UniCourt Influencer Q&A with Colin S. Levy
To say Colin Levy is well-versed in legal technology would be an understatement. After graduating from law school at the end of the Great Recession, Colin secured an in-house position where his affinity for legal tech flourished. From there, Colin was able to expand his own knowledge of legal tech while connecting with others who shared the same passion for technological advancements in the legal industry.
We were thrilled to sit down with Colin to discuss his unique background and perspective on the future of lawyers’ work with the rapidly-growing assortment of tech tools available in the 21st century.
UniCourt: Tell us your story. What is your background, and what led you to what you are doing now?
Colin Levy: Technology has long been an interest starting back in high school when some buddies and I started a web site design company. Many years later, I was again immersed in technology working at a big law firm in New York, where I created and managed eDiscovery databases. While in law school, I was dismayed and disheartened to encounter no mention of technology in the practice of law. After graduating and starting my in-house legal career, I was constantly reminded of how technology should be a part of every lawyer’s toolbelt. That inspired me to learn more about this legal tech space I kept hearing mentioned on social media. My approach was simple: Contact individuals working on the front lines of legal tech and listen to them tell me their stories. I expanded the approach over time to share their stories hoping to inform and inspire others about legal tech.
UC: You have a great deal of experience working as in-house counsel at multiple companies throughout your career. How do you think the role of in-house counsel has changed over the years, and how is it still evolving with the waves being made by legal operations?
CL: The role has become one that historically was based around providing legal answers to legal questions to one that is now more holistic and multidisciplinary. What I mean by this is that in-house lawyers, being so close to the business, are expected to be business partners and show leadership through their business and legal acumen. They are expected to be responsive, empathetic, and always be balancing the needs of the business with legal risk. I see the rise of legal operations as a reflection of the increasing demands placed upon legal departments and the need to manage those demands with improved workflows and tools. Legal operations as a function is there to help find, implement, and manage workflows and tools for the legal department. As technology continues to advance, so too have the responsibilities and scope of the legal department and legal operations functions.
UC: What are some of your top pieces of advice for future lawyers heading into law school and newly minted lawyers entering the legal profession?
- CL: In law school, you will encounter a lot of pressure to conform and/or to follow a prescribed career path. Do not give in to peer pressure. Follow your own path. Follow your interests and your passions. There are many paths one can take within the legal field. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find the right path for you.
- Technology is not a fad and is not going away. Its role in the legal industry is only just now taking serious hold and growing. As a lawyer (at least within the USA), you now must be aware of the breadth and depth of the technological tools that exist.
- Don’t be a jerk. Relationships matter. Don’t leave your humanity at the door when you enter or when you leave law school.
UC: Though some see legal tech as a panacea for problems in the legal industry, you have often spoken about the need for more than just legal tech when solving challenges. How should legal tech fit into the equation for legal professionals?
CL: When solving a roadblock or pain point, tech should not be the first thing you investigate. Technology is but one of many tools available to help a legal professional overcome a challenge. You need to have a clear understanding, though, of what your specific issue is first and look at how and when the issue arises. Once you have these basic pieces of information in hand, use the information to inform your next step. There are definite instances where technology should be a tool you should turn to, but there are plenty of others when it may not necessarily be the right tool. To make that determination requires knowing the problem you are trying to solve for.
UC: Why is writing important to you as a lawyer? What made you start your blog, “Notes From the Front Lines of Legal Innovation,” and what plans do you have for your blog?
CL: As someone who has always loved to write, I was drawn to the legal profession since much of what a lawyer’s job is involves written communication and drafting documents. Whether it is an email, a memo, a contract, or something else, communicating clearly and effectively is critical. My blog began as an effort to share the experiences I had and lessons I learned from working as an in-house lawyer. It then gradually evolved into a platform where I shared my thoughts on legal tech and those of leaders within the field. I am redesigning the website and adding some new services to help law students and legal tech professionals find their way in the fast-moving and evolving legal tech space.
UC: What are some of your favorite sayings? Do you have any real-world examples of how you’ve seen those sayings come to life?
CL: One key saying I am fond of is: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” said by Nelson Mandela. I have failed in various ways during my life. While I used to fear failure, I have learned to accept it and to learn from the failures and overcome them. I failed the bar exam the first time I took it. As devastating as it was to have worked hard to study and prepare and then to fail, I got back up, went after it again, and passed the second time. As Nelson Mandela noted, some of my greatest moments of joy have been in rising from failing.
A second saying comes from Eleanor Roosevelt: “If life were predictable it would cease to be life and be without flavor.” There has been unpredictability in my life and in my career. For example, I graduated from law school at the tail end of a bad recession and, as a result, it took me a long time to find my first full-time permanent legal role. While the unpredictability has been disruptive, it has also made my life what it is and I am grateful for that.
UC: What are your goals for the rest of the year? What projects are you working on? Are there any events in the legal tech and legal innovation space we should know?
CL: I am aiming to relaunch my website later this summer which is both nerve-wracking and exciting. The relaunch includes the addition of some freelance services, which is something that I have given much thought to before but have never done. I also am working on a few new ventures related to my social media work I hope to share more about in the not-too-distant future.
As for events going on within the legal tech and legal innovation space, I am excited about the future of legal tech as I keep seeing more events being planned. That is an indication of the growth of the legal tech community and the growing interest in the space.
UC: Where can we learn more about you and your work?
I am all over social media!
Staying Up-to-Date: As Legal Technology Advances, So Must We
Colin recognized a trend early in his legal career: Discussions regarding technology were largely absent in typical legal settings. But by leveraging his interest in legal tech, Colin is setting a new precedent by starting some of those critically important conversations. We can’t wait to follow his career and upcoming projects to learn even more about innovative technology in the legal industry and what it means for practicing attorneys.