In celebration of 2020 Women’s History Month, ILTA was pleased to announce a list of Influential Women in Legal Technology. Each Tuesday in March, readers will learn more about the women who were selected.
Chief Growth Officer, Nextlaw Labs at Dentons
Oakland, California, USA
Maya has been central to Nextlaw Labs, Dentons’ startup accelerator and legal tech investment fund, since its launch as the industry’s first tech-focused innovation catalyst in 2015. With her unique background spanning behavioral science, law, investment, and change management, she designs and drives cutting-edge legal tech projects on behalf of the world's largest firm and its clients. Maya works with law schools across the globe to encourage necessary change in legal education -- and highlight the opportunities -- for law students entering contemporary practice. Maya also serves on the boards of Legal Access Alameda, LexLab, and OneJustice, and as mentor for LegalGeek’s Women in LawTech and University of Arizona TechLaw Fellows programs, supporting legal tech initiatives to improve access to justice and gender equity. She frequently speaks at conferences, broadcasts and writes on legal tech and innovation. She was named a Woman Leading Legal Tech by The Technolawgist in 2019 and a Woman of Legal Tech by the ABA LTRC in 2018.
How do you define an influential woman?
A woman who leads by example with determination, creativity, and bravery. An influential woman isn’t defined by the number of her successes or failures, but rather how she models her approach to challenges across the board--from shaping new realities for an industry in transition and asking for what she deserves, to juggling professional and family priorities, and constantly seeking opportunities to reach down and pull someone up behind her on the ladder. A woman who doesn’t lose her own sense of self in pursuit of excellence.
The women who influence me are those who are thinking deeply beyond the present and immediate future - about the long term impact of actions, which trends will evolve to become opportunities, and how these might affect myriad stakeholders, including society at large, future generations--even the natural environment.
If you could spend one hour with someone who you feel has had a significant impact on your success (directly or indirectly), who would you spend it with, and how would you prepare for that meeting?
I’d spend the hour with Dr. Philip Zimbardo, my mentor and graduate advisor at Stanford. His work on social influence, persuasion, group dynamics, behavior change (and resistance to it), and how these factors play out in larger societal ways, remain fascinating and profoundly inspiring. He connects the minutiae of human decision-making and behavioral science to meta-level social dynamics. He taught me to recognize behavior patterns and drivers in the context of larger human and societal frameworks. He coached me to question not just my assumptions, but everything. He inspired me to actively pursue critical thinking as a skill and to become a more active questioner of the status quo - which is where all innovation begins.
Beyond the content itself, the way Dr. Zimbardo delivered it was masterful - I was glued to my seat in every class. His ability to wrap essential and engaging context around complex information was like nothing I’ve seen before or since. That in itself showed me the power of delivering messages.
I’d prepare for that meeting by reading up on his latest work - the Heroic Imagination Project, which investigates how ordinary people are driven to do extraordinary, heroic acts. I’d draft a long list of questions about how he sees the relevance of this work in today’s world, especially as we grapple with personal and social responsibility surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
What advice would you like to share with other women that are either working in or aspiring to work in Legal Technology?
I often get this question from women who are considering leaving the practice of law, which happens for a range of reasons including inflexibility, burnout, and lack of gender parity. Instead of an ‘escape’ approach, I recommend considering the positive aspects of your legal career, as well as what drew them to it in the first place. Parse those out and think creatively about how they could be applied differently in another sphere. Lawyers excel at critical thinking, communication, problem solving, providing guidance, and persevering in the face of ambiguity or setback. What parts did you like best? Go in that direction. Apply those well-honed skills differently. Engage them to evaluate your options, sort through them and pursue a path that is both personally and professionally rewarding.
Try to take every opportunity offered, even if you think you’re not quite ready for it. Doing things outside your comfort zone is challenging but leads to professional growth and increased emotional intelligence and confidence.
What is one challenge within legal technology you hope to help solve? How can people help you?
I hope that we can help move the needle on the importance of taking a more active, innovative approach to legal education that prepares new lawyers for contemporary practice, including incorporation of technology into basic, daily work streams. Beyond tech fluency, law students also need to develop traits such as those outlined in the Delta Model to improve people and process-related skill - EQ, an entrepreneurial mindset, project management - as well as practice expertise. I’d love to engage with others who are thinking about this as well, so please reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Read about the 2020 Influential Women in Legal Technology List here.