The Marketer – Ben Chiriboga
I’d like to tell you a story about the process I went through to transition from my former job as a litigator into legal technology, and how I found meaning and purpose within this growing space.
Firstly, I’d like to explain some of the mistakes I made during that journey so that anyone who is thinking of pursuing such a path can avoid them. Secondly – but I believe most importantly – I hope to inspire others who are on the fence to make a career switch, or at least consider attempting it.
Now, more than ever, we need willing, enthusiastic minds within legal technology who can see things ‘anew”. We need people who are willing to learn, take risks, and consider the “what if’s” to transform the industry.
With that, let’s get started.
In 2015, I was five years out of law school, practising as a civil litigator in a boutique law firm in South Florida. The day to day work of a litigator was intellectually interesting. However, it lacked a degree of dynamism.
Due to a series of events , punctuated by being accepted into an online business program at Harvard Business School, in September 2015 I gave my firm my two weeks’ notice, packed my bags for New York City and began what would turn out to be a three year journey into a career in legal technology. This led me to my position today as Head of Growth for NEXL, an exciting legal technology company which aims to create a community of legal innovators, technologists and stakeholders.
Although the path hasn’t been easy, a handful of events and decisions generated three principles which I believe helped me stay on track through this rather “re-inventive” time. Although I have no doubt that these principles will be applied differently by different people, a great number of people in my network have confirmed that many, if not all, of the following principles have played at least some role on their own path toward transition and growth.
PRINCIPLE 1:KNOW YOURSELF
While this sounds simple enough, many of us are in fact strangers to ourselves. If you are going to take a leap and attempt to transition into another role, the first thing you need to do is decide who you are not.
In my case, I decided I was not the type of person who likes to say “no” to things. Although I had been trained to look for the flaws in things as a lawyer, I realised I was someone who was best when they were saying yes to opportunities and ideas – even if that meant potential failure.
When I looked out at the landscape of potential jobs, I knew the role I chose would be one that favoured action, and testing. It would be a role that asked me to say yes to things and be open to new ideas even if they were not part of a plan. In my case, this led me to a role in marketing.
PRINCIPLE 2: VALUE ACTION
You will never be sure if you have the right answer and it will never be the right time. However, if you wait for the right answer at the right time, you will suffer immensely from “analysis paralysis” and do nothing. Jumping into legal technology will be filled with “known” unknowns but even more “unknown” unknowns. There is no playbook and, by and large, most people are making it up as they go along.
There is only one remedy when playing in this sort of dynamic domain: value action.You must always value action, and the action you take must be valuable. If you want to work in Legal Technology, you must be prepared to figuratively move a mountain or herd cats. Whichever analogy you choose, the point is this: do big things.
PRINCIPLE 3: LOOK TO SERVE
The most important of these three principles is looking to serve. Breaking into a new role, in my opinion, is less about how qualified you are but rather how much you’re willing to serve that role and your team members. Only you can know that – and prove that – but I’ve come to see a willingness to serve rather than pre-requisite knowledge (to a degree) as a somewhat counter-intuitive way to guide myself through my career.
If you’re willing to serve, work hard and value action, then you should at least consider the idea of making a switch into legal technology. It’s a growing field that promises much to those who invest in it today.