The Hard Thing about a Legal Tech Career

My last two posts have been about how to find a legal tech job and how to make or build your own legal tech job. I drew those posts from own experience pushing into this new world of legal tech and innovation and landing my gig at Avvo and watching friends and colleagues as they’ve done the same.

But I don’t want people to read those posts and think it’s easy to make your way in the world of legal tech or, worse, think that I think it’s easy. It’s not. That’s what this post is about.

The first hard thing about making a living in legal tech is that there’s no clear entry point. There are lots of ways to “find a job in legal tech” but there’s very little to help you decide whether a given job is a job you should take whether, if you’re a lawyer for example, it’s a job commensurate with your background or professional experience or aspirations.

Another hard thing is that there’s no clear career path. Unlike a traditional law firm job (or, the way traditional law firm jobs used to be) there’s no entry point at “associate” with any kind of path to or expectation of partnership. Hell, there’s no notion of “partnership.” Once you step out of the world of “traditional legal” and into the world of legal tech you are the master of your career. It’s not only that the 7 year partnership track is gone, it may not be clear what you’ll be doing 12 or even 6 months from now. There’s a lot of freedom and a lot of excitement in stepping out but also a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty.

In fact, “uncertainty” may be the the best word to sum up the challenge of pursuing a career in legal tech. Legal technology is still a very uncertain, a very nascent field, without any significant players or well-established career paths. Sure, some may argue that the legal technology area of eDiscovery is a more established area (I even said that eDiscovery is the next big thing in legal tech a few years ago) but it’s still a relatively small portion of the broader legal market. Further, those of us in legal technology working to encourage lawyers to understand technology and embrace its potential face an audience of highly skeptical lawyers.

Most of us in legal tech embrace this challenging landscape. It’s a big part of what keeps us in the space. But even more than the challenge we’re united by a collective vision of what lawyers will do and how they’ll do it in the future. And part of that vision is the recognition that our career paths – as ambiguous and tenuous as they may be – are the model for the legal careers of the future. We believe that lawyers of the future will work the way we in legal tech work and have careers much more akin to that of someone in legal tech than to that of a traditional lawyer of the past or the present. We believe we are doing the hard things now so ten or twenty years from now we’ll not only be prepared for the changes of tomorrow, we’ll capitalize upon them. At least, that’s the vision.

I realize that’s a bold statement. It may be outright delusional. It may be both bold and delusional. It may be neither.  

Regardless, making your way in legal tech is definitely not easy. It’s hard.

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