About The Guest: I spoke with a Legal Tech Expert named Colin Levy who happens to not be a PhD, but a JD (Juris Doctor).
- Colin is currently a Director of Legal and Evangelist at Malbek.
- Colin received his JD (Juris Doctor) from Boston College Law School.
About the Interviewer: Ryan Collins, PhD is the founder of After your PhD. He graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2021 with a PhD in Media Arts and Sciences.
Note: This interview transcript was edited for readability and brevity.
Can you describe in your own words your current role and responsibilities?
Colin Levy: That is an excellent question. For professional purposes, I am the one and only lawyer for Malbek – A management software company. That is not the only role I have for Malbek. They call me their evangelist. Really what that means in practice is I assist with content development efforts, whether it’s writing a blog, participating on a webinar, or being interviewed for a podcast and or assisting with new marketing initiatives or helping salespeople connect with potential prospects. It’s a kind of a nice balance of the two. Depending on the time of year and time of the quarter I may be doing more legal stuff or maybe doing more sort of marketing stuff.
Can explain the process of the jurist doctor degree? I know most of my audience is familiar with the PhD degree.
Colin Levy: It’s not as theoretical as a PhD. It’s a little structured in some ways. You spend up to three years taking classes and working towards the degree. And then assuming you don’t fail or quit law school, you get your JD. There’s no sort of final project or thesis you have to write because most of the classes are a good mix of them are doctrinal, meaning that they’re in some area of law and then you take an exam that’s your grade. Then during your second and third years, you tend to take more classes that are a little more theoretical.
It may involve either writing a paper or some sort of project. Your first year is primarily exam-based classes. It’s not like college where you can do a thesis or something like that. Or the PhD obviously where you write a dissertation and then defend it. There’s no real sort of process like that. And you don’t sort of have an advisor through Law School. You have professors that you can get to know through the classes, but you are not assigned someone who is with you every step of the way.
Do lawyers see themselves as researchers?
Colin Levy: That’s an interesting question because I think it depends on what area of law you’re interested in. I also will briefly admit I’m probably not your typical lawyer cause I tend to look at things through a little more of a theoretical and research lens. I’m sort of an academic heart, I kind of like to say. Most lawyers I would say are not really researchers per se unless research is part of their role.
Whether they’re a legal librarian or who is not necessarily a lawyer or they’re in litigation. They have to research case law with respect to some case they’re working on or some area of contract law or another area as part of their role working in-house. So sometimes on occasion, I do have to do research to learn more about a certain area of law depending on something I’m asked about. But I would say that you know, I wouldn’t say that lawyers are researchers in the traditional sense.
What is the typical career path for someone with a JD?
Colin Levy: I would say the answer used to be way more straightforward. These days you can do a lot with your JD. You can either follow a traditional path, which usually consists of working at a law firm and staying at that law firm or moving between law firms throughout your career or working at a law firm and then working in-house, or in my case working, graduating law school and then getting some work experience temporary roles and then working in-house.
I didn’t wanna work for a law firm for a variety of reasons. There are also a variety of other career options that are now available for those with JD that include working as a consultant, working for a legal tech company, or some sort of knowledge management type role where you’re developing products, uh, developing solutions and processes to help manage sort of the knowledge base of a law firm or legal department. It could be assisting with sort of the implementation or searching for tools to assist legal departments such as those who work in legal operations who tend to assist with that sort of work among other things. There’s a lot of different roles that are available for those with a JD. And among those roles, not all of them even required you to be a fully fledged attorney, meaning you’ve passed the bar and are license to be an attorney and whatever jurisdiction you live in.
You pivoted to marketing. Can you talk more about your motivations?
Colin Levy: I’ve always been interested in technology. I was curious and intrigued about how I would merge that interest with being a lawyer. So I started exploring sort of technology as it relates to law and talking to people who kind of worked on the border between law and tech. It was those discussions I had and the interviews that I conducted for the then-new blog that helped kind of pave the way for my growing interest in the space and led me to write about the space and explore. Over time that sort of gradually became a little bit part of what I was doing, which was essentially marketing, advocating for legal tech. And so I dabbled a little bit and kind of more purely marketing roles a little bit, but by and large I don’t really consider myself a marketer. I just happened to market have some experience sharing ideas around the space and advocating for the growth of the legal tech space.
What type of skills are translatable from your JD to what you do now?
Colin Levy: I’d say that the ability to translate complex topics and make them simpler. The ability to synthesize large amounts of information and make kind of basic lessons and concepts more accessible to people. I work very closely with business so it’s incumbent upon me to not just be able to translate between the legal world and the business world, but also speak the language of law as well as the language of business, which tends to be more quantitative and metric based.
Are there lawyers who aren’t great at communicated legalese to non-lawyers?
Colin Levy: I’d say there’s a little bit of general generational gap, meaning some of the older lawyers tend to be those who are stuck kind of thinking like a lawyer so to speak. It’s up to you to decide which one you want to do and kind of speaking legalese as opposed to speaking English.
In today’s world, clients don’t want to have to figure out what their legal advisor is telling them. They just want to be guided in a way that is understandable and actionable.
What advice do you have for people who are fresh out of law school?
Colin Levy: Listen to yourself, meaning follow your passions, follow what matters to you. Don’t be swayed by the crowd because there’s a lot of pressure to conform to what everyone else says you should be doing. It’s wise to ignore that and follow kind of what you want to be doing. And two, recognize that your career path is not a straight line. It’s gonna take a lot of curves and turns. Just be open to that and recognize that what you may want to be doing may ultimately be not what you enjoy.
You have to be open to different possibilities. And then the last thing I would say is to be open to experimenting. That may be scary to some JD folks, but I think you need to be open to adaptation and meeting the needs of a very changeable dynamic world.
Anything that I missed that you think would be pertinent to maybe PhDs that are listening or reading this?
Colin Levy: The JD degree is a very flexible one. Getting it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be X, y, or Z. To the extent that you are interested in getting that degree, recognize that it definitely opens a lot of different doors, not all of which may be readily apparent to you.