Women have traditionally been underrepresented in the legal profession, as well as in science and technology fields, but now may be creatively leading the profession in the face of so much looming change. Women have made gains in both areas and some of the gains in the legal field have been significant. In 1970, women only represented 4.9 percent of the legal professional; by 2010 women represented 33.4 percent.
Women who also happen to be lawyers (I hate the antiquated term “woman lawyer,” as though the adjective serves as a qualifier of some sort), still, however, face struggles such as equal compensation and the availability of partnership opportunities. Despite measurable strides, women continue to sometimes remain under-recognized for legal achievements, such as in the field of legal technology.
As one writer points out, “The problem is partly that the field of legal technology is already lagging compared to other industries that have wholeheartedly embraced technology.” While special attention must be paid to ensuring that women have an equal footing in the profession, one woman in the legal tech field notes “[B]eing a woman shouldn’t be the focus. It boils down to: do you know what you’re talking about, can you answer the questions, and do you have intelligent answers?” In response, women are making significant contributions to both the legal professional and its future—legal tech. Through successes and experience, these tech-savvy lawyers provide valuable insight and are the forward scouts for both legal tech and the legal profession.
Combating the “Glass Ceiling” and Getting a Message Across
The former Washington State Bar Association president noted that one thing women can do to help combat the “glass ceiling,” concerning pay and promotions, is to network. For most of us the cliché, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” has proven empirically true. Networking can be extensively conducted through tech, as well as in person.
Communication in a tech-driven, social media, world can be saturating. One successful legal tech pioneer warned women against too much communication. Not to be viewed as a stinging indictment of women alone, who may commonly be labeled as the culprits of over-communication (as “man lawyers” can be equally guilty), listening more to clients, colleagues or investors can be generally beneficial. Listening is sometimes an underutilized aspect of networking. Nicole Shanahan, founder of ClearAccessIP, notes “The minute you lose focus and talk too much about your personal life or things that would be perceived as frivolous stereotypes of women, you lose your audience in some way.”
This issue can sometimes be confusing, especially because social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, encourage us to share both our personal and professional selves. Ultimately, it is an issue of comfort, and common sense in most situations, but listening and remaining clear and goal-focused can be useful in any networking or professional setting.
Women Are Solving Problems and Creating the Legal Future
As women strive to eliminate barriers they face in the legal profession and legal tech, Serena Manzoli created Peppercorn which is working at document translation services for lawyers across languages and international boundaries. Yael Citro co-founded LawPal to help lawyers tie everything together and achieve greater efficiency in practice and in business.
The executive director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology and CodeX, Roland Vogl, notes that the number of women in legal tech is increasing. In the past, he saw few women at the center’s meetings but more come today who are lawyers, tech pioneers and entrepreneurs with “interesting ideas.” At a recent CodeX conference, which gathers legal tech entrepreneurs, more women were in attendance than ever before.
Out of necessity, women have long been trail blazers and this is equally true today as women provide valuable insight, define the path forward, and create the future of the legal profession through legal tech solutions.