Carol Schlein's Acceptance Speech ABA Women in Legal Tech 2022
Posted May 25, 2022 to Legal Tech Consulting.
Carol Schlein's Acceptance Speech for being named one of the ABA's Women in Legal Tech 2022
Presented at American Bar Association's Women Rainmakers Summit May 25, 2022
The signs for my career came early. My senior year of high school I had the option to take typing or wood shop. Against the advice of my guidance counselor and my mom, I followed my heart and took wood shop. My mom was the generation whose options were primarily limited to teaching, nursing or being a secretary. I had no idea my career would be on a keyboard.
I graduated law school the year the IBM PC came out. I have managed to make a good living and love what I am doing at a job that didn’t exist when I graduated school. My first job was a dream job doing judicial gender bias training with the NOW Legal Defense and Educational Fund. That ended when the grant money for my position ended. This forced me to pivot – something I have done many times over the decades. For the next few years, I worked for a few small firms in New York City. It’s hard to imagine it now but the women attorneys I worked for, who had fought hard to become lawyers when women’s options were more limited, were among the most adamant that “women lawyers shouldn’t be on keyboards, or they might be mistaken for secretaries.” Obviously, I ignored them and again found my own direction.
I went to the first legal tech trade shows and found many vendors interested in hiring me because of my legal background and budding interest in tech. I worked for a few legal billing firms that ended up in bankruptcy – it wasn’t my fault but more a sign of the times. Again, another pivot. After a short stint at Hildebrandt, I founded my own consulting firm Law Office Systems 35 years ago advising firms with purchases, implementing billing software, and writing WordPerfect macros. The products and tools I use to assist my clients have changed many times since then. My primary focus has always been on serving the needs of solo and smaller firms, primarily with billing and practice management tools, although I have also worked with some of the largest law firms and legal organizations. My mantra has always been if you feel you are doing something the long way or the wrong way, call me and we will fix it. Often, big improvements come from making small changes. I love that "aha" moment when someone gets it. One of the highest compliments my clients have given me is that I can explain technical concepts in English. I am proud to say that some of my first clients are still clients today. I am thankful to my clients, colleagues and employees who have supported my vision of empowering people through technology.
Over the years I have seen it all: the client who didn’t pay a bill until their next emergency or the client who would call in a panic when some setting was
changed or the ones (and unfortunately there was more than one) who had evidence of porn on their work computer – those gave new meaning to cleaning
out temp files. Then there were and are the memorable ones who I empowered to overcome their fear of technology. I remember working with a young secretary who had a broken monitor where the image was literally shaking. I was getting a headache, so I went to the office manager and insisted that they get her a new monitor. She had been afraid to ask and was trying to make do. After that she knew she could ask for what she needed to do the best for the firm.
I have been fortunate to have the opportunities to both receive and give back. I have spoken many times at ABA Techshow and NY Legaltech as well as to bar associations around the country; helped to run some of the early lawyer’s user groups in the NY area; and have shared my knowledge writing for many ABA publications and writing a monthly tech column for New Jersey Lawyer for almost 15 years. Almost forty years ago, when I joined the ABA Law Practice Mangement section, there were only five or six women attorneys among the 125 active leaders in the section. I was the only one focused on technology and was the first female chair of the Computer and Technology Division.
My business has allowed me to balance work, home and volunteering, although my husband would have probably not agreed that it was balanced! He was my biggest cheerleader even when it sometimes meant my coming home late because a client had just one more thing for me to do. As a volunteer, I have used my tech skills to give back to many organizations in my community. When my kids were young, I ended up being the “tech mom” and created district-wide websites and email systems for our PTAs. One of my more fun gigs has been to work the box office at the Montclair Film Festival. I am currently co-President of the Montclair Women’s Club that was started by suffragettes in 1915. That too began with me selecting and setting up their first computer and automating their banking. I also serve on the board of the Montclair Scholarship Fund where I established a scholarship in memory of my late husband who passed away nine years ago. In the past year, I have joined the board of Montclair Gateway to Aging in Place. Realizing that at-risk seniors were
challenged by the technology and logistics to get COVID testing and vaccines, I am working with Gateway to offer one-on-one peer coaching to help seniors by empowering them to use their phones better.
In reflecting on my career, even though it is not over yet, what I have learned is:
-Focus on your strengths. Know when to do it yourself and when to get help.
-Pivot when you need to. Focus on what’s working and what’s not before you
make changes but don’t be afraid to go in new directions.
-Trust your heart. Be open to opportunities that come your way. Never burn
bridges and keep in touch with people you meet along the way – you never know
when someone you met years ago can be the key to opening a new door.
-Give back. Being there for others and being honest and responsive is more
important than knowing the right answers.
I am honored to have been nominated as one of the Women in Legal Tech. I would like to congratulate the other honorees and thank my late husband Craig MacCallum and my children, Margaret and James, who have been my biggest fans. I couldn’t have done this without their constant support.