By Nicole Moriniere • February 05, 2017•Writers in Residence, Careers, Other Career Issues, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Issues, Mentoring and Networking
It took me about three months to complete my transition from law into legal tech, from the time I made the decision until I found and was hired at an exciting legal tech startup. During this time, I reached out to my network, did a lot of reading and attended numerous events. Although I benefited from many resources during my search, I also found it more difficult given that I was going down a non-traditional career path for JDs. Hopefully, my experience can help provide an example of one way to transition from the traditional legal industry to a career in legal tech.
I wanted to share a few tips and resources that I found useful. Although the content of the resources may have been different, I realized that much of the advice I received during law school applied equally to my new search. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that much of the advice that applies to a law career apply to researching and going into tech.
These are the three main pieces of advice that I took with me from law school career services to my career switch:
1. Do your research:
This basically means knowledge of the industry and the players in the space, and the details of any company you are speaking with. While maybe less applicable for legal tech companies that are further along, it is also helpful to to have an idea of their funding status. It also helps to research the people at the company and people you’ll be speaking with. One of the questions I was asked when I was speaking to people in tech was what my favorite startup was, this could be generally but also in legal tech. I found that having knowledge of tech startups generally and legal tech startups specifically was something my interviewers were looking for. Now, after joining the startup and participating in a number of interview sessions on the interviewer side, I am surprised by the number of candidates who don’t follow this advice.
2. Know the lingo:
This refers to terms within the tech space, as well as terms specifically relevant within legal tech terms. Even though I wouldn’t be coding but rather using my legal background and industry knowledge, I found it helpful to have some idea of general tech terms and legal tech terms when I was speaking to my network, new contacts at events, and in interviews. I helps to have an awareness of some of the hot buzzwords in the industry, like blockchain, machine learning, and natural language processing. During my transition, I was also reading books about changes in the tech space (such as books by Professor Richard Susskind) and also completing free online courses in various topics, including doing some introduction to coding courses.
Just like with applying within the legal industry, networking was helpful to me in my goal to move into legal tech. I attended events and reached out to my existing network to see if they knew anyone in the area. There are several organizations that organize a number of events related to legal tech. One of these is Evolve Law (which I mentioned in my previous post, and was started by female former attorneys and now legal technologists) and Legal Geek puts on great meetup events in the US and UK. When I read about companies I might be interested in, I looked up their employees on LinkedIn and reached out to have a conversation or meet for coffee, and found that most were open to having a quick chat.
4. Be curious and interested in the industry: I found that by going into a new space, my specific experience in law was less relevant, but my curiosity and interest in learning about new things became more relevant.