The Legal Geek Mentorship Programme has been connecting mentors and mentees across the legal industry since 2017. The fantastic Ivy Wong has been spearheading this initiative since the start. We’ve just finished our fourth cohort and are so excited to speak to her and find out what she’s been up to and get the latest on the programme.
Hello Ivy! First up, it would be great if you could give us a quick intro to yourself and what inspired you to work with us on the Legal Geek Mentorship Programme?
I’m Ivy Wong, a Product Manager at HighQ, which is a part of Thomson Reuters. I’m currently responsible for the project management and workflow automation capabilities on the HighQ platform. Before joining Thomson Reuters, I worked in product, marketing and operations at Lexoo and before that, I practised law at Allen & Overy. When I made the jump out of private practice in 2017, there were fewer people talking about legal technology and innovation within legal services. Turning away from a well-trodden, traditional career path was scary, and I wanted to meet people who had already built successful alternative legal careers and others like me who were going through the same transition, so I started going to Legal Geek events and joined their Women in LawTech group.
Around that time, I had the idea of launching a mentorship programme focused on women in lawtech, because I saw that gender inequality was rife in both the traditional legal and tech industries. With the legal tech industry still in its infancy, I felt that we had the opportunity to avoid the same thing happening by making sure we build and support a diverse pipeline of talent. I pitched this idea to Jimmy at Legal Geek, who was incredibly supportive.
We launched the mentorship programme back in 2018 – since then, we’ve run 4 cohorts, matching nearly 400 mentors and mentees in 29 countries, and broadened the scope of the programme to support those from various underrepresented groups including women, people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.
What has been your favourite mentorship programme moment?
There have been so many and it really is hard to name just one. We’ve had mentors coach mentees through job moves and pay negotiations, give invaluable advice on how to scale companies and push through pain points, make key introductions to broaden their networks, and generally guide and support mentees through this period of immense change in the legal industry.
On the flip side, we’ve had mentees introduce mentors to new areas of legal tech, share their thoughts and experiences beyond legal, and we even had a mentee invite their mentor to join their company Board! We start each 6-month cohort with a launch party, and wrap up with a sharing session (pre-COVID, we also had monthly drinks in-between), and it’s really encouraging to see the mentor-mentee relationships develop over the course of the programme, with many staying in touch after the formal relationship ends.
Feedback from each cohort has been overwhelmingly positive, which shows us that we’re addressing a real need in the industry.
What is your best piece of advice for someone starting out on their legal technology career, who wants to pursue leadership roles in the future?
If you’re completely new to legal, you’ll first need to understand who the key players are, what their incentives are and how things currently get done. Then get to know the legal tech landscape – what pain points are people trying to solve, where are the gaps and overlaps in the current solutions, and what are the latest trends. Keep an eye on what’s happening in other industries too and consider how those developments could be applied to legal. Read widely and form your own view on things.
Get to know people in the industry and don’t be afraid to reach out to those outside your company or immediate work environment to find out what they’re up to – the downsides are low (at most they’ll ignore you or refuse to meet) but the upsides are infinite. Once you’ve set yourself a goal, find a mentor to help you get there – one of the reasons we set up the mentorship programme was to remove the awkwardness of asking for mentorship, so our mentees are matched with experienced mentors that have already committed to giving back to the community. And once you’ve reached your goals – help us mentor the next generation of promising talent looking for a leg up!
What are your top tips for mentors and mentees?
For mentors: practice active listening and really focus on what the mentee is saying without judgement or advice. Don’t be too quick to offer solutions, but help the mentee reach their own conclusions. Be authentic and share your failures and invaluable experiences from your own career.
For mentees: really drive the mentoring relationship by setting goals at the outset and actively tracking it throughout. Be honest and open. Don’t expect your mentor to solve all your problems. Give back and offer your support where you can!
A successful mentoring relationship can have an immense, positive impact on both mentor and mentee. If you’d like to get involved in the next cohort, sign up at www.legalgeek.co/mentorship