In this episode, Tyson speaks to Maya Markovich, a start-up advisor, legal tech and justice tech investment advisor, and a legal innovation consultant. Maya works with teams from legal operations, to ALSPs, to law firms, helping them deliver tech enabled services.
They discuss Maya’s career journey through the emerging world of legal tech, her morning routines and how start-ups are helping to bridge the access to justice gap.
Detours include Dr. Philip Zambardo, cocktails, and Maya & Tyson’s extensive travel resumes…
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Please note this transcript was automatically generated and has been edited for length and/or clarity.
Tyson: Excellent so welcome Maya Markovich to the next installation of our podcast. Really excited to have you here! For those who are listening to the podcast Maya Markovich, you can check her out on LinkedIn, it’s Maya Markovich on LinkedIn and also your twitter feed I’ve just been informed is the other way around which is @markovichmaya so for those who are interested in all the things that you’re talking about on twitter and please subscribe to Maya there.
So Maya lovely to have you here, been super excited all day to for this, this is like the best part of my day! Just to begin with it would be fantastic to tell us who you are what do you do and I know you do a million things but you can describe them succinctly and way better than I can in terms of who you work for and what you’re working on right now?
Maya: Sure thank you so much for having me I’m a huge fan of this podcast actually so it’s quite the honour. I have recently unbundled my career; I’m working as a start-up advisor, legal tech and justice tech investment advisor, and a legal innovation consultant – where I’m working with teams from legal operations to ALSPs to law firms to help them deliver tech enabled services. You know, make sense of the legal tech landscape, and implement legal tech with a kind of a long-range change-design perspective. But prior to that just a couple of months ago I left, I was chief growth officer at Nextlaw Labs which is the industry’s first tech-focused innovation catalyst that was founded by Dentons – the world’s largest law firm. So our mandate six years ago when we were founded was to reinvent the business and practice of law via technology – just a small goal – and we worked with Dentons’ clients and attorneys to really make that happen in myriad ways; so anything from investing in and accelerating legal tech start-ups, creating tech supported legal services, helping global practice leaders develop and implement their own innovation strategies, and supporting clients in their own legal department’s transformation, and then also their efforts to deliver more value to their own organizations.
Tyson: Excellent I mean I as a kind of a fellow entrepreneur like yourself, I’m always really interested in start-ups and companies and new ways of working that are really solving some of the big problems like proper game changing. Did you – how successful do you think I mean that’s a big challenge in terms of reinventing the the business of law – all the ways of working with law – do you think you were successful and maybe because like what was the biggest success that you had at Nextlaw?
Maya: I would say, I mean, we had a lot of really great kind of firsts and I think that one of the things that I’m most proud of in our work at Nextlaw was really changing in many ways the discussion of what’s the norm in the legal industry. When we were established and we launched a lot of people thought that Dentons was really crazy actually because no law firm had ever put multi-year mark R&D fund funding towards any sort of innovation initiative and so subsequent to that we so now there are forty or so perhaps more. Those are the ones we know about we’ve got efforts that are similar and approaching the same issue from separate ways but our view always was a rising tide lifts all boats so the more money that’s coming in via investment the more law firms are doing things that are changing the way that they’re serving their clients the better for the industry and for all of us.
Tyson: Excellent all right so I mean like you’ve obviously completely revolutionized your world now in terms of you’ve changed it all up, you’ve left Nextlaw, now you’re getting involved in the start-ups around advising and some other projects and things like that. Tell me when you’re not driving back and forth from Tucson like what does a day in the life of Maya look like
Maya: Right a workday, well as long as the kids are in school and not in lockdown, I’m continually just like every other parent out there continually attempting to balance a lot of responsibilities and maintain focus on getting things done. So obviously there’s lots of computer time interspersed with breaks I try to make a point to rest my eyes with the longer horizon views. I did not used to wear glasses before the pandemic that’s a new thing as often as possible throughout the day and that actually really helps me also free up my mind from that kind of focus close focus on the logistical to kind of the more expansive. I try to meditate, call an old friend, check in on parents, get some exercise, be outside. We get a lot of opportunity in California to get fresh air so that’s most of my day then I pick up the kids I get them situated doing homework, I do more work or I’ll drive one of them to some activity or sport and I’ll keep working in the car. Come home make dinner tie up loose ends plan things for the next day. We really try to sit down and eat as a family and have uninterrupted family time until their bedtime then I put the phone and the laptop to sleep in the kitchen, catch up with my husband make a really good cocktail and then fall asleep! I try to read an actual book a real paper book at night.
Tyson: Yeah, well that’s a lot of things in a day so you must be incredibly busy! Well what’s your go-to cocktail?
Maya: Oh good one! When I’m not feeling creative a Manhattan
Tyson: Nice excellent, all right, like, one of the things I always ask everybody just because I think for really successful individuals it’s always really interesting to see some of their habits and rituals so you were talking about meditation and things like that do you, what are your morning rituals like how do you start the morning typically, like do you, is it coffee is it what is the first kind of like two hours?
Maya: I don’t think it’s that interesting but I’m first, I’m the one that’s first up in the house I make breakfast and lunch for the kids, I clear my emails I clear any I check anything I can clear anything, out check the calendar for the day’s meetings. I do try to make a list of achievable and stretch goals for the day and then another thing that I, because I work internationally with so many other time zones, I try to fire off as many emails as I can to folks that are nearing the end of their workday. Then I sit down and I drink my coffee with the kids as they eat breakfast. I’m trying to take some time to connect with them then I take them to school and I walk around our, we have a beautiful lake in Oakland called Lake Merritt, and so I do that and then I return home and get started working. It doesn’t seem all that revolutionary!
Tyson: No no I still think it is like I think I mean it’s a weird thing but I do find that those who are successful they tend they do tend to have quite these schedules to start the day like and one of the interesting things you’re talking about is the lists it’s not the first time I’ve heard like the to-do lists and I must find I’m erratic at it and can definitely improve at doing that but every time I do a list like it’s great to tick things off right it really is it’s very satisfying and like just some other ones that I’ve heard in the past like it’s really important to make your bed because then you’ve completed something at least in one day and things like that so really great to hear.
You know, conscious nowadays you’re doing quite a lot of advising into start-ups or in the legal tech space and well do you want to talk a little bit about some of the projects that you’re involved in like I see TIQ Time and Theorem LTS what are they and what role are you playing there?
Maya: Yeah, that’s a great question. I love working with start-ups and advising CEOs a lot of what I do so, I’m an advisor for three or four legal tech start-ups I have and those are ones that I have known for a long time and have been working with informally for a long time. One thing actually I will say is that I am an advisor and mentor for Lex labs which is an incubator a legal tech company incubator at my alma mater law school which is UC Hastings so I know, I know quite a bit of them through that kind of informally and then moving on to kind of more formal roles with them, a lot of what I do with them is I mostly provide expertise advise on sales, go to market messaging and positioning, pitching and fundraising, and a lot of their strategic growth questions they’re all in similar not completely identical but similar phases of growth and so I can I can help them with a lot of those different things as just as they come up
Tyson: Yeah, cool what is there any kind of you think that are going to be game changing in terms of coming to market and any that you want to call out and mention that you think are going to change the game in terms of legal?
Maya: Well I can’t pick my favourite child! I will say I mean I think all of them had strong potential in hugely different ways I think they’re addressing very different problems which is also one of the things that I love so much I mean I’m working with courtroom five they are a platform to support automated legal support for people representing themselves without a lawyer, entirely completely on their own. TIQ Time is a time tracking solution it’s actually kind of a time capture solution which addresses of course the issue of leakage in terms of billable hours which goes back to my feeling about the entire structure of the legal industry but also that it’s important to filter everything through capturing the real value that’s created by legal work. And then Theorem is it’s an excellent and it’s a platform that provides this contextual understanding and adoption of legal tech so it’s got hundreds & hundreds of legal tech solutions on its platform and it’s bringing them together with firms as well as organizations like ELTA, ALITA and organizations that are kind of trying to help their members drive the change forward and have access to legal tech that’s already been vetted so a lot of that is kind of more power to the people I guess
Tyson: Yeah, excellent I like I’m a firm believer in terms of putting the more information about legal tech out there on the market to make educated more educated buying choices. Switching it up a little bit like if you were to give a TED talk and it’s outside of your area of expertise like so outside of legal or legal tech or things like that or what would be the TED talk that you would give and why?
Maya: I had to think really hard about this one actually because I was like I don’t know! Pandemic parenting? I think everyone’s learning on the fly right now but I one thing I think I’m really good at is thinking down the road and planning for contingencies so I think and I really think that’s actually only been enhanced in our current world where you really can’t count on anything you plan actually happening right, so but I can look down the road think of a bunch of things that you might need to have started or on hand as things progress. So I’m usually very prepared for various possibilities coming to fruition I’m rarely caught off guard, but it happens so I guess my ted talk would be tactics around that and also how to bounce back when you are caught off guard.
Tyson: Yeah, yeah, I know that that’s that would be a great talk I heard this great another great saying which was fail to prepare, prepare to fail that that could be the name of your talk
Maya: Yeah, oh god that’s a good one yes, I certainly would advocate that
Tyson: We would need some of your help around my house one of the families that were caught out with no toilet paper when the first stuff started going down so definitely, we could do with your assistance! What, just turning to I mean you’re obviously successful and still thriving and kind of high energy in terms of the things that you want to do but when you hear the word successful who’s the first person that comes to mind for you and why?
Maya: You know I think leaving aside kind of my dream life of living on an old rambling stone house in Bordeaux or something, I really I focus in on kind of life attitude when I think about successful so somebody that I just admire in beyond even description is Dr. Philip Zimbardo – he was my advisor and mentor at Stanford in psychology and human behaviour and behind, beyond all of the incredible things that he’s contributed to the understanding of human behaviour over just an illustrious and incredibly lengthy career, he overall has really always followed his passion and his fascination, kind of, to the next incredible psychological development and our discovery. So he’s a lifelong learner a brilliant psychologist was a truly incredible and inspiring educator and a curious and compassionate human. So yeah, I’ll strive for those things
Tyson: wow excellent what about and I I’m a type of person who definitely feels like I try to learn from my mistakes and actually I think in in the innovation kind of space it’s important to feel like you can make mistakes because that’s kind of you can only keep trying until you get it right for example what in in your mind like in your experience sorry like how has a failure or apparent failure like set you up for later success or do you have a favourite failure?
Maya: I mean I fail all the time I don’t have a specific example, failure is really a part of the journey to success and I think that this is one thing that I think I’ve learned most acutely in the last I would say five or six years, is that failure has to be welcomed as an opportunity to refine your approach it can be challenging to communicate that ethos to people who are risk-averse or expecting ROI immediately and so managing expectations is important. But failure is all about continual learning and finding new and more productive and constructive ways to work and think, kind of out of our preconceived notions and so yeah, it’s a daily it’s a daily occurrence for me.
Tyson: What about at Nextlaw where and because I’ve come from a similar culture for Chance, like where when you’re at that level perfection is expected in terms of everything you do I think in terms of the documentation the project management the initiatives and everything in the way that you conduct yourself. How do you think that the culture is inside the legal industry with regards to failure?
Maya: Not so much how I described definitely I think you’re right I think for one thing just the entire structure of how you become educated to become a lawyer is something that is rigorous in the sense that it channels people down one path of a definition of success, right? And that can, I mean that’s a whole other podcast, right, but it’s really interesting to think about how while you’re learning how to be a lawyer in many cases your field of vision is narrowing in a lot of ways and how you and then people who leave the practice of law there’s a lot of guilt around that and they see themselves as having failed for not having made it in these incredibly strict kind of parameters of what success actually means. And so I think, I mean, it’s a setting expectations is super important. I mean one thing I would say we did in fact that’s probably a good failure to talk about very early on in our in our journey with Nextlaw labs, we were just trying to establish routes to which we could be helpful of course and also kind of gain traction and so we probably took on a little bit more than we should have with in in the short term and that and it is just a part of I don’t I don’t think it was in the end it was great maybe it’s my favourite failure is that we didn’t we had we were we’re in this ambiguous situation and we found ourselves kind of having to define it ourselves and so after a few iterative back and forths where there was potential misunderstandings or misalignment as to who are the key stakeholders or how realistic timetables or that kind of thing towards delivering what was discussed that we developed a really excellent engagement model and so that really set us up for later success because not all, I mean obviously we continually tweaked it, but we had this engagement model wherein it was very easy to explain at the outset what was achievable and how we could work together and that that really just everything just gained a lot of speed once we once we had that in place.
Tyson: Yeah, really good really good lesson learned there if someone’s trying to do an engagement model how would you describe what are the steps to creating one and what does good look like for that?
Maya: Oh I don’t think there’s any one way to do an engagement model and I really do think that it depends mostly on what you have in place internally right and I would say my top piece of advice there would be truly understanding your internal capabilities before building that out because then at the same time you can note along the way in the engagement model where you’re going to need input, where you’re going to need time commitments and where you’re going to need resources that you don’t already have, because most often you’re working with a pretty lean team.
Tyson: Yeah, cool now I see there’s a piano in the background there and it’s actually even got a piano book which means it must get used is that yourself or the family?
Maya: Yeah, I mean I try to but my kids they do virtual piano lessons and they love it
Tyson: Yep, all right so if you were to say what’s the what a theme song for Maya what would be your theme song you think?
Maya: Well I’m kind of old school I would say for me there’s a great song by Harold Melvin in the blue notes with Teddy Pendergrass an old one it’s called Wake Up Everybody and it’s got some first of all we play it we blast it to get the kids out of school on the first day of out of bed on the first day of school but also I’ve taken it really to heart because it says “wake up everybody, no more backward thinking, time for thinking ahead, the world won’t get better if we just let it be, we got to change it together” and so that’s kind of how I’ve always felt I think we all need to take the initiative, bring people up with us and move ahead together and that’s where true change is going to happen when we’re all pulling in the same direction
Tyson: Yeah, excellent fantastic I definitely think that like music is for me is a is a kind of a something that I relax to in terms of that that’s kind of my escape. So what thinking about you the changes that you’ve made recently and the new direction that you’re going like you’d say that you’re part of the big resignation, I guess. What advice and even considering some of the points that you raised about the legal education and the way law is taught et cetera what advice would you give to your younger self now so you’re just leaving university and coming into the into the working world?
Maya: I think I would well, first of all with respect to law school, and kind of change kind of figuring out my career direction which happened later I would say I would advise to let go of that strange guilt that you feel about leaving the practice of law let go of that much sooner because it opens up a world of possibilities in terms of more generally I I would say take the embrace of the unknown in your personal life and apply it to your professional life sooner. Be true to yourself, cut ties with those who don’t have your best interests at heart like mercilessly and just keep those that do have your best interests at heart close. And also, I would say also try to take every opportunity that’s offered even if you really don’t think you’re ready for it. Doing things for the first time is challenging but it leads to so much professional growth, emotional intelligence, and it’s kind of addictive, so discovering that sooner would have been great!
Tyson: Yeah, really great advice and I love the let go of people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Mostly I’m kind of that’s one lesson that I think I would have given to myself as well big piece of advice all right like just changing it up and like one last fun question like what is the best purchase you’ve made in the last six months?
Maya: I think the best purchase I’ve made is I bought tickets to Chile for my family to finally see Patagonia Torres Del Paine and really unplug entirely. I’m resigned to it not potentially not happening due to Covid so of course because I plan for contingencies I ensured that I got refundable reservations and everything but even if it doesn’t happen the purchase kind of allows me to live there in my mind for so many months it’s like buying a lottery ticket in a way and so and I love travel I mean it’s my first love truly so I’ll take it I’ll hope we go but even if we don’t we’ll go eventually what I’m thinking
Tyson: Yeah, excellent and where’s your favourite destination that you’ve travelled to so far
Maya: I would say man that’s really hard I have travelled a lot I would say it’s a tie between New Zealand, Turkey, and Morocco
Tyson: Wow quite different I mean I guess Turkey and Morocco are a little bit aligned in terms of like great foods similar kind of cultures and things like that. New Zealand is just a beautiful place are you talking the South Island or the North?
Maya: I did both I was there for a month actually so I got a chance to – although I was pretty low to the ground, I was a backpacker so I just I felt like the whole time I was there I was just starting out the window with my jaw open and thinking of all the places I wanted to come back to
Maya: Oh I have one more though one more which is Slovenia which I felt similarly about and I really can’t wait to go back there I would love to live there
Tyson: Well like an unexpected underdog Slovenia
Maya: Exactly yes
Tyson: Yeah, excellent no I’ve got a fun I met my wife in New Zealand and when we’re both backpacking so I like I fond spot in my heart for New Zealand definitely and actually I experienced my first earthquake there too so that’s not dangerous
Maya: Sorry we’re used to that
Tyson: Yeah, you’re used to them right and under I yeah, I imagine! Like just one last point like what I guess just to leave us with what do you think 2022 has in store for legal and for Maya and what should we look out for?
Maya: Well we can’t predict anything that’s one thing we’ve learned right. You know, I think so when Nextlabs was founded there were seventy-five legal tech companies now there are three or four thousand depending on who’s counting I think that the tent has gotten big enough now that we’re going to see some really interesting kind of groupings, we’re starting to already see that around CLM of course and other kind of areas. I think one of the new things that we’ll see gain a lot of traction is in the direct-to-consumer part of legal tech and justice tech in general. I think there’s now enough of a kind of momentum in legal tech now and it’s kind of understandable to people on the outside there’s going to probably be continued to be more money flowing in from institutional investors and I think it will become mainstreamed in that way and along with that these kind of differentiations like justice tech is something I’m working a lot on right now and spending quite a bit of time figuring out how we can leverage technology to really affect positive change and access to justice I see a lot of momentum there and I think really think 2022 is the year
Tyson: I’ve never really kind of took stock that there’s really kind of three to four thousand legal tech companies what I’m finding interesting in this space is that traditionally the technology has kind of been driven from The Valley in San Francisco right which is what I’ve with but with this I mean there’s obviously Ironclad and there’s many others in the valley but what I’m liking and what I’m seeing is that it’s quite spread geographically. Yesterday I was speaking to someone who was in Tajikistan that was doing a legal tech start-up so I think really, I the pandemic has shifted that in terms of the geography but I think the foundations of it were there before which has been law firm led would you say that?
Maya: No totally I mean I definitely that’s another really excellent point because I think that one of well one of the real advantages of Denton’s was that it was a global firm and it’s got offices like 200 offices all over the world and so any given and it enabled us as Nextlaw labs to really plant flags of kind of innovation discussions all over the world wherever somebody wanted to talk to us about it there was a burgeoning little mini ecosystem and I do think I do think kind of with the increase in everybody being virtual and 24 hours a day that those are those dots are being connected more and it’s kind of coming toward together much more and I think there’s a lot of awareness of what’s going on in different pockets. But I mean very pretty early on I would say with Nextlaw labs one of the things that we realized was that there were these completely untapped areas of innovation that were taking the place of they weren’t just doing things that were applicable regionally by any means and so and really coming at these problems from very different perspectives which as we know I mean one of my mantras is diverse teams outperform the competition consistently so being able to talk with people that were from diverse backgrounds doing things practicing law totally differently experiencing their world very differently was a net benefit and I think I’m hoping that we can extrapolate from that the globalization kind of a legal tech and the awareness the growing awareness of it all over the world is going to be a net positive for the industry fingers crossed
Tyson: No absolutely crossing my fingers and toes like just on that point like I in my other life as a kind of investor and entrepreneur I was in a pitch this week where we were taught it was from actually it’s an LSD Psilocybin biotech and then they’ve worked out how to separate the trip from and get the same rates great effects that you can from LSD and psychedelics, and they were saying that in medicine for really that’s kind of the final frontier in terms of being able to kind of and that biggest problem they’re trying to solve is depression so that they really want to sell did you think just kind of on that final frontier kind of point do you think there is any big problem out there for legal that is a like almost a final frontier? I mean aside from I guess silly things in my mind like the billable hour and stuff like that and to me kind of less world-changing problems more that come up to me like more commercial but what in your mind what would be the final frontier in in in this industry?
Maya: I don’t know if it’s final frontier I think I’d find some when I got there I’d find something else to fix or do or something but I think and this is a big part of this is US based but I think to a greater and lesser degree it exists in a lot of different regions and that is the regulatory framework around who can practice law and deliver legal services I think that we’re facing a crisis point in that we have a lock on who can deliver legal services and kind of this whole threat of the unauthorized practice of law that’s really blocking people from getting the assistance that they need at the price that they need and when and where they need it and I think that so that’s to me that’s a huge goal to we’ve got to have a more collective voice around regulatory reform such that it’s not the stranglehold because we know it the system doesn’t work and we also know that the system as it stands right now is set up for and this is global is set up for lawyers to run as a business it’s not set up for the client, it’s not consumer friendly or consumer facing, and so that I think this the gears are slowly starting to turn there but I think that ultimately we need to get to a point where the ability to literally deliver legal services is commensurate with the problems that are being solved and not this business lock on it.
Tyson: That’s a fantastic point and my wish is that legal needs to have that kind of kodak moment that right that forces that change because it doesn’t, I think in in this world where it’s very much driven by revenue profits et cetera that’s going to be a really hard problem to tackle but a good one to try and solve.
Maya: I like the big problems though.
Tyson: Me too me too I think that’s maybe that that professor has given you that inquisitive mind and you know definitely fantastic to talk to you and many thanks for your time I think the audience when they listen to this will take away so many kind of valuable lessons and also I guess the fact that we’re all in this same situation where we’re juggling all these things and families and work as well and still being very successful, so I commend you and admire it all so really well done.
Maya: Thank you so much and if anyone if anyone listening first of all I’m sure we have many conversations to have offline after this, but if anyone listening feels like reaching out, I would love any feedback or thoughts I love chatting with folks for which any of these type of subjects resonates.
Tyson: Excellent well thank you very much Maya and have a wonderful day.
Maya: Thank you so much.