Inspiring Women in Tech: Interview with Olga Beck-Friis

Olga Beck-Friis, COO and Co-Founder of PocketLaw, has plenty to say on legal tech matters, connecting in the offline and online world, and why it's best to ignore impertinent questions from investors.

With tech news about innovation and startups a constant theme at eWeek UK, it’s also good to speak with the inspiring women who make all of these developments happen.

In this ‘Inspiring Women in Tech’ interview, we talk with Olga Beck-Friis, COO and Co-Founder of PocketLaw.

Olga Beck-Friis, COO and Co-Founder of PocketLaw

PocketLaw says it is on a mission to empower companies worldwide to succeed by providing a clever, affordable solution for all things legal.

The tech company was founded in 2018. PocketLaw is headquartered in Stockholm but also has an office in London.

How and where did you start your career in tech?

I studied Politics, Psychology and Sociology for my first degree, before graduating from Cambridge with an MPhil in Political Sociology. I have always been very interested in innovation and tech, but it really kicked-off when I worked as a Management Consultant at McKinsey, focusing on digital strategy and advising companies on how to use technology to bring about disruptive transformation. In my four years at McKinsey, my passion for how technology could be leveraged to improve and simplify processes only grew. When my business partner, Kira Unger, and I started talking about how a company like PocketLaw could help businesses streamline their legal processes through a user-friendly digital solution, I knew that we were onto something important.

As a woman in tech, how do you think women can inspire each other in the sector?

A very easy and effective way for women to inspire and support each other is to actively connect both in the offline and online world. Recently there has been a heightened sense of community in the sector on social media, which has been particularly important during the pandemic. I have connected with a great number of amazing women and female industry leaders on LinkedIn, who I never would have met offline due to us being spread across the world. There are also a great deal of events for “women in tech” specifically, which are fantastic for making you feel inspired and part of a larger community.

What do you see as the greatest challenges to legal tech today? 

One of the main challenges for legal tech to thrive is to change current perceptions of how to best, and most securely, solve legal needs. At PocketLaw, we believe that up to 90% of the repetitive, standardised legal tasks that traditionally have been solved by lawyers can be automated, and through digital guidance and a simple user interface, can be solved by companies themselves. Digitisation allows for democratisation of expertise and increased accessibility regardless of financial muscles or existing knowledge. But, for us to allow for this increased accessibility, people need to change their mindsets and behaviours, and dare to do something in a completely new way.

There are several old ways of working and outdated behaviours that are entrenched in the legal system. Legal tech solutions are undoubtedly the future of the industry, and firms are slowly but surely moving in that innovation-led direction. However, people have become so numb to the idea that legal matters – by nature – involve inefficient processes and encumber high fees. As a result, they don’t always know that they can expect better, more affordable legal standards and practices, and that they have every right to challenge the old ways of doing things. It’s no longer the case that legal proceedings require long lunches at mahogany tables with expensive lawyers charging by the minute. But the real challenge is shifting and updating this archaic image.

What advice would you give to women looking to get into tech ?

The simple answer: don’t overthink it, just do it. It would be easy to be discouraged by the comparative lack of female leaders in the industry, but to bring about long-lasting change we must strive to become the role models we wish existed.

During our early fundraising rounds, Kira and I were asked by some investors about our relationship statuses and whether we had plans to start families. My advice would be to ignore questions like these (and perhaps more importantly, to ignore these investors) as they aren’t relevant to whether your business idea is sound or if the execution of your vision is sustainable. Our investors share our steadfast belief that automation and digital solutions are the future of legal services, and that businesses deserve an accessible and affordable alternative to traditional legal support. Ultimately, our gender has never mattered to them: it’s our vision, strategy and solution that they care about.

How do you think tech solutions can help disrupt the legal sector?

Legal tech solutions will be vital to the transformation of the legal industry in two ways. Automation and digital tools will enable lawyers to work more efficiently, while also allowing companies to spend less money on legal support for standardised, repetitive tasks. This is a win-win for everyone. My vision for the sector is very much for legal technology to improve, enhance and complement the sector, rather than to replace lawyers, which remains a common misconception surrounding the work that we do and legal tech in general.

Have a look at the previous tech interview with Kristen Foster-Marks, Director of Engineering for the Value Delivery team at Pluralsight Flow, here.

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