A question more and more lawyers are asking these days is: How do I get a job in legal tech? It’s no surprise they’re asking it; legal tech is sexy and it beats the hell out of filing a request for documents for the millionth time.
Over the past year, I’ve done a deep dive into legal technology and I’ve found some proven paths for lawyers to find jobs in legal technology.
A note of warning: there aren’t as many jobs in legal tech as some lawyers hope. Most jobs at legal technology firms like LegalZoom or Clio are technology jobs, not legal jobs. Most of the opportunities in the legal tech space for lawyers come by way of entrepreneurship, which requires lawyers to carve their own path. These aren’t for the faint of heart.
Also, I’m excluding obvious or more traditional jobs like working as a legal counsel for a legal technology company or serving as an attorney for an emerging technology company.
The following are key paths into the world of legal technology, coupled with illustrative, real-life examples.
Start a Dual-Entity Law Firm Integrated with Technology
Atrium has received a lot of press lately. It is a dual-entity law firm with both a business entity and a legal entity. This allows it to delegate the delivery of legal services and development of software to the business entity and the practice of law to the law entity.
Atrium isn’t alone in this space. Other startup law firms are providing similar services. Savvi Legal, for example, is a new dual-entity startup law firm founded by Dan Roberts. Dan worked in BigLaw for years as a venture attorney until he realized how repetitive legal work for startups can be. He created Savvi Legal to provide streamlined legal work to startups through automation and one-on-one counseling. And while it is too early to say, there may eventually be an opportunity to franchise with modern firms cut from this cloth.
Create Legal Technology for Your Big Law Firm
In 2017, Kimball Parker, a young attorney, contacted his local law school, BYU Law, and founded the LawX Legal Design Lab as an adjunct faculty. In its first year, LawX developed SoloSuit, an automated form generator that creates answers to complaints in debt collection lawsuits. Kimball then went on to create a similar technology, GDPR IQ, for his law firm Parsons Behle, automating GDPR documents during the 2018 GDPR rush.
Develop Technology Services for Other Lawyers
Filevine was born from the dissatisfaction of two attorneys: Ryan Anderson and Nathan Morris. Both litigation attorneys, they were frustrated with case management software available on the market, so they teamed with a software engineer and made their own. Now Filevine is a fast-growing CMS trying to carve out its niche aside giants like Clio.
Write on Legal Technology
Some lawyers have found their passion in writing about legal tech. The great Bob Ambrogi is the classic example, being both a lawyer and top legal technology journalist for decades. Dan Lear is another great example. He started his blog Right Brain Law, then found himself as the chief evangelist for one of the most successful legal technology companies ever, Avvo.
Start a Non-Profit
Not all legal tech innovation happens in businesses; nonprofits play an important part in innovation, too. Jameson Dempsey is a New York attorney who co-created the world-wide Legal Hackers network of Meetups. Legal Hackers began with the first-ever legal hackathon at Brooklyn Law School in 2012; today there are over 110 chapters around the world. Derek Parry founded Code 180, which turns legal professionals into novice computer programmers in 180 minutes. He started Code 180 while working as a corporate attorney and uses Code 180 to educate people in the legal industry on coding basics.
Some Other Assorted Ideas
The list doesn’t stop here. Really this is just the beginning of ways to break into legal technology. In all of these examples, the principle is the same: find a problem and solve it—preferably in a cool way that leverages the power of technology to solve sticky problems.
Here are some other assorted ideas.
- Blockchain. Many blockchain companies are currently flush with cash, even during crypto-winter. Since many of the challenges blockchain companies face are inherently legal in nature, this is an easy sale for lawyers hoping to jump ship into a technology company.
- Product management. Some select legal tech companies, like Fastcase, employee JDs in non-lawyer roles like product manager. This is a good place for “legal designers.”
- Online attorney. Although this may not really be working in legal tech, some innovative attorneys will find what they are looking for in places like UpCounsel. UpCounsel calls itself the world’s largest law firm and allows its contracted attorneys to work from home and bid on cases online.
- Business development. Some B2L legal tech companies employ JDs in business development, using their credential to leverage connections with lawyers.
That’s the list for now. If you’ve got some other jobs to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below.