Laura Safdie, the COO and general counsel of Casetext, was instrumental in making CARA, the first automated legal research assistant, available for free to thousands of attorneys working on civil rights cases.
If I weren’t working in tech, I’d be …
This year I’d likely be doing as much impact litigation as possible. It’s been inspiring watching attorneys, friends and strangers step up to defend the rule of law at a time when countless people and causes need strong committed representation. At the law firm I was lucky to have had an active pro bono practice advocating for same-sex marriage rights and for victims of natural disasters, but there isn’t as much space for that in my current role. Now more than ever I appreciate and respect the many attorneys who use their privilege to do this work. That said, there are innovative, socially conscious companies whose products, services and policies impact millions of people, and that’s true far beyond the tech industry. I could see finding a home with another company that I believe in.
Do lawyers bear any special responsibility in addressing gender stereotyping and discrimination in tech?
Lawyers bear special responsibility to fight injustice wherever they find it, and that includes discrimination. Sure, that can be easier said than done if you’re at a company where key leaders don’t share your values or when stereotyping shows up in subtle ways. But as attorneys we speak with an authority that few employees can. In the long run, we do our clients or our companies a disservice by staying silent.
If I could change one thing about working in tech, it would be …
I’d like to see the world’s best entrepreneurs, technologists and designers focus on problems that affect ordinary people facing real day-to-day challenges. At Casetext we focus on access to justice through access to legal information, but that’s just one approach. I’d like to see fewer startups serving startups, and more economic value created through ventures that serve a broader community. There is no shortage of social challenges where the private sector can make a real difference.
Who’s the best leader you’ve seen in action and why?
Judge Paul Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York, for whom I clerked after law school. Beyond being a brilliant jurist, he is an incredible teacher who coaxes the best work from his clerks. I admire his ability to be meticulous and set exceptionally high standards while also being consistently kind and encouraging. It’s an approach to leadership I really respect.