Unless this is the first time you’re seeing my name, you know that I am a passionate advocate for women — women as leaders, women as rising stars, women as the glue that holds everything together. Over the past few months I’ve been highlighting amazing women every week on LinkedIn in an #addisadvice #followfriday series. The response has been overwhelming. People enjoy celebrating these women and shining a light on what makes them great.
As I started to think about how to mark Women’s History month, it was an easy decision to spend not just Fridays, but all month, highlighting amazing women, specifically influential women leaders in legal technology.
The women profiled here are led by a belief that there is a better way, and they want to be the ones to find it. They are women from different backgrounds, with no training as data scientists or engineers, or other traditional tech disciplines. These are former practicing attorneys, legal marketers, and simply put women who found a passion and went for it!
Above all else, I discovered in each of these conversations they all have one important trait in common: they believe in the power of advocating not just for yourself, but for each other. Mentoring. Networking. Training and educating. These are women who walk the walk and I’m so honored to know each of them.
Meet Five Influential Women in LegalTech
Melissa Prince is Chief Client Value and Innovation Officer at Ballard Spahr LLP. Melissa heads an industry-leading, award-winning team who are paving the way for the future of legal project management and client service. The Ballard360 suite her team has developed is designed with the client first, and is not merely a technology for creating more efficient processes. It creates an overall better client experience. I’ve known Melissa my entire legal marketing career and am constantly impressed by her intelligence and perseverance.
Rachel Shields Williams has custom-tailored her role as Director of Knowledge Management Technology at Sidley Austin LLP to be more than a manager of firm experience. She has guided her team to develop use cases critical to success in areas firm-wide, including proposal and pricing development, staffing, recruiting, and diversity, among others. She’s literally the woman helping write the book on experience management.
Lavinia Calvert is the General Manager, Marketing and Business Development Solutions at Intapp. She was previously the Chief Marketing Officer at OnePlace, prior to its acquisition by Intapp. She has a tenured career in legal marketing and more broadly in global marketing and business development. I witnessed first hand her incredibly strategic approach to marketing a cutting-edge technology in a slow-to-adopt industry. Her creativity and her charisma stood out to me from the day I met her.
Marsha Redmon is CEO and Founder of LexSource, the industry’s only provider of legal directories and awards submission software. Her solution is particularly interesting to me, having spent years leading teams with responsibility for Chambers, Legal500, BestLawyers/Best Law Firms, and the like. She is determined to make what has always been an onerous task achievable in a streamlined and intentional way. Marsha is also a frequent advisor to AmLaw 200 firms on communications and presentation skills.
Tina Harkins is Director of Client Success at Prosperoware, a legal technology solution designed to increase firm profitability and drive deeper and better client engagements through digital transformation. Their clients include 64% of the AmLaw 100. Tina and I only met recently through a mutual acquaintance, but our conversation was quickly like one with an old friend who is interested in the same challenges and opportunities technology solutions provide. Tina has more than 20 years’ experience in every corner of legal tech including sales, solution integration, and curriculum development and implementation.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your career / as a woman in tech?
Melissa Prince: The biggest obstacle I’ve encountered during this part of my career has been getting buy in and adoption for the technology we are building. We view our role as that of a start-up. Our customers are our lawyers and our clients. The technology is intended to transform the way we do legal work, but change does not happen overnight. It sometimes feels like we are taking two steps forward and one step back. I have a great team and we are always there to help and support one another. I also really believe that what we are doing is going to benefit the firm and our clients. This helps me to be resilient when things are challenging.
Rachel Shields Williams: Self-doubt. I don’t have a background in technology; I am a marketer by training. It has taken me a long time to get comfortable in a room full of technologists, questioning the tool or the process. I used to think if I asked a question I would look foolish or not get invited to the next meeting. But now I know that I bring a unique point of view that adds value to projects.
Lavinia Calvert: I would say it was learning very early on to allow my authentic self to shine no matter how challenging or difficult the environment or circumstance. As women we can have a tendency to feel we have to somehow fit others’ ideas of how we should behave or operate in the corporate world. I don’t buy that. I say “Be and do you” and be proud of it.
Marsha Redmon: For any start-up software company whose product is first in its niche, there are plenty of challenges. Being a pioneer is always hard. In our case, we have created the only software for legal marketers in the very narrow niche of legal directories and awards management. I overcame the challenge of being a pioneer through persistence and a focus on serving our clients.
Tina Harkins: I would say the imbalance of women to men in tech can be off-putting and sometimes a bit intimidating. It’s sad to say that, even today, there are times when I am the only woman (or one of only a couple of women) in a meeting compared to the number of men. Many women in tech fields, particularly in the U.S., are in more administrative or consultative positions rather than being the actual technologist; meaning the developer or the engineer. And that may be because it is such a heavily male-dominated field. It is much more common outside the U.S. to see women who are developers and engineers. It’s so inspiring! I believe that will change here in the U.S. with initiatives to encourage women to explore STEM career paths.
Who has been your greatest advocate or champion?
MP: My biggest advocates and champions have been my husband, my mom, and my coach, Julie Ketover. My husband and my mom have always believed in me and supported all of my crazy ideas. They’ve pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and to not be afraid to take risks. Working with Julie has also been empowering. She’s pushed me to challenge assumptions I’ve always had about myself and others, set goals, and take accountability for achieving those goals.
RSW: Three advocates have changed the course of my professional career. Of the three, Kate Cain is the one who brought me into legal tech and showed me the ropes. I was a BD manager who wanted to make things better, but I had no technology experience, and she took a chance on me. During our time working together, Kate took the time to answer the questions I was too afraid to ask during a meeting and put me on projects where she knew I would add value and shine. She took the time to introduce me to people in the industry, among countless other actions that have helped me become the technologist I am today. Even now, she serves as a sounding board, mentor, and even a periodic therapist.
LC: My father, who recently passed away. Right to the end he was interested in my career. He encouraged me to aim high and was always there to provide just the right advice or words of wisdom when it was most needed. Some of the best advice he ever gave me was to worry about the things I could control, and forget about the rest. An engineer by trade, he also taught me that there’s always a way to solve a problem or fix something. I think that’s a good lesson for life.
MR: My friends and colleagues in the Legal Marketing Association have been a great support over the last 20+ years for me personally and for our software company. Early on they were generous in helping us to fully understand their pain points and goals around legal directories management. Kim Perret has been a huge support and champion from the first idea for LexTrack and a happy client. She is always generous with her ideas, her connections and encouragement. Samantha McKenna is also an enthusiastic champion, who also guides us with her expert sales advice. Our software company would not exist were it not for our LMA community.
TH: I cannot point to just one person as I have been extremely fortunate to have a lot of support throughout my career through various managers, supervisors, colleagues and peers. I give a lot of credit to the IT Director at my first tech job (a woman) who took a chance on me, hiring me into the IT Department when I had no official technical background. I was a paralegal in a law firm and I really wanted to join IT. From there, so many people along the way helped to push me forward, taught me what they knew, gave me guidance and showed me how to get the best out of myself. It would be a very long list. I also cannot neglect to mention those close to home. A career in tech means long days, working nights and weekends and travel. That is not possible without a supportive family to pick up the slack when you are not around.
Why is legal tech interesting to you?
MP: Legal technology is the future of legal. It will only continue to become more and more important. Right now, small innovations produce big results. This makes what we are doing exciting and fun.
RSW: It’s always evolving. Just because a tech solution didn’t meet your needs today doesn’t mean it won’t solve a new problem in 18 months. It’s also a highly collaborative industry – people will freely share their successes and failures AND the steps they took that led to said success or failure.
LC: Legal tech interests me for the possibilities it opens up to transform and modernize the entire client experience. From the way in which relationships are developed and nurtured throughout the lifecycle, to the way in which legal services are delivered, technology will continue to play a pivotal role in helping law firms – and more importantly – their clients, thrive. And we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in this space. There’s so much more to come with advances in AI, natural language processing, personalization, automation, voice technologies. These are truly exciting times and I’m thrilled to be working for a company that is operating at the forefront of this industry.
MR: ‘There must be a better way’ is a common refrain for me. The through line of my different roles (TV reporter, lawyer, legal tech CEO, legal thought leadership speaker) has been some version of that same question: how can I find a better way to do this? I love working with smart people to solve complex problems, so getting to work with legal marketers on legal tech is interesting and very rewarding.
I became intrigued about the legal directories process when I heard there was no software to manage it, and then saw the stress and wasted time for legal marketers having to manage large volumes of submissions with only spreadsheets. It became clear this problem was begging for ‘a better way.’ And now 5+ years in, what I find most interesting is continuing to evolve our software, while still keeping it simple for legal marketers to use from day one.
TH: I kind of fell into it. I never had any formal training in IT, but back in the early to mid-1990s, law firms started embracing technology as a way of automating tasks that had always been done by hand. My first real experience was with a litigation support database we used for coding documents. I realized I was more interested in how the data was loaded into it, how it related to other data, and generally seeing how it worked under the hood than how the application helped to code documents. It took off from there and went from application administration, networking, and development all the way to cloud technologies.
What is a technology you have used with or in conjunction with marketing that has made a difference for you or your organization?
MP: We’ve spent the last couple of years developing our Ballard360 client technology platform. We’ve been partnering with the marketing and business development team to develop client portals that provide information about our lawyers, practices, and value adds, a closed deal dashboard that provides information for future deals, and business intelligence dashboards that combine internal and external data and analytics to help us identify industry trends and proactively offer client-specific legal advice.
RSW: I don’t think a specific technology on its own has made a huge difference. I think what makes a difference is staying true to your organizational and business goals, as well as figuring out ways to make your technology “talk” to one another. No individual technology tool will solve your organizational problems; you need the right people, working with the right technology with the right processes to make a difference.
LC: It will sound self-serving for me to say this – but I am a true believer in the power of CRM as a technology in professional services, providing it’s not relegated to the confines of a glorified contact management system, which for many firms it sadly has been. Working inhouse as CMO for an IP law firm, I was an early adopter of the original OnePlace legal CRM. Having all our clients, contacts, financials, and matters in one place transformed our understanding of our clients and practices, and enabled us to be far more strategic and collaborative in how we marketed and developed business. Today, I can’t imagine how any firm can survive without this type of technology sitting at the core of its marketing stack.
MR: Using screencast videos for marketing and client education has been invaluable for us with LexTrack. In the early days I made short videos to show our developers what I wanted, because short videos were more effective and faster than typing!
Now I use video for marketing on a daily (even hourly) basis, because new browser-based video tech makes it so fast and easy. You can make a screencast video using Wistia’s Soapbox or Loom, trim the front and back, and send it to a prospect or client in an email in 5 minutes or less. I find that personalized videos are the best way we can get the attention of our clients and prospects, keep them engaged and address objections. And it increases the open rate of our emails significantly.
TH: Nothing beats social media as a marketing platform. It is such a great way to get a message out and generate interest in your product or service. It is easy to make connections – people might not answer an unsolicited email, but they will connect with you on LinkedIn and then will see things you post.
What advice would you give a woman entering the tech/legal tech field today?
MP: Everyone who works with me knows that my mantra is that there is no innovation if there is no adoption. If you build the best technology in the world and people don’t use it, you have failed. This has been an important lesson for us to learn and has driven our success. Also, the best thing you can do for your career is to develop a strong network of professional women. I am always amazed at what a small world it is. If you focus on mentoring other women, they will be there for you when you need them by providing career advice and support. A win-win for both of you!
RSW: Build your network. Take the time to celebrate your successes and learn from your setbacks.
LC: Dive in and immerse yourself in the things you’re passionate about. Push boundaries, believe in yourself, stay curious, and never be afraid to ask questions when you don’t know something. And whether you’re creating, shaping, selling, or marketing the tech, never lose sight of your customer, or the problems you’re solving for.
MR: If you have an interest in technology, legal tech is a great option. I have found the community to be very welcoming. Getting to work with folks in legal marketing specifically, and legal tech generally, is interesting and rewarding.
TH: While it is still true that there is an imbalance of women in tech, you cannot let that discourage you. That imbalance is diminishing as more women come into these fields. Seek out other women in your desired career and reach out to them, ask them for guidance and advice. Most women I know in technology would be more than happy to mentor a young woman coming into this field. There are so many opportunities for women especially if you explore the more technical aspect of it – engineering and development. Plus, it is constantly changing. You, quite literally, learn something new every day.
A very special thank you to Melissa, Rachel, Lavinia, Marsha, and Tina. This has been one of the most fun features I’ve ever done, and I loved getting to know them even better. I’m proud to call these smart, determined women who sought to make a difference and created opportunities for themselves and those around them my friends.