The Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech initiative aims to promote diversity and celebrate women in legal technology. This initiative started in 2015 with a list of innovators and leaders in legal technology. With this year’s additions, this list now includes 132 talented and influential women leaders. Every Monday and Wednesday we will introduce a woman from our class from 2021. This week we have Rebecca Benavides!
Rebecca Hernandez Benavides is Director of Legal Business and Strategy at Microsoft.
What are three points that describe you?
How is teleworking / quarantine going for you?
I am very happy to be able to switch my role to remote work. This is an advantage that not many people have. In quarantine, however, everyone in my household is currently doing the same thing – two kids at school and my husband on a Masters course. The blurring of the lines between work and home, as well as professional and family roles, was not without its challenges. Before quarantine I enjoyed the office / home segregation and benefited from being able to easily divide up my efforts and perhaps making it easier to focus. This separation also enabled me to devote more effort and attention to my team – not just the work being done, but also their professional development.
However, these are just challenges and opportunities. Our team uses technology to stay connected, collaborate, and find and implement ways to automate our processes. We are working harder to use technology to improve efficiency so that we can create more space for our personal lives, as well as for our sanity and wellbeing – especially as this becomes a necessity as our traditional breaks (meeting friends and family, traveling, , public gatherings and events) will be severely restricted.
How did you get into legal engineering?
I started my law firm about 20 years ago (!). The roots of my involvement in legal technology really began back then. When I started my career, Legal was just starting out with technology adoption – starting with electronic discovery platforms and processes. Within the first five years I had worked on two major litigation: one that relied on a war room full of bank boxes of printed documents, and one that relied on a large amount of electronic data that required the use of computerized review. Seeing the huge differences in productivity, scope, and information gathering between the two subjects opened the door to the use of technology throughout my years of practice. Over the years (and as I moved to business roles supporting legal organizations), I’ve had the opportunity to work on enterprise technology projects based on these earlier experiences – increasing productivity, scaling resources, increasing efficiency, and enabling access on information.
What projects have you been focusing on lately?
When I came to Microsoft three years ago, our team embarked on a major project to redefine our platforms for legal services / supplier selection and matters management. While we had the basic systems for affairs establishment, billing, and budget management, we needed more to manage the value propositions we expect from our law firm partners – e.g. B. Enhance the promotion of diversity in the legal profession, the increased use of AFAs and the opening up of opportunities to use technology to deliver and improve legal services. We also wanted to provide our legal colleagues with data that would allow them to better educate consumers and provide easily accessible information based on feedback and compliance metrics. We have had some success and continue to work, including major investments in departmental knowledge and experience management.
We have also started working directly with our strategic panel companies to drive their innovation efforts forward. This is a company that is built on both the customer and corporate side. We started hosting Trusted Advisor forums specifically on innovation. Through a great partnership with Bold Duck, we introduced, trained and put into practice design thinking methods. Our intent was to provide both our legal colleagues and our law firm partners with the tools to create user-centric solutions to enable increased adoption, reduce change management overhead, and scale beyond custom one-way solutions. Our last forum included a “Business Design Challenge” with our companies, after which two projects were selected to join an “Accelerator” program in which the teams deal in more detail with the definition of the scope, the development of mission statements and customer-oriented interviews and feedback. and service blueprinting. We continue to work with these teams to develop their solutions and embed them in our work.
Every day my team looks for ways to automate our processes and leverage Microsoft’s productivity tools to reduce manual churn, capture knowledge, and improve consistency.
Is there a legal technical resource that really helped you when you started in the field?
ILTA was probably the first legal technical resource I was introduced to. The recordings, meetings and conferences available gave me a better understanding of the different products available and their use cases. A number of ABA departments and divisions have always been great resources, most of which have introduced technology-driven training, content, and discussion over the years. CLOC has grown tremendously since its inception and it remains a great way to study the use of technology and advances in legal business support.
What do you see as the most important emerging technology right now, legal or not?
AI-enabled bots, as gathering, focusing and quickly accessing information and data is critical to legal practice. The automation of documents is also important, especially where it shows up in areas that were traditionally not suitable for automation.
What advice would you give other women interested in getting into legal technology?
Be curious. Invest the time in learning and development. Take risks and seize new opportunities (even if you have to train them). Don’t underestimate yourself and what you can do. Recognize and own the value you bring to your work, your organization and your colleagues.
Greet another legal engineering woman who you admire or have learned from!
So many! Firstly, last year’s recipients of this award are all amazing, many of which I would list here. I have to call Florinda Baldrige at Norton Rose Fulbright. She was a pioneer in e-discovery and has been a mentor and colleague throughout my career. I currently have the opportunity to work with so many great women at Microsoft and our partner law firms, including Wendy Butler Curtis. Kathleen Orr; Vedika Mehera (Orrick); Amy Monaghan (Perkins); Bethany Knoblauch and Melissa Speidel (K&L Gates); Candice Carr; Patti Barbery and Lydia Petrakis (Microsoft).
Register for the Women of Legal Tech Summit 2021!
Attend the ABA Women Rainmakers Committee’s two-day symposium from March 3, 2021 to March 4, 2021 to help bridge the gender gap in legal technology. On both days, the 2021 Women of Legal Tech Honorees from the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center will be recognized. Find inspiration in Ignite-style sessions with legal technology leaders, breakout sessions with executives in the field, and interactive workshops.