Green says a cultural shift in the legal profession is helping to drive an appetite for tech
For many businesses aiming to be more innovative, the solution is often to throw time and money at the problem. Google famously encouraged employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on new ideas to promote creativity. In legal tech, large, well-resourced law firms are often seen as the only organizations with enough time to innovate.
The reality, however, is that innovation often emerges from constraints.
Tali Green recently launched a legal tech tool called Goodfact, which aims to help litigators build chronologies from emails and data. Last year, she spoke with Canadian Lawyer about her tool and how the idea occurred to her.
But her personal story also highlights how challenging circumstances – being a woman raising a young family during the pandemic without the resources of a large firm – can be the spark for innovation.
Tali Green’s story
Before she studied law, Green worked as a "chargeback analyst" at Chase Paymentech, a credit card processing company. Her job was to answer calls from merchants using the company’s services. She advocated for them during disputes with customers over transactions.
“I had to read the Visa [and] MasterCard rules and apply the rules to the fact situation and make an argument to the arbitration committee.”
That experience convinced Green to study law, so she enrolled at the University of Toronto in 2013. However, Green chose to raise a family simultaneously, unlike most students. Her first child was born during law school, and her second was born after graduation.
Green articled at a large business firm – Gowling WLG – in 2017 and 2018 after having her second child (she now has three). She says the lawyers there treated her well, and her experience as a young mother was positive, but the broader large firm culture on Bay Street was a challenge.
“I didn't think I could survive [the] lifestyle at a big firm with two little kids. So that's why I branched out and looked for something outside of downtown and maybe a little bit more relaxed.”
Since it was pre-pandemic, Green says it was still unusual for young lawyers to work from home.
“You had to be in the office. Everyone was in the office five days a week. My kids were an hour away, and their school finished at four. It was hard to get up and leave when everyone else [of] my vintage was there until nine and having dinner at the firm.”
Green says the pandemic has positively impacted the law firm culture, and her experience would likely have been very different had she articled a few years later.
“It's a much better time to be in my position.”
Green initially took a position at a litigation boutique with offices in Toronto’s outlying suburbs, which she left in October 2019. Then, as the pandemic hit, she found herself at home with her two children.
In June 2020, she started working for Wolfson Law Professional Corporation. “It was great because I had total independence because schools were on and off and on and off again. I was working from home like everyone else. I was running my own files [and] I had a lot of files. It was scary because I was only two years out, but I learned a lot in those two years.”
And it was also at this time that she had her “ah-ha” moment that most innovators can describe with enthusiasm.
“I literally was just building a chronology. I think it was 1,500 emails. And this was my life. There was nothing out there that could do this for me…I was doing this and [thinking] I cannot believe I'm doing this. I have … kids, I have a house I need to maintain. I'm busy, and I'm sitting here for three days nonstop doing data entry.”
Green posted on a WhatsApp chat for litigators to see how others dealt with this challenge. None of them knew of a solution to the problem.
“People were silent. They didn't respond to a follow-up again in a couple of days. And then I joked, ‘Don't all answer at once.’ And then someone responded [saying]: “There's nothing out there. We all do it manually.”
Green then realized she was onto something.
“That moment changed my life. Because I felt like there was a problem that many people had, that really should be solved by a computer. And I just couldn't leave that.”
Green kept practising full-time, but she couldn't give up the idea. In addition to her work developing an app and her litigation practice, Green had her third child in March 2022.
Eventually, she built a prototype and joined the Legal Innovation Zone, getting guidance from other innovators and input from litigators.
“I reached out to all the litigators I knew, and I set up Zoom calls with them.” She ran several ideas by these lawyers, but she says her chronology solution made their eyes light up.
“They all said the same thing, that it's brutal. And they all did it no matter how fancy the firm was, how much money it invested in legal tech, they all have the same problem.”
Green then connected with her current co-founder, Thomas Rubbert, through a Y Combinator matching program, which she describes as “a speed dating site where people with ideas meet people with technical skills who don't have ideas.”
She interviewed several technical experts and hit it off with Rubbert.
“I went through probably eight people and interviewed them. And I talked to them, and I've worked with some of them on small projects. And that's how I met Thomas.”
Her company has been gradually gaining customers ever since.
The shift in law firm culture
Despite her company’s growth, Green says convincing lawyers to try a new tool takes time. “It's hard to sell to lawyers. You have to be very patient. You should validate your idea first before you build it and make sure that just because you think there's a problem, other people [should] also think there's a problem.”
But she says the growing interest in legal tech solutions signals a broader shift in the profession.
“I think that quality of life is becoming very important to lawyers, much more than it was in the past. The demographics are changing. Women are taking on more leadership positions. I think that's helping to drive the appetite for tech because [it is] no longer just about, ‘Let's do as much as we can.’ It's more about ‘Let's make sure people can have lives outside of the office. And if we can use tech to accomplish that and still do a good job for our clients, then that's also a priority.’”
Green says lawyers should consider trying legal tech tools early in their development.
“There's a lot of benefit to being an early adopter because if it's a solution that can actually help you [and] you're one of the earliest users, you can get a ton of perks from the company. You can help direct how the development goes, and you could basically help build the thing that ultimately might really improve your practice.”
As for practising law, Green decided in July 2023 to pause full-time practice to focus on Goodfact.
"I continue to carry a small practice of select files because I love litigation and because using Goodfact for my own files allows me to connect with my customers, discover new Goodfact use cases, and ensure that Goodfact is robust and versatile enough to handle the complexity of real litigation.”