On Monday, I officially became a lawyer. Being sworn into the New York State Bar culminates a process that started back in 2007, when I was a Junior in college. At the time, I was starting a company called Concert Footprint. It was to be a community for concert goers. Members would be able to track concerts they attended and wanted to attend, share media captured at these concerts, and connect with likeminded members of the community.
But the startup world was different back in 2007. Resources were scarce. Mentors and investors were hard to come by. And "Web 2.0" sites were under constant legal threats. Starting Concert Footprint in this environment was hard, especially given the legal uncertainty around hosting a large amount of copyrighted work on the platform. Even standard legal tasks such as company formation, fundraising, and trademark registration were extremely intimidating.
At the same time, I didn't feel stimulated by the finance and accounting courses I had to take to satisfy my Entrepreneurship major at Boston University. I craved feeling connected to people and seeing my work actually solve problems. The lifeless, hypothetical numbers I tangoed with in class didn't do it for me.
So I decided to get a law degree. While my passion was always to start a business, I felt that the degree would help me confront the regulatory uncertainties that startups so frequently face. I thought that the degree would give me the confidence to navigate the routine legal issues that businesses, and people, confront in everyday life. And I felt that a law degree would give me the ability to work on the very important issues, both in a business and in other paths of a potential career. I wanted to be involved in the complex Board meetings, the contract negotiations, and the legislation drafting for an issue that I care about. (Of course, you don't need a law degree for many of these things, but it definitely helps with the learning curve).
Going to law school was intense. Endless study sessions in a law library basement. Impossible attempts at memorizing large bodies of complex law. A deluge of readings and assignments. And then there was studying for the Bar.
I went through all of this as a startup person at heart. There were countless times when I got frustrated by archaic language, inefficient processes, and friction-causing laws. I was surrounded by people focused on a client-centered approach to lawyering; not people wanting a law degree to pursue a career in business. There were definitely times when I questioned whether the law degree was worth it, and whether I should have just started a company and pushed through, or simply joined a team to build other skill sets. And of course, I couldn't help but become a vocal critic of modern legal practice and education—on everything from the exorbitant fees to impractical coursework.
But I made it work. I pursued roles that blended legal education with technology and startups. I landed positions with TechStars, the White House's Open Government Initiative, and with a respected startup law firm. I did work for ICANN, Pew's Center for the Internet & American Life, Google expert James Grimmelmann, tech law scholar David Johnson, and more. I launched and ran the Law Review's website and digital scholarship initiative. I got deeply involved with Law Without Walls (LWOW), a legal sector innovation program that had just launched at the time. And I came to really appreciate the law—it's undeniable importance in making our society function in which ever direction we take it.