Ronak Ray describes himself as “an attorney and change agent from public and emerging growth companies. My brand is that of a thought partner for building enterprise value, company culture and compliance.”
Tell me a little about your background and how you ended up in the position you now hold.
I started out in the professional world as a programmer and web developer. Realizing that I wanted to be closer to business decisions, I took my first post-grad role in finance at a public consulting company. This gave me a taste of decision-making and its impact on our financials but less so an influence over how deals were structured. Law pulled everything together for me: technology, business, and influence.
Technology and the law remain in an evolving relationship. How would you define the relationship in the context of your background and current role?
Technology enables legal teams to perform better, which I think we already understand. The part that we have learned more intimately over the past two years is that technology for legal teams can help us avoid burn out, capacity plan, and be better stewards for our stakeholders. Without recent innovations in legal technology, I don't see how shareholder returns can continue to grow without outsized risk biting back. Technology gives us the transparency and control we need to operate at a higher level to meet the greater demand all while budgets continue to shrink.
To what extent do you think law school should help with educating law students about technology?
Law school helps with critical thinking and connecting disparate events into a story. I think technology is about articulating the story of the company as it exists and unlocks doors to what it can be - the future story. Students who have the option to take classes in information security, data analytics, financial statement analysis, and intellectual property should not hesitate. The one course I personally felt prepared me better for my practice was a litigation clinic. We had a mock appeals court scenario where you were being pummeled with questions by three practicing AUSAs as mock trial judges. This built resiliency under pressure, and believe me, technology will test you when you least want it to.
Do you think that contract lifecycle management is a must-have now for legal departments? Why or why not?
I wouldn't say CLM is a must have. Departments should be thoughtful about "why" their company would stand to benefit from a CLM over the next 3 years. I think this is a good horizon for most companies who do strategic planning. If the CLM investment unlocks business potential, do it and be sure you bring everyone along.
To law students and new lawyers, what is your advice?
Build two-way mentorship relationships. There is a lot of growth ahead of you that a mentor can help you interpret and build upon. Similarly, the experience you will have won't be the same as your mentor, so take the time to prepare your insights in advance and share these. If there is a study you did on recent legal tech innovations, take 5 minutes to present the key takeaways that could be useful to them or others your mentor engages with. Also, give them feedback - this is a gift they will appreciate.