Women of Australian Legal Technology Association
By Jodie Baker, CEO, Xakia Technologies and Stephanie Abbott, Director, Janders Dean
For many years now, women have been eking out their place in the Australian legal industry, growing representation in the courts, private practice, not-for-profit, education and in-house. Although progress has been slow and there is still a long way to go, there are many reasons to celebrate.
Now, we are faced with the rise of a new, growing segment of the legal industry – LegalTech. We see rising commentary, analysis and adoption of LegalTech – indeed, entire conferences are now being dedicated to the subject. The mere existence of ALTA and its rapidly growing membership is indication of the explosion of this ecosystem.
Amidst all this activity, what is the count of women in this new segment? Of our 43 ALTA members, 13 have a woman as the primary contact (33%):
- 8 of these are CEO, Director or Principal
- 3 of these are Founders.
The numbers seem reflective of the broader industry, but we decided to take stock and ensure we understood the numbers, the role and the impact of gender diversity in LegalTech.
ALTA held two events – one in Melbourne hosted by KWM, one in Sydney hosted by Allens – with an open invitation to all women in LegalTech. We set about doing three things:
- meeting – understanding who else is in this community
- counting – a clear understanding of the numbers and influence of individuals
- considering – how and whether anything more needs to be done.
Meeting and counting: what we discovered
Defining ‘LegalTech’ is difficult but could be either:
- broad (technology – any technology – as it applies to legal business or delivering legal services) or
- narrow (technology that is entirely specific to legal or that itself embodies a legal service.
There were 40+ women in LegalTech at these events. Let’s assume that the real numbers are at least double this to account for those who couldn’t attend these events. The roles of women in LegalTech varied enormously:
- Entrepreneurs and start-up leaders
- IT team leaders within law firms
- Business analysts and technology implementers.
Considering: addressing the ongoing challenge
Having taken stock of the numbers, three questions remained:
1. Is there a perception vs reality mismatch?
We and all the WALTA event attendees started out with the assumption that there were very few women in LegalTech. Excited as we were to see two rooms full of LegalTech women at the WALTA events, if we lined up all the men in similar roles, we may find that 80-100 women represents less than 10% of the whole. We cannot yet measure this, but data = knowledge = empowered decision making and this is something we will seek to understand in the future.
2. Why does gender diversity in LegalTech matter?
Without entering a broader diversity debate here, there are some very specific reasons why gender diversity is important to LegalTech:
- Development phase: the end users of LegalTech include women in very large proportions – see stats above. The perspective, problem-solving skills, values and life experience that women bring – to the extent that it differs from that of men – will help to drive Australian LegalTech solutions to a better outcome.
- Women as buyers: as senior decision makers and implementers within the legal space, women are increasingly influential in deciding which tech is adopted and implemented within their organisations. Being able to articulate value and outcomes in a way that makes sense to women, and avoiding approaches to communication that make women switch off, will be key to securing genuine market share.
3. What can we do about it?
Irrespective of whether there is a perception vs reality mismatch, there are some immediate steps that we can all take to both build the numbers and build the profile of the existing women in LegalTech:
- Role models: ensure women are visibly present, offer case studies and be role models for the next generation. For those of us who are already women in LegalTech, this means stepping up or promoting other women. For those who wish to support it, this means looking beyond the obvious and promoting women who may be unwilling to promote themselves.
- Language: use language that is inclusive, supportive, strong and confident.
- Start-up founder support: whilst not unique to our industry, we need to encourage more women across to LegalTech from other roles, support them through the incubation and early business phase and provide effective mentoring. Some initiatives exist in this space, but we should be understanding, optimise their effectiveness, and determine what more should be done.
We may all know the theoretical benefits of being part of a community, but it is useful to be reminded of it in practical terms from time to time, particularly when it presents as a new community serving a new, shared goal.
Jonathan Chan wrote for the Huffington Post about the benefits of community in entrepreneurship and they are relevant to the goals being articulated here:
- Knowledge to be shared
- Connections to be made
- Inspiration to be given and received
- Resources to help raise those around you
- Support to reach your goals
We have dubbed our new community ‘WALTA’ – Women of the Australian Legal Technology Association. As we define what this community means and how it will address the challenges defined above, we want to take a moment to celebrate the women who enthusiastically turned up to be counted as an existing part of the community.
We see huge potential for this WALTA community as the wider Australian LegalTech ecosystem continues to thrive.
About our bloggers
Jodie is an innovator, entrepreneur and a passionate advocate of #LegalTech. In 2016, Jodie founded Xakia Technologies. Xakia is the world’s leading platform for automated Legal Department Intelligence.
More than a beautiful matter management, expense tracker and legal intake tool, Xakia captures data at every part of the matter journey to provide you with dashboards and reports for informed decision making and communication with your business.
Jodie was instrumental in the founding of the Australian Legal Technology Association and Xakia Technologies is a proud Founding Member.
Stephanie Abbott is a Dirctor at Janders Dean. She is a trusted advisor in strategy and change for legal services. She has been making a difference to law firms in organisational development, effective change management, process improvement, KM and technology for over 15 years.
Stephanie combines a big-picture outlook with discipline on the detail. She works with legal teams and firms of all sizes and profiles. She blends global best practice, leading awareness of key trends with a keen sense of the right path for her clients to take, right here and right now.
Janders Dean are ALTA Community Partners.
 https://www.lawsociety.com.au/advocacy-and-resources/advancement-of-women/gender-statistics (showing a 300% increase in female solicitors in the decade 1995-2015, with only a 59% increase in male solicitors. However, equivalent representation as firm principals or in leadership, and pay equity, remain problematic).