Diversity Matters in Legal Tech

I logged into Twitter this week to find another legal tech conference with all male panels.

People, it’s 2018.

We have either one of two problems here.  Either the conference organizers didn’t do due diligence in finding diverse panels to speak at their conference OR there simply aren’t diverse people making legal tech.  The former is bad, but the latter is devastating.

I would like to see this practice end, not because it’s unfair and I’m a big ol’ SJW, although it is and I am.  But we are missing something vital if only certain voices are being heard in the legal tech space.  Not just at conferences, but in the creation of legal tech.

I’ve said it time and again, but it bears repeating: Tech is not neutral.  It comes packaged with all of the prejudices and baggage of it’s creators.  For example, we’re seeing that algorithms used to decide bail might be prejudiced against African-Americans. And certain physical sensors, such as in hand soap dispensers, aren’t able to detect dark skin tones. (Kinda makes you wonder who’s programming the self-driving cars and their sensors, doesn’t it?)  It’s also been shown that diverse teams are smarter.

So if Legal Tech is only being talked about and built by a certain segment of the population, it’s not being created and shaped in the best possible environment.  And as rise of legal tech is inevitable, we should all want it to be made as well as it possibly could be.  Right?

Instead of just complaining about it on twitter, I decided to do something about it.  I’m crowdsourcing a list of legal tech and innovation people from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.   As of this writing, there’s about 50 people listed.  Feel free to add yourself.  If you’re planning a conference, please consult it and diversify your speaker line up.  If you’re hiring, reach out to the people on the list and ask them to apply or distribute the job ad to their networks.

Here’s some other things you can do:

  1. Refuse to speak on non-diverse panels.
  2. Offer to give up your slot to a diverse individual.  Have suggestions ready (Another way this list might come in handy.)
  3. Insist that any conference you speak at or attend has a code of conduct.  Here’s a great starting point for one. And yes, your conference needs one.
  4. Speak out about the need for diversity.  This can’t be a battle only fought by underrepresented populations.  Some CIS het White men need to take up the banner. I know some of you just rolled your eyes at the phrase “CIS Het White Men.”  Get over it.



Photo Credit: marcoverch Flickr via Compfight cc


  4 comments for “Diversity Matters in Legal Tech

  1. February 4, 2018 at 1:24 am

    This is great. Why aren’t you writing with us yet? 🙂

  2. February 6, 2018 at 5:05 am

    Hello from London. I am a journalist and author of a book about legal AI called Robots in Law. I was at CES in Las Vegas this year – 109,000 attendees, and no queue for the ladies’ bathrooms. There were so few women we practically had one each! There were a few high-profile speakers, but nearly all the women who attended (including press night) were working on the vendor stands.The AI Summit in London – 9% women participating. In legal tech events, there are often a few women panellists, but no commentators – the women are either selling or buying technology, so they are promoting a vendor in some way. It’s even worse when it comes to AI and emerging tech. I speak at a few events, but I cannot do too many because I don’t ask for a fee for speaking, just my expenses. I participate in events at universities and law schools in the UK, Europe (I have spoken in Hamburg, Warsaw and Sofia) and the US because this is about reshaping a more inclusive future and encouraging women and others from underrepresented backgrounds into technology.

  3. Alex Grigg Dean
    February 7, 2018 at 9:52 am

    I like the idea of this list, but since it’s crowd sourced I’m not totally sure how far to trust it especially since at first glance a few of the additions seem to be white dudes. Is there a non-problematic way we can designate how the potential speakers are “diverse?” Maybe a “Ways in which they’re not a straight white male” column?

    I do see some of the potential pitfalls of this, such as outing people who are a little under the radar, but it would be helpful for when you have some women speakers but would like to add people of color. Or when half your panel is transgender or gay, but it still looks pretty male and white to observers not in the know and you want to add from other groups.

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