Karen S. Levy, Director of Global Technology at Debevoise & Plimpton joined the Pro Bono Net Board last fall, helping advance our mission of leveraging technology to provide access to effective legal services for the poor. Prior to her current leadership position at Debevoise, Karen held senior technology roles Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Edwards Wildman Palmer. She has also served as a legal industry consultant, advising international law firms on technology strategies and implementations. Last month, we talked with Karen about the role of technology in transforming the way the vulnerable populations are able to access legal help, working in a field that’s predominately male-dominated, and making technology more accessible to future generations of women.
PBN: What brought you to PBN?
KSL: I had been aware of PBN through my firm's use of Pro Bono Manager, a software product used to assist our lawyers in identifying and tracking pro bono assignments. I was later introduced to the organization and its mission by Michael Mills, whom I have known for many years through his work at Davis Polk, and former PBN board member John Alber, who I worked with at Bryan Cave some years ago. Through Michael and John I came to gain an appreciation of the full extent of PBN's services and mission.
PBN: What about that mission and PBN’s vision most interests you?
KSL: I'm continually impressed by the strong commitment to pro bono work at my firm and the opportunities it presents for individuals to contribute to the greater good and experience personal growth. I had been contemplating ways in which my technology skills could be leveraged to provide similar opportunities for non-lawyers when I was approached by PBN to join the board. PBN's mission to leverage technology to provide access to legal services to a large population of those who are in need of assistance made it a perfect match. A large portion of the U.S. population does not have access to a lawyer, however most do have access to the internet. PBN is taking advantage of ubiquitous technology as the access point and the lowest cost route to deliver information and resources to a large number of individuals who have common needs. An example of this is the online templates that PBN developed to enable Hurricane Sandy victims to appeal denials of FEMA benefits.
PBN: You work in a field where women are often the minority, how did you develop an interest in technology?
KSL: I took a computer science class in High School that piqued my interest. I then pursued it as my college major which ultimately led to a computer science degree and job opportunities requiring technical skills. It's the working with lawyers part that wasn't exactly part of the plan!
PBN: What more can be done to make the field more accessible to young women?
KSL: The field is entirely accessible to women. The problem is that women are often not attracted to the field. We need to help girls see past the stereotype of those who pursue technical fields of study. We need to provide young women with an understanding of the breadth and depth of skills required to succeed at upper levels in the field. I hope the emergence of successful female leaders, such as myself, provide more young women with a positive vision.
PBN: Anything else about yourself you'd like to share?
KSL: I am married and the mother of three children who make me smile every day.