CLI’s YL Scholarship ‘unprecedented opportunity’ for early career professionals
The first ever cohort of CLI’s Young Legalpreneur (YL) Scholars were recently inducted at the CLI Innovation in Legal Practice Summit. Drawn from Australia and New Zealand, the six scholars will spend six months receiving expert briefings, leadership mentoring and coaching to develop learning community hubs for early-career legal innovators. This will occur at the same time they take on the role of inaugural founders and leaders of the Young Legalpreneurs Special Interest Group of the CLI Legalpreneurs Lab.
“I have been interested in legal innovation and transformation since my time as a law student, and this passion is one of the reasons I accepted a graduate role at Gilbert + Tobin, a renowned industry leader in this area,” said Western Australian YL Scholar, Lauren Ziegelaar. “The YL Scholarship was an exciting way to expand my knowledge in this area, and create meaningful connections with the leaders and members of the CLI.”
Unparalleled access to practical resources and industry professionals
For Victorian YL Scholar Abdul G. Torabi, the YL Scholarship was an opportunity to put ideas into practice.
“The YL Scholarship is a platform which connects like-minded people in order to collaborate, exchange ideas and inspire young lawyers to use technology to deliver higher quality client service, at lower cost and time,” said Abdul.
“The YL Scholarship is not just a ‘trophy win’ - you’re not just selected, recognised then forgotten,” said South Australian YL Scholar Amer El Hamra. “The access provided to the Legalpreneurs Lab is unparalleled; you have access to IT professionals, law firms, software developers, and more. That’s the amazing practical side to this scholarship - you get to ‘put your money where your mouth is’, put your ideas into practice as part of the new face of the legal profession.”
As the founder of multi-award winning legaltech dispute resolution startup iDissent, New South Wales YL Scholar Sarah McKenzie had a special personal and professional interest in the scholarship. Her startup used a sophisticated system of semi-automation to assist clients to lodge formal complaints to an industry body, Ombudsman, individual or business.
“Compared to other scholarships and initiatives, the YL Scholarship understands the need for young legal professionals and fresh perspectives in a world traditionally defined by rigid structures and hierarchical progression,” said New Zealand YL Scholar Maria Sopoaga. By charging young legaltech innovators with a mandate to create and innovate, Maria feels the YL Scholarship provides an opportunity few lawyers receive early in their careers.
Innovation not just for the big end of town
Queensland YL Scholar Jessica Popple works and lives in the Sunshine Coast, and wanted to connect more closely with legal innovation.
“The opportunity to be flown to Melbourne for the CLI Summit, work with other like-minded YL Scholars from around the country and ‘across the ditch’ really stood out to me,” said Jessica. “I had a very narrow view of what innovation in the legal world looked like before I went to the Summit; that is, technology could only be done in a mid-to-big sized firm. Through the Summit, I realised the way we deliver our advice - and the processes and policies in place to ensure our advice and assistance is efficient - could be a form of innovation in itself. I’ve been able to take back ideas around client onboarding and Settify to my small firm, and within a week, we started implementing them.”
Maria agreed. For her, the biggest takeaway from the CLI Summit was that innovation is about human users as much as it is about technology.
“I’ve only practiced law for a very short time, but in that time it’s pretty obvious that for the most part, lawyers enjoy structure and predictable processes, completely opposite to the ‘mess’ necessary for innovation and meaningful collaboration,” said Maria. “I think organisations are slowly coming around to the idea that culture and people need to be at the centre of how we think and design the work we do, and the environments we create. Melissa Lyon’s session on legal design thinking at the CLI Summit really highlighted this people-centre model that I’m so passionate about, and will definitely be a model I will look to implement moving forward.”
Victorian YL Scholar Abdul G. Torabi was keen to understand how one advocates for change within the legal profession.
“I was eager to hear how to introduce technological changes at workplace and not to become the most hated employee of the firm,” explained Abdul. “Now I have a better idea as to how to pitch my ideas and collaborate with the directors of the firm in order to introduce technological changes to expedite our internal processes.”
Towards purposeful, results-driven innovation
For Sarah McKenzie, the YL Scholarship represents an opportunity to critically engage with fellow scholars on issues of legal innovation, emerging technologies and NewLaw.
“Client-solicitor outcomes are ultimately best served by a proactive approach to legalpreneurship that results in purposeful and results-driven innovations,” said Sarah. “Innovation will flourish in collaborative environments that encourage entrepreneurial mentalities and support an agile approach to the changing nature of the legal profession.”
South Australian YL Scholar Amer El Hamra is eager to hear what innovation developments are coming from Sydney and Melbourne, especially regarding access to justice.
“I come from a lower socio-economic background, and I know how difficult and scary it is to even think about seeking legal advice,” said Amer. “Legal tech and innovation could solve this problem. For example, if an online platform could connect disadvantaged people or small businesses to a fixed price, pro bono or subscription service, this could go a long way.”
West Australian YL Scholar Lauren Ziegalaar is excited about learning from people at vastly different stages of their legaltech journey.
“There is such a strong community of legal innovators, but they are all at incredibly different stages of their innovation and transformation journey,” said Lauren. “It is so insightful to speak with people at all stages of the innovation maturity curve to see what their challenges are, and to see what they are focusing on as areas of priority.
“I am also looking forward to create projects that are unique to the Perth market. Being the most isolated capital city in the world, Perth has many unique challenges that can be solved through tailored innovation offerings. I am excited to see what we can create in this space.”
“I hope that our Young Legalpreneurs Special Interest Group empowers other young legal professionals to dare to challenge the existing cultures and structures that don’t allow for innovation and diverse thought,” said New Zealand YL Scholar Maria Sopoaga. “There are so many amazing young legaltech experts and legal innovators who may not have felt comfortable in the past to shake things up and try new things. My hope is that the growth of this group’s reach and influence will encourage the wider community of young professionals to step up and feel supported to look at our profession’s issues with a fresh lens.”
An important step in the CLI’s journey
The YL Scholarship is an important step in the CLI’s journey according to its Executive Director, Terri Mottershead. “The CLI was established three years ago with a mission to provide a platform for people to come together, share practical experience, learn from each other, see things differently and experiment – a key part of making all of that happen, and sustaining it in the long run, is engaging with and empowering early career professions - the YL Scholarship embodies those ideals.
“We are proud of and humbled by the amazing talent in this, our inaugural, YL Scholarship cohort. I am very excited about the learning communities the scholars will develop, the support and new ideas these will bring, where all of that will take us as an industry and how it will influence the work of the CLI. We have an exceptional group of mentors and coaches for the scholars to work with not to mention the amazing talent represented within the Young Legalpreneurs Special Interest Group itself. I can’t wait to see how the year ahead unfolds!”