In Conversation, Women Shaping the Future of Legal: Sadie Khodorkovsky and Dawn Garrison

March 22, 2024



Dawn Garrison
Dawn Garrison
Sadie Khodorkovsky, Global Head of Legal Discovery, JPMorgan Chase

As part of our new series, In Conversation, Women Shaping the Future of Legal, leading women in the legal industry discuss how diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts can help improve work and the world. By sharing personal stories, tested strategies, and new ideas, these dynamic conversations offer advice to individuals and organizations and help evolve the legal space for the future. To learn more about all of our interviews, we recently wrote about how inclusion is fostering innovation and changing the future of legal.

Sadie Khodorkovsky, Global Head of Legal Discovery at JPMorgan Chase, joined Dawn Garrison, Senior Proposal Manager at Lighthouse, for a conversation to explore these issues. The transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Dawn Garrison, Senior Proposal Manager, Lighthouse

Dawn Garrison: Sadie, you are a leader in the legal industry and one of the many leaders of Women in eDiscovery. Can you tell us more about yourself?

Sadie Khodorkovsky: I've been in this industry for over 20 years. I'm actually a “nonlawyer.” I always like to preface with that as a leader in this industry. Not everyone is an attorney, but I have been legal adjacent for the entirety of my career. I thought I was going to be a lawyer, but I was a computer person and a self-proclaimed computer nerd for my entire life, and still am.

I had an opportunity to meld those two things together. I worked at some law firms in the early stages of my career and got an opportunity to work at a consulting firm to do eDiscovery and computer forensics. When I got the call for an interview, I remember saying, “I don't even know what you're talking about. I don't know what these words are.” It was a perfect combination and intersection of legal and technology, which is super fun for me—the idea of the justice system and cases. But, at the same time, I get to use the techy, process-oriented part of my brain in a way that is different than I could have ever imagined. I'm really excited about where I am today.

We have a few questions on inclusion that we’d like to dive into. To start, what does it mean to you and why is it important?

Inclusion, to me, means having the same opportunities as others. There's a reason why STEM is so important for kids and girls growing up, because there is this thought that girls are not as scientific, math-oriented, or tech-enabled as our counterparts.

When you go to a computer science class at a university, it's highly male-dominated. Even in this industry, I think there's a certain bend towards our male counterparts. I think inclusion also means staying mindful that perception and stereotypes are not necessarily reality. We must ensure that the smartest, most experienced people are being invited to the conversation, irrespective of stereotypes or bias—both unconscious and conscious.

Along those lines, how can allies contribute to women's inclusion?

I think the biggest thing that allies can do is be aware of when the room looks exactly like them. If no one is asking why everyone here has the same background or looks the same—when there is too much commonality in the room—then it's incumbent on our allies and ourselves to notice and question it. Did we invite everyone that we should be inviting to this meeting or presentation? Are we always calling on the same people just because we're comfortable with each other? Are we not thinking to include others because we've historically never worked with that person or group? We should really be challenging these assumptions and comfort levels.

And I think it's the same for everyone. Everybody is an ally to somebody. So, it's important to always be aware of what our own biases are and open doors for people who may not have the same opportunities we have.

Can you share any specific examples of when an ally helped you or when you’ve seen someone be an ally to a woman?

There’s the ally who knowingly brings somebody in and says, “You should be in this meeting,” or “You should be the one presenting on this topic. Let me give you the floor. Let me step back and let you take the credit for the thing that you’re doing.” It takes self-confidence to create an environment where somebody else can step up and lead—where somebody else can be seen as a winner, as “the” person.

I am thankful to have had people in my life who have created those types of scenarios for me. I’ve had people who, in meetings and presentations, pushed me to go above and beyond my own comfort level, which I am tremendously grateful for in retrospect. I still remember being absolutely terrified in the moment, but then you get comfortable with it. The only way to grow is to force that and keep doing it until you get comfortable.

I'm grateful for those people who really pushed me because they saw something in me that I was not able to see in myself.

Thank you for sharing that. How can intersectionality foster inclusion?

We live in such a diverse world. If we continue to only look at the people who we know in our little echo chamber of life, whether it's at work or personal, I think we get lost and get it wrong. You can be so focused on the things that you and your group are highlighting that you become blind to the reality around you.

I am very mindful of the idea that I mentioned earlier about perception versus reality. If you don’t have intersectional awareness, if you're just in that echo chamber, then you stay in your comfort zone and you’re shouting to yourself.

Inclusivity broadens your knowledge of the world around you. If you’re someone who is looking to innovate and change things, your ceiling of opportunity to do that is going to be much higher the more expansive your network is.

I work with Lighthouse’s MAST (Military and Allies Standing Together) employee resource group. I'm a military spouse, but I'm also a mother and a woman, and interacting with those different communities, developing those networks, leads to so many different perspectives and opportunities that wouldn't necessarily be available to me otherwise.

You have to make time outside of your day-to-day responsibilities to get out of your comfort zone and talk to other people who you don't normally talk to. Build that network out beyond your four walls that you typically talk to and learn from.

I completely agree. How can we inspire the next generation of women to embrace inclusion and leadership?

The funny thing is, I think the next generation is so much further along to some extent.

I think with social media, they’re balancing their voice and being a leader. And they think that they're being inclusive.

What they sometimes miss is the others around them, other generations, and the lessons we can learn from them. We need to make sure that we continue to keep an open ear to differences and not sameness.

I think a good leader is somebody who pays attention to what is lacking in their knowledge as much as they pay attention to what they know and understand—it's a posture to keep learning and growing.

There's a lot that this younger generation does right when it comes to challenging the status quo, but there's something to be said for continuing to have an appreciation and reverence for those who came before us.

You mentioned social media. Are there any other tools or organizations that have done a really good job of helping younger women embrace inclusive leadership?

Women are looking to support one another. I think there's a really big push by women who want to be part of something—to create environments, to bring each other up. There are organizations that, as somebody who's been doing this for a number of years, I participate in to mentor or at least talk to younger women and people who are in transition points in their careers. I like to be a sounding board and create opportunities wherever I can for others.

For those that want that—a sisterhood to some extent—there are so many great places to go to, such as industry events. I think it's finding what you need and maximizing it. If you just join a group, you're not necessarily going to get the benefits of it.

You can join something, watch, and see what's going on. Or you can actually take advantage of it—network, meet, talk to people, and really leverage those connections because you never know where your next thing in life is going to come from.

If you want it, you have to look for it. Don't expect it to find you. Then, once you find it, actually participate.

As Gen AI takes on a much more prominent role in legal, what can women do to ensure their expertise and experience in AI get amplified and included in the same way as men?

I think women who have grown up in this industry, in particular, have seen the evolution of technology assisted review. We've seen it go from paper to electronic to where we are today.

When the Gen AI buzz started, I remember saying, “Technology in this space is not new. This is not novel. This is something that's been going on for years.” Because of that, many of us have gotten really good at it.

Women leaders, and leaders in general, in this industry—for whom this isn’t their first rodeo applying technology to these kinds of large data sets—are in a unique position to help understand use cases and show what has gone wrong and what has worked. The flexibility we've had to have over the years in order to do this has really taught us. We are in a unique position to help drive some of the vision of how we can change the industry.

Absolutely. Do you have any last thoughts on inspiring inclusion and diversity?

When it comes to leadership, I think the important thing that we must remember is we all had to go through our own personal journeys to get to where we are.

There were things that worked in our favor and others that did not work in our favor. We need to learn from and be mindful of all of that as we are mentoring or being looked at as leaders—because people are watching what we do. They are watching how we create the tables that people are sitting at and how we walk into a room and sit at that table.

I think it's important that we are exceptionally mindful of the role we play for the younger generation so we can show them that you are here because you are valued, and you have just as much of a voice in what you're doing as anybody else.

That, to me, is something that leaders have to take on themselves and be very conscious of. In that way, we are we are making it a little bit easier for those who come after us to have those opportunities that maybe we had to fight a little bit harder for.

I completely agree. Sadie, thank you so much for the conversation.

About the Author

Dawn Garrison

Dawn has more than 10 years’ experience in eDiscovery. She is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and West Virginia. She joined Lighthouse in 2021 as a Senior Proposal Marketing Manager, focusing on curating Lighthouse proposals and content for an impactful client experience.

Prior to joining Lighthouse, she practiced at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe focusing on eDiscovery and data privacy. At Orrick, she wore many hats including eDiscovery Vendor Client Consultant, Privacy in a Box Project Manager, Litigation Support Team Manager, Project Assistant Team Manager, and Analytics/Data Team Member. As an eDiscovery Vendor Client Consultant, Dawn regularly advised clients on the best options to meet their eDiscovery needs focusing on white glove service providers and innovative industry disruptors. As part of the Discovery Response Team Manager role, she also helped Orrick to determine the best partner for their internal eDiscovery demands.

Throughout her career, Dawn has had a passion for engaging and improving upon the culture of organizations. At Orrick, she led a local Lean In Circle, chaired the Wheeling office Parent's Forum, and actively participated in the firm's Women's Initiative. Dawn has continued her work in the DEI space at Lighthouse through the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) Relationship and Family Ties as well as Military and Allies Standing Together, of which she is a founding member.

Outside of work, Dawn stays busy focusing on her family Leah (3), Gage (7), Isaac (14), hubby Jeremy, and goldendoodle Teddy. You will often find her driving to or cheering on her kiddos at their many activities – Leah takes dance and swim, Gage plays baseball, football, and hockey and takes gymnastics, and Isaac participates in a school sponsored gaming club. If not focusing on the kids’ events, she is engaged in supporting her husband's Air Force career through USO and local Red, White, and Blue events.