Founder of The Firm Formula & NYC Legal Tech Meetup
Describe your legal background and your current role today.
I graduated from NYU Law in 2010. After clerking for a year on the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, I joined the Mergers & Acquisitions group of Davis Polk in New York. Beginning in 2013, I spent just over two years in general corporate practice in the firm’s London office, after which I returned to the M&A group in New York before leaving the firm in April of 2016 to pursue a number of different ventures. Today, in addition to working on a knowledge-management-focused legal tech project that I hope to launch in 2018, I run a blog and podcast focused on associate training and legal tech and innovation called Blacklines & Billables. I also offer talks, coaching, and trainings that build on the blog’s content through a company called The Firm Formula. Additionally, I organize and manage two Meetup groups: a lawyer-training-centered meetup called Associate Intel: How to Survive and Succeed at a Law Firm and the rapidly growing NYC Legal Tech Meetup. And, on the side, I negotiate partnerships and enterprise sales for the disruptive, up-and-coming CLE solution TalksOnLaw.
What three words would you use to describe your role?
Boundless, Frenetic, Inspiring
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
The most important factor was a desire to create something. To build something of my own that was valuable to others and to the world and that wasn’t there before. I also very deliberately wanted to remove myself from existing roles and organizations so that I’d be forced to make clear, unbiased choices about what I truly wanted and what I needed to do to make that happen (free from the momentum of traditional or predefined career paths, exit options, etc.). Finally, as much as I love the law, I wanted to pursue some projects that tapped into the most exciting frontiers for humankind (in this case, technology) and that would test me and my capacities in new and exciting ways so that I could build something that would stay relevant well into the future.
Name one movie or song to describe your career.
“My Way” – Frank Sinatra (Haven’t gotten there quite yet; but I hope to feel that way about my career when it’s run its course. So far so good.)
How has your legal education/background shaped the way you perform in your current career?
So many possible answers to the questions. The ones that come to mind first relate to the following theme: I appreciate the way law school and (in particular) my clerkship and then time at Davis Polk imposed a rigor on my thought process and analytical facility that I either didn’t have or didn’t use fully before. And now that I’m interacting with smart people in other industries and areas, I realize how valuable (and rare) it is to have thinkers that take full, personal responsibility for fully and deeply understanding something complicated in a way that allows them to speak with precision, authority, and originality on important and interesting topics.
What lessons learned or unexpected challenges did you face in your current role?
I think most people get that starting your own business is no mean feat. In a world, where the companies that people are most familiar with in their day-to-day lives are the tech unicorns that experienced viral and exponential growth (at least, at the points in time that they were known to the general public), I think people don’t have an accurate understanding of just how hard it is to get something new off the ground and manufacture that early traction. I guess I’ve learned that building something takes an immense amount of persistent work; there’s virtually nothing you can take for granted. For example, I think even people with a wealth of supportive friends and family members would be shocked at how hard it is to get people to engage with what you’re doing, to support you in the ways you ask or to follow through on a pledge to help. New and novel projects take an unexpectedly immense amount of legwork, persistence, thick skin, and—frankly—temerity to them make work. It’s certainly not for everyone.
What advice would you give to those career pivoting or pursuing a career beyond the practice of law?
Find a way to put yourself in a position to figure out exactly what YOU want. Not what you think you’re supposed to want. Or what others are telling you to want. It’s incredibly hard under the best of conditions. And it’s nearly impossible while immersed in a conservative, risk-averse profession like law. For me, it took jumping off a cliff without a safety net, embracing the fear and uncertainty, and testing the threshold of the sacrifices I was willing to make. Maybe your version of that is less extreme. Find a way to get clarity that you’re pursuing what you want to pursue (and pursuing it for the right reasons) and, if you’re not or don’t know what that is, have the courage to force a change of direction.
What is your personal motto, mantra or favorite quote?
Truth be told, not sure I have one. The closest thing might be a question I ask myself repeatedly when faced with a decision whether or not to try something: “Would I regret not having done it?” If the answer is likely yes, I’m doing it. Similarly, if the idea of trying something scares me, I’m in. It’s the one constant that guides all of my major life choices.
Christian Lang is a Podcast Host of Blacklines & Billables, and Founder of training/consulting brand, The Firm Formula which focuses on Legal Tech. He manages and continues to build support for the legal tech community in New York City through NYC Legal Tech Meetup. Also, Christian is launching a new blog, DealTech, which focuses on Transactional Legal Technology. To learn more about Christian and his endeavors, check out christianllang.com.