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Alumni profile - Mariam Chaduneli

Thu 2 May 2024

Mariam Chaduneli wearing a blue blazer

Mariam Chaduneli, LLM Innovation, Technology and the Law, 2020

Tell us a little bit about your life/background before Edinburgh Law School

When I was 15, I watched the 1957 version of '12 Angry Men' for the first time and became fascinated by Henry Fonda's character. His analytical thinking and integrity truly inspired me. So, I abandoned my previous decision to become a tennis commentator and chose to pursue law as my career. After graduating from high school, I obtained full state funding and started my undergraduate studies in International Law in Georgia. During this time, I went on a semester abroad in Czech Republic, where I decided to explore new topics that the university back home did not offer. That's when I took courses in intellectual property, software, and cyber law - which soon became my absolute favourites.

I was never too keen for traditional and linear career paths like working in a law firm or in-house, so after I graduated my bachelor’s degree, I did multiple internships to explore different roles. I then spent a couple of years working on cybercrime investigation projects, where I contributed to shaping legislative frameworks for internet service providers and law enforcement agencies regarding data sharing for investigative purposes. This experience is what fuelled my interest in tech law and policy and influenced my career choices in a significant way.

What did you study at Edinburgh Law School and why did you choose the programme?

The intersection of law and technology has always fascinated me. Unlike many other areas of law, technology law isn't heavily codified. The legal framework is still playing catch-up with the rapid advancements in the tech and AI landscape, leaving a lot of room for discussion, curiosity, and creativity. This dynamic environment is one of the primary reasons I'm drawn to this field, leading to my decision to pursue a master's degree in Innovation, Technology and Law at the University of Edinburgh.

After securing the UK Government’s Chevening Scholarship, I relocated to Edinburgh in September 2019, just before the pandemic struck. My choice wasn’t solely driven by the quality of teaching, although that was undoubtedly a significant factor. I was also motivated by the diverse opportunities beyond the classroom— interest groups, thematic conferences, and a vibrant community that the city offers.

During my time in Edinburgh, I had the opportunity of learning about AI and robotics law, data privacy, and IT regulation. My master's studies further intensified my curiosity for understanding how technology can revolutionize the delivery of legal services, potentially enhancing the overall efficiency of the legal sector and expanding access to justice for all. Alongside my academic efforts, I worked as a court reporter, frequently attending case hearings in Scottish courts, particularly those focused on IT disputes which gave me the ability to work with fantastic people and learn more about the Scottish legal system.

What do you think is unique to the Edinburgh Law School experience and what are some of your favourite memories?

Your experience as a student will be as rewarding as you make it. So, throughout my studies I became actively involved in a Law and Tech Association, attended conferences on IT law, connected with professionals in the field of technology, privacy, and artificial intelligence and engaged in discussions in person and online. These activities not only broadened my perspective but also provided a platform for networking. I firmly believe that while the classroom curriculum equips us with strong theoretical knowledge, the relationships we cultivate outside of it can be even more instrumental in shaping our careers.

Being a master's student isn’t solely about the professional journey; it's also about embracing life to the fullest, and Edinburgh offers the perfect setting for that. The city provided us with a remarkable experience both on and off campus, filled with whisky tastings, Ceilidh dances, road trips, jazz concerts, hikes, and wine society dinners. Most importantly, I was fortunate to share these moments with wonderful people from across the globe, some of whom have become my close friends to this day. One of the most memorable experiences was a grand Ceilidh party during the welcome week, where hundreds of us danced in McEwan Hall, marking our first significant exposure to Scottish culture. Reflecting on those times, we truly had it all until Covid abruptly disrupted our lives in March 2020.

What have you been up to since graduating/what are you doing after graduation (e.g., your professional or further academic pursuits since leaving Edinburgh Law School) and how have your degree studies with us helped you in this?

After completing my studies at the peak of the Covid crisis, I stepped into the role of a technology and innovation policy manager at a DC-based think tank. This position provided me with the opportunity to explore and identify emerging innovation and tech trends on a global scale, as well as comprehend their extensive implications on law and society at large. In the process of creating global reports such as the Network Readiness Index and Global Innovation Index, I had a chance to collaborate with organizations from over 25 countries, including academic institutions like the University of Oxford, Cornell, and INSEAD, as well as global pioneers in innovation and technology such as WIPO, Google, AWS, and GitHub.

Shortly after graduating from the Innovation and Technology Law master's program, I started an entrepreneurial journey with three co-founders, laying the foundation for a legal tech startup called Lawformer. This platform is designed to simplify lawyers' existing workflows and aid in drafting contracts more efficiently. Establishing a company from scratch during the Covid crisis and navigating the hostile economic climate was incredibly challenging. However, through lots of trial and error, we secured pre-seed funding and subsequently received an innovation grant less than a year from our launch.

In December 2022, we became part of Barclays Eagle Labs as one of the most promising startups in legal tech and were also selected for their Funding Readiness Program. Last summer, we went on a 6-week trip to the US, participating in legal tech conferences and engaging with stakeholders in Silicon Valley, New York, Chicago, and DC. Recently, we were featured in a Definitive Guide to Legal Tech Startups, among 44 companies you need to know of. In March 2024, we became finalists in the Innovative Startup of the Year category at the UK StartUp Awards, and that same month I had the opportunity to pitch at Plug and Play’s session as a co-founder of Lawformer and an alumnus of The University of Edinburgh among 35 handpicked startups from the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Manchester.

These have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life and the most significant learning curve. From strategy formulation and product development to marketing, community engagement, content creation, and outreach, it was a relentless cycle of trial, error, and iteration. Being a founder is full of challenges and uncertainties, but it helps develop resilience and problem-solving skills more than anything else I have done before. Most importantly, it instils a mindset that with consistency and hard work, any challenge can be overcome and transformed into an opportunity.

What advice would you give current Edinburgh Law School students?

Make the most of this experience both in and outside the classroom. Look around, talk to people, and develop meaningful relationships - it will prove useful at any stage in life. The journey after graduation is challenging, but you have the power to make it incredibly rewarding. When it seems like all doors are closing, keep knocking—sometimes, all it takes is that one "yes." The world is full of opportunities, and often, failure can pave the way for greater success. Your mindset is crucial. Embrace the fact that every day presents an opportunity to learn something new. Show up, be consistent, cultivate meaningful relationships, and always think how you can add value to every table where you have a seat.

The legal profession is evolving, with new career paths emerging thanks to the adoption of technology. Stay open-minded, explore different avenues, and then decide what aligns best with your aspirations. Don’t choose something just because everyone else is doing it or because it seems safe. Connect with individuals offline and virtually who are involved in interesting projects. Reach out to them, ask questions, and put yourself out there. There’s so much more you can achieve with your law degree than you might initially imagine.