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From Lawyer to Legal Tech
Jo Guy reflects on her life in law from switching careers in the middle of a pandemic to finding her passion for legal tech. From lawyer to legal tech, she has been on quite a journey.
I’m writing this on the first anniversary of my ‘Work From Home’ life and reflecting back on the changes in the last year. When the pandemic hit, I was only a couple of months into my first lawyer role after an eleven-year break and trying to get my brain back into a different way of thinking and functioning. A year on, I’ve switched from one of the biggest banks in the UK to BusyLamp, an established and scaling legal operations technology provider headquartered in Germany. I’m employed as a Senior Customer Success Manager looking after and supporting our in-house legal clients across the UK and Ireland.
Sticking with Legal Tradition
Since I qualified in 2001, I’ve had a varied career but always worked in roles directly related to legal services. I followed the traditional route of LLB at the University of Bristol, applied for training contracts and decided to stay in Bristol for my LPC having made the city, like many others before and after me, my new ‘home’.
After the Northern Rock crash of 2009, I faced a big decision. Do I retrain to a different area of law and face the competition of newly qualified lawyers who had gained practical experience, or take the plunge and go in a new direction?
A New Direction
I opted for the latter and one morning sat at home to brainstorm my typical day as a lawyer. After identifying my key, transferable skills, I rewrote my CV and submitted it to an online recruitment site. I received a call that I remember vividly; the possibility of a role that would involve legal and property. I was invited to interview at the recoveries team of Lloyds Banking Group, joining the day of the merger with HBOS. This started a journey of roles within the bank, as promised by the recruiter in that original phone call!
At around the same time I also made the bold step of training as a Pilates instructor, having fallen in love with the physical and mental benefits of this exercise practise. It has proved to be my stabiliser throughout the last ten years and particularly beneficial during lockdown when I transitioned my teaching to Zoom (a move to technology that I had long found daunting!)
Introduction to Legal Tech
My introduction to ‘tech’ came by way of being part of the testing group for a new case management system that would finally digitise a very paper heavy department. I got hands-on experience implementing and using legal software, including BusyLamp Legal Spend Management software, and loved it.
From there I moved to a supplier relationship management role and my manager quickly noticed my frustration around the invoice payment process. I subsequently led a project team investigating how an eBilling solution could both help the legal community and provide the sourcing team with insightful spend data that could be used to aid the re-panelling process.
Fast forward 18 months and with the system ready to go live I moved into the legal community to help roll out the implementation and support lawyers through the change – seeing technology from both the in-house lawyer side and how it helped our law firms.
So why did I make what some people would say is a big career move in the middle of a global pandemic? Simply, I was unhappy and lonely. Some people never lose the thrill of being a lawyer and can immerse themselves in legal arguments and challenges. The intensity of lockdown and losing one of my feline lockdown buddies made me realise I am a people person, and I needed daily connections and to help others. It was crushing my spirit by sitting, working and reading alone.
Career Opportunities in Legal Technology
The pandemic has probably highlighted similar feelings for many who may be reading this, who might think, “I don’t have the experience of being involved in tech projects and can’t see how I could make such a move.” My advice would be to stand up and volunteer yourself – it is how I found my enjoyment for legal tech. There are always opportunities to introduce change within legal teams, not least because so many lawyers are, dare I say it, ‘technophobes’. If you have any basic understanding and passion you’ll already be ahead.
The Demise of London-centricity
The other realisation I’ve had is that suddenly the legal and tech world is no longer London-centric. Instead, I can sit at home in Bristol while my colleagues are in different cities across Germany and the UK, and our clients are across the world. It has also made me realise that so many law students probably follow the same route as me without exploring all the many other opportunities that exist as an alternative to a training contract. Here at BusyLamp we offer internships for students to learn about working in legal tech at the same time as studying. Doing an internship or simply putting your hand up to more tech-focused roles within law – be it in-house, within a law firm or a legal tech firm, provides a great opportunity to really decide if a role is for you or not. It can also be a great springboard into something new and unexpected.
Finding Value in a Scale-up
In a year I’ve gone from a role where I felt like I was on a hamster wheel of relentless reporting, struggling to see the value at a time when I was watching doctors and nurses putting their lives at risk to save others, to a role where I am contributing daily to the continued development of a scale-up business which now has over 50 colleagues and continues to challenge global names in the market. I’m only three months into the start of an exciting new chapter in my legal services adventure. It is exactly where I was meant to be.
Jo Guy, www.busylamp.com