Stellar Women was excited to welcome a past guest back to the podcast for our latest episode: Rebecca Grant. (If you missed her debut on the show, check it out here.)
We had the opportunity to connect with Rebecca on her leadership style and how she helps her team navigate their careers, whether that is working flexible hours or taking on a new role on an entirely different team. As a technologist and lawyer, Rebecca also shared why access to justice is important to her and her company, icourts.
Executive Director, Founder
Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women fans. I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris.
Mila Taylor: And I'm your co-host, Mila Taylor. Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech. And today we have Rebecca Grant, executive director and founder of icourts.
MR: Hi, Rebecca, thanks for joining us.
Rebecca Grant: Hi. How are you?
MR: Well. How are you also doing?
RG: Very well, thank you.
MR: We're really, really excited to have you. As Mila stated, you founded icourts, which is based in Australia. In your role, you're the voice and the face of the company. So I'm curious, how do you inspire your team? What have been your tricks to success on that front?
RG: I looked backwards and found that being quite open about my personal and career goals helps people understand me at the human level. We definitely are always looking for that engagement when we're recruiting so that we have that connection. Relationships are at the center for us for how we interact and our business model. They're at the center for how we motivate people and they're at the center for how we like to engage. I have a bit of a theory and a self-principle, which is that it starts from the top. I'm open and accessible, and I don't mind engaging on those sort of taboo topics like: Where do you want to go? Can we help you get there and what's getting in the way?
MR: Did you have a leader that inspired that in you or that you looked up to and found that was a great way to inspire you? Or is that something that was a more natural evolution for you?
RG: I've had plenty of amazing people that I've looked up to. I have picked up from them tips and tricks and methods about how to do things. It's hard to say really where that comes from, but [part of it is not] having that available to me. So it's the gap or the delta for what existed in my career that I really recognized that I wanted and needed. It would help me do better. It's what helped drive me every day. That's why I strive to make sure that it's available to the team that I have around me.
MR: That's really great. When you were starting out in your career, the makeup of the industry looked very different, right? Women leaders were few and far between, and hopefully we're seeing some movement in the right direction.
RG: So true. I started out as a practicing lawyer, so it was quite a traditional landscape as much as anything else. There was a very traditional linear trajectory as well. The first decade of my working career, I made the shift to technology law because it was an emerging and quite new and very exciting avenue in terms of opening up what tech can help do for access to justice. That is a favorite topic of mine. It also opened up [an avenue] for what people with a lot of smarts can help do. And among other things, I can lower the cost of getting to the right result. It allowed a much wider opening for the people to shine and for different skills to be seen as important and contributory and for an understanding about different leadership styles and different business models. All of those things were at the right critical point, too, for when a whole range of other business niches were having the same sort of revolution.
MT: Great. You mentioned access to justice and why that’s big. Do you mind just elaborating a little bit on that and how that plays into your life?
RG: It started as personal. It's also very icourts related. It's at the center of how we deliver our work and our services from a personal perspective. Being in practice, you see the cost of legal advice and all the attendant costs that happen just to defend or pursue rights. It's a threshold that many people just cannot get to. And therefore, the burden of even protecting one's rights or someone else's rights is very, very high and very great. And it's an enduring principle for me that justice shouldn't be denied if it's required. We can have lots of simple and fun conversations about justice and law being mutually exclusive. I'm an idealist as well. And I think that we do need to strive every day for our ideals. Lowering the cost of access to justice and making it more accessible so that people can exercise and protect their rights is what we as lawyers were born to do.
MT: Yeah, I love that. That definitely says a lot about you and the makeup of your culture. How do your values inform your leadership style and can you talk to us a little bit about what else makes up a good leader and a great team?
RG: You've got to be clear about what your goal is. Say what you're there to do, but what’s equally as important is not keeping it to yourself. And I think leadership styles of old have been “Do as I say,” and that's about the end of the dialogue. Because this is how leadership impacts me: I am a believer in leaders who tell you where they want to get to and tell you the reasons behind that. Then, they give you enough tools and autonomy to be able to get there and play your part. That's the most motivating and fulfilling way of getting every need met. In the business, I like to thread myself with people who aren’t bockety, but are smart, intelligent, have opinions, and are pretty passionate about what they do. They actually get excited by solving problems if that's what their job is. Or they get excited about reaching people with interesting stories, if that's what their role is. To the extent that that's what they're there to do anyway, and that's where their brain cells coalesce naturally with their talent, I like to leave them to their own devices to a great extent. I like to say, “Here's where we're going. Come with all ideas. We are open.” I love to talk, as you can probably tell. So inviting people to share ideas is the best way to change course and get to an even better outcome than you would have if you just went in there by yourself. It's bringing people with you and surrounding yourself with people who naturally want to exercise their own will and their own ideas. Then we get somewhere that we perhaps hadn't designed, but it's going to be measurably better.
MR: Shifting gears slightly, but still in the same vein as inspiring your team and playing to their strengths. We chatted with Jackie, who's on your marketing team, and she noted that she was in operations before shifting roles due to some life changes and other passions. She said that that's not uncommon for icourts team members to switch gears and talk to you about switching lanes. So let's talk to you about that. How have you fostered that culture where people feel the flexibility to play to their strengths?
RG: It probably started out of pure interest for not losing talent because of where they are or a choice that they've made outside of the icourts world. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be who they are at work anymore. If you let someone walk out just because they need to work different hours or they can't deliver because they’ve made really an incredible life choice and can't deliver the same kind of work each week, it's a loss. It's always an opportunity to have a think about where we can put that energy and how can we reach that person's talents. One of the other things that drives that, though, is constantly keeping in check with what staff are looking for. Staff are looking for ways that they can do different things. And it's not surprising that that's a hallmark of my own career. Again, hearing what people are wanting and looking for and looking for ways that we can deliver some of that in the context of the business: It's only ever going to be a great outcome. I'm really open to it. If we've got places that people want to shift over to from where they are in the business, then we make it happen.
MT: I think that that's a huge testament to the great work and environment that you and your colleagues have built that people are trying to say, like, “Oh, how can I figure this out to stay here?” Oftentimes people are at a role where they’re like, “You know, I'm not loving this anymore. I'm going to go look elsewhere.” But the fact that people are trying to make it work and stay at icourts, I think, that says a lot about you and the team. That’s a really cool thing and I think you guys should all be super proud of that.
RG: It’s a team effort. There's so much glue and stickiness that bind us all together, not to mention shared experience and shared professional history. It’s where we're going to as much as anything else. I mean, this is a very exciting month. In the last three or four calendar weeks, we've had two new babies born to our staff. Each business goes through those sorts of periods, but we haven't had any new ones coming, and it’s exciting to see people who are part of your team take that step in their life.
MR: You've done an amazing job of empowering your team. Looking at the wider e-discovery industry, what are some tips you think that you can give for ways that we can help empower each other, whether it be on your team or different companies or colleagues? Just some things that you find helpful to work towards empowering each other.
RG: I'm lucky enough to come from a profession where we serve as much as anything else. So I still count myself and still am a practicing lawyer. One of the great examples that law as a profession has is that as a profession, it's holistically bound together by a series of formalized education [opportunities] and a series of formalized continuing education and identity. And I think particularly in the last decade, the e-discovery industry has really done an exceptional job of trying to corral those leverage points for those working in e-discovery. The ecosystem that Relativity provides focuses on continued education and certifications that gives operators or workers within the industry a sense of professionalism. They also give them standards to aspire to and ways in which they can map and set forth further goals, which creates a future as much as anything else. So I'd like to see a continued and big focus on education and uplifting the standards within e-discovery. I think that that will help with greater uptake.
MR: That’s great. Thinking back, either when you were focused on being a lawyer or starting icourts, or throughout your career, what's one piece of advice that has really stuck with you?
RG: Never give up. That's been a hallmark of pretty much everything I've done, because you won't necessarily succeed whether it's getting a placement at university, getting into a course or the job that people are looking for, running a business, getting the candidate, getting the client, getting the project, [whatever it may be]—every single thing may not fall into line. Be capable of understanding what you can do differently so that you're going to be closer to that goal next time. So it's the constant iterative learning, not just that way outwardly, but also about how you present as a company, as an offering, or as a candidate for a role. Never giving up is constant engagement about what can give you that edge next time. There is another thing that I think that has been really important and is a lucky synergy for me. If you stay close to the things that really drive you on a personal, ideological, or professional goal set level, you're going to be so much better at doing it. It's probably another way of saying stick close to what you're passionate about. But that is very true. I can see it in people that come through the business or that we're interacting with. If you love what you're doing, you're so much better at it than if you're just showing up.
MT: That part on never giving up resonates with me. And maybe it's just because of where I grew up. That’s so Australian and seeing the amazing work that you and the team have done at Relativity Fest for our Innovation Awards, I see all of that. You guys see a problem and you tackle it and that's awesome. That’s a really cool comment. And then on the second thing, it reminded me of the piece of advice that someone gave me about doing what you love at work and playing to your strengths. I think that a lot of people have this approach where it's like, “Okay, what am I the worst at in my job? I'm going to do that every day this week so I'm good at it.” It's like, hang on, why don't you actually find what you're good at in your job and do that every day and get even better at it and have that as your strength? In my first job that I ever had, I was making spreadsheets and I hated it. I thought that I had to just keep doing it and make this and become really good at it. Then I was like, wait, why am I doing this? I'm good at all these other things, I may as well do what I enjoy and succeed that way.
RG: There's a special additional set of effort and talent that you seem to have around things that you love and that you're good at, for sure.
MT: So to close us out here, what’s something fun that you've done recently or you're looking forward to doing?
RG: I'm a mad photographer and a bit of an amateur one. On a complete whim yesterday, I booked a four-day trek in a different state in Australia because our internal borders have been open for about a month now. So I'm going off next Thursday, going off east, and doing some sort of case over the four days with my two camera buddies up and down the coast of a remote part of regional Victoria. So that’s how I count my fun.
MR: You’ll have to send us pictures that you take.
RG: Yeah, I will. Be ready to respond.
MT: Love it. Thank you so, so much for chatting with us, Rebecca. It was great.
RG: I’ve had a lot of fun. Thank you both for inviting me.
MR: Thanks, Rebecca. And for Stellar Women, I’m Mary Rechtoris.
MT: And I’m Mila Taylor.
Both: Signing off.