In honor of International Women’s Day, UniCourt is proud to spotlight some of the women who are leaders in legal technology – both within and outside of our company.
Legal tech represents a confluence of three traditionally male-dominated realms: law, technology, and entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, the last few years have been banner years for women in legal tech, marking tremendous advancements led by women who are pioneering innovation in this space.
There are many reasons to celebrate the contributions of women to legal tech beyond diversifying the field. According to a recent article authored by pro bono entrepreneur Kristen Sonday: “In tech, female founders traditionally produce greater investment returns, decrease design bias, and build more diverse teams.” And in the past year, there was an unprecedented number of women in legal tech receiving accolades and winning promotions. Clearly, what was once a male-dominated territory is well-suited to the unique leadership and innovative genius of women.
Right now, there are more than 50 female founders in legal tech, and the number promises steady growth. In fact, we are on the verge of what Sonday calls “a new wave of legal tech female founders” who are “uniquely positioned to build the future of legal services.” From design innovators like Margaret Hagan to legal services disruptors like Expedite Legal’s Eve Barrett, the names of various female founders are becoming fixtures at legal tech summits and conferences across the country.
The Women of UniCourt
UniCourt is proud to be a leader in championing the accomplishments and skill sets of women in legal tech. Our team currently employs 16 women in roles ranging from engineering, to marketing, business development, design, and more. To recognize International Women’s Day, we spoke with three UniCourt engineers – Preema Mascarenhas, Chaithra Ballaka, and Sujaya KS – about their perspectives on building successful careers in legal technology.
Tell us about your role within UniCourt. What type of work do you do?
Preema Mascarenhas, Senior Quality Analyst, CODAXTR: I work with my team to structure court data and maintain a direct point of contact with the courts. I analyze the types of cases each county handles, how large they are in number, and adapt to the behavior of each of these courts in getting the latest cases filed. I also work on expanding the data coverage by integrating more counties into UniCourt’s system. Every county is unique in the way it handles cases. I look at the data (parties, documents, and dockets) with a different perspective. This helps me to gather information about the courts and gives me an idea of how we can make it a useful product.
Chaithra Ballaka, Senior Quality Assurance Engineer, Application: I work as a Senior Quality Assurance Engineer for UniCourt’s application. This module is the primary user interface for Unicourt, where the user deals with his account, subscription, and feature requests/task request related to a court case. My role is to maintain the quality of the Unicourt application and to make it hassle-free for users.
Sujaya KS, Senior Quality Assurance Engineer, Analytics: Currently I am working in Quality Assurance for the Analytics team. Since I have a science background, I didn’t have much background knowledge in the legal field when I started with UniCourt, but my colleagues have supported me as I learned the legal side. My skill set in data analysis is what ultimately led me to seek a role within a legal tech company.
What is your background, and what led you to your current role with a legal tech company?
Preema: I’m a software engineer. When I joined UniCourt, I had no idea what type of work I was going to do. This gave me the best learning opportunity. Initially, I spent a lot of time learning the legal terminology, as I did not have a legal background, but I really enjoyed the work I did. Learning new things is never boring and the most interesting part was being able think outside the box, move beyond my comfort zone, and build a very strong foundation for my career.
Chaithra: I am an engineer certified in software testing. As a Quality Assurance Engineer, I am comfortable working with any kind of tech platform. I didn’t have a legal tech background before joining UniCourt, but since working here, I’ve gained a lot of legal knowledge and experience. I really enjoy my work for UniCourt, since it deals with a wide range of data sets like court cases and jurisdictions, and it has a lot of users. This platform has given me an opportunity to prove my strength and knowledge as a Quality Assurance Engineer.
Sujaya: Initially, I was working under “CODAXTR” (Court Data Extraction) team where I acquired some legal knowledge. As a member of the team, I validated the court data. Now, I work in analytics. Our team receives raw data from different sources. As a team, we validate and clean up the data and normalize the data to make it more useful. My role is to make sure the normalized data is accurate and properly represented. It’s hard to get fully accurate data, so at times I had to manually organize our normalized data.
What do you like most about working for a legal tech company?
Preema: The best thing about working for a legal tech company is that I’m constantly amazed by the number of cases being filed every day! Legal tech companies make sure this data is made accessible to the public in a very simplified way. You can gather data from courts across counties and search on a large scale with minimal information (by just knowing the parties involved, you can still search for a case in UniCourt’s system). Also, documents can be easily retrieved. We can get the updates on the cases we follow which is very useful.
Chaithra: Legal tech companies use technology and software to provide legal services. This presents a lot of challenges since there is a huge number of users and client requirements. Experience plays the main role here. As a QA in the legal tech industry, I need to know the product very well and pay attention to all the features and functionalities so that it satisfies client requirements. Since this industry deals with massive data sets, I need to be very active and ready to learn new things. I like this challenge.
Sujaya: I really enjoy analyzing case studies, investigating and reviewing the data, and transforming the data into a more useful form.
What advice do you have for other women who are interested in working within the legal tech industry?
Preema: Often, women think that working in the legal tech industry is not their cup of tea. That’s wrong! No one can stop us from what we are meant to be and to do. Explore to the extent that you can! Trust me, legal tech companies are the best places to explore because there is no end to what they can do.
Chaithra: The legal tech industry is growing and has created a lot of job opportunities. Women who are interested in joining this industry should gain knowledge about it and work to build their careers within legal tech companies.
Sujaya: My advice to all who are interested in this field is to stay updated in every domain in which you’re working. There are alot of opportunities to gain knowledge about legal tech. Thanks to UniCourt family and my supporters for giving the all the support and advice throughout my career growth!
Championing Women as Legal Tech Leaders
As we’ve seen, women are taking over a diverse array of roles in legal tech, from engineering, to business development, marketing, data analytics, and more. 2019 will likely be another banner year for female leaders in tech, and at UniCourt, we support and champion female founders as they continue to pioneer important innovations in the legal industry as a whole.