We Go Faster and Farther Together: The Power of Community in Legaltech

Published on 2024-04-01 bySarah Glassmeyer

The legaltech and innovation world is a place of community. Building relationships can help you get things done faster and better - it's a change management aid, if you think of our primary change management goal as a combined effort to make law better.

I am not what you call a “people person.”  I am very internally focused and don’t often feel the need to interact with others. I also don’t naturally work well with others. Some would say I’m bossy, I prefer the terms “aggressively helpful” and “has good leadership skills.”  So why am I so passionate about the power of community and benefits of working collaboratively? Let’s dig in.

A lot of this can be traced to my family background. I grew up in a really small town of about 900 people in Southern Ohio. I currently live in a slightly larger small town. I will probably always live in small towns. If you just found yourself suddenly humming that John Mellencamp song, coincidentally about a third of my life has been lived in Indiana small towns.

When you live in the middle of nowhere, you need to depend on your neighbors for help both big and small. This help can be anything from helping with farm chores if an injury or illness prevents them from getting done to the proverbial borrowing a cup of sugar since the nearest grocery is a 45-minute drive away. Not accepting the help is not an option. That would be rude. And it doesn’t even occur to you to not offer to help when it’s needed since you know they’d be happy to do it in return.

I’ve always thought of the legal tech and innovation world as a virtual small town. Although many of us are in direct competition with each other through our firms or companies, I’ve found there to be a strong culture of mutual aid and knowledge sharing about our work and projects. Maybe it’s because up until recently, most of the rest of the legal world thought we were sort of crazy and we knew we had to band together?

If you haven’t found a community within the legal tech and innovation world yet, I encourage you to be proactive and reach out to otheres. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been willing and eager to talk – at least in general terms and potentially off the record - about what they’re doing and what is and isn’t working for them. And to be clear, these conversations aren’t just about “work.”  All of the ancillary issues that exist in this world such as “how to be a parent/caregiver and maintain a career” or “navigating this world as woman, member of the LGBTQIA community, racial minority, etc.” or even “does anyone know a good restaurant in Chicago?”  are covered too.

Also, the answer to the last one is “Lou Malnati’s on State Street.”

Anyway, here’s some options for how to experience and find community…


Social Media – Find Your Circle

I love social media. It’s the perfect interaction medium for me, since I can choose how much to interact, with whom, and when. It’s a happy coincidence that right when social media took off, it was slowly starting to dawn on me that I was not like most of the people I worked with in my day to day. I was not happy with the status quo, I was interested in things like technology and IP of legal information, and I wanted things to get better as soon as possible, if not yesterday.

Thanks to social media, I was able to find so many people that cared about the same things I did. And it wasn’t just a mutual admiration society. I was introduced to new ideas, was challenged about my own, and became a better thinker and analyst because of it.  

Social media is in a weird state of flux right now, since there are so many competing entities. Right now, the best for my professional interactions and intelligence gathering is LinkedIn. Selfishly, I would love it if more legal tech, libraries, KM, and innovation people used BlueSky since it’s less formal than LinkedIn.


Conferences and Unconferences – Learn from Each Other

One of my favorite movies is Thirteen Days. If you’ve never seen it, it’s about how JFK, RFK, and Kevin Costner navigated the Cuban Missile Crisis. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from it for innovators, but specifically in this case, they were trying to figure out which experts to consult and soon realized “There is no expert on the subject; I mean, there is no wise old man. There’s – [shoot] it’s just us.”

Digital transformation and legal technology are maturing as disciplines, and there definitely are professional thought leaders, but I find that the best experts are the folks who are working day to day in it and sharing what they learn as they go. It has been extremely useful to have formal presentations and panels at conferences (both in person and online) for more structured and interactive knowledge sharing.

In another part of the movie, RFK is set to lead a small group of administration officials to produce some action options. His plan for this committee? “We've got a bunch of smart guys. We lock 'em in a room and kick 'em in the [butt] until they come up with some solutions...”  While I love online interactions and really do find great use for them, there is something unmatched with getting a bunch of smart people together in the same physical space and seeing what ideas bubble up.

Everyone always says that the best part of conferences are the hallway interactions and the meal and beverage breaks. What if I told you that you could have that relaxed environment and still be gaining professional knowledge? Let me introduce you to Unconferences, my friend. Instead of a “sage on the stage” the learning is directed by the attendees and is pretty fluid. It also requires less administrative overhead and costs, although they do not run themselves.  I used to do these a lot in the 2007 - 2012 time period but they seem to have somewhat fallen out of favor. I would love to bring them back.

In the meantime, check out our continuously updated list of conferences.


Professional Associations – The Whole is Greater than Sum of its Parts

I am such a professional association fan. I am currently a member of three – AALL, ILTA, and the ABA – and have volunteer commitments with all of them. Obviously, professional education and networking are huge benefits of professional associations. However, in a time of social media, self-publishing, and the relative ease of putting on an educational event, it’s hard to justify a membership for just that.

So why do I keep sending my time and treasure to them?  Professional associations provide the infrastructure and a Third Place for like-minded individuals to gather together and create good works. That often takes the form of education or networking, but that’s not the limit to what they can do. (Although I have to say the networking I’ve done in professional organizations, by which I mean meeting new friends, is not to be discounted because they’re people I never would have met otherwise.)  The most rewarding activities I’ve done with professional groups are service projects and other member driven project work.  And that brings me to what I think is the best thing about professional organizations: They are generally controlled by the membership so if you want to see them do something different, you can join and try to make that happen.


Find What’s Right for You

Not all of these are for everyone. You may need to experiment and find the right mix for you. But whatever you do, please do not try and work in isolation or think that there’s no community out there for you. 

There’s a proverb that goes something like “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  Personally, I always say “we go faster and farther together.”  While you may have to set a slower pace to accommodate everyone, there’s also a pretty good chance that if you know what to avoid, you also won’t repeat the mistakes of others and have to start over.


About the AuthorView Profile
Sarah Glassmeyer

Sarah Glassmeyer

Senior Solutions Analyst Legaltech Hub

Sarah has been solving problems across the legal industry for over 10 years, and believes that:

1. The best solutions come from community based effort
2. Standards are the operating system of effective collaborations
3. Education is the first step in bringing people together into the community of problem solvers

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