By Kevin O'Keefe

Justice Ginsburg an Unlikely Role Model for Legal Tech Entrepreneurs

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Veteran Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse, asked in a New York Times column this last weekend, “How Did a Young, Unknown Lawyer Change the World?

I’ve been asked repeatedly in recent days to explain Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s accomplishment: How did she, a young unknown lawyer, starting basically from scratch, persuade the nine men of the Supreme Court to join her in constructing a new jurisprudence of sex equality?

I replied that she had a project, a goal from which she never deviated during her long career. It was to have not only the Constitution but also society itself understand men and women as equal.

Fair enough, as far as that explanation goes. But I think it misses something deeper about Justice Ginsburg, who died last Friday at 87. What she had, in addition to passion, skill and a field marshal’s sense of strategy, was imagination.

She envisioned a world different from the one she had grown up in, a better world in which gender was no obstacle to women’s achievement, to their ability to dream big and to realize their aspirations. Then she set out to use the law to usher that world into existence.

To dream big and realize their aspirations.

I couldn’t help but smile. Greenhouse describing one of our more celebrated Supreme Court Justices in the same way one would describe successful legal tech entrepreneurs.

  • Passionate
  • Strategic
  • Dreamer
  • Vision of a better world
  • Use what you have to usher in that better world

What fired this imagination in Justice Ginsburg?

The best answer may be simply that Ruth Ginsburg saw things that others didn’t. She understood that the law could be harnessed in service to fundamental transformation. That’s the difference between imagination and goals. We all have goals, big or small, and we all encounter obstacles to accomplishing some of them. But only a few have the turn of mind to confront head-on the structural obstacles that stand in their way.

Only a few have the turn of mind to confront head-on the structural obstacles that stand in their way.

Sounds like an entrepreneur, doesn’t it?

You might be quick to diminish what legal tech entrepreneurs are doing as compared to a justice on the Supreme Court. You’d be wrong to do so.

Lawyers and, in effect, legal services are irrelevant to eighty-five percent of Americans. No matter their financial status, consumers and business people don’t reach out to a lawyer when faced with a legal issue.

People don’t trust lawyers. Legal services aren’t delivered in a fashion people expect services to be delivered today – efficiency, convenience, declining costs and a mobile app away.

Legal tech entrepreneurs are chasing their dreams to make legal services more accessible to the masses. Even creating solutions that enable Americans to find and to connect with lawyers they’ve learned to trust in an intimate way.

No, I don’t think entrepreneurs see themselves the equal of Justice Ginsburg.

That didn’t stop this entrepreneur from getting a warm feeling reading Greenhouse’s column that passionately chasing a dream in order to usher in a better world was a noble thing to do.

Sure wish Linda would have accepted my offer to begin blogging with us when she left a the New York Times a few years back.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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