ALTA Board Profile | Stevie Ghiassi – Director (International) and Co-Founder & CEO, Legaler
How did you end up in your current job, and what drives you?
I’m fortunate to be the co-founder and CEO of an amazing team that is working extremely hard to make the law accessible to everyone. When I first ventured into the legal industry, I had no idea what the term ‘access to justice’ even meant, I just knew legal services were expensive. I had no idea how many people around the world were actually unable to access something that protected their most basic human rights.
Over 80% of people that encounter a legal issue are unable to get legal help, so my personal northstar and our company’s mission to build technology can reduce that number significantly. We are doing this in a number of ways and one of those is our nonprofit, Legaler Aid, which is providing a crowdfunding platform for social justice cases and also building a virtual legal clinic to help society’s most vulnerable no matter their location. .
Describe a typical day in your life as a legal tech founder
Working with a distributed and global team, especially during a pandemic, can be very challenging! We have team members in just about every time zone from Oslo, Perth, Sydney, San Francisco, New York and across asia and other countries in Europe, so finding a reasonable time for an all-hands meeting gets really interesting! The result is some super early and also some very late meetings. This makes my days quite long so I try to find some time to do some transcendental meditation or squeeze in weights or yoga workout. I’m also a board member at ALTA and leading the Global Legal Tech Report, so there isn’t much time for anything else right now!
You are about to go back in time to give your younger self a single piece of advice. What do you say to younger Stevie? And when?
“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world–to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.”
This is one of my favourite quotes; it’s by Ayn Rand. Doing what you want, is actually deceptively really hard. Just ask any lawyer that went to law school because their parents wanted it ‘for them’! I wish I knew the power of this when I was in my late teens but it’s also something that is a lifelong tension, of constantly questioning your motivations and why you do things. It’s a very powerful question to ask yourself and relates to all areas of life and most importantly, your happiness, and consequently that of those around you – are you REALLY doing what you want?
It’s 30 October 2030. What will lawyers and legal tech founders say when they look back at the legal industry today? What moments and trends will they still be talking about?
They will scoff at the fact that in 2020 we were still using paper to create and print legal documents! When you look at what can be digitised or automated in the legal industry, there is still an extraordinary amount of work or processes that can be updated. The pandemic has highlighted this and a simple example has been electronic signatures, where many institutions came to a complete standstill just because they weren’t ‘allowed’ to accept e-signatures. I also think courts in their existing format will look very archaic in 10 years, as they will be mostly digital and virtual. As Richard Susskind points out, they’ll be more of services than a location.
In 3 sentences: what is ALTA, who was ALTA created for, and why should they care?
Together with Jodie Baker and some of the early members, I helped establish ALTA, which I always looked at as a ‘support group’. I think this really nicely sums up its role in the ecosystem, providing support to the various stakeholders that are either building or using legal tech. This can take many forms from demo days, webinars and social gatherings but what makes it unique is that everyone is there to help each other.
What is your role on the ALTA board and what are your plans for the rest of your term?
After serving as the founding President of ALTA, I moved to the US to expand our company, which also made me somewhat of the de facto ALTA International director. This has been great fun and I got to host our first overseas ALTA meetup in New York City. This past year, I led the Global Legal Tech Report project, working in partnership with Alpha Creates. This is the largest legal tech research initiative ever conducted, bringing together 13 of the global associations and some amazing research partners – KPMG, Macquarie Bank, The Law Society, Baker Mackenzie and Toro Digital. The Global report will be launched in December and is the culmination of 12 months of hard work by the project team. It is very rewarding to see this project move from idea to completion.
Where can we stay up to date with what you’re doing?
We recently donated $2 million worth of our software for secure online meetings to law firms and legal clinics that were grappling with working remotely and you can find out more about it at www.legaler.com
And finally, you can get the latest on the report and the webinars at www.globallegaltechreport.com