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Tech Tales - Women's Edition

Shea Smock

Practice Innovation Team, Chapman and Cutler

Where were you born? Provide any interesting personal background you feel shapes your story.

I grew up in Fairmount, Indiana, the hometown of James Dean. As an only child raised on a hog farm, my parents instilled a very honest work ethic: If you notice something that needs doing, just do it. It doesn’t matter whose duty it is when you are part of a team. As I grew up, I also started to appreciate how technology made the day to day of farming less dangerous for my dad while allowing him to be more productive. By middle school, technological advancements made it possible for us to take our first family vacations out of state.

What did you do before your current career or role?

Throughout undergrad at Butler University, I worked in broadcasting. I was the emcee for the Indy Indians AAA baseball team and interned for 3 Indianapolis news organizations. After repeatedly being offered sports reporting positions despite applying for news positions, I decided to go to grad school. I wrote my dissertation on the Citizens United decision while earning a Master’s & PhD in Media & Communication Studies at Florida State University in Tallahassee. I taught as an adjunct professor before taking the LSAT and enrolling at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. During law school, I created a podcast called “Law School Revealed” where I interviewed my professors and reflected on my 1L experience so students like me, who didn’t have relatives in the legal field, could hear a candid take on life in professional school.

Describe your current job.

On the Practice Innovations team, I assist Chapman and Cutler’s attorneys with legal process improvement and knowledge management by training our AI platform (Kira) for practice group projects, writing requirements for custom legal tools that our in-house developers build, and maintaining, testing, and researching our current tools and platforms.

How did you get started doing this?

I was fortunate enough to have Professor Bill Henderson as a 1L just when I began to question whether practicing law was the right choice for me (due to the stress, pressure, general unhappiness that most law students feel). After learning about law firm economics and the recent spike in alternative legal service providers, I applied for the Tech Lawyer Accelerator program and spent one month learning about legal project management, change management, and analytics in Boulder, CO. After the “boot camp,” I joined Chapman and Cutler as a Practice Innovations intern.

I love finding ways that allow our attorneys to get more work completed in less time and go home to their families earlier without sacrificing productivity or client expectations.

What’s your favorite thing about your work?

I really love feeling that I’m making our lawyers’ lives easier. Clients today expect more for less. I love finding ways that allow our attorneys to get more work completed in less time and go home to their families earlier without sacrificing productivity or client expectations.

I have faith that today’s innovation in legal technology will improve access to justice issues tomorrow. Based on the high number of pro se litigants alone, the legal industry must evolve. It is much easier to innovate when you feel safe (job security, freedom to fail, time/budget for R&D). I’m hopeful that those pioneering new technologies will find ways to make legal information more accessible in the future and may even make pro bono work unnecessary because everyone will have access to justice.

Describe a moment you are proudest of in your career.

While I’m quite early in my career, it is really exciting to watch our custom applications go from design, to development, to testing and production. Every day is different and I’m very lucky to work with such an amazing team at a firm with kind and intelligent attorneys who really understand the benefits of new technologies and encourage investment in legal innovation.