Coast to Coast to Coast:
D. Dean Leung, CIO, Holland & Knight

By: Monica Bay
April 12, 2016


Dean Leung's career has taken him around the world, literally. To date, he's traveled to 32 countries—and counting.

Leung was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, but was schooled in both San Diego and Taipei, Taiwan. "I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Applied Science in electrical engineering," he explained. Leung's expertise is also eclectic: "I've worked in education, manufacturing, consulting and legal."

In 1999, Leung dove into the legal arena, as an IT manager at Canada-based McCarthy Tétrault. He stayed for four years before joining Davis (now DLA Piper Canada), as IT director, where he spent almost seven years. The next move, in August, 2010, was to Tampa, Fla., and Holland & Knight. He started as its infrastructure and communications director, and he was elevated in 2012 to CIO.

Along the way, Leung became involved in the International Legal Technology Association and has been involved with ILTA ever since. He served as regional vice president (northwest) for four years and then was a communications technologies peer group vice president for four years. He's now a knowledge advisor—it's a group that are "big thinkers who bring an entrepreneurial, visionary mindset to the development of 'hot themes' —those overarching, critical concepts—that can be explored and developed into programming," he explained. He also is a prolific writer, for ILTA, Legaltech News, Law 360, and others.

It's not surprising that Leung would land on a coast. "As a certified Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) scuba diver I enjoy being a tourist on land and in the water," he said. "I've been diving off the Rock of Gibraltar and have seen Cleopatra's summer palace (which fell into the harbor in Alexandria in her time)," he recalls. He also volunteered for two years at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Like many new parents, the travel has slowed with the arrival of his two children, Sophia and Karson. But he and his wife, Brianna "Brie" Leung, will travel with them once they can appreciate it," he promises.



Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the legal industry?
The legal profession is trained to look in the rear view mirror when it comes to legal matters: What is the precedent? What is the case law? This can be a challenge when bringing IT initiatives to the industry. To maintain a competitive advantage, law firms must do what their peers are not, when it comes to IT adoption.

Q: How would your colleagues describe your leadership style?
I'm curious—and passionate about IT. Even though I'm in a leadership position I still enjoy technology and like to have a deeper understanding of tech than most CIOs. This helps me be better informed when bridging a gap between IT and the business needs of the firm. It also increases the potential for IT to be able to address the need.

I assure that our technology deployments meet business needs—and drive efficiency, productivity and revenue generation. I work collaboratively with peer departments, and make sure that IT plays a supporting role— ownership belongs with the customer. Knowledge isn't power, but execution of ideas is. I communicate and share my knowledge and I strive to remove roadblocks so my teams can be successful.

Q:  What keeps you up at night?
Karson, my 6-month-old son. Professionally, it is the 24/7 nature of IT and all the work that needs to be done without the time and resources to make it all happen.

Q: What's on your "bucket list?"
Learning how to fly a helicopter, visit all the continents (Australia and Antarctica to go) and, if affordable, travel into space. Family-wise, I'd like to pass on my wisdom and stories to future grandchildren.

Q: What is your personal motto or mantra? 
 Balance. Simplify. Passion. Family. 

Q: What is your relationship with PayneGroup?
I have been working professionally with the PayneGroup since 2003 when I joined what is now DLA Piper (Canada) and also at my current firm. We have used Migration Roundtable, Metadata Assistant, automated templates with Form Assistant, Numbering Assistant for paragraph numbering and table of contents in Word. I had the honor of contributing a side-bar to their Word 2013 book for Law Firms book, and I count Donna and several of the PayneGroup team as friends. I look forward to seeing and spending time with them, especially at ILTACon.

Q: What advice would you give to colleagues about working with PayneGroup?
The PayneGroup is extremely service oriented. They are great partners to work with and work very hard and very quickly to solve issues. They listen and act on feedback for new features and functionality. Unfortunately, they cannot address issues they are not aware of, so be sure that two-way communication is routine and you will have a successful partnership when working with the PayneGroup.


Monica Bay
Monica Bay is a Fellow at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and a freelance journalist, analyst and consultant. She is a member of the California bar.