By Desiree Goff • January 30, 2020•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence
Becoming a tech savvy, innovative attorney will open up new opportunities and career growth in whatever law practice you envision. Whether you are on the transactional side or the litigation side of practice, understanding and implementing technology is essential. As a contract attorney, understanding and incorporating smart contract technology as the situation necessitates is warranted. As a litigator, being able to navigate e-discovery and utilizing electronically stored information in the course of litigation is increasingly essential. Additional challenges include presenting this e-discovery in a technology limited courtroom. I can still remember my first jury trials in which each courtroom was not equipped with an ELMO projector I could just place a document on like in my law school days. Rather, I had to make certain that paper copies of each anticipated exhibit were ready for opposing counsel, the court, witnesses and the jury. While many courtrooms today have enhanced technology and such preparation is no longer necessary, especially in rural state courthouses, outdated technology is still commonplace. Furthermore, understanding and utilizing data analytics and blockchain to track the massive amounts of data generated, and the privacy implications inherent are essential to counsel clients, negotiate technology agreements and litigate. Offering creative technology driven solutions to clients and implementing them in your law firm will improve efficiency and enhance your legal services.
How can you incorporate technology into your practice if you aren’t the best at it? Or how can you help educate others in your firm on technology? In exploring this and other ways in which technology is increasingly essential to a productive law practice, examples of implementation include choosing the right computer hardware system; utilizing cloud back-up; law practice management software; client portals for communication; and implementation of technology in contracts, analytics, blockchain and e-discovery. Attending continuing education seminars which discuss new programs and office management systems can make you aware of more efficient systems.
In addition to the enhanced benefits of technology in your practice, other attorneys on a tech-law career path work as general counsel for tech organizations. For example, Belinda Johnson, a former deputy general counsel at Yahoo, is now the chief business affairs and legal officer at Airbnb and deals with questions of taxation and a labryinth of rental laws worldwide. Privacy issues, employment, and copyright are ripe for technology associated advancements. Due to the rapid growth of technology, the laws are often lagging behind technological innovations and work in these areas becomes more about setting policy than parsing precedent.*
The American Bar Association, through its Legal Technology Resource Center, begin publishing an annual list of Women of Legal Tech in 2015 in which they highlight women currently in the legal tech space.** These women may be small business owners or tech founders but they are making a difference in the tech legal industry. These women are zebras in their own right.
After being named one of the Women Leaders in Tech Law by California Leaders in Tech Law and Innovation Awards, Siana Lowry was asked for advice for women attorneys entering tech law. Ms. Lowry encouraged women attorneys not to worry if they don’t identify with those “at the top” but to continue to work and find advocates to support you.*** Ms. Lowry, partner at Cooley and one of the lead outside counsel on Uber’s initial public offering, advocates for more women and minorities in leadership positions as necessary to attract and retain talent at all levels. Another Women Leader in Tech Law, Susan “Suz” Mac Cormac, named the Most Innovative North American Lawyer in 2015 by the Financial Times for her work championing impact investing and social enterprise legal innovation, advises women attorneys to “do what you love and stick with it. There is no substitute for patient persistence to achieve goals for yourself and your clients.”****
Finding what you love in technology and maintaining the sheer persistence necessary to change the mold is essential for the future of women in law and science, and becoming a zebra. If you know you want to work in law and technology, what are some ways to better educate yourself on technology or legal issues? How do you get there? Surprisingly enough, having a background in the sciences or computer science is not always necessary. Next month we will discuss how to work in law and technology if you don’t have a technology background!
*Sathian, S. Why a JD Might Be Your Ticket to a Career in Tech. 2016.
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