Girls in Authorized Expertise: Amanda Brown
The Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech initiative aims to promote diversity and celebrate women in legal technology. This initiative started in 2015 with a list of innovators and leaders in legal technology. With this year’s additions, this list now includes 132 talented and influential women leaders. Every Monday and Wednesday we will introduce a woman from our class from 2021. This week we have Amanda Brown!
Amanda Brown is the Executive Director of the Lagniappe Law Lab. Find her on Twitter @accesstowhat.
What are some points that describe you?
- The young lawyer became a legal tech geek
- Passion for access to justice
How is teleworking / quarantine going for you?
The Lagniappe Law Lab was remote from the start, so the lifestyle from home was nothing out of the ordinary. Granted, I desperately miss travel – whether it’s across town for a face-to-face meeting, across the state for outreach and user testing, or across the country to meet fellow legal tech junkies at conferences. In some ways, 2020 was one of the most “productive” of my career, but I really missed the energy and creativity that these face-to-face interactions bring.
How did you get into legal engineering?
In my senior year of law school in 2016, I signed up for a month-long law technology clinic that changed in every way my entire view of the legal profession. I’ve learned some basic coding, but more importantly, I’ve learned how to use technology to solve problems and provide services – something I never expected in law school.
After passing the bar exam, I spent some time as a Disaster Recovery Fellow with my local legal aid program and helped develop the ABA’s Flood Proof project. At that point, I knew I really wanted to commit to it. In August 2017, I went all-in as a class member of the ABA Center for Innovation’s first NextGen scholarship. During that time, I spent a year at Microsoft in Seattle to help design and develop the LSC Legal Navigator Portal project.
The rest is history! I’ve been back in Louisiana since my scholarship ended, building civil legal aid technology with the support of the Louisiana Bar Foundation.
What projects have you been focusing on lately?
My current focus is building a publicly accessible digital infrastructure for civil justice in Louisiana. It is my attempt, with the help of technology, to take a systems-level approach to tackling the Louisiana justice gap. The first phase of this work focuses solely on helping people find legal information and resources that are available. This means creating triage interviews at the topic level, streamlining searches, and allocating resources for marketing and advertising.
At the same time, work is being carried out to deepen this experience where it is important, through form automation and systemic work, to influence the uniform adoption of these forms. Moving forward, the hope is to go a step further and support a full experience of electronic filing and / or connecting people to emerging court programs like online dispute resolution.
Is there a legal technical resource that really helped you when you started in the field?
I can honestly say that #legaltech Twitter has played a huge role in my ability to learn from and connect with people in this field around the world. There are practically no barriers to entry for incredibly smart people who work in legal technology.
What do you see as the most important emerging technology right now, legal or not?
I am voting for renewable energy and the advances we’ve made in battery technology – the state of our climate is greater than anything we do in the legal profession.
In legal terms, I think technology’s cousin – data – has the greatest power to drive change. At its simplest level, it can help law firms and legal organizations understand the market and the people they serve, and educate tailored approaches to service delivery. At the system level, it can secure lived experience and influence politics and financing.
There is so much hype about the potential of artificial intelligence to influence the law, but ultimately you can’t have AI without good data. As a profession, we need to be more focused on using the data we have and identifying new metrics to improve access to and results for those who use the system.
What advice would you give other women interested in getting into legal technology?
The first is: be curious. Ask yourself why you do things the way you do. Think creatively about ways to apply principles from other industries to your work. Think about what is possible with each of your daily tasks and / or start clean, working backwards from your expected results.
The second is to be human-centered. The legal profession is essentially a service company. Even as we scale and produce these services, make sure you focus on the user experience rather than your own. Keep the user’s voice and perspective at the center of everything you create.
The third is: don’t be intimidated. I have absolutely no formal education in computer science. There are so many web applications out there that can help you bring ideas to life without a single line of code. Experiment with these tools, prototype, and don’t be afraid to move on if your first draft doesn’t meet your expectations.
Greet another legal engineering woman who you admire or have learned from!
There are so many amazing women in this room that I look up to – all of them on this list! A special thank you to one of this year’s nominees, Lucy Bassli, who supported me very early on this trip during my scholarship at Microsoft. I’m not sure if I could have made it to this point without her example. I’m also really looking forward to last year’s nominee Sarah Glassmeyer, who is not only a senior librarian and legal technologist, but also apologizes. We need more Sarahs in the legal engineering world!
Register for the Women of Legal Tech Summit 2021!
Attend the ABA Women Rainmakers Committee’s two-day symposium from March 3, 2021 to March 4, 2021 to help bridge the gender gap in legal technology. On both days, the 2021 Women of Legal Tech Honorees from the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center will be recognized. Find inspiration in Ignite-style sessions with legal technology leaders, breakout sessions with executives in the field, and interactive workshops.