The Human Lawyer: Dorna Moini
The “dance moves” needed to develop a no-code, content-agnostic document automation platform are rivaled only by the dance moves needed to be a fifteen-time participant in The Nutcracker. Meet Dorna Moini. That’s her. From Big Law associate with an energy to make work processes more efficient, Dorna channels her process-focused energy to help lawyers in all walks, pro bono to corporate, create repeatable, efficient workflows through a document automation platform. In the face of the pressure to grow and scale her legal tech company, Dorna lives and breathes her “why” every day: to help people. Here’s Dorna’s story, in her words.
How’d You Get Here (Really Get Here)?
Law is one of those areas where you have a well-traveled path to the ideal. If you follow the rules and work very hard, there is a way to a successful career. But there are forks in the road that some are more tempted than others to follow.
Personally, I went into a law firm wanting to be a partner, but things kept pulling me away. I kept wanting to solve problems about the way things were done to enhance my work. I built an internal blog to centralize legal research at my firm; I built a database of judicial experiences; and when we started Documate, we wanted to build a LegalZoom for low- and moderate-income Americans.
Documate (previously HelpSelf)’s first product was a “TurboTax” for domestic violence law, which is still being used by legal aid organizations and shelters in California. But we got our lucky “aha moment” when Bob Ambrogi featured us on his blog. Lawyers from across the globe started reaching out to us asking if we could build them similar tools in other jurisdictions and other areas of law. So we decided to build Documate, a content-agnostic document automation platform allowing our global users to automate their own expertise.
As a lawyer who couldn’t code (but now has learned quite a bit), I often felt powerless to build anything more than a blog. Our mission now is to democratize engineering and development so that anyone can build legal web apps supporting their practice and livelihood, without using any code.
Your Greatest Inspiration (Please, Share)
I am constantly grounded and inspired through my pro bono legal work (I take either DV or immigration cases, and sometimes support low-income entrepreneurs with employment advice). My clients have gone through so much, and they have so much at stake. Yet, they continue to be pillars of strength for their families, breadwinners for their children, and unwavering advisors to their friends. They place me in awe of the human spirit.
Your Source of Fulfillment: Go!
Our clients and their individual stories give me fulfillment and balance. My job is to scale our company, but it’s important not to lose sight of the impact we have on each human. Whether it’s a legal aid client who is able to serve many more clients in a clinical setting, or a law firm who has been able to launch their own tech platform, the direct impact is my fuel.
You’ll Be Remembered This Way
I want to be remembered as a helper. I’ve been lucky to have incredible people who have helped guide my path. I openly invite anyone reading this article to reach out if I can help in any way: thinking through your career; taking the jump to starting your own practice or company; or making introductions to subject matter experts.
I also hope to play a part in changing the delivery of legal services by bringing more accessible automation and a flat fee marketplace to the profession. In my opinion, this is good for everyone: lawyers get more business and more of the middle class, including the lower middle class, gain access to the resources of a law firm.
One Thing You Would Change About the Practice of Law
Management training in law firms, or the lack thereof. Law firms are businesses. But unlike most businesses, in law firms, every single junior associate is being trained to become an executive. And yet, many law firms provide zero training on managing, engaging, and retaining these employees and their subordinates, in whom they’ve invested so much time and money. They simply throw a big salary at a first-year and hope for the best. And this is the main reason why so many juniors burn out and search for alternate career paths. The law is fun: it’s engaging and challenging, whether you’re a litigator or working on complex deals. It’s our job as veteran lawyers to create the culture fostering dedication to the profession. We owe that to both our clients and our fellow members of the bar.
More broadly, I think the legal profession needs to be more open to regulatory changes that enhance access to justice, both through the use of technology and through paraprofessional positions. The California State Bar’s Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services has made impressive headway on leading the conversation on this topic in California.
Surprise The World With Your Most Unique Personal Fact
Every lawyer needs a creative outlet. Mine is ballet. I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old, and I’ve performed 15 different roles in The Nutcracker. I’m also obsessed with these bosu ball balance exercises. I promise you’ll be more at peace after trying these than meditating or downloading the Headspace app.