This is a piece about people.
Both within and outside of the legal tech space.
And how people matter far move above anything else. More so than technology. More so than anything else. More so than titles. More so than money. More so than status. And yes, this may be stirring the pot for those who are adherents to other values like credentials or titles or money.
I am not sorry about that.
With a world seemingly becoming ever more interconnected and yet ever more fractured seemingly simultaneously, there is nothing more valuable than relationships. When I started my legal tech journey, I knew no one within the space. I felt very much alone and thought that I might find one or two other people within the legal tech space who I could maybe learn from. I didn’t not expect to find a community of individuals dedicated not just to their own pursuits and interests, but to helping others and supp
orting others find a better way.
Many of these individuals had no idea the impact they would have on me, but likely knew then and know now all too well of their impact to the legal tech industry at large. For me, building relationships has always been at the heart of who I am. It came as a jarring experience to enter the law school world where contrived competition and cutthroat behavior was the norm. Relationships were largely transactional and forged within a smoldering fire of ideas, gamesmanship, and academic superiority.
One of my closest friends that I had in law school one day accused me of stealing notes and copying an idea for a project from him. I denied any such behavior and saw the intense skepticism appear on their face. It was only until after this assignment was turned in by all students that this friend realized their erroneous accusation and, with a distinct sense of shame, wholeheartedly apologized to me. I forgave them, but the memory lingered for some time. We do remain friends to this day, however. It was instances like this that made it difficult for me to forge lasting relationships in law school as I was constantly fighting a rising tide of distrust and skepticism with any action any student took when working with other students.
It makes sense then, to me at least, then, and now, why I felt out of place and abnormal in law school. I was enveloped by individuals, the majority of whom never overlooked a chance to proclaim their legal and overall academic prowess whether it be on a group project, an exam, or during a substantive legal discussion during a class. These behaviors weren’t overtly accepted or unaccepted by professors. There was just tacit acceptance that took the form of silence. I, never really accepted these behaviors even while simultaneously I had to quite reluctantly tolerate, for the sake of not overlooking my obligations as a law student, these behaviors. I was lucky in a way as I was able to find and maintain friendships with a select few who most of the time thought as I did and didn’t accept them either, including the friend who accused me of stealing ideas and notes.
I maintain some of these friendships today, many years later. And new ones have been forged. Forged along the path I’ve created for myself and began it not knowing what I was doing and simply hoping it would be modestly successful or beneficial for me as I eagerly sought out those who were dissatisfied with the legal status quo and disconnect between the world of technology and the world of the law.
People to me have always been valuable to me. Valuable for what I could learn from them, what I could help them with, what we together could experience ourselves and learn together. This explains why going to conferences, going to large public events, even those where I knew no one or but a few were exciting and invigorating to me. Opportunities to learn from others and build relationships with others were opportunities I couldn’t help but take advantage of. I recall once being at an event many years ago and not even law related where I knew no one. I was by myself. I was there because my parents knew people and I was old enough to be able to be a part of it, but still far younger than most of the attendees. Yet, no longer than a few minutes into the event, I struck up a conversation with someone who was a technology executive and we began to speak extensively about technology’s impact upon industries and how the law was a laggard. Though I was not yet even a law student at the time, our conversation lasted for long enough that my parents started to wonder where I was. We remained in touch for some time.
These instances comprise many memories. Another one occurs when I had just begun working at a large multi-national corporation as a young lawyer reaching out to the highly experienced and world traveler GC of the company to see if he would be willing to have a chat with me. Not only was he willing to do so, we had many during my time at the company. We exchanged views not just of the law, but of life and had far more in common than I would have thought. He since has become not just a close friend, but one of my most powerful mentors.
When it comes to legal tech, while the phrase legal tech intrigued me, I also understood knew nothing about it. And to try to learn about intimidated me. In high school the mention of the world technology would result in the hairs on the back of my neck rising up, my ears twitching like a cat’s, and sweat droplets beginning to pop over my arms. Technology to me then brought up a vivid image of an amorphous dark stew of code, math, and incomprehensible text.
It was only when I knew that the way for me to learn about legal tech was to do the one thing I knew I could do well – engage with others in conversation. So that’s what I did. I began my legal tech journey sending out friendly messages to those in legal tech, whether they be startup founders, teachers, theorists, or coders. I asked one question in those messages. Please tell me your journey into legal tech. If they said yes, I’d simply shut up and listen, intently, to what they said.
What didn’t occur to me during some of these early listening sessions was the relationships that would be forged during these conversations and that would be some of most strongest and most powerful relationships I’ve had in my life. My eyes would widen, my energy level would quickly rise, and ideas would form in my head during these conversations which would lead me to want to engage with these thinkers more, to wrestle with the ideas they mentioned more thoroughly, and to start to develop my own thoughts and ideas more fully on the topics covered during these chats.
As I grew more comfortable with the legal tech space, I dared myself to share some of these thoughts publicly. A comment here on a post on LinkedIn, a tweet on Twitter, an infographic on Instagram. It was subtle at first. A like on a post. A comment sharing support for a tweet. These small signs of support encouraged me and inspired me. I started to share more. More than just sharing thoughts, I began to reach out to individuals I at first believed to be unreachable. Individuals leading huge functions in highly visible and public facing roles. I expected to be brushed off and disregarded. Certainly a few did, at least at first. Most didn’t. Most responded and were eager and happy to share their stories, their lessons, their journeys.
Over several years countless of these conversations were the foundations for relationships I maintain to this day. Have they ebbed and flowed as do the days of one’s life? Absolutely. But all of them, truly all of them, reinforce the same lesson every time I connect with one of these people. People matter. People are at the heart of everything else that follows. Ideas flow from the ideas we have in our heads. Those ideas then are further developed and then become actions because someone decides to. Someone wants to. Someone decides to act.
The anecdote of how I met one of my best friends in legal tech illustrates why people underlie my fervent belief in the power of community and engaging in community building. It is, after all, the legal tech community, more specifically some of the individuals who are a part of the community, laid the foundation for what is my passion and what I do each day in the legal tech world. My reward for doing what I do each day is a deluge of new concepts and new ideas that I can play around with and the paving of new avenues for me to travel along.
The story goes like this.
A fellow legal traveler invited me several years ago to be a guest co-host for an episode of his podcast. The guest that day on the podcast was a legal tech founder who eagerly shared his story – not just of his startup, but of his entire legal journey. I asked questions to learn more about some of the decisions he made and why he made them. Each answer prompted me to dive deeper into his journey. It was this conversation that lasted for an hour or so led to me wanting to chat more with this individual. Over time, those chats become a regular thing and we became friends. Since then, we text daily and are always learning from one another. We connected through our mutual interest in legal tech, but our relationship has blossomed because of our mutual desire to support and help each other.
My legal tech journey is one of deliberate action. It started off with feeling trepidation about technology, countering the trepidation with relationship-building built on a love of learning and listening, and then sharing my learnings with others. Having an idea and acting upon it, in this case knowing that I enjoyed speaking with people and engaging with them and acting to do just that helped me turn my fear of technology into a love of technology.
Armed with newfound knowledge and a growing love of learning, I took a proactive approach to integrating technology into my legal practice. I sought out opportunities to attend workshops, seminars, and conferences focused on legal tech advancements, keen on staying at the forefront of the industry. With each interaction and workshop, my confidence in leveraging technology to enhance my legal work grew, and my trepidation slowly gave way to curiosity and excitement.
But my journey didn't end there. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to share my learnings and experiences with others in the legal community. I realized that by openly discussing my own transformation from a tech-wary lawyer to an enthusiastic tech advocate, I could help dispel the fear and hesitancy that held others back from embracing the power of technology.
In hindsight, it was the simple act of having an idea and taking action that set me on this transformative path. Recognizing my love for connecting with people and engaging in meaningful discussions, I decided to channel that passion into advocating for legal tech adoption. It was this conscious effort that led me to bridge the gap between my initial fear and my ultimate love for technology, unlocking its immense benefits for my legal practice.
Today, my legal tech journey continues to evolve, with each day presenting new challenges and opportunities. Through deliberate action, a commitment to learning, and a willingness to share knowledge, I have not only enriched my own career but also contributed to the broader integration of technology in the legal profession. This ongoing journey reminds me that when we embrace change and overcome our apprehensions, we open ourselves up to endless possibilities and growth. I am excited to see where this path will lead me next and the positive impact it will continue to have on the legal community as a whole.
For someone who has long battled anxiety, finding solace and comfort in the legal tech community has been truly life changing. It hasn’t been the discovery of new technological tools that has made the biggest difference. It has been the people within the space. It always has been the people. This post is dedicated to the legal tech community. The thoughtful people that comprise the community and contribute to it in countless ways.