Bridget McCormack is Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Find her on Twitter @BridgetMaryMc.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
The Michigan Supreme Court is charged with oversight of the courts of the state, yet we are not a unified court system. Technology, however, can virtually unify our courts. By developing and providing legal tech solutions to trial courts we are able to ensure better public service in courts around the state. This is important for lawyers and self-represented litigants alike. From big projects like statewide e-filing to online dispute resolution and text reminders of court dates, we are improving the public’s experience in our trial courts. As the Chief Justice of the Court, providing valuable tech solutions to the trial courts means providing good public service.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
Recently I have been focused on a few different projects: 1) Rolling out free online dispute resolution in a few case types, with the goal of expanding case types and making the platform available statewide. 2) Expanding access to our self-represented litigant website, MiLegalHelp.org. Specifically, I’m focused on how to get information about the site and its toolkits, information, chat tool, and resource centers in places where people who might be afraid to come to court will see it. I want people to know about what legal options they have in places and at times when they are not under the stress of a difficult court proceeding.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that really helped you when you were starting out in the field?
Hmm, I’m pretty old. As in I-started-out-as-a-Legal-Aid-lawyer-in-Manhattan-and-we-didn’t-have-email old. But I still remember each tech innovation in the profession changing my practice. As a law professor at the University of Michigan teaching the Innocence Clinic, the ability to find transcripts on PACER (ok, not a super sophisticated tech innovation, but impactful for sure) literally saved a client’s life in 2009.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
I want lawyers to be thinking about tech that gives people who can’t afford lawyers a fair shot in legal proceedings. The district courts in Michigan handle about 3 million cases each year. Many of the people involved in those cases can’t afford lawyers, yet their cases involve important matters involving their families, their housing, and their safety. Increasing access to information that will help those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer (a big number) will improve their experience and give them confidence that the courts are places where everyone has a fair shot. The downstream benefits of increased public confidence in the branch is good for the whole profession.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
All of the talents and skills that make you uniquely good at everything else will also make you uniquely good at legal tech. Understanding what people want, listening to what will truly improve their experience, is more important than the technical part of tech. Like most other industries, legal tech needs more women because our perspective and experience will make tech better and make law better. Don’t wait.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
I have never met her, but Cat Moon (@inspiredcat) inspires me. She is teaching law students to think differently and she is boldly focused on legal tech and design to improve access to justice. Perhaps as important as all that, she tweets Mary Oliver poems and that always makes my day a little brighter and a little more beautiful.