Each week of March, ILTA will highlight a 2021 Influential Women in Legal Tech List Honoree in celebration of the U.S. National Women’s History Month. Each Honoree has answered five questions and shared advice to get to know more about their accomplishments and initiatives. Make sure to follow ILTA on Instagram and/or Twitter to hear their advice.
Farrah Pepper is the Chief Legal Innovation Counsel, Marsh McLennan. Her career, thus far, includes a lot of trailblazing moments as both in-house counsel and outside counsel, so let’s get to learn more about her experiences and what’s shaped her career...
ILTA: Describe your role as if you are speaking with a child.
Farrah: I’m the CLIC and I make things “click” as in-house counsel at Marsh McLennan, a large company with more than 76,000 employees located all over the world. As CLIC – or Chief Legal Innovation Counsel – I am on a mission to make things better for the legal, compliance, and public affairs team by helping them to work smarter and use technology wisely. Some of the things that keep me busiest include leading the Legal Innovation and Technology (LIT) team, building the LIT Lab to experiment with new ways of working, and leading our data discovery program, which is kind of like being a detective and zookeeper (of different types of information) all at once. Every day is an adventure, and you never quite know what to expect. I love what I do!
What accomplishment in the legal space are you most proud of?
I am a builder by nature and love the ability to get creative on a fresh, blank canvas, so I am proud of all the “firsts” I have racked up in my career to date. This includes founding the e-discovery practice group at the global AmLaw Top 20 firm where I started my career, Gibson Dunn…to serving as the first global discovery counsel and creating the Discovery COE at GE (General Electric) …to now building the LIT team and LIT Lab in my current role at Marsh McLennan.
The common thread here is that we built/are building something awesome that wasn’t there before, and that helps my colleagues do their jobs better and be happier while doing it. That’s one of my soapbox issues; one of my core pillars to assess my team’s value is the undervalued principle of creating “joy.”
How do you make sure there are seats at the table for women in the industry?
Like Nike says, you just…do it. I love to work with smart, capable women (and oh, there are so many) and to champion the successes of those on my team and within our larger legal ecosystem. In addition, I am honored to sit on the advisory board of Legal Outreach, a pipeline diversity non-profit in New York focused on underserved local high school students, including some amazing girls.
As a society, we still have much to do. I think about how Ruth Bader Ginsburg recounted that people regularly asked her, “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?” and then seemed shocked when she replied, “When there are nine.” Yet, she observed that we have had nine men many times over and nobody seems surprised about that.
What is one challenge within legal technology you hope to help solve?
Just the one? We must simplify the legal technology ecosystem to make it more connected, user-friendly, and intuitive. Too many silos, too many UIs, too many trainings, almost too many choices, and not enough standardization – it is exhausting even for the true believers, so I empathize fully with the skeptics. It reminds me of that meme that lists some random thing and then says, “But make it fashion!” My meme would be: “Legal technology. But make it simple!”
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 what’s the one question you’d ask them?
I did not get to spend nearly enough time with my maternal great grandmother, Laura (or Mutti, to the family) before she died at age 98. She still looms large from stories I have heard from my mother, whom Mutti essentially raised for her first 8 years of life. Mutti lived a long and eventful life; born in Poland, moved to Germany, ran a factory with her husband, Edmund, until they escaped from Nazi Germany to England at the beginning of World War II, and then started over again, sailing to the United States and making a home in New York. She had seen so much of the world through extensive travel, including some of the darker shades of humanity. Consider that Edmund had served in the German army in World War I and was a decorated veteran – and then, in that same lifetime, Edmund and Mutti fled Germany to avoid the fate of so many Jews during the Holocaust and World War II.
From early on, Mutti’s nickname for me was “the little professor.” That always stuck with me, even as I found my way to the legal profession. In hindsight, I have always gravitated towards teaching and mentoring, so in a sense, she was right all along.
Over a proper afternoon tea service, I would ask Mutti to share with me her favorite memories of her own life and what lessons she wishes her own great-grandmother could have imparted to her. At her time of death, Mutti was survived by three daughters, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren (including me). I would love to be able to introduce her to my own two daughters, the latest additions to an unbroken chain of strong women in her debt.
Connect with Farrah on LinkedIn here.
Read the Influential Women in Legal Tech press release which includes Farrah’s full bio here.
Meet the other Honorees here: Rosemary Koech-Kimwatu // Andrea Markstrom // Shannon Salter // Kristen Sonday