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Monday, January 18, 2016

Pro Files: Monica Bay

If you've been involved or interested in Legal Technology for a few years or more, you already know Monica Bay, who was Editor-in-Chief of Law Technology News, the predecessor to ALM's Legaltech News. If so, you are also familiar with her informative and witty writing style -- always entertaining, yet educational. If you're fortunate enough to have met her in person, you've found that she is the real deal -- just as you'd expected. I am honored to feature Monica Bay, sharing with us a little bit about her past, and our future.

Monica Bay

1. Where do you currently work, and what is your primary role? After Legaltech New York 2015, I retired from ALM, where I was Editor-in-Chief of Law Technology News for 17 years (and spent 13 years at The Recorder in San Francisco). I am now a Fellow at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, where I am the defacto principal blogger. I am also a freelance journalist for Bloomberg BNA Big Law Business, a columnist at Above The Law, and special consultant for The Cowen Group

 2. Share a little about your background, education and work experience prior to your current position. U.C Santa Cruz's third class, B.A. communications with honors. I got my journalism chops in rock and roll at the University of Minnesota’s “Minnesota Daily,” where I was a reviewer and worked my way up to the arts & entertainment editor. (Sociology Ph.D program, transferred to J-school). Among the highlights, I interviewed a wide range of musicians and actors. Among them: Warren Beatty and his sister Shirley MacLain; Stephen Stills in a big RV; I went on the road with Kris Kristofferson and his then-wife, Rita Coolidge; I pissed off Peter Bogdanovich (At Long Last Love) with a question about Madeline Kahn; and was back stage at The Last Waltz. 

I transitioned into law after working at a Sacramento radio station where I was one of the first three reporters in the country to question the policies of United Way. That ultimately resulted in attending the University of San Francisco Law School. After passing the Calif. bar, I practiced for about 5 minutes and then joined The Recorder. 

3. Share a little about what you do when not working. I am a hopeless workaholic. But I have a rule: I never work on airplanes, when I’m flying back and forth from NYC and SFO I catch up on movies. I also confess that I binge-watch NetFlix gems like "Orange is the New Black.” Between March and Oct. I’m often at Yankee Stadium, but usually with somebody working in legal tech.  

4. Tell us about one or two significant experiences in your career. The most dramatic challenge was when Susan Taylor Martin was suddenly named as president of Thomson Reuters Legal, effective Jan. 1. It was a hugely important story for our audience (the issue would be distributed at ALM's Legaltech N.Y.). Setting up interviews was almost impossible. She lived in Ireland, would be based in New York, but most of the team was in Eagan, Minnesota. Making matters worse was that the 1st was on a Wednesday, and most people were coming back on Monday the 6th. To get the story interviewed, researched and written—and get photos shot and art layout finished—and get to the printer would be challenging. On top of everything, Minneapolis, was having a severe weather with wind chills of 51 below zero. My early morning flight was cancelled and I almost gave up, but I finally made it to Minneapolis.

Our small team pulled it off and I am proud to say that our efforts were noticed: The story won two northeast regional awards: gold (design) and bronze (editorial excellence) from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. 

5. Share about one or two disasters during your career, and how you managed to recover. This is going to sound sappy, but I don’t recall any disasters (I may be blocking it out). Challenges, yes, but I learned at an early age to never give up and to “own” problems. I had plenty of deadline issues where I had to work well into the night to finish something. And I do remember screaming at a publicist who wanted to cancel a cover story photo shoot because her client got cold feet. The entire newsroom heard me tell her that I was going to publish the story with or without the photo—and that I understood all the nuances of the story. My adrenaline was through the roof because we were so close to deadline, but I was able to persuade her to go forward with the shoot.  

6. What is the best piece of advice you could offer to someone considering stepping into your shoes? Do what you really want to do, what you love, and everything falls into place. Don’t be afraid, but “own” your job—do your best possible work always. Work hard to have a good and candid relationship with your boss. Manage up. Never let her or him be “surprised” by something you have done.

7. If you had to do it all over, what would you do differently? As a Baby Boomer girl I was never taught how to manage money  because my parents assumed that my husband would take care of that. Well, the husband never arrived, so I had to learn by experience. I now preach to my mentees (women and men) about the importance of learning and “owning”  money management.  

8. Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Hopefully, vibrant, still writing and attending Yankee games :)

9. What would you consider the biggest change that has transpired during your career? One word: Technology. When I joined ALM in 1985, I wrote stories on an IBM Selectric typewriter. I feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet, because I get to chronicle the amazing changes (and challenges) in journalism—from paper to cyber communication. And with that, we have the opportunity and obligation to be sure that everyone has a voice. My passion is to showcase the men and women (lawyers and other professionals) who are working to improve the legal profession so that everyone can have access to justice. Not just the equity partners and their agendas. 
Monica Bay interviews Ted Brooks at LegalTech (see article)

10. What do you predict for the future for those in your profession?  As I wrote in my LTN swan song cover story last February, I trust Darwin. Lawyers who do not adopt tech will fail, ditto for law firms. The profession must become better, faster, cheaper and transparent. We must resolve the incredibly embarrassing diversity problem. We need everybody’s contributions to serve this planet. As I wrote, “Diversity is good for business, and law is a business. In an increasingly global and mobile world, you will fail if you do not capitalize on the talent, perspectives, languages and ideas that come from collaboration with personnel who reflect the complex world we live in.”  

For a little more about Monica, also see Robert Ambrogi's article, The Big Story at Next Week's LegalTech.

Contact Monica Bay
Twitter: @monicabay

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