Amanda Brown is the Executive Director of the Lagniappe Law Lab. Find her on Twitter @accesstowhat.
What are some points that describe you?
- Young lawyer turned legal tech geek
- Passionate about access to justice
How is telework/quarantine going for you?
Lagniappe Law Lab has been remote-first from the start, so the work-from-home lifestyle was nothing out of the ordinary. Admittedly, I desperately miss travel—whether it’s across town for an in-person meeting, around the state for outreach and user testing, or across the country to connect with other legal tech junkies at conferences. In some sense, 2020 was one of the most “productive” of my career, but I really missed the energy and creativity those in-person interactions bring.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
In my last year of law school in 2016, I signed up for a one-semester legal technology clinic that, for all intents and purposes, changed my entire outlook on the legal profession. I learned some basic coding, but more importantly, I learned how to use technology to solve problems and deliver services—something I never anticipated learning in law school.
After the bar exam, I spent time as a disaster recovery fellow with my local legal aid program and supported the development of the ABA’s Flood Proof project. At that point, I knew this was something I wanted to really commit to. In August 2017, I went all-in as a class member of the ABA Center for Innovation’s inaugural NextGen Fellowship. During that time, I spent a year in residence at Microsoft in Seattle supporting the design and development of the LSC Legal Navigator Portal project.
The rest is history! Since the end of my fellowship, I’ve been back in Louisiana building up civil legal aid technology with the support of the Louisiana Bar Foundation.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
My current focus is building out public-facing digital infrastructure for civil justice in Louisiana. It’s my attempt at taking a system-level approach to combating the justice gap in Louisiana with the support of technology. The first phase of this work focuses purely on helping people find existing legal information and resources. This means building out topic-level triage interviews, optimizing search, and putting resources behind marketing and advertising.
Running parallel to this is work to deepen that experience where it matters through form automation and systemic work to influence uniform adoption of those forms. In the future, the hope is to take it a step further and support a fully end-to-end experience with e-filing and/or connecting people with emerging court programs like online dispute resolution.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that really helped you when you were starting out in the field?
I can honestly say #legaltech Twitter played a huge role in my ability to learn from and connect with people in this space all over the world. Access barriers to incredibly smart people working in legal tech are virtually nonexistent.
What do you see as the most important emerging tech, legal or not, right now?
My vote is renewable energies and the advancements we’ve made in battery technology—the state of our climate is bigger than anything we have going on in the legal profession.
In legal, I think technology’s cousin—data—has the most power to drive change. At the most basic level, it can help law firms and legal organizations understand the market and people they serve, informing tailored service delivery approaches. At the system level, it can back up lived experiences and influence policy and funding.
There’s so much hype about artificial intelligence’s potential to impact the law, but at the end of the day, you can’t have AI without good data. As a profession, we need to be more intentional about using the data we have and identifying new metrics to improve access to and outcomes for the system’s users.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
The first is: be curious. Start asking yourself why you do things the way you do. Think creatively about ways you can apply principles from other industries to your work. Reimagine what’s possible with each of your daily tasks, and/or start clean by working backward from your expected outcomes.
The second is: be human-centered. The legal profession at its core is a service business. Even as we scale and productize those services, make sure you’re focused on the user’s experience rather than your own. Keep the user’s voice and perspective at the center of everything you build.
The third is: don’t be intimidated. I have absolutely zero formal training in computer science. There are so many web applications available that enable you to bring ideas to life without a single line of code. Experiment with those tools, build prototypes, and don’t be afraid to keep going if your first draft doesn’t measure up to your expectations.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
There are so many incredible women in this space that I look up to—all already on this list! A special shout-out to one of this year’s nominees, Lucy Bassli, for supporting me very early in this journey during my fellowship at Microsoft. I’m not sure I would have been able to see it through to this point without her example. I also really look up to a previous year’s nominee, Sarah Glassmeyer, who is not just a powerhouse law librarian and legal technologist, but also unapologetically herself. We need more Sarah’s in the world of legal tech!
On March 3, 2021—March 4, 2021, join the ABA Women Rainmakers Committee for a two-day symposium on closing the legal tech gender gap. Both days include recognizing the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center’s 2021 Women of Legal Tech Honorees. Get inspired by Ignite-style sessions from leading women in legal tech, breakout sessions with leaders in the field, and interactive workshops.