What’s DEI? It’s diversity, equity and inclusion. Like much of the business world, it’s probably not surprising that there is a lack of DEI in the legal tech industry. Here’s an article from my friend and long-time colleague Christy Burke that discusses the current trends, benefits of DEI in legal tech companies and current initiatives in our industry that are making a difference. Plus, here are seven things we all can do to help.
Christy’s article in Legal IT Today is titled Now is the Time for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Legal Tech and she discusses how even the smallest legal tech startup can advance positive actions to further the DEI in legal tech transformation that is changing the industry to be stronger and more successful – right now.
So, how many diverse legal tech founders are there? Christy cites an article published by Paladin co-founder and COO Kristen Sonday (who is one of five women named to the ILTA 2021 list of Influential Women in Legal Tech) which notes that, in 2018, only 13.8% of legal tech founders were women and just 26.5% were diverse including Black, Latinx, Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern. Updates for 2020 “showed slight-yet-encouraging upticks in the percentage of diverse new founders” with an increase in the percentage of diverse new founders to 31.6%, and slight increases in female founders to 14.5%, Black founders from 2.3% to 3.3% and Latinx founders from 3.1% to 4.3%. Progress, yes, but still a long way to go.
Christy’s article goes on to provide a couple of examples of companies that have embraced DEI initiatives. She also discusses how ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) leadership agrees that diversity has value, and it has taken on DEI in legal tech – in a big way. In 2019, ILTA established a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force (DEITF) and continued to run its Women Who Lead program. The organization aims to become a beacon for DEI on a global scale. ILTA also spearheaded a pronouns project so community members can identify themselves based on their own comfort when attending in-person or at digital events.
Recently released by ILTA’s DEITF, ILTA’s 2020 Diversity Equity & Inclusion Climate Survey showed that diverse people found ILTA to be welcoming. The vast majority of respondents reported a high “feeling of acceptance” from ILTA regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation and race.
Christy’s article (downloadable as part of the June issue of Legal IT Today here) has a lot more information on the topic and quotes from several legal professionals on DEI in legal tech. She observes: “Legal tech companies which prioritize spending time and money developing DEI initiatives will find that their efforts are rewarded on many levels, both now and into the future.”
Agreed, and I’ve certainly seen that in some companies specifically in eDiscovery as well. And I’m proud for eDiscovery Today to be partnered with several women led organizations, including EDRM, eDiscovery Assistant, Prism Litigation Technology/Insight Optix and Cobra Legal Solutions. And many of my other partners have significant woman and diverse representation in their leadership positions as well. From a diversity standpoint, we have a long way to go overall in this industry (and in society in general), but we do have success stories to lead the way.
So, what can you do to help promote DEI in legal tech? Sonday’s article identifies seven ways to do so:
- If you can be a client, buy their products.
- If you can invest, write a check.
- If you know decision makers, make an introduction.
- If you’re on social media, share or like these companies’ posts.
- If you’re a journalist, write about or interview them.
- If you host a conference, invite them to speak (about their expertise, not about diversity).
- If you work at a law school, invite them to present to students.
So, what do you think? What do you think about the state of DEI in legal tech? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.