Sometime ago, I read an article about a former biglaw litigator, Kathleen Dooley, who left biglaw to go in-house for Hu-manity.co. Hu-manity.co is dedicated to enabling individuals to claim legal ownership of their inherent human data as property (i.e., doing good for the world).
Since I, too, was a former biglaw litigator who recently left for something else, I reached out to her to see what prompted her to make the change and how she went about it. I found her to be a fascinating person who gave her change process a lot of thought. Here is my interview of her in which she candidly talks about her change, what she’s doing now and the state of women in law. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did doing it.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up where you are
I’m originally from New Jersey, where I began practicing law in a firm that merged with Drinker Biddle & Reath in 1999. My career took a turn after 9/11. I was scheduled to take a deposition on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center that day and had vacation plans to Portugal scheduled later in the month. My husband’s employer had other plans for us, however, and we were required to move our vacation up to an earlier date, so we found ourselves in Portugal on 9/11. Shortly thereafter, my husband received an offer from Bank of America in Charlotte, NC, and I was fortunate to join a law firm as a partner there. In 2009, that firm merged with McGuireWoods, LLC. When I left McGuireWoods, it had over 1000 attorneys internationally.
Why did you decide go to law school?
In between college and law school, I worked for a Wall Street investment firm where, among other things, I had the opportunity to assist on deals involving Certificates of Deposit offerings. The experience led me to believe that I could be a deals lawyer. Once I started practicing law, however, I got the litigation bug. The firm graciously allowed me to transition to litigation.
Biglaw presents many challenges in terms of rates, conflicts, strategic plans, and billable-hour requirements.
What made you decide to make a change out of Biglaw?
Biglaw presents many challenges in terms of rates, conflicts, strategic plans, and billable-hour requirements. These challenges increased annually, and I realized it was time to reconsider what I as doing — a process that took about 2 years for me to crystallize.I ultimately devised three basic criteria for the next phase of my career. First, I wanted to work for a company that made products or provided services that I believed in. Second, I wanted to work with nice, talented people. Third, I wanted to be confident that I could bring something of value to the company.
What did you do over this two-year period to make you decide to leave Biglaw for something different?
It’s funny how I got there. While I have been strategic as a litigator, I never over-analyzed any given case, and thought of myself more as emergency room doctor, triaging cases and achieving success by relying on my litigation instincts. I routinely rolled up my sleeves, delved into the facts, and applied my knowledge of the law to attain successful outcomes.
I wanted to work for a company that made products or provided services that I believed in. I wanted to work with nice, talented people. I wanted to be confident that I could bring something of value to the company.
As I contemplated a career change, however, I became more analytical and strategic. I ultimately devised three basic criteria for the next phase of my career. First, I wanted to work for a company that made products or provided services that I believed in. Second, I wanted to work with nice, talented people. Third, I wanted to be confident that I could bring something of value to the company.
That sounds pretty simple in concept but often making something simple is hard work. How did you come up with the three criteria?
You’re right!! I spent considerable time conducting “informational interviews” to assess why people were happy doing what they were doing, regardless of career choice. I re-read What Color Is My Parachute, which I had read a long time ago when contemplating law school.
I considered the impact that a career choice would have on my family.
What did you discover?
I discovered (laughing) that I did not want to turn in time sheets in on a daily basis, so I was headed for an in-house position. I considered the impact that a career choice would have on my family. We have 2 wonderful, young daughters, and I have spent a lot of time on road, and away from them.
So where did your new career search take you and what are you doing now?
I am General Counsel for [Hu]-manity Rights, Inc., dba Hu-manity.co. A former client and good friend, who is now a colleague, introduced me to Hu-manity.co. The Company is an unprecedented venture spearheaded by two brilliant Co-Founders who have surrounded themselves with the most amazing, talented professionals.
Hu-manity.co is dedicated to enabling individuals to claim legal ownership of their inherent human data as property. We think this is so important that it should be a human right and added as the 31st Human Right to the 30 established by the United Nations in 1948. That is why we call this the #My31 movement.
The data marketplace is in the range of $150-200 billion per year for things like geospatial data, consumer spending habits, electronic health records and beyond. The first data set we are focusing on is healthcare data. Health data is one of the largest data sets around, one of the most valuable, and perhaps the most personal to each one of us.
The benefits of data ownership are enormous because property laws are very clear. By owning their data, people will be able to choose where, how and if their data is used; and if it is used, they would be able to get paid. For pharmaceutical companies, receiving explicitly consented data provides the ability to have trusted data (because they know there is a real person connected to the data) and has the potential for richer data. The combination of these two things would increase the efficiency and efficacy of bringing drugs to market. Costs go down and help more people – win-win.
How would Hu-manity.co accomplish this?
This is done through the #My31 app (available for download on Google Play for Android here and for beta test on iPhone here). The app empowers individuals to choose how they would like their data to be used. Those choices are recorded on a blockchain’s trust-and-consent ledger. The choices can only be updated by the individual. Blockchain allows everyone to know that these choices are trustworthy and connected to real people. Then we act as that person’s agent, to make sure their data rights are respected. Those interested in allowing their data to be used for cancer research, for example, will electronically be notified and paid again using the track-and-trace function of blockchain.
We do not actually hold the data. Perhaps what is best is that this model does not disrupt the current data market. It rests on top of the current system and allows everything to run smoothly with the added benefit of empowering the individual with choice and control. It’s a decentralized technology that places power in the hands of the people, giving everyone a seat at the table.
So how have you found the job so far?
What do you miss about practicing in big law?
I miss the friends that I made and had all over the world. I truly miss the clients with whom I developed very deep and meaningful friendships.
That’s interesting because I found exactly the same thing. I don’t miss the actual work I was doing all that much.
Right! Most of my career I was either going to court or getting ready to go court, and as much as I enjoyed all of that, it truly was time to move on.
There’s a lot of discussion lately about whether law schools are adequately preparing law students for practicing law. What do think about how law schools are doing?
I think they are getting there, but they need to train lawyers about technology and the business of law. I was fortunate early on to have a mentor who taught me the value of cultivating business. He is a true rainmaker, and I still consider him my mentor.
Women are not getting the recognition that they deserve. Firms need to have a better appreciation for all the things women are expected to juggle.
What do you think about the state of women in law?
Women are not getting the recognition that they deserve. Firms need to have a better appreciation for all the things women are expected to juggle. Many women have children while trying to become partner. Many are in dual-income families that struggle to maintain work-life balance, competing schedules, child care, etc. And this is across the board. Big firm, small firm, mid-size firm. It doesn’t matter. It’s a cultural issue.
I was told once that if you love what you are doing, the money will follow. If you want to do good and do well, first do good and then you will do well. I truly believe that.
What about when you are not working?
I am active in various organizations like the Charlotte Women’s Bar. I enjoy mentoring women attorneys, and believe in giving back to the community. And I enjoy spending more time with my family, since I am able to work from home.
For those contemplating a career change, what advice would you give?
Conduct information interviews. Talk to people with various viewpoints and backgrounds. Diversity of thought opens up a world of ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself some hard and sometimes uncomfortable questions. What will truly make your happy in your career? I was told once that if you love what you are doing, the money will follow. If you want to do good and do well, first do good and then you will do well. I truly believe that.
Finally, be patient. It’s easy to say “Find your passion.” But it takes some serious time to figure out what it is. My journey took a lot of hard work, and I am thrilled to be where I am right now.