Legal technologies wait for no one, including you. Guest Joy Murao is the Founder and CEO at Practice Aligned Resources, a legal tech support firm that offers a blend of services including e-discovery consulting and advisory, case planning and implementation, vendor and software selection guidance, and trial and war room setup and management.
Murao turned her background as a paralegal professional into helping legal teams incorporate technology and available resources to streamline casework, manage projects, incorporate e-discovery techniques, and maximize efficiencies and outcomes.
In this podcast:
- High tech tools aren’t just for big trials anymore. Learn to incorporate the latest tech for depositions and even smaller hearings and trials.
- Keep track of every detail and hold every bit of data at your fingertips.
- The COVID-19 pandemic opened doors and highlighted technologies that support paralegals and legal teams in the courtroom and online.
Don’t get passed by. Take action today to become comfortable – even expert – with the latest technology. Sounds intimidating? It doesn’t have to be. Murao offers simple steps to set achievable goals and get started today.
Tony Sipp: Welcome back to The Paralegal Voice. My name is Tony Sipp, your host and I’m here with a special guest, Joy Murao and she will be talking about trial technology and software that’s available for trials in our legal industry. Before we get into our conversation with Joy, I just want to remind you that the NALA Conference & Expo is coming up. We still are in the early rate, which ends on May 12. Please go to NALA’s website. It is nala.org. The conference dates are going to be July 12 through the 14th. It will be in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s going to be a great event. It’s available online and in person. So go to the website, check it out and get registered.
We also have InfoTrack, that is one of our sponsors for the podcast who is having a free virtual conference on April 27 and April 28. Please go to the website, register for Legal Up and I’ll actually be presenting there, so check it out. So without any further a do, let’s get into our conversation with Joy. Joy, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Joy Murao: Okay. Well, thank you. First of all, I’m just honored and privileged to be here with you, Tony. I know that we always talk about paralegal talk ourselves, right, our own voices. So for me, how I got here, I think it’s a common story amongst a lot of paralegals. I thought I would go to law school, right? I went to paralegal school after receiving my BA from UC Santa Barbara. Go Gauchos. I went to paralegal school at USD, which is a great program and to me it was a great way to just have a primer for legal. I really wasn’t sure if I would want to invest in law school or if that’s even something I personally really wanted to do. I think like a lot of Asian American women growing up through the 70s and 80s. You either had to be a doctor or a lawyer. So I don’t know how much of that was my own drive or if that was more of a family thing, but going to paralegal school was really great because it reinforced that I really do enjoy working in the law, working in legal. And so it was fun.
What I think was interesting is USD actually had a legal technology program. And so with some of my background in college of just working at the computer lab, it kind of was a nice little mixture of legal and technology. But I didn’t even know that this career, what I’m in now, even existed, right? eDiscovery was not even around at that time in the 90s. So for me coming out of paralegal school, I was really fortunate early on to be offered a job at my first law firm, O’Melveny & and Myers. And I just remember early on really kind of fighting for I want to be a paralegal. But they kept asking me like, well, we really want you for this new role, this litigation systems analyst and this team that’s just there to help the attorneys and paralegals. But I was just so young, right? Like, “Oh, no, I really want to be a paralegal, I really want to be a paralegal.” And so unfortunately or fortunately for me I guess, they said, “Okay, okay.”
A paralegal, you could start at like 24, 25, I think it was or you can start in this litigation systems analyst job at 32, 35. Oh, I really want to be a litigation system analyst, right? Unfortunately, you have loans and things. But I do consider myself very fortunate because it really was a role that was like a liaison between IT and the legal teams, the attorneys and the paralegals. So I was still able to work alongside with many paralegals throughout my, what, 25, 30 year career now and I do feel a part of that. So it is a place in regards to discipline paralegals as a job and as a career. I feel really closely aligned to it. But after joining, I quickly started to kind of… it was just really in my nature to learn software fast. So I was given like the new, it was called Inmagic back then, but it’s like the relativity of today. I had to read like a three-inch manual and digest it to literally 12 pages that attorneys and paralegals would want to learn and read. Again, 400 pages, condensed it down to only what the paralegal or attorneys need to know. So that was a really fun project, and I was able to fly around to the different offices and train attorneys and paralegals how to use this software package, this document review, this document production database, basically, right?
So flash forward from O’Melveny, I was able to go in house to Atlantic Richfield, which is, this is prior to the British Petroleum acquisition. So it was a gas company in the legal department and again, big heavy litigation, repeat litigants and they actually had concordance in house. And I learned that that’s where concordance, which was… is the grandfather relativity and reveal and all those today, that it was actually born there, that the person who created concordance actually was an ARCO employee. So it was kind of interesting and how that actually came about and to be so fortunate to know early on, technology inventors, right?
So going on from in house, I realized that I really loved working at the law firm. I really missed the pace that there is a different rhythm for corporate legal and in-house corporate departments than there is in the law firm, because they would tell me like, oh, local council or outside council is handling it, we don’t have to worry about loading the databases. But I love databases. I really love the information. I was really lucky to get my next job at Latham & Watkins and gosh, I stayed there for 13 years. I started out as an analyst and then the following, I think what year, a year and a half I was promoted to be the manager. Keep in mind, I was 28 years old and I don’t know… if you would give a 28-year-old now a position in a management role for such a large law firm, but it wasn’t about my age, right? It was that I loved what I did, and I really like to connect people to solutions and I was just like a business analyst, right? You tell me your problem I’m going to find a solution. So that was kind of like my service heart in that and I started in San Francisco, the San Francisco office. I ended up going to… when I was promoted to the Los Angeles office, I then moved to the New York office, which really helped us grow our international practice support team at Latham and then I did move back to Los Angeles, and then from there I went to Paul Hastings and I directed that program in downtown L.A. as again a global program. What I really loved is I still got to have that alignment with paralegals and attorneys, and I still felt like I was a part of the case team. To be honest, that’s one of my markers of success in our program is when attorneys and paralegals consider litigation support professionals apart of the case team.
When we go to trial with them and they invite us to the trial dinner, celebratory trial dinner, or when they make the announcement to the firm like, oh, we won, and thank you to the case team and then they would list litigation support, I would just have such a big smile and a warm heart because I would say, see, it doesn’t matter if I’m an attorney or not an attorney. I’m a part of the case team. I’m part of the paralegal team. We made it happen together. So from there, I started teaching at UCLA Paralegal School. I really enjoyed bridging that gap and again, sharing what was afforded to me all those years, giving that back to the paralegals, making them feel a part of the process. Because by this time, this is like 2012, 2014, eDiscovery was already in full play. It came about in 2004-2005 but the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure didn’t come until 2006, right? But even then, it wasn’t until like 2008 that people, the new cases started to be affected by those rules, because I would try and teach in 2006, and they’re like, “Yeah, those rules don’t apply to us” because we filed before then. So you really have to figure out how you can use your personality, the relationships with the attorneys and paralegals to kind of have them share a few minutes of their day with you so that you can explain the new technology, right? It was always about, how can I help them be more successful by knocking on doors, bringing in vendors to do demos? It was a really kind of cool time to be that up and coming, but here we are in 2023, and I think it’s the same tactic. I got to knock on doors, offer lunch, bring in vendors. But it’s just that technology just continues to change, and unfortunately, we’re all so busy, the legal teams are so busy right now. So for me, how do we kind of express track the learning? So that’s where I’m at now. I started my own company in 2000… my gosh, I officially started the company in 2023, but long story on that.
But officially opening up the PAR Center in Downtown L.A. officially taking on clients on a larger, broader role was 2017. So to me, I just can’t believe it’s hitting our 6th year. We’re going into our 7th. It’s been an amazing ride. And again, it’s still kind of a same theme of my roots as going to paralegal school, my roots in reading manuals and educating attorneys and paralegals. So that brings us to where we are today.
Tony Sipp: All right. Well, thank you for sharing that, Joy. We are going to take a quick commercial break, and then when we come back, we’re going to talk about the topic of trials and trial technology and some of the trends in the paralegal world. So when we come back, we’ll discuss all of those topics and more. And we’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.
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Tony Sipp: And we’re back with Joy Murao, and we are going to be discussing the topic as promised around trial and trial technologies and the trends in the paralegal world. Joy, I know you have a lot of experience in this area. You’re even helping my firm out. So what are some of the trends that are happening in the paralegal world regarding trials, trial technology and the software that’s available?
Joy Murao: Well, first of all, the biggest trend for me right now is that paralegals and associates are starting to learn the trial technology because they have to be the ones that are running the trial technology. They’re either taking on the hot seat role, which is typically in the past, has always kind of been the consultants who sit there. But now what I’m finding is that the tools themselves are not just being used for the biggest cases, the biggest trials. They’re being used for the smallest trials. They’re being used in depositions. They’re being used in client meetings when we’re trying to show the client what we have as we prepare for trial. So you’re not always going to have the trial hot seat tech. Again, there’s a different rate in regards to the fees that it would take to do that. But also, they’re not as available because there’s such a small group of them.
When you think and consider the broader aspects of paralegals versus trial text, there are way more paralegals. A lot of associates out there who they really understand the content of the case. They know the documents and the evidence that we’re going to present. So it’s only logical to me that the paralegals and the associates start to learn the tools to feel comfortable, to be able to present the data, the documents, the facts that they know exist. So that’s a big trend right now, is that people are being trained in trial director, in sanction, but also the new applications like TrialPad, OnCue. There are new technologies that are presenting documents at trial, at arbitrations, in depositions. COVID really pushed forward I think when you talk about the technology strategy for a lot of law firms, that it kind of accelerated the adoption of remote technology, adoption of having to present things across the internet. So I think when you look at what COVID did for us as an organization, people working remotely, that now we have access to a lot more staff because we’re not just limited to staff in one locale. Now if we say we’re looking for a technical paralegal or a paralegal who would like to do trials, but the trials are out of New York, you now can leverage a paralegal in your Chicago office or your L.A. office, right?
The paralegals have so much opportunity to step up and learn something. When people get, they’ll tell me, I’m really intimidated because I’m not a technologist, I spend a lot of time making people feel comfortable. First of all, that you use technology every day, right? Your TV, your car, your phone. I mean, it used to be a remote control, but now even my refrigerator, I’m like, just give me ice. I just want ice. So everything now is so technology based and oriented that first of all, you do handle technology every day and you meet that, you get what you have to get out of it. But two, there’s a whole new profession called UX Design. These people focus on user experience. They want to make it streamline. Because when you think about it, training has always been gosh, a non-billable function if we’re at a law firm. But also, training is just an overhead item for most organizations.
So how can you increase adoption of new innovative technology or new workflows or processes if you’re not training someone? Well, if we’re going to decrease the training that’s available, then those products or those applications or workflow better be easy to learn, intuitive, it should be natural for whoever the user is. So UX Designers spend a lot of time getting information from different practice areas or industries to help design better products. So with TrialPad, for example, first of all, it’s on an iPad, right? That’s like the dream for most of the partners I used to talk to, can I just put up on my iPad. Back in the day, I’d say no. I need a video card, I need a high-powered machine. I need so much. But now, if you see it flash forward, you know, here we are. The technology on my phone is better than most computers I ever had 10 years ago, right? But now the user experience has been designed and architected to follow what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to present a document, I’m trying to zoom in on a document, I’m trying to incorporate a video with synchronized transcripts. Now all that is there, and it’s easier to operate, it’s easier to create these databases, these trial presentation databases, than ever before. So we do a lot of training now just to get people feeling comfortable and focusing them on what you need to go to trial, to go to arbitration, what you need to have that client meeting next week.
Tony Sipp: It’s a good point. There’s a lot of trials. We’re a long way from paper and those boxes and the banker boxes in the office. I remember doing a war room. It wasn’t a war room, but it ended up because we didn’t have eDiscovery technology. I had to print out emails and put them on the wall of my office to try to piece everything together. We won, but man that was not a fun experience. But for the people, our listeners that are out there, some have tech experience, some don’t think they do. What advice would you give some of the people that are kind of on the fence about this or don’t feel they have enough experience to get into this? Because that’s the direction of the legal field. That’s where it’s going. If you’re not learning eDiscovery in my opinion, you are at a disadvantage.
So a lot of firms did not survive the pandemic. We’re still in it, but the COVID 2020, it was a rough year for a lot of firms. And the people that were able to convert and work remotely, that was a game changer. So that said, the people that are now realizing if they didn’t before, that this is what they should be doing. Advice?
Joy Murao: Well, first of all, you know that this is truly my passion project, right? It’s making people, bring them into where we are today. Because, again, knowing where I came from, I was you if you were them. I was you 25 years ago. There’s not lot has changed in regards to what you have to learn, but now there’s so much more available. You can learn a lot on YouTube, right? There’s so much, there’s so much out there. And the products that actually are designed, again, they’re designing these products. There’s a lot of videos on there. But I would say the first thing is be calm. Like whenever we do litigation, the first thing is don’t flip out, right? Just breathe for a second and think about what do you want to do. Just be very clear on what you want to do. Because I think that’s part of it is not understanding where I want to be, do I want to go to law school, do I want to stay in a litigation paralegal, do I want to move to corporate, oh do I want to move in the government, do I want to work at a corporation, right?
There’s so many questions, and when you can really define and have some clarity on how you like to work, where you like to work, what kind of money do you need to make, or what kind of money do you want to make, right? What do you want your life to be like first of all? The biggest point on that is when people tell me, “Oh, I don’t want to work overtime. I really can’t work past five”, then why are you working at a trial law firm? Because that is not going to work for you, because you’re not setting yourself up for success there, because you leave and everyone’s like, “Where’d Tony go? Why’d he leave? And we’re all still working”, right? So that really can cause some friction wherever you’re at.
So just being really clear and very definitive on what you want, at least tomorrow. I’m not asking for your five-year plan, but if you said to yourself, where do I want to be tomorrow? Why I really would love to do trials. All right, let’s start there. Okay, where? Here in L.A. or do you want to go somewhere remote? Well, I always wanted to live in Denver. Okay, great. So you start to really build it out, and for me when I built my company, it really was to help, and it was help connect people to the right solutions. It was to align them to the right resource for what they need.
So some people can go right in and say, “Oh, I want to be a master or an expert in these software packages.” Do you have the money to invest in the software package training? Because there’s a lot of certification out there. If so, go get it. If not, go find a scholarship. If not, go find a sponsor. If not, go find a company that does that service and you say, “Look, I’m willing to learn from the beginning. Can you train me?” Right? If there’s a will, there’s a way. So first of all, you have to be clear on what you want, and it will change, it will grow but set a smart goal for yourself. Do something, right? Make it achievable, make it real, make it measurable. What will make you happy to say that I’ve made some progress towards this. And then ultimately, people just say, “Can I just call you?” Sure. Link me in, ask me some questions. We have a lot of people that we bring to the table, like, you know, on our Friday virtual lunches with leaders, and we do a lot with ACEDs, we do a lot with ILTA. There’re so many organizations that are really there to help their community be successful. So join one of those communities. LAPA, San Diego Paralegal Association, right? There’re so many communities out there who want your membership, and maybe you don’t have the full money right now if you’re in transition. A lot of these organizations have hardship programs. They have a way that you can say, “Look, I really would like to be a part of this, but I don’t have the funds available or my company won’t pay for this. What can I do?” Just ask and figure out how you can get there. Don’t put a ceiling on yourself. There’s so much in life that’s already going to put a ceiling on you. Don’t do it to yourself. So figure it out and go find it.
Tony Sipp: Well said. On that same topic, aren’t you the new lead or chair of… can you share with everybody not only she and women in eDiscovery, but she’s also…?
Joy Murao: Yes. So I’m the chair this year. I’m very fortunate to be the chair of the Law Practice Management and Technology section for the California Lawyers Association, and remember, I’m not a lawyer, right? That’s my dream one day to go to law school. It still is, by the way, even if I’m 80, I’m going to go, I bet you. Come on, Tony, let’s go. No, I love what the lawyers do and our legal team, so that’s still a goal of mine. But being a part of the California Lawyers Association, I was invited by another friend who isn’t a lawyer also, was part of the executive committee and now we… I try and tell people, if you like technology, you want to be a part of it, LPMT which is Law Practice Management Technology. The section in California Lawyers Association, you can be a member. You don’t have to be a lawyer, first of all. So remember, go find your community, go join your community and then together start to tease out what your goals are, and you start to have people who will help you.
But this year I’m the chair. I will roll off this year. Last year I was vice chair. So again, I just… I just am so again touched that I have an ability to help educate, to help answer questions for not just the people that I work for or the people that work for me or the appropriate people who work with me, but now I have an opportunity to help all of the legal professionals in California.
Like you said, whether it’s being a member of Women in eDiscovery or being a member of ACEDS or being a member of the California Lawyers Association or the EDRM, right? There’s just so much out there. And so for me and you and the people that we are leaders in our own right, in our own companies, it’s really been my honor to share that and encourage others to take on these goals and get there.
Tony Sipp: Wow. Yeah. I’ve always known you to be very supportive and always wanting to educate others and get them to where you are if not past. That’s just who you are. We will be right back in a few minutes after we take some commercial breaks from our sponsors.
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Tony Sipp: And we’re back with Joy Murao of PAR. Joy, we were just talking about a lot of the trial technology and software and here in California, I know that the governor proposed a bill for the 2023, 2024 year to spend 296.9 billion in total state funds, which approximately 223.6 billion is from the general fund and 70.4 billion from a special fund. A lot of these funds are going into… well, it says it right here, actually. It says they’re going to spend that money on new funding for technology, judgeships and courthouses. I know in L.A. we have LACourtConnect, which is the new version of Zoom for the courts and it’s really helpful. I think the big thing the courts are trying to do is give more people access to justice, and they also are investing in their trial technology so that you’re not in the hot seat and you’re not embarrassed by some of the technical glitches that happen normally during those moments. I’m sure you have some stories for us where the ideal situation is and what some bad situations were.
Joy Murao: Well, I’d say first, that’s really great. And as I was saying during the break, I wasn’t aware of that bill, so I’m going to go research that. But I was there. Gosh, I forget what year it was, 1998, ‘99 maybe. But I was there when the federal court system outfitted each federal courthouse with one high tech courtroom. The vendor at the time was Delaware(ph) Technologies, and they basically had a trial set up that they could wheel into a courtroom set up and that way both sides, both parties could plug their laptops in and automatically display to the already existing TVs or monitors in the courtroom.
Because before that, and which is common now we have to rent trial equipment, we have to coordinate with the opposition and agree on what projector we’re going to use and a horror story is when a judge flipped out, like, what’s that noise? And he’s demanding to turn it off, and it’s the projector. It’s like… that we can’t turn off anyway. But being there when that first courtroom was setup, and it was really, again, just such a game changer. It was really, in my mind, such a growth opportunity for the lawyers not to be intimidated, but to embrace the change. Because there wasn’t going to be a room anymore in some of these courtrooms to house the 10 or 15, 4 to 5 feet demonstrative boards that we would bring in to show the jury our story and we could only carry so many. There’s only so many of us carrying. But now, using trial technology or using technology in the courtroom, you can be armed and have in your arsenal 800 to 8000 exhibits that you want to bring up.
Now, I’ve been in cases where everyone agrees we do not have time for both sides to show every exhibit if there’s 8000 of them. But obviously they want to be prepared should the witness turn left or right or things come up that they weren’t expecting. But I’ve been there where they’ll say, you need to focus and you need to make sure you trim that down to like, hundreds of exhibits, not thousands. That’s a whole another strategic story. We can go into another… that’s a whole another hour. But the fact that now… that’s great to see that they’re moving forward with trying to connect technology and as you mentioned, access. If they’re increasing the number of judges available to hear these cases through this remote capability, then that’s amazing. Because I think what COVID has shown us is that being remote doesn’t mean you and I cannot communicate. It just means we have to be better at communicating and be very, again, clear on what our objectives are and make sure that it’s landing, right? I can’t rely anymore about standing next to you and seeing your face, because sometimes in some situations, you’re not even the one on camera, right? There could be three or four people working on this, but only one of you is actually interacting with the court or with the situation of the hearing. So that’s kind of interesting. I’ll look into that.
But what I do like, its people process and technology. So hopefully they’re paying attention to the iron triangle. Whenever you implement new technology, think about its use, think about who’s going to use it and how they’re going to use it and when they’re going to use it, right? So that sounds like a lot of money. I didn’t know we had so much money in California. Okay, that’s awesome. And I’m glad we’re all here to benefit from that. And I’m glad that in our legal industry, there’s so many different practices, like I said, that need this technology. It’s not just the big complex litigation, right? It’s the family law case. It’s the immigration case. It’s the transit. There’s so much that… where presentation, making information available is so important. So I’m glad that that’s out there. We’re going to have to go make a phone call.
Tony Sipp: Well, they just ran Sandbox earlier this week, probably a couple of days ago, and I participated in it. It’s rather easy to use, and I think a lot of people are going to be happy with using it. It’s just their Sandbox. I’m sure they’re going to roll out the actual one after getting feedback from this.
Joy Murao: No problem. I’m going to go take a look at that.
Tony Sipp: It’s really cool.
Joy Murao: I’m sure they’ve disabled all the cat filter features.
Tony Sipp: There is no cat filter feature. They do have breakout rooms, though, which is kind of interesting. So it was really cool to play around with and do. There’s a YouTube video as well for anybody who’s interested in doing that. So, Joy, this has been an excellent, excellent conversation, and I know you’re more than knowledgeable about the subject matter. Where could people, if they want to reach you after this, connect with you?
Joy Murao: Thank you. Thank you for that. First of all, LinkedIn. As I tell everybody, there’s so many of us that speak on so many different panels and conferences, so I hope everyone listening. Feel free to link in to people because we all again, there’s so many of us that grew up through the industry, and we find ourselves very fortunate, and so we want to pay it forward. So don’t ever be shy. As my mom would say, don’t be shy. Make sure you link in. Second, obviously, my company is Practice Aligned Resources, PAR for short. It’s practicealigned.com and that we do a lot there. We do, as you know, for women workshops that are free, we’re trying to do a series now, focus on paralegals and the people new to the paralegal, going to paralegal school because there’s such a challenge on what you learn and what you actually get to apply and basically gain experience before you get your first real job. So there’s always been like, well, they won’t hire me or I can’t get a job because I have no experience, but I can’t get experience because I don’t have a job. That has always been that conundrum with this whole thing, and I don’t see a lot of apprenticeships in our industry. I don’t see a lot of internships. I wish that we could.
So for me, PAR, that’s been kind of my goal of trying to create and carve out a safe space where we can train people, we can give them the opportunity to work on real cases as our employees and have the senior staff that look and quality check the work so that they could be trained and given feedback and ability to grow in an environment where the building is not going to burndown if they do something, right?
Tony Sipp: Exactly.
Joy Murao: Some of these cases you’re like, “Oops, did you just release all those privileged documents?” We’re there to catch them. We have the safety net. But I do hope for those who are listening, who are in the position to hire interns, to create an apprenticeship program to offer scholarships whether you have it on your own or find an organization that needs sponsors, do that because you ‘reinvesting not only in the people today but you’re investing in your own program in the future because you’re going to want to hire people. You’re going to want to hire qualified people. And what I’m finding now is we’re all so busy. The onboarding and the on the job training just isn’t as robust as it used to be because we used to have the time. The mail would take two to three days to get to you, right? That we would send a letter, we’re not going to get a response for like a week to two weeks. I have some time. Now, you send an email and boom, we’re already responding in the next day. It’s like, “Oh, everything is so much faster now.” So again, just to go back, take a breath, figure out what you want to do, go look up some resources, go see what it is, link in not just me but link in to Tony and anybody else, Jill, right? There’re so many people from the NALA organization.
Again, all the paralegal associations locally that we’re here to help. So just seek it and you’ll find it.
Tony Sipp: Well said. I couldn’t end it better than that. Thank you, Joy, so much and we’ll see you next time.