Everlaw Summit, Everlaw’s first-ever in-person user education and networking conference is right around the corner, and one of the many impactful themes being discussed at the conference is the advancement of women in ediscovery. In addition to unique networking opportunities throughout the event, the conference will feature a panel discussion on ‘Changing the Face of Law and Technology: A Career Workshop Hosted by Women in Ediscovery,’ moderated by Everlaw’s own Director of Federal Solutions, Angela Kovach.
With a long career in ediscovery, Angela Kovach has been a trailblazer for women in the field. She has seen ediscovery evolve from the domain of IT experts to where it is today–a critical strategic component of litigation which can, quite literally, make or break a case. We sat down with Angela to ask her about her career in ediscovery, the role of digital natives, opportunities for career growth for women and young professionals, and why she’s excited about Everlaw Summit.
Tell us about yourself, your career, and how you got started in legal technology.
I graduated from law school in 2008, which happened to be the middle of the financial crisis. Eighty percent of my class was unemployed after a year and at the time I didn’t have many career options in front of me. To make ends meet, I got into document review. I did that for a while, and in 2010, I was working on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case, which was massive in terms of discovery and document review. I was working with huge teams of people, and was able to rise up quickly, taking over the management of all third party litigation that BP was involved in with the government, running teams of nearly 500 attorneys. I had to learn how to use technology and build processes at scale.
Back when I joined, there were limited people in the space to provide mentorship. And there were no women. And those who were there, were hardcore technologists.”
From there, I joined Deloitte’s global security and defense sector. That’s where I understood the broader technology landscape beyond the narrow document review framework I was in.
I was able to really benefit from the exposure to different customers and problems – from a joint law enforcement and intelligence task force for three letter agencies dedicated to developing solutions for evidence management for emerging data types to building FOIA programs at large Federal departments. Additionally, I had access to a huge network of people that helped me be more agile in thinking about technology and trends.
With a deep understanding of the needs of Federal agencies, I started to test Everlaw as a proof of concept with the Department of Justice, where I saw how this new company could seriously transform the legal profession and how we conduct litigation.
So I was the first Federal hire! I joined the team as a Solutions Architect, assisting the sales team with product demonstrations and articulating the power of our platform for Federal buyers. At the time, we were just beginning to develop the company’s strategic vision around the Federal segment. We were still a small but mighty operation at that time, and I had to wear many different hats. My partner, John Carr (Director, Federal Programs, Everlaw) and I had to begin from the basics to develop processes around sales, operations, marketing and more. It was tough for a while, but exciting because we were building an entire segment.
Why are you excited about Everlaw Summit and your session on women in ediscovery, in particular?
When I joined ediscovery ten years ago, this was not a particularly attractive or desirable line of work. It was not seen as innovative, and was viewed as the domain of IT specialists. The industry could not be more different today, as now so many more legal professionals have come to really appreciate the impact of discovery on the outcome and trajectory of a case.
At Everlaw Summit, we’re offering something radically refreshing. This idea of transparency, integration, and respect for users guides everything we do, and is the guiding light of our conference.”
What I love about our session is that we’re four women who were able to come in and build something new, shape the industry, change the dialogue around legal technology, and create a new paradigm for women and legal work. We have a lot of challenges and a lot of knowledge to share with the next generation, and we can provide some great mentoring.
Back when I joined, there were limited people in the space to provide mentorship. And there were no women. And those who were there, were hardcore technologists.
How has the industry changed since you joined?
There’s an actual focus on technology now. Previously, it was viewed as a byproduct of what you needed to do. All it could do was pull up a document and then provide basic tools to review it. Predictive coding wasn’t even a thing back then. Now we talk about automated workflows and robotics and AI. The conversation has shifted to how to leverage technology to transform litigation strategy.
Legal work deserves the best software, and people are demanding solutions that are designed for legal work. They don’t want generic office software that is being used to conduct important litigation workflows.
What is the opportunity for women in the next generation of legal technology?
Digital natives are going to challenge the expectations of technology, demanding more and better. Not just vendors, but service providers, agencies, and law firms, are all going to need to really focus on innovating technology.
Women can be the fresh voice, asking questions around blind spots and challenging organizations to shift perspective and think differently. Women are natural change agents because we’re already challenging the demographic status quo. Technology has become a cornerstone for success.
There’s no way you can be successful on a case without ediscovery and mastering the solid technology that powers that. Women, particularly younger women who have grown up with technology, can capitalize on this trend to transform the legal industry.
Sometimes I hear from women that they’re not “technical” and they’re intimidated by jobs that sound like they would require technical skills. First of all, whether we consciously realize it or not, in this era we’re all forced to think technically to some extent just to survive – smartphones, social media, our televisions – everything we use now is driven by advanced technology. A byproduct of this is that we’ve all developed expectations about what we should be able to accomplish with technology and how it can impact our everyday lives.
Digital natives are going to challenge the expectations of technology, demanding more and better.”
Newer technologies are incredibly accessible, so young professionals don’t necessarily need to become technical experts, instead the skills they often really need are strategic thought and vision.
A few months ago, you wrote a moving LinkedIn update on your success in the field. Can you tell us more about your journey and the role of tenacity in getting you to where you are?
It’s a part of that don’t give up mentality.
When I couldn’t find a law job during the 2008 market crash I had to be creative in what I was going to do with my career. I struggled for a few years just to survive. I rode a bike as a census enumerator and worked at a kitchen store while taking case work on the side. I could have given up at a number of points but once I found work in ediscovery I instead recognized an emerging field with a lot of potential if I released my expectations and allowed myself to follow a new direction.
There are always routes to get you further than where you thought you could ever go. Be creative. Look for opportunities to leverage skills you have and the knowledge of the people around you. But most importantly, don’t give up.
This is just a preview of what’s to come. Don’t miss the full panel discussion on ‘Changing the Face of Law and Technology: A Career Workshop Hosted by Women in Ediscovery,’ with Kelley Hempson (Sr. Solution Delivery Manager, Deloitte), Lana Pellegrino (Managing Director, Deloitte), Joy Tranel (Manager, Ediscovery Project Management, Perkins Coie), and Angela Kovach.
In case you aren’t registered to attend Everlaw Summit, you can still get your ticket here.