The Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech initiative is intended to encourage diversity and celebrate women in legal technology. This initiative launched in 2015 with a list of innovators and leaders in legal technology and with this year’s additions, that list now includes 132 talented and influential women leaders. Every Monday and Wednesday, we will be featuring a woman from our class of 2021. Today we have Catherine Bamford!
Shannon Salter is Chair of British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal. You can find her on Twitter @shannonnsalter.
What are three points that describe you?
- Chair of Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), the world’s first online tribunal, integrated into the public justice system.
- Strong advocate of human-centered design and justice system reform to increase access.
- Long-suffering cat and kid butler, and trier of any DIY project (at least once)!
How is telework/quarantine going for you?
I’ve been working remotely for 6 years now, as have most of our CRT team, so I’m used to it. However, I didn’t expect to be homeschooling two kids while working full-time last year, and of course, so many of us are in that boat. There are a lot of ups and downs. I’m tremendously grateful and lucky, and I also very much miss friends, family, and colleagues, like all of us.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
I am a lawyer by training and I started my career in civil litigation at a large firm. After a few years, I realized I wanted to pivot towards more access to justice projects. I completed a Master of Laws degree at the University of Toronto in 2011, focusing on constitutional and access to justice issues, and then was appointed as an adjudicator at a workers compensation appeal tribunal. From there, the opportunity to chair the CRT came up, and I was really excited by the access to justice potential. All to say, I came to the role with no legal technology background, but I think one of the strengths lawyers have is the ability to quickly absorb new subject areas and learn how to apply them. I obviously had no idea I would be doing this when I was in law school, but being part of the CRT is my dream job and I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to be part of an incredible team.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
Right now, we at the CRT are focused on doing everything we can to ensure access to justice for those affected by COVID-19. We’re also working hard to make sure our own staff and tribunal members have everything they need to get through this difficult time, both personally and professionally. One of our other priorities is implementing our “Reconcili(action) Plan,” which is our strategy for taking concrete steps towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in our province. At the same time, we are also working on our upcoming expanded jurisdiction over motor vehicle personal injury disputes, starting May 2021. We are also revamping our accessibility features to make sure we are providing cutting-edge access to people with disabilities.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that really helped you when you were starting out in the field?
This isn’t specifically a legal tech resource, but I read a lot about how change happens, how to bring people together toward a common vision, and how to go about finding our blind spots and challenging our assumptions. I think these are all invaluable legal technology skills too, and the more we can bring interdisciplinary expertise to bear the stronger our product will be. In this vein, an oldie but a goodie is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
The legal technology world needs you! A big part of our success at the CRT has been our diverse team, which happens to be predominately women. Incorporating different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives into the design and testing of our system has allowed us to ensure it works for the myriad of people we serve. Jump in, you are bringing tremendous value to an industry that needs more voices! More practically, reach out to women who are doing what you hope to do someday and ask for an information interview. We are sometimes shy or worried about wasting others’ time, but making these connections and benefiting from mentorship is very important.
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
Shout out to a fantastic UX/UT expert, Trinity Wolfe, who helped to develop accessible, understandable public-facing interfaces in partnership with our community legal advocates. She brings enormous skill, intelligence, commitment, and empathy to her work. She also has the coolest name ever!