How did you become involved in legal tech?
I’ve always been fascinated by the use of technology to solve legal problems, but I didn’t have the development expertise myself. As a pro bono lawyer for domestic violence victims, I spent many hours helping clients complete process-oriented and routine tasks to get monetary and other relief. Given I was a trial lawyer by day, I should have been spending my pro bono time on issues of first impression, advocating where there was unsettled law, or preparing and representing clients at trial. So I joined forces with my co-founder and CTO to automate myself out of the initial stages of the case. We built a “TurboTax for Domestic Violence” called HelpSelf Legal, which domestic violence shelters and organizations are using to this day.
But with the recognition that I (as a lawyer) couldn’t have built this on my own, came our true calling: Documate. Documate is a no-code document automation platform that allows anyone to build their own expert system or “TurboTax for law,” in any area of law.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
Our core mission is to empower lawyers and their clients through our platform. So, we’re constantly working on ways to allow lawyers to build their wildest dreams without using any code. I always tell our clients “ask for the world, and I’ll tell you when I can give it to you.” Our latest feature provides lawyers with an analytics dashboard to visualize when their clients started and completed different workflows, store the data from those workflows (like a CRM on steroids!), and push the data anywhere.
As part of this mission, we also recently launched our Documate Automation Specialists Program (we call them “Documaters“), where any firm who doesn’t have the time (or desire) to build their own document automation workflows can have a Documater build legal apps for them. (Or, you can always read our guide to do it yourself!)
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that really helped you when you were starting out in the field?
Everything Richard Susskind, especially The Future of the Professions, because it planted the seeds in my brain about the transformative possibilities of applying technology to legal. But the best resource has been the legal tech community itself. They have been the most collaborative network, providing support, information, and learnings along this journey.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
Open source, not just with respect to technology itself, but in the way we think about the delivery of legal services. We could better serve the legal consumer if we embraced the mentality of collaboration, partnership, and inclusion existing in the open-source software community.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Think hard about sustainability when you’re developing your business model—whether that’s going to be through grants, fundraising, or a for-profit model. We launched the HelpSelf product idealistically thinking that if we built something powerful that helped people, everything else would be easy. We took those learnings into Documate, where we charge for our software, but give huge discounts to nonprofits to meet the needs of the legal aid organizations we built Documate for.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
That’s a hard one—there are so many wonderful women in legal tech. So I’ll name two. Erin Levine of Hello Divorce has built a comprehensive solution that puts the needs of the client first, they have everything from DIY to full-fledged legal representation, and they combine it with robust resources to help their users cope with the emotional aspects of divorce. The second would be Kristen Sonday of Paladin, whose software helps law firms manage their pro bono work, but who also spends much of her time advocating for and raising awareness about universal access to legal services. I met both of them early in my legal tech journey, and not only have they been an infinite source of learning and inspiration, but it’s also been exciting to watch them grow.