Jayne Reardon is Executive Director at the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism. Find her on Twitter @JayneRReardon.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
As a young associate, I remember having over 150 personal injury, medical malpractice, and product liability files in my credenza. I was surprised (actually appalled) at the absence of an organizational system for defending similar types of cases.
Most cases I handled followed a similar litigation path, and the leading authorities to be cited in pleadings remained relatively constant. I started organizing substantive research and form files into black three-ringed notebooks and shared them liberally among the associate ranks. In retrospect, the partners may not have been so pleased with my efficiency methods. But I thought then and think now: clients shouldn’t have to pay lawyers to reinvent the wheel if there is nothing novel about their case.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
Over the past few years, I’ve been researching, writing and presenting on the need for changes in the regulation of legal services. Increasingly, legal companies are delivering forms and products in the legal space. Consumers seem to be availing themselves of these DIY legal services and eschewing traditional lawyers. Lawyers are hamstrung from competing on a level playing field with legal companies by certain of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Changing some of the economic regulations that apply to lawyers may allow them to innovate and also may help connect consumers with appropriate and competent legal services. Some jurisdictions are addressing these challenges in the legal landscape by proposing that legal companies be subject to regulation and that certain Rules of Professional Conduct applicable to lawyers be revised. It’s exciting to see the innovative thinking coming from task forces in various jurisdictions.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that really helped you when you were starting out in the field?
The Commission on Professionalism is devoted to promoting more equitable, effective, and efficient legal and judicial systems for the people of Illinois. To that end, technology is a means. Various technology-enabled tools and processes and management systems exist that might help lawyers and judges provide better and more efficient legal services. During our annual The Future Is Now: Legal Services conference (due to social distancing guidelines related to COVID-19, The Future Is Now 2020 has been canceled. The Commission on Professionalism will hold The Future Is Now 2021 next spring in Chicago), in our blogs, and through our presentations, the Commission elevates leaders who’re innovating in the legal tech space and educates audiences on tech pathways that could improve their practices.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
I believe that lawyers should look at the services they provide in a different way. We have an ethical duty to consider new techniques that would benefit our clients and society at large. Lawyers should consider their value-add beyond what can be accomplished by technology. We need lawyers to apply their critical judgment, collective experience, and spirit of service in order to reimagine the profession as one that better serves society.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Go for it! The capital flowing into legal tech, as compared with the flat demand for traditional legal services, means that opportunity abounds. These opportunities are specifically valuable for entrepreneurial women and others who’ve been traditionally shut out of the Old-World order.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
There are many women in legal tech who I both admire and have learned from. Kristen Sonday, COO of Paladin, and Erin Gerstenzang, founder of EHG Law Firm, are two of my heroes who’re exercising leadership and advancing legal tech to benefit the legal profession, our clients and society alike.