Maura R. Grossman is a Research Professor and Director of Women in Computer Science at the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, as well as an eDiscovery attorney and consultant in Buffalo, New York.
Previously, she was of counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where for 17 years she represented Fortune 100 companies and major financial institutions in civil litigation and white collar criminal and regulatory investigations, and advised the firm’s lawyers and clients on legal, technical, and strategic issues involving eDiscovery and information governance, both domestically and abroad.
In January 2019, Professor Grossman became Waterloo's second Director of Women in Computer Science.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a transplanted New Yorker who spent the majority of her life in Manhattan — until I moved to Waterloo in June of 2016. While so much of my career — first as a clinical psychologist and hospital administrator, and later as a civil litigator — has been heavily structured, I love the freedom of the road trip. My fiancé and I have driven to the West Coast through Canada, returning through the U.S., as well as to Cape Breton and back. These have been some of my favourite adventures.
You have an MA and PhD in psychology from Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University and a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center. How did you become involved in computer science, or more specifically in eDiscovery?
I have had a non-traditional career path as a result of following my interests, as well as opportunities that arose along the way, rather than a bandwagon. My graduate studies grounded me in the scientific method and in the practice of law, I was fascinated by piecing together the facts and the underlying story. As an attorney at a large corporate law firm, I was drowning in data as I sought to search massive datasets for evidence. In about 2009, I met University of Waterloo Computer Science Professor Gordon V. Cormack at an information retrieval conference and we decided to bring the scientific method and supervised machine learning to bear on the problem of legal electronic discovery. That was the beginning of the long partnership that brought me to Waterloo.
You are the Cheriton School of Computer Science’s Director of Women in Computer Science. Tell us a bit about your role in this senior leadership position and your goals.
Both the law and computer science are fields that have struggled to achieve gender equality. I am excited by the prospect of supporting our nearly 1,050 female undergraduate and graduate students, whether through developing and offering programs, fundraising with our corporate partners, or advocacy efforts. I believe that the Cheriton School of Computer Science is committed to improving the attractiveness of our academic offerings and environment to women, and there is much we can do to provide our female students with the skills and confidence they need to thrive in computer science, both at Waterloo and beyond.
What advice would you give young women studying computer science or thinking about studying computer science?
I would tell them to believe in themselves and not to let obstacles — whether perceived or real — get in their way. Work hard and lean in when opportunities arise. Don’t let others define you. Consider descriptions like “spunky” or “assertive” as compliments, not insults.
What has most inspired you in your life?
I have been driven primarily by two great passions — the quest for fairness and having impact. Both undergird virtually everything I do.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I am not sure about greatest hits, but I get immense satisfaction out of my work as a Special Master. It is an honour and a privilege to be appointed by a court to stand in its shoes and to determine legal issues for parties that are involved in a dispute. I find that work to be extraordinarily challenging, both intellectually and emotionally, because of the complexity of the issues typically at stake and the necessity to get it right.
I am very proud of the information retrieval research Professor Cormack and I have done, and how it has changed an entire industry’s approach to the search for evidence. While adoption of machine learning in the law has been slow, our empirical work paved the way for acceptance of the application of technology-assisted review by the courts in the United States and elsewhere.
I am also enjoying teaching a unique graduate course offered conjointly at Waterloo and at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University on Artificial Intelligence: Law, Ethics, and Policy. It is fun trying to help future computer scientists appreciate the impact of their work and future lawyers to better understand technology.
What’s one thing no one would guess about you?
I am a super-introverted homebody who loves travel and public speaking. It’s like two completely different people living in the same body.