My older brother and I share the same birthday, and we usually celebrate our birthdays together. When we were much younger, I always got dolls as birthday gifts, while he always got toy cars and games. I developed the habit of taking apart his toys; he loved role-playing with my dolls. We did not only switch toys; we also switched assignments. I would solve my brother’s arithmetic assignment, and he would complete my literature assignment. Also, fixing things around the house came easily to me, while my brother preferred to bake and cook. As we grew older, we became aware of the stereotypes associated with gender and career.
Legal technology is a cross-section of the legal and tech sectors, two male-dominated sectors. With Artificial Intelligence pervading and transforming legal practice, more women are rejecting gender and technology stereotypes. Yet, there seems to be no balanced representation of women in legal tech. What are the challenges women in legal technology face? How can women earn a seat at the legal tech table? Read along as this article seeks to provide answers to these questions.
What is Legal Technology?
Legal Technology entails using new technologies to automate legal work and provide legal services. Law firm technology products and tools facilitate practice management, accounting, document storage, and retrieval. Yet, from 2011 encompasses solutions structured to aid in the access to justice by end users. With these technologies, individuals and the public who may not be lawyers can access legal services that lawyers ordinarily offer. Thus, legal technologies are devices or software used to interact with the substance of the law. Visit our LegaMart community page to ask questions if you have more questions on Legal Technology.
Gender Diversity in Legal Technology
One of the arguments in support of Legal Tech is that it presents an excellent opportunity for women. Legal Technology may improve the work and life balance of women. It may also introduce more flexibility to work hours. It is argued that using Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms will encourage fair hiring and promotion mechanisms. Yet, there is a high-profile gender bias with AI. AI tends to have gender bias against women. Since AI algorithms learn from existing data, they can replicate human biases. Thus, there is no proof of gender neutrality, even with the use of AI in the legal profession.
Research shows only about 17% of legal tech founders are women. The stats also revealed that only 2% of women receive venture capital (VC) funding. This way, women find it harder to establish legal Tech businesses. The goal is not only to have women in an AI-friendly legal profession. Much more is that women and men are in equal standing.
Challenges Faced by Women in Legal Technology
Women in legal technology continue to face gender bias and assumptions about their technical capabilities. Being mansplained about what to do and what not to do is a common thing women in legal technology face. In a room full of men, women have to prove their knowledge and credibility. Gender bias even exists in Venture Capital funding of legal tech businesses founded by women. Investors perceive women as not being aggressive enough and bullish about their startup plans. Thus, they prefer to fund legal tech startups founded by men rather than women.
There has been a history of lower rate funding for women-led legal tech startups than those with male founders. Legal tech reports show that companies with male co-founders raised funds compared with legal tech companies with female co-founders. Most legal tech startups by women have shown lower failure rates and higher venture capital returns. Still, there is a dearth of access to capital for female legal tech entrepreneurs.
This challenge may be caused by investors unconscious bias when making funding pitches.
Investors tend to prefer pitches by men over women. It seems that female founders do not connect with male venture capital investors. Women are perceived as not aggressive enough in pitching their startup plans. Again women are under-represented in the venture capital decision-making table. This way, women in legal technology find it difficult to get the funding they need for their legal tech solutions. The right step in the right direction is to have more female representation at the VC decision-making table. Male VC decision-makers must also resolve all unconscious biases when assessing female-founded startups for funding. Funding for women for legal tech entrepreneurs should also be a priority.
Managing Work and Family Demands
Founding a legal tech startup and juggling the demands of family life is a challenge typical to women. Difficulties in re-entering employment after pauses in their career and less specialisation are challenges a woman faces in legal practice. These challenges are more specific to a legal tech company’s female founder than to a male founder. True, legal tech has improved the work life of women. It has introduced flexible working conditions and overall job satisfaction. However, the flexibility comes with the need for women founders always to prove their credibility. In addition, women who cannot cope with traditional law practice tend to opt for legal technology. Thus, women in legal technology struggle to be taken seriously.
Overcoming Barriers to Women Entering Legal Tech: Getting More Women a Seat at the Legal Tech Table
Set the table yourself
You might have to set the table yourself if the existing table does not have space for you. The table here does not refer to a physical place. Rather, it is being able to give value and proffer solutions in whichever field one decides to be in. More women need to reject being hampered by traditional ideas, precisely the conventional way of legal practice. Women must break free from old paradigms and embrace their desired career paths. Who knows? Legal Technology may be just the best option.
Earn a Seat at the Table and Bring More Women with You
There is a need to spotlight female role models in the legal Tech field. Younger women need more women role models in the legal Tech field. Government and industries ought to create public awards and recognition awards that inspire women to the legal tech industries. Mentorship and sponsorship are viable tools to get more women a seat at the legal tech table. Established women in the legal technology field can share their knowledge with both women and men through reversed mentorship. The visibility of women role models in legal technology will encourage more women to join the field. Also, younger women can proactively seek mentors within and outside their organisations.
Ditch the Imposter Syndrome and Be the Expert in the Room
Often than not, women do not always believe in themselves to fulfil a role. You may not know everything, but a good attitude toward learning will go a long way. It is common for women in the legal technology field to discount themselves when they don’t meet all the requirements of a job posting. The opposite is true for men, who will apply for jobs even if they have only a few conditions. More women will get a seat on the table if they believe in themselves to fulfil their roles.
Build Your Community and Tribe of Women in Legal Technology
A strong community of women in legal technology will help younger women access to support, networks and mentors. Networking and community building amongst women in legal tech will relieve loneliness, and the feeling of being one of the few women in legal technology will disappear. There is no balanced representation of women in legal tech. Nonetheless, several women have thriving careers in the field. There is a need to network with women who have made a name for themselves in the legal tech industry.
We exist in a time where technology, automation, and globalisation are transforming the legal profession. Legal tech has not only challenged the status quo of law practice. It has also provided solutions for end users and legal innovation. Legal tech has also improved women’s work life and has introduced flexibility to working conditions. However, there is yet to be a balance of gender diversity in the legal tech space.
Gender bias, lack of funding for female-led legal tech businesses, and striking a balance between are challenges women in legal tech face. More funding for female-led legal tech startups will go a long way in overcoming some of the challenges. A visible community of women in legal technology will encourage younger women to tow the career path. It will also provide a platform for mentorship and support for women in legal tech.
Gender diversity is essential for better perspectives, outcomes, creativity, and client attraction in legal tech. These are some advantages of gender diversity in legal tech. An ecosystem that encourages women in legal technology is a win-win for all. Legal professionals, clients, and society will benefit when more women are in legal technology.