Evisort-Sponsored Students Reflect on Laws Without Walls: Catalina Ortega

June 15, 2023
Reflecting on her experience at the workshop, Catalina Ortega shares her journey into law, her plans for the future, and advice she would offer to potential future law students.

Evisort was founded by Harvard Law students who partnered with data scientists from MIT and now support contract analytics and management for global organizations like Microsoft, Bank of New York Mellon, and Western Union. As such, pushing the legal industry forward and creating opportunities for law students to delve into innovation is very much in Evisort’s DNA.

This year, Evisort sponsored two law students with the Peter D. Lederer Scholarship, enabling them to attend the legal innovation and design thinking workshop Law Without Walls in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Reflecting on her experience at the workshop, Catalina Ortega shares her journey into law, her plans for the future, and advice she would offer to potential future law students.

Why did you come to law school? What are you passionate about in law?

I am originally from Colombia, where I earned my law degree back in 2017 and practiced Corporate Law and M&A as an in-house counsel for five years. I decided to return to law school for my Master of Laws (LL.M) in the U.S. because, during my practice, I discovered the immense disconnect between legal teams and commercial/business teams. I imagined there should be a better, more user-centered way of delivering legal services.

Until now, I was very frustrated with the practice of law because I found it to be highly inefficient and deliver little value to stakeholders.

Now, I have re-discovered my passion for law in improving legal services and making them more suitable and accessible to its actual users–citizens, people from commercial teams, business decision-makers, etc.–while also making it a better, fun place for practicing lawyers.

Tell us about the ‘Law Without Walls’ Program and your experience in Switzerland.

The “Laws Without Walls” Program (LWOW) has been one of the most demanding and enriching experiences I have ever had.  

Preparation for LWOW began in late January, and once we arrived in Switzerland, I found the biggest surprise and the component that makes the LWOW experience so unique. All students were placed in a team of 10 people: three students and seven well-seasoned practitioners in different areas. We had partners from Big Law firms, innovation coaches, project managers, and in-house counsels all on one team, working to get comfortable collaborating with each other.

My team was presented with the challenge of “Excellent Excellence”: How can the legal function provide consistently excellent service in how it identifies, communicates, and manages legal and regulatory obligations and risks for the business?

We focused our project on improving communication between in-house counsel and law firms servicing them. Eventually, we produced a solution called CAKE: an online portal that quickly and easily prompts in-house lawyers to generate consistent instructions to external counsel on the delivery and format of advice.

Now that LOWL has passed, I’ve kept in touch with my teammates–one of them even put in a good word for me for the position that I’m going to after my Master's degree.

 What does Evisort’s sponsorship mean to you?

To me, Evisort’s sponsorship meant the opportunity to attend a life-changing experience that will serve me professionally for many years to come. This sponsorship is a step in showing law students that the Big Law track is not the only option available (despite what the Office of Career Services usually tells us), and that we have more choices than we are usually shown.

Evisort’s sponsorship is a contribution to cultivating what we could call the “Next Generation Lawyers” by giving opportunities of greater value to law students.

You actually took Jerry and Memme’s class “Start-up Entrepreneurship and Innovations in Legal Technology.” What did you think of the course?

Memme and Jerry’s course was the top of my Harvard Law experience! 

When I was trying to find people that had the same idea of “breaking” the traditional ways of the practice of law and proposing a different point of view and alternative career paths, I found that sense of belonging at last in Memme and Jerry’s class.

They offered usable and practical information to tackle the challenges that the next generation of lawyers will be facing. We talked about sizing markets–something we never discuss in law schools in general– and about how lawyers are sellers and need to understand their client’s needs on a deeper level and their current position in the innovation curve. 

We heard directly from VC experts about the key drivers of their decision to invest in an idea and had sessions with the GC’s leading innovation at their firms and heard about their expectations, challenges, and process when integrating new solutions into their work. 

Overall, this was the class where I took the most ready-to-go information and data that I will use in my career.

What do you plan to do after graduation? How has your “Law Without Walls” experience influenced your path?

After graduation, I will join “The Law Boutique, a legal consultancy firm in London, as a Senior Legal Consultant. I will be working with in-house teams of companies in different sectors of the economy to help them translate and get rid of the legalese in their documents, revamp old ways of working, and implement tools and processes to help them connect with stakeholders and customers.

Law Without Walls was a confirmation of my intention to pursue a career path in legal innovation, and an opportunity to find a big, supportive community of legal disruptors. My plan is to stay on this career path for as long as I can work and eventually become the Chief Legal Innovation Officer at a major company.

What advice would you give to other students considering law as a career?

My advice would be to visit, and if possible, take classes outside of Law School, and keep your eyes and ears open outside of what happens in the Law School context.

I think meeting with people from other disciplines and other ways of thinking will help law students consider new, alternative ways of working in better ways, aside from the traditional models that have been around for centuries. 

I’m a strong believer that interdisciplinary work is where the magic lies. I think it is time that we learn how to cross-collaborate across disciplines, which I believe will make the law a more bearable and less burdensome/stressful place to practice.

In our next blog, fellow Evisort-sponsored student, Judy Lin, shares her own experience with Laws Without Walls.

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