Coding in Legalese


Joanna Gilberti ’19 is taking law to the frontiers of tech.

It was the day after her high school graduation, and Joanna Gilberti already had her bags packed. Long before that day, she had made up her mind to leave her hometown of Pittsburgh to make a go of it in New York City. Several years later, 4L Gilberti is just as in love with the city, but she never expected her journey would take her to Fordham Law.

“I was very adamant about getting to New York City,” Gilberti says, “it was my primary goal—anything in terms of school had to be in the city.”

She quickly found her footing in her dream city, started school at NYU, and began to chart an academic path for herself. “By the time I was a sophomore, I was just so in love with math,” she says, “I took every math class I could.” Her enthusiasm impressed the chair of the math department, and she received an invite to the honors program in mathematics.

After a few semesters of exciting work in honors math— including the opportunity to work with a former child prodigy who had received his Ph.D. at the age of 18—Gilberti took on a second major in computer science since most of the available jobs in mathematics did not interest her. She finished all her new major’s coursework in her senior year and earned admission to the master’s program in computer science at Columbia University. Her interest in computer programming was cemented over the next few years as she worked in software engineering during the day and honed her skills in class during the evening.

After graduating with an M.S. in 2006, she worked as a programmer in the financial sector at Bloomberg and later as a software engineer for NYU Medical Center. For Gilberti, working in the medical field was ultimately more rewarding; her father had been a physician, and she liked the concrete ways in which medicine helped people solve tangible, serious problems.

It was at this point, Gilberti notes, “I was trying to figure out what drew me.” Then, she says, “I really started thinking in terms of the problems I wanted to solve.”

To make an even greater impact, Gilberti realized she would need to add new skillsets and another degree to her already impressive resume. So she began attending night classes at Fordham Law, while continuing to serve as the chief administrative officer of Archemy, a tech company of which she is a part owner.

While Gilberti may only have entered Fordham Law three years ago, her interest in law dates back to her earliest days in New York City. She often spoke with her mother—an expert in East Asian studies and the only other member of her family living in New York City at the time—about geopolitics, and she was interested by the ways in which law could create solutions on a global scale. “My interest in law was at first totally unrelated to my main path, but they ended up converging,” she recalls.

Archemy is an artificial intelligence startup that developed a framework and ecosystem that enables business solutions to evolve intelligently and autonomously. “We work in any industry,” Gilberti stresses, “from health care to the legal industry to retail to education to art.” Her role in the company has been as flexible and wide-ranging as the company itself. She finds herself working on everything from programming to managing teams of developers to business administration to legal writing.

Lately, she has been putting the knowledge gained from Fordham Law to use in commercial drafting, a section of legal writing that Gilberti says has more similarities with computer programming than one might think.

“When you focus on programming, you don’t focus on the language so much as the business solution you are trying to achieve,” she says. “It’s the same way with commercial drafting; legalese, like coding, is just the language you use to build your way to the solution you have in mind.”

Discovering that her programming skills could translate in the world of commercial drafting was a pleasant surprise for Gilberti. “It ends up being quite technical,” she says with a laugh, “which of course fit naturally for me.”

Gilberti intends to put her Fordham Law education into practice more while moving forward with Archemy. “I see myself having more of an in-house counsel role as I graduate and get my license,” she says. To ensure she is well prepared, she is pursuing a double concentration in business law and IP law.

Gilberti is particularly interested in Information Age compliance law and plans to take classes in this area in
the spring. She is also interested in the legal challenges surrounding hot but often controversial new technologies like blockchain and initial coin offerings, a kind of online crowdfunding that uses cryptocurrencies. Gilberti notes that Fordham Law has begun to offer classes in this exciting new area, and she is considering taking several of these as well.

Given the enormous changes unleashed by technology, Gilberti foresees new challenges ahead for those working in law. But as always, she is ready to face these challenges head on. If her path in life thus far can be distilled into one clear message, it is that Joanna Gilberti does not shy away from solving new problems.


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