Laura O’Bryan is Co-Founder of MyVirtual.Lawyer.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
I started practicing law at a small litigation firm in Little Rock, AR after passing the bar in 2002. Our “technology” was close to non-existent. Three of the 10 attorneys didn’t even have computers in their offices. They had a secretary and a dictaphone… all they needed. My first introduction to legal technology, beyond research tools, began when I started working for Thomson Reuters, West in 2003. During my 12 years with the company, I was tasked with advising, reviewing, selling, and training on various technology tools TR offered that assisted lawyers in handling their litigation and transactional practices. When I joined MyVirtual.Laywer in 2017, I got a true crash course in the practitioner side of legal tech and now understand everything in such a different light. I love coming at it from this direction. Learning about new things to improve workflow, efficiency, and security has become my new passion.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
Our mission at MyVirtual.Lawyer includes always searching for the new, better, more efficient technological tools to help not only our practice and clients but also our MVL partner firms. Lately, I’ve been very focused on automation services. Automation is supremely time-intensive in the setup phase but also an amazing time saver long term. We use our practice management software for almost all of our client interactions which means having automation built in and tied to the client’s intake questionnaire is key. I have tried many different tools and am specifically focused on my practice management tool right now, but I am always looking for a less time-intensive, cumbersome and more intelligent tool.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that you find yourself returning to or that was particularly formative for you?
I honestly don’t have one particular legal tech resource that I can mention here. I think everything is great in some ways and often terrible or frustrating in some ways. That’s the nature of the beast. Products and technology are made for a specific type of audience. Sometimes the end result happens without much input from practitioners of that audience, so they fit for some but rarely, if ever, cover all needs/wants of even their target folks. It’s largely impossible to find one tool that is exactly what you need it to be unless you make it yourself, and that costs a fortune that most attorneys don’t have to invest. We tend to find something that is the closest to what we need and try to figure out how to make it do what we need. That’s why I can’t necessarily think of one thing I keep returning to or was formative for me. I really love to explore new options and see how they could possibly fill a need that we have.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
I think that attorneys need to focus on meeting consumers/clients where they are instead of where we want them to be. Specifically, the idea of mobile-friendly communication technology like client portals. Most, not all, attorneys who use practice management software are aware that they have access to a client portal. Very few attorneys actually use them to their full potential. For us at MyVirtual.Lawyer, the client portal is the central component of how we run our firm. After our initial client consultation call, everything we do is through the portal: e-signing, engagement letter, document sharing, intake questionnaire, questions, and answers. Literally everything. We live in 2019 where almost every consumer has a smartphone attached to their hand at all times. What better attorney access could there be than opening up an app and being able to see all of their communication in one place, shoot a quick message, picture, text… We have to start working in our client’s world instead of dragging them into our often antiquated one.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Take the advice that we give our girls on how to be assertive and demand equal treatment and opportunities in the legal tech world. Women are very underrepresented when looking at owners/founders of legal tech companies and law firms. Why is that? It’s not because they don’t have innovative ideas and the desire to create tools to help legal professionals improve their practice. I believe that society is still trying to catch up to embrace women leaders and entrepreneurs. My virtual, LSR law firm is women-owned, and we constantly get asked if this is a hobby and if it’s a real law firm because we’re not the norm. Legal tech has a slight advantage in that investors can be solicited from outside the attorney restrictions, but they run into all of those societal prejudices just as hard if not harder. I had a law professor who used to say “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.” You just have to push, probably eat some humble pie, and not give up. Use your community and network.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
I will always give a huge shout-out to my business partner, Brooke Moore, as she is my original innovative hero! Her mind works in amazing ways, and she’s constantly thinking of how we can do things better, bigger, more efficient, and with a broader reach.