ALTA Member Profile – Karen Finch, WALTA Director, CEO, Legally Yours.
This month, our ALTA Intern, Farsai Powthong, chatted to Karen Finch, Chief Executive Officer at Legally Yours, a board member of ALTA, and the co-founder of the Women of Australian Legal Technology Association (WALTA). Karen is also a Co-Director of Pro Help Legal Australia, another ALTA LegalTech company member.
Thank you, Karen, for taking the time to share your LegalTech story with ALTA. Last year, I had an incredibly fantastic opportunity to interview you about your career in the sector. In this interview, I would like to use this opportunity to focus on your new initiative – WALTA.
Could you please speak more on the initiative’s outcome and, in your own words, what WALTA is?
WALTA is about putting action behind the visibility of women of Australian LegalTech and giving us a voice and focus on funding initiatives. WALTA’s overall goal is empower and support female founders, create better pathways to source funding and to make it easier for the next generation of women in LegalTech.
How did WALTA come about?
WALTA started with Jodie Baker, who is one of ALTA’s former board members and who plays a big part in the WALTA community. Jodie started this some years ago as an informal event where women in our LegalTech community could gather and get to know each other (a bit more – delete). It was a forum that helped us understand and discuss the issues and challenges that we are facing whether it is within a private practice firm, or within a LegalTech company. At ALTACON21 Jodie Baker launched a research paper, entitled “Diversity in LegalTech – It’s time for action!” and during the later part of the year we organised a number of Think Tanks for our ALTA women members and advocates and started to develop specific calls for action, to discuss things we could do. This year, we officially launched WALTA on 28 April 2022 so we can step out of the shadow of ALTA and become an independent (organisation – delete) chapter of ALTA. WALTA has secured its own annual sponsor, PEXA, to specifically support (our calls for action and initiatives for women in the legal technology sector – delete) our establishment and launch.
Why was the Diversity in LegalTech report such a turning point to formally establishing WALTA?
As were leading up to ALTACON in June 2021, we decided to put some action behind what we see as the main issues in terms of the disparity of diversity and opportunities for women in LegalTech in Australia and globally. PEXA commissioned the report, Eric Chin from Alpha Creates researched and wrote the report, and Jodie Baker delivered the keynote speech to launch the report to the broader industry and shine a very bright light on the findings. The ultimate aim of the report was to collate all the data and information, which we could then formulate into priorities. From this report, three calls for action were formulated.
The first was around funding issues. We now know only 2% of global funds go to female-founded companies, so we knew we had to do something here and look at in terms of how women can get better access to funding options and how we can engage a different type of investor who understands us and our solutions.
The second call for action was around visibility. The commentary and anecdotal evidence that we gathered from our stakeholders in ALTA, like our investors, purchasers, and advocate members, was enormous and quite confronting. One of our investors said he was struggling to name even one female LegalTech founder. This motivated us to make our community more visible and ensure that the market understands who we are and takes notice of our success in this space.
The third call for action is about empowering and giving a voice to women in LegalTech to make sure that when companies, law firms, or in-house counsel are looking at purchasing LegalTech, they understand who we are and invite us into the room.
When did you start paying attention to women’s roles in legal technology?
The information and data that we collated in the Diversity in LegalTech report (2021), clearly evidenced the lack of diversity in the Australian LegalTech industry. This was a real turning point for WALTA because once we had a comprehensive report that we could share, we could then bring forward the WALTA movement and formulate the report’s recommendations into actions.
What are some challenges facing women in legal technology at the moment?
The research conducted last year, found that overall, female founders tech companies are successful and more profitable than their male counterparts. However, funding is one of the main challenges for female tech founders. We need to make women in LegalTech understand the funding opportunities that are being offered to them. We need to gather information about funding and put it into a single source and provide them with all the options, rather than having to do all their own research. WALTA also sees that we need a new type of investor. So one of the goals is to be able to reach out to female partners at law firms, and female GCs as our future investors. WALTA wants to create a new platform for the female collective by bringing the new female investors and female founders of LegalTech companies together to match them and solve the funding problem.
The visibility of women in LegalTech is also another challenge. WALTA wants a female voice featured in LegalTech companies. We want our voices to be heard, and by seeking out opportunities through industry press and social media, creating videos and podcasts that showcase our female LegalTech community, we hope will help raise awareness of the diversity challenges LegalTech companies face.
WALTA also has a resource hub initiative that aims to create a pathway for the future female LegalTech founders. What we are looking at in this initiative is creating a downloadable E-playbook. The E-playbook will make available all the learnings, the resources and the opportunities (such as funding options, networks, government grants and the like) specific to the needs of a female LegalTech founder, as well as share the stories of the current WALTA members of today.
What do you hope to achieve from WALTA, and what do you wish to see for the future generations of female lawyers in the legal technology industry?
WALTA aims to pave the way for future female LegalTech founders for success. Most of the WALTA members have been in the industry for years and we have had to find these things out for ourselves. We realised that if we created a community that allows members to discuss their issues and create connections, we can increase the chances of success for our members and for the WALTA members of the future. A goal of WALTA is to make it easier for women in LegalTech to network and connect with each other and with their ultimate customer. WALTA wants the members to feel like a collective and advocate for each other, to create a greater chance of success for all of us, and that future generations can better navigate the early start up challenges they may be confronted with, to create more successful and diverse LegalTech companies of the future.
Finally, for our future female LegalTech founders and our diverse range of LegalTech industry colleagues, where can they find out more about WALTA and how to participate in these initiatives?
First and foremost – join up! either as an ALTA LegalTech Company member or an Advocate. As a woman working in LegalTech, WALTA forms part of your membership benefits. Connect with me on Linked In and visit WALTA online at https://alta.law/walta/ to get involved in one of our project initiatives – the WALTA Collective, the WALTA Director or the WALTA Resource Hub.