help clients better, faster, and cheaper is what we need. I see women as uniquely positioned to bring new tech to the table because we are constantly figuring out ways to build better systems in our daily lives and technology is just an extension of that.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
There are so many! Monica Bay, former Editor-in-Chief of LTN, Mary Mack, Executive Director of ACEDS, Kaylee Walstad, Director of Strategic Partnerships for ACEDS, Ariana Tadler of Milberg and Metajure, Nicole Braddick, CEO of Theory and Principle, Hsiaolei Miller of Breaking Media, Julia Romero Peter of Cloud Nine, Joy Holley of Bryan Cave, Maura Grossman, Professor at University of Waterloo and the Georgetown University Law Center, and retired Judge Shira Scheindlin are the immediate ones that come to mind. In their own ways, what these women have done have given me insights into what can be done and what risks can be taken to shake up a static industry. Most all of them have had different roles and perspectives in legal tech over the last 20 years and have helped us mold the ecosystem into a booming one right now. I’m privileged to join them.
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