Paving the Way in Technology for Others to Follow

Black and white headshot of Shiwanni Johnson, JD

Shiwanni Johnson is a trailblazer in helping bring the legal industry together with tech and innovation at Oregon Law.

Johnson and Kristie Gibson, a supervising attorney and instructor in the law school’s Business Law Clinic, co-hosted a book club session to discuss “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff. 

“I am impressed with the depth and breadth of Johnson’s knowledge regarding data privacy and cybersecurity,” Gibson said. “Johnson understands how technology is transforming the practice of law.”

Shiwanni Johnson’s efforts help raise awareness about the impact of technology in the legal profession. She has been a part of many clubs and communities both at Oregon Law and the main campus. She has been a member of the Latinx Law Student Association (LLSA), the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the National Lawyers Guild, the UO Cybersecurity Club, and the Associated Students of the University of Oregon Constitution Court. However, there is one club Johnson is most proud of: The Technology and Law Club (TLC).

Johnson started TLC in her 2L year, alongside her classmate Rob McMurtrie, to give others what she didn't have when she started law school.

“I was lucky with some of the other clubs I've been in, BLSA and LLSA for example, because there were foundations to stand in and build on.” Johnson said, “With TLC, I know that what I've started is small now, but it could be something bigger one day.”

Johnson’s interest in data privacy and cybersecurity is what got the ball rolling for TLC. She looked for resources and find communities in the data privacy and cybersecurity space.

“I had been attempting to find resources and connect with a community, but it was a struggle.” Johnson said, “There wasn't really a foundation for it at the law school and the resources on the main campus didn't really engage with the law.”

She realized she needed to create the space herself. Johnson set out and started meeting people, attending meetings and events, volunteering, and doing research.

To expand her understanding of the tech space, she joined the Cybersecurity Club on the main campus and started taking classes in computer science.

All the difference was made when Johnson sat down with Pro Tem Law Instructor Tina Ching. After sharing her ideas with Ching, Ching suggested that Johnson register for her Tech for Law Competence course.

“Tina Ching has educated me, sometimes whether she meant to or not, in more than just the law. She has helped me grow as a human being, and I am grateful for it,” Johnson said.

The idea for the club sprang from that course, inspired by Instructor Ching and her other classmates. Johnson found one other person who was interested in the same things as her, Rob McMurtrie, and they started the club together.

“Rob and I competed in a legal hackathon and held workshops geared toward giving law students technical skills.” Johnson said, “I am proud of what we have done as a club. I have big plans for TLC in the spring semester. I will admit, it was hard to do things in the fall semester. But the spring semester will be my last, and I want to make sure I leave having created a foundation for the people that come after me. The next time someone has the same interest as me, she won't have to do it on her own.”

By Rhianna Comito, School of Law Communications