What are three points that describe you?
- I went to law school to advocate for consumers.
- I am extremely passionate about making the law more accessible to all.
- I love spending time with my family, including my dog, Galileo.
How is telework/quarantine going for you?
Starting a business can be lonely and couple that with quarantine, it is even lonelier! My outlet has been the wonderful accelerators we have been a part of since the start of quarantine. People Clerk has been part of the Duke Law Tech Lab, the LexisNexis Legal Tech Accelerator, and, most recently, Lex Lab at UC Hastings. These low-touch accelerators have provided weekly sessions on growing the business, mentorship, and a community. It has been nice to meet with other founders who have experienced or are experiencing the same types of problems.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
My family and friends kept reaching out to me about their security deposits and I kept telling them, “Go to small claims court, it is easy” (without actually knowing how small claims worked). My husband, a software engineer, kept telling me that if it were that easy, they wouldn’t keep calling. He kept on bugging me to go explore small claims hearings, and so we went. What we saw was shocking. Many litigants had failed to follow the correct procedure and as a result, didn’t get their day in court. Subsequently, we learned many would give up altogether instead of fixing the procedural issues with their case. We also saw that people were not prepared with their evidence and were leaving money on the table. This is how People Clerk and my involvement in legal tech came about.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
I live and breathe People Clerk. People Clerk helps litigants in California navigate the small claims court process. We have had to constantly adjust our processes due to courts changing their procedures with the pandemic. In California, there has been a lack of a cohesive response to virtual hearings and courts have faced massive budget cuts. At the beginning of the pandemic, many courts shut down their phone lines and their self-help centers (some even continue to be closed at the time of this writing). Self-represented litigants were left in the dark.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that really helped you when you were starting out in the field?
Y Combinator’s Startup School. It is a free online program that helps founders launch and grow their businesses. Coming from law school, I didn’t have this startup mentality. The StartUp School courses and materials helped me quickly get up to speed on lean startup methodology, how to launch an MVP, how to talk to users, etc.
What do you see as the most important emerging tech, legal or not, right now?
What I see trending right now are tech-enabled services. In the last few years, technology has started to work together with humans to allow companies to serve more consumers with fewer employees. In the legal industry, we now see companies that are introducing technology to common legal services, for example, Easy Expunctions, Athena Collects, Simple Citizen, HelloDivorce, People Clerk, the list goes on. I see that this trend will continue to help the legal industry provide legal services at a lower cost. In some areas like small claims, there is a large amount of work a legal assistant normally does to file, serve, and prepare the litigant for the hearing. If we use technology to improve the efficiency of a legal assistant and automate other tasks, the legal assistant becomes super-efficient and can serve a large number of people.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
1. Just start. While you hear this same advice from so many others, it is definitely true. Many of us in legal tech come from a legal background that molds us into risk-averse individuals (or reinforces our risk intolerance). We have to learn to break the mold and go for it. It is so valuable to launch an MVP and learn from your users. User feedback from a live product is essential.
2. Get involved in the legal tech community. Every week or so, Nick Rishwain hosts a show called LegalTechLIVE where he interviews legal tech startup founders and other community members. You can watch it live through the LegalTech Community Facebook group and ask questions. You can also get a Twitter. The legal tech community is extremely Twitter active.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
Kristen Sonday, co-founder of Paladin (software that connects firms with pro bono work). Kristen has been such a great role model as a champion for access to justice and diversity in legal-tech. Thank you Kristen for all your support!
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.