Bernadette Bulacan Starin is the Lead Evangelist at Icertis. Find her on Twitter @InHouse_Bern.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
It’s shocking as I write this down, but I became involved in legal tech almost 20 years ago! (Note: if you think selling technology to lawyers is hard today, imagine what the uphill battle was like in the early 2000s, before the Great Recession). Serengeti Law first launched its e-billing and matter management platform, Tracker, in 2001. I joined the company in early 2002, right after the September 11 attacks and the demise of the Silicon Valley law firm. At the time, Serengeti was still an early-stage, venture capital-backed start-up. Shortly after joining, however, I found myself riding with Serengeti’s newly appointed “turn around” CEO, trying to raise additional capital to keep the company and Tracker alive. I quickly discovered that the venture capital community had no appetite for additional investment for tech, let alone for legal tech. Alas, like many start-up companies of its time, Serengeti closed its doors and became another victim of the dot-com bust.
But that’s not where my legal tech “origin” story ends. Notwithstanding being seemingly dead in the water, a handful of visionary, resilient, and now newly-unemployed Serengeti execs passionately believed in the mission to transform the relationships between in-house and outside counsel through technology, improved process, and data. So, when they asked me to join them in the “Serengeti Lifeboat” and to re-boot Serengeti, I set aside my initial discomfort and took the leap. Other than getting married and having children, it was the single most life-changing decision I have ever made. Never have I been more scared and anxious than those early days, but also, never have I had more growth and learned more.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
In April, I joined Icertis, the leading enterprise contract lifecycle management (CLM) platform, as their Head Evangelist. I’ve been traveling around the globe working with legal and contracting professionals helping them transform their contracting processes. As teams digitize their workflows and contracts, new data pools are being created around commercial relationships which translate into new KPIs and insights for general counsels, CFOs, and other enterprise leaders. I’ve been helping leaders shape a more data-driven value story—how their teams have accelerated the velocity of business, better protected the company, and optimized internal and external relationships—all through contract management.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that really helped you when you were starting out in the field?
The best resource you can ask for are the people you surround yourself with, and when I was starting in legal tech, Serengeti had the best. I am so grateful for our start-up team that made up the Lifeboaters; everyone pulled hard on the oar to make this new venture succeed. Most importantly, the team pushed me out of my comfort zone. For this once-high-flying start-up attorney, it was a grand exercise in humility: Dial for dollars? Check. Conduct and manage implementations over FreeConference.com? Check. Test new functionality? Write the training manual and build the help site? Write blogs because we couldn’t pay for advertising? Check, check, check. And, how can I forget: Clean the women’s bathroom because you are the only woman there? Check.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
Blockchain isn’t just about bitcoin and cryptocurrency. For instance, when Business Roundtable recently declared purpose over profit, they made a specific proclamation around sustainability in supply chains. At Icertis, we’ve been working with companies as they incorporate Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) initiatives, and inherently, more trust, into their supply chain contracting relationships. Historically, a manufacturer will only have a contract (and therefore visibility) with its direct supplier. But what about that supplier’s suppliers? We’ve been working with large manufacturers who are using permissioned blockchains to ensure that its supply chains—from a manufacturer’s direct supplier all the way down to the raw material supplier, have agreed to the manufacturer’s sustainability and environmental clauses in their agreements. The first step in compliance is to have these ESG clauses included in their contracts. The next step is to use technology to ensure these ESG obligations are managed. Using blockchain technology, a manufacturer is given unprecedented visibility into its supply chain, and more importantly, can use that data to drive more work to those compliant suppliers.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Get ready to feel uncomfortable. Whatever got you to where you are today isn’t going to be what gets you to the next chapter and that will feel very uncomfortable. You are building new muscles, and it will be hard and uncomfortable, but exhilarating.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
My shout out goes out to the one and only Susan Hackett! Obviously, in legal tech, we talk about the tech. But we should be dedicating more time discussing the leadership and change management required in order for any new processes—tech-enabled or otherwise—to be used and widely adopted. Leaders and champions are key to driving technology adoption. Susan isn’t a “technologist” per se, but as former Vice President of the ACC spearheading the ACC Value Challenge and in her consulting role supporting legal executives, Susan is cultivating a group of legal leaders ready to transform their organizations. It’s no small task and our profession is lucky to have her. Also, I can only hope to rival her authenticity and wit on Twitter!