One of the American Bar Association’s core values is a commitment to diversity, which the Law Practice Division aims to reinforce in the legal tech sector. From tech founders and CEOs to small business owners, diverse legal professionals are making a big impact on law and technology in every field. In keeping with the spirit of progress, the Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC) is proud to present its “Diversity Spotlight Series.” Our goal is to celebrate, promote and encourage BIPOC, LGBTQ and those with disabilities in the legal tech space.
Nicole Morris, Director of TI:GER and Professor in Practice
How would you describe your job and what do you love most about it?
I teach law students how to think like entrepreneurs. That is my elevator pitch about my role as the Director of the TI:GER Program, which is focused on technology innovation. The goal: transform highly promising research into economically viable products. The TI:GER® program is the first U.S. law school program to integrate business, technology and entrepreneurship into an experiential course for J.D. students. It is an innovative partnership between Emory Law and Georgia Tech that brings together graduate students in law, business, science and engineering. The multi-disciplinary focus of the Program is what I really love about my work. As someone who practiced law for twelve years before joining Emory Law, I recognized the value of the TI:GER Program for legal education. Through this unique Program, students are exposed to the legal and business aspects of real-world technology and innovation. The focus on the legal, business, technical, and problem-solving skills involved in the innovation process makes this an incredible experiential learning opportunity for the Emory law students.
What drew you to and how did you arrive at your current role?
I was an adjunct professor at Emory Law and I re-discovered my love of teaching. Note: I was a teaching assistant in grad school at the University of Michigan. I was very fortunate that the role became available due to a faculty retirement so the timing worked out perfectly!
How has mentorship played a part in your personal and professional?
Mentors have been invaluable for me as all throughout my career. I have been fortunate to have experienced mentors guide me and allow me to be my authentic self.
What has been the most valuable piece of advice given to you, and the least useful?
The most valuable advice came from the words of Maya Angelou: “Don’t let anybody raise you. You’ve been raised.” I think like so many people, I was influenced by what I saw others doing and achieving in their careers and I started to chase things that were out of my comfort zone. I refer to these words when I feel pressure in my professional or personal life “to be like others.” These words allow me to make the necessary adjustments or adaptations so at that things make sense for Nicole.
Is there something that you do in your personal life and community (outside of the office and work) that you think contributes in some way to your professional success?
Being active in my son’s academic life by serving on the PTA and/or volunteering in the classroom has allowed me to meet his peers but more importantly I learned to appreciate the challenges with K-12 education. I believe this makes me more empathetic with my students.
How do you think employers, organizations, and communities can increase diversity and support diverse professionals, specifically in the legal tech world?
All organizations are taking a closer look at their talent and assessing where they are with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion. Employers have devoted a lot of resources to diversity in hiring and promotion. There is room for improvement for most but some are employers are scoring better than others. As employers continue to focus on racial diversity in the workplace, the answer is not to add more diversity training programs. The focus should be more targeted at retaining diverse talent with a heavy emphasis on support with career advancement and creating a more inclusive environment. My comments apply to legal tech employers as well as traditional law firm employers.