The Innovators: Mickayla Strode-Penny, Aspiring Lawyer

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I am 22-year-old, third year law student at the University of Canterbury and I teach children how to swim as my part time job. I grew up in a small town in North Waikato. 3 years ago, I moved to Christchurch when my fiancé encouraged me to put in an application to the University of Canterbury to study law.

What made you want to pursue a legal career?

At 8 years old I watched Bones and decided I wanted to do forensic science. However, when I started my degree, I had to do a couple of law-based papers. These papers opened my eyes to a challenging career in law, so I decided to change my degree. I also believe that all people deserve access to justice, and I want to be part of the current and future change within the legal system.

As an aspiring lawyer, what new skills do you think will be valuable going forward?

After covid I think flexibility is going to be valuable as well as being able to adapt to circumstances in short time frames. Technological skills are also going to become very valuable especially because everyone has changed their mindsets towards working remotely. I think being able to embrace the unknown will be incredibly valuable as well. I also believe now that Te Reo Maori is becoming more recognised within the legal system understanding of Te Reo and tikanga will be required.

How could legal educators better prepare students for the evolving skills required to practise law?

I think providing a more hands on learning experience would benefit students. Profs is great as it gives the practical experience, but it is at the end of a law degree. I believe that if educators give more practical experience throughout the degree, every learning style would be catered to. Things such as encouraging trips to the courthouse to watch a trial, tours of law firms on a working day to immerse students and providing real-career skills that actual law practises implement. Educators could also promote conferences towards the student body.

If you could give one piece of advice regarding internships and technology, what would it be?

Law firms should look beyond grades. I understand that everyone wants the best of the best, however life outside of study can affect your grades unless you are a robot. In place of A grades, I have resilience, perseverance and a can-do attitude.  My father was re diagnosed with terminal cancer and my partner spent 6 weeks in hospital after a motorcycle v car accident. Yet I still passed my exams. Many of my fellow students have also had life happen, yet they battle on but miss out on the best opportunities. However, if I had the opportunity to get an internship (despite grades) I would exceed expectations as I am more of a practical person than a test/exam person.

I think a way that technology can be used with internships is offering them remotely, my father is the subject matter expert for a set of regulations currently being drafted and he can do this remotely. So why should an intern not be able to research, communicate and contribute to the firm remotely.

For example, Office 365 has tools where multiple people can be working on the same document remotely from anywhere in the world with internet access. This means that students who are participating in the internship can complete it whilst continuing with their university work during times such as summer school. This also means they do not have to uproot their lives for a short period of time and at the same time adding valuable resources for law firms and real-life experience for students.

As someone just starting on their legal career, how do you see the importance of innovating and leveraging technology?

I think it will be very important as technology is always changing. With new technology being invented weekly being up to date with the latest technology can be a powerful tool. After attending LawFest and seeing how technology is used within the legal sector I have started using it more myself, particularly the organisation apps that Jeremy Sutton recommended to me. Some ways to learn how to leverage technology is by familiarising yourself with the various meeting platforms such as Microsoft teams and zoom. Understanding how to use Google Docs and building your network on LinkedIn is also important.

What are some of your practical tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Being open minded and understanding that being told no is a part of life and a lot of the time it is not a bad thing; it often means you are not coming at the problem from the wrong direction. Who has not had to be innovative due to Covid and the issues the world has faced as a result? It is important to have an innovative mindset because life is constantly changing, often with no warning. I have had my fair share of unforeseen challenges this year such as my fiancés bike accident which resulted in me studying and sitting tests on the hospital floor.

What changes do you see in how legal services are delivered in the future?

Legal services are currently changing with businesses hiring in house counsel over hiring larger law firms. As well as defendants showing in court via audio-visual link. Another change I think we will see is that most meetings will be held less formally or even online. I also think we will see in house counsel oversee Australasia and further afield, and potentially see case hearings done remotely, as travel is becoming a hot issue due to climate change.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

Ten years ago, the ability to have your voicemail turned into a text was never thought of, today we have that ability thanks to Vxt. I can only imagine what kind of technology we will have in another 10 years. Holograms to attend meetings, and the hologram communicates in the language that your fluent in even if the person in real life is not, you never know. Thinking back to 23 years ago the likes of Siri and Amazon Alexa did not exist, now you are able to write entire emails and texts and have received texts read out loud by these programmes. I think it is important to leverage technology as this is where the future is heading.

The legal profession is changing, I think being able to have an open mind and embrace the change is important. As well as the need to weave this change and technology into the historical framework that is the foundation for New Zealand law today.


Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate ( He helps lawyers and organisations innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services. Legal Innovate includes LawFest (, LegalTech Hub ( and E-Discovery Consulting (

The Innovators: Murali Baddula, Innovation Lead at Law In Order

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I have worked for more than 20 years in litigation support services and now head up Law In Order’s Innovation Labs with a group of our internal consulting and development experts who are enthusiastic and think outside the box about innovation. In this role, I collaborate with our inhouse teams and external clients to design and implement workflows and new tools to achieve winning outcomes.

Prior to this role, I worked as Vice President of eDiscovery and Head of eDiscovery at Law In Order, assisting legal departments by offering technical solutions and workflows.

With more than two decades of experience in litigation support, eDiscovery, consulting, project management, forensic investigations and software development, I understand the complexities of unstructured data and can offer solutions to make electronically stored information available for search, retrieval and review in a legally defensible manner.

Before joining Law In Order, I worked as Head of Analytics in one of Australia’s leading legal technology firms. I have seen the industry change drastically in the past 10 years and it is changing more than ever in the current market. I have experienced most of the pain points the industry has gone through in the early stages and now in my current role, I am focused on resolving these issues.

What challenges are organisations facing in how they deliver legal services?

In my view, most firms globally are facing various challenges. It can be competition from firms investing more into innovation, behavioural dilemmas with staff, the complexities of delivering fixed pricing models, the question of how to be more efficient using the highest quality product, automating day-to-day workflows and reducing human resources for manual work.

Virtual and Cloud based law firm models are emerging faster than ever, introducing increased competition across jurisdictions, and it is a big challenge to keep up with these new models. There is huge demand to focus on key things and leave the rest to low-cost resourcing structures. Apart from these conundrums, keeping good and experienced talent within the firm is the main and most significant problem for all firms across the globe.

How have you adapted how you work?

The only inevitable thing is change; new competitors enter the global market, the economy fluctuates and our own environment is always shifting. We need to re-innovate ourselves again and again to stay on top of the game as well as keep the job fun for others and the outcome efficient for clients.

I have been working from home for close to two years now and everything became more virtual and more productive in my view. Most of my duties include working with every part of the business as well as our clients and meetings became easier with advanced video conferences, particularly with our international clients. The COVID-19 situation worked in my favour as other businesses adapted to the changes and called on my expertise to help drive the transformation.

In terms of our service lines, our digital forensics experts can perform data collection working remotely across jurisdictions in many circumstances. They are experienced with the issues related to data protection laws in various locations. Our Managed Document Review team provides legal teams around the world with scalable support, 24/7, all year round. They utilise legal support professionals in India and a Project Management team in Australia. During COVID-19, the eHearings team was rolling out virtual hearing rooms across the globe to support legal firms and arbitration centres.

With this significant international scope and experience, we have worked on matters across Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, UK, the Americas and Africa.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over?

I wish I had the opportunity to be in this innovation space much earlier. Committing to innovation is brave and my leadership could have helped inspire others in the team. I definitely would have eliminated things I had done earlier in my career like worrying about my initial ideas being diluted. Those failures could have become the foundation for new concepts on how to do the ‘same old things’ better.

Are there any opportunities that you have found in how you have changed how you work out of the chaos of COVID-19?

We saw significant opportunities internationally as part of the COVID-19 period. As previously mentioned, Law In Order’s Virtual Hearings took off, taking full advantage of the sudden new demand in the market and having to increase capacity.

I upskilled myself and so have most of the company. I can now use those skills to our clients’ advantage and to benefit Law In Order.

In my experience, lawyers embrace self-sufficiency, keeping on top of the technology and going towards advanced digital solutions. Rather than focusing on trying to sell our services, we used the time to start working closely with our internal and external clients on their needs including triple checking our processes.

Our goal has been to provide an end-to-end solution which is available globally including privacy, compliances, forensics, breach management and eDiscovery to help control cost and manage risk. More importantly, it means clients don’t have to manage multiple suppliers, perhaps in different jurisdictions.

How can legal tech help you innovate?

AI is big part of Law In Order’s offerings and we build solutions by working closely with our clients. Innovation has become a bit of a buzzword in legal circles and research suggests there is very real investment. Working in the legal tech space myself for over 20 years, I have seen a lot of solutions that deploy great technology but are not fully adapted to the legal work they are meant to support. In response, we developed our own tools and workflows to deliver better value, outcomes and services for clients.

The benefits of legal tech to Law In Order are the ability to include greater automation, improved security, fewer risks, more transparency, better resource management, an up to date level of customer experience and, of course, an edge over competitors in the market.

What are some of your practical tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Innovation can be challenging. The philosophy I follow includes being comfortable with being uncomfortable, getting your hands dirty and being curious. There is no need to be tied to the technical side of things. Collaborate with people, bring persistence and embrace failure as it will be part of the innovation journey.

Also, I believe that innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. Even the smallest thing can add value and create innovation for the company. I work closely with young lawyers and listen to how they are working. They have many ideas and talents, and the future of legal tech is in their hands.

What changes do you see in how legal services are delivered in the future?

The way that legal services are delivered is changing quickly due to advances in technology and business model innovation. Taking steps now to understand the landscape and think creatively about legal service delivery is vital.

We are now seeing a gradual shift towards affordable, standardised services and efficiencies in how law firms and service providers deliver services. We have seen new types of AI emerge to help address the pain points for lawyers within legal processes.

While many of the newer AI products are still in their early stages, there is potential for AI to help lawyers deliver more efficient and timely services to clients in the future. Rapid developments in AI over the coming years will lead the next stage of transformation within legal service delivery.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

I believe all players in the legal profession need to re-innovate again and again. If we don’t, we will be left behind.

Technology facilitates and takes care of data accuracy and matter management so that lawyers can focus on advisory and leave their admin, low-cost review and document management to third parties. Our objective is to support this by continually improving our legal tech and working closely with our clients.


Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate ( He helps lawyers and organisations innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services. Legal Innovate includes LawFest (, LegalTech Hub ( and E-Discovery Consulting (


LawFest’s FREE Demo Day!

LawFest Demo Day is an exciting new FREE event showcasing organisations providing legal tech solutions.

This is a great opportunity for a wider audience to see demonstrations of the latest legal tech products and services available in New Zealand – all in the one place.

Demo Day will take place on Wednesday 11 August. You will be able to watch on the day, or at your leisure post event OnDemand – all you have to do is register.

There are fantastic legal tech demos already confirmed, with the full line-up to be announced shortly.

Since COVID-19 we have all become more tech savvy, now is the time to check out some of the legal tech that is out there that can help you deliver legal services. You will be able to discover who these legal tech organisations are, what they do and see a demo of their solutions.

Register for FREE now and join us for the inaugural Demo Day

The Innovators: Jeremy Sutton - Barrister and Mediator

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a senior family lawyer based in Auckland. I primarily focus on complex relationship property matters where there are businesses or trusts involved. I am also a mediator, family and civil legal aid provider and a lawyer for child.

I first started my career in Tauranga before spending a few years working in London. After I returned to New Zealand I was based in South Auckland and then moved into the city.

What challenges are organisations facing in how they deliver legal services?

Some practitioners never say no to clients, even when they do not have the capacity to offer them the best service. No one wins in that situation. The lawyer is drowning under an unmanageable number of files and the client feels their matter is not getting the attention it deserves.

How have you adapted how you work?

I used to have two offices and employed a lot of staff but found that it overcomplicated the work and stretched me to thin. I scaled my practice back completely so that I now only employ one barrister, a graduate and a pa who works remotely.

My philosophy is now less is more. I have less clients so that I can provide more of my attention to each and resolve their dispute as efficiently as possible. I focus attracting a high-quality client, rather than high quantity.

I moved to do solely fixed fees about a year or two ago. I no longer time record. This has been a great time saver for me and provides certainty for my clients and for me. It sets expectations at the beginning of the relationship. It also ensures we remain resolution focused.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over?

I would have operated my barrister practice more simply from the start. I would have scheduled at least one client-free day on a Friday. That would have allowed me time to progress files uninterrupted. I would have set stronger boundaries and not taken home work.

Are there any opportunities that you have found in how you have changed how you work out of the chaos of COVID-19?

I now have a home office and I enjoy working from home a couple of days a week. My staff also have at least one day at home. It has been great for us. Covid showed us being in the office isn’t a necessity, although it is sometimes nice to be all together on some days.

Covid also forced everyone to reassess their reliance on paper. Our office is trying to go completely paperless. We have made big strides in that area but still have a way to go.

During the first lockdown I ran a couple of webinars for lawyers on how to adapt to working from home and how to progress their cases despite Covid. These were met with a great reaction, so I identified there was a need for lawyers to support each other and share more about the way we work. I founded an online community for lawyers called Ako Legal Platform to respond to this need. It has been great to connect with other lawyers around the country and discuss the challenges we face and highlight tech tools that can improve the way we work.

How can legal tech help you innovate?

Technology allows us to connect with others whenever and wherever. It enables collaboration which our profession so desperately needs to do more of.

There are so many opportunities to use technology to make your work more efficient or automate admin tasks. This means more time can be spent on legal thinking and innovation.

What are some of your practical tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Don’t be afraid to try something and have it not work out. There is usually a learning curve involved for new systems or tech but give it your best go and set a date to reassess. If it’s not working out, ditch it and try something else. It is not a waste of time if it helps you on the path to finding the right tool.

Small and incremental change is still progress. Look for where you feel you are wasting the most amount of time in your day and start making small changes there. A couple of extra minutes in your day start adding up quickly.

What changes do you see in how legal services are delivered in the future?

Less paper and more collaboration.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

Technology has the power to remove access to justice barriers for clients. They can connect with lawyers, even if they live remotely. Technology can make lawyers more efficient and then potentially more affordable (if billing based on time).

It can also lighten the load for us, allowing us to have more time out of work or connecting with others in the profession.


Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate ( He helps lawyers and organisations innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services. Legal Innovate includes LawFest (, LegalTech Hub ( and E-Discovery Consulting (


LawFest 21 : collaborating and networking in person again !

In late March, 280 legal professionals from across Aotearoa gathered in person in Auckland for the premier legal innovation and technology event on the New Zealand calendar.

Like so many events globally, LawFest had considerable disruption and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic to run the event in person. However, in Aotearoa we have been fortunate to be able to bring together again the legal and technology community to celebrate, collaborate, network and learn about legal innovation – and all in person.

The last year has reinforced why we need to innovate and leverage technology – LawFest 21 demonstrated how we can go about this !

The event was once again a must for anyone interested in driving efficiency in their organisation.

The key highlights

The one-day event was a great opportunity to hear from leaders and change makers in the innovation space. The programme provided something for everyone, from those new to technology, to those currently at the forefront of legal innovation. Over 20 amazing speakers, delivered practical insights of what they are doing, together with how they started, as delegates learned from their stories of success and failure and what they did next.

Mary O'Carroll, President of CLOC and Google legal operations guru was the opening keynote and inspired and challenged thinking. Mary discussed how legal operations is shaping all our futures and explored what's next for the legal industry, challenging us to think about our own roles and ask ourselves “what will I change” and “what will I keep”. There were so many valuable learnings for those in in-house legal departments, also those in law firms.

The other fantastic keynote was Gus Balbontin, who provided an energetic and highly entertaining session on adapting. Gus challenged us to face the future with courage and an open mind, whilst warning us if we don’t deliver to our customers what they want, we risk becoming obsolete. It was such a refreshing and relevant session, delivered with superb passion.

Grant Pritchard, a senior in-house Lawyer at Spark and President of ILANZ delivered an inspiration and thought-provoking session on the critical topic of mental wellbeing for lawyers. Grant shared his own raw experiences, offering practical ideas and strategies to improve wellbeing for individual lawyers, teams and firms, including the Umbrella model and the role of technology in supporting better mental health.

A catalyst for change

Throughout the day we heard how the disruption of COVID-19 was the catalyst for change that many resisted for so long. Those that were reluctant to innovate or invest in technology now appreciate why they need to, together with the value of investing further going forward. Barriers to change quickly disappeared, as many were forced to make changes within weeks that previously may have taken years to implement.

The opening keynote panel featured Emma Priest of Blackstone Chambers, Julian Benefield of Foodstuffs, Hayden Wilson of Dentons Kensington Swan, together with Louise Taylor of Russell McVeagh with their journeys as they (and their organisations) adopted new ways of working and found opportunity amid the chaos of COVID-19. They shared key lessons they learned along the way and discussed whether the pandemic is a critical stepping-stone to the wider transformation of legal services.

Jarrod Coburn of Portia challenged thinking, with a thought-provoking session proposing a brave new world for the legal profession. He took us forward four years and gave us a sneak preview of the Law Practitioners Act 2025, together with what the future might hold for law in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Sara Cole Stratton and Taurean Butler of Tech Futures Lab, provided a fascinating perspective on how technology offers the opportunity of personal reinvention, focusing on harnessing people and technology. They explored how engaging with new technologies offers us all the opportunity to become agitators, to innovate ourselves, and define our potential in the evolving digital economy.

The event culminated in a fascinating conversation on what the future holds for the profession and the delivery of legal services with Nick Whitehouse of Onit AI Center of Excellence, Maria Sopoaga of Auckland Council, Jarrod Coburn of Portia, together with Helen Mackay of Juno Legal. They identified what is possible and how we can better adapt in this ever-changing world.

Practical Insights

A panel of legal+tech experts featuring Gene Turner of LawHawk, Tila Hoffman of MinterEllisonRuddWatts, Lindie Walsh of Efficient Practice and Sam Kidd of LawVu explored the reality of tech adoption. They provided practical insights on how to successfully leverage technology, sharing what they have done, the ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ along the way, what they are doing now, and what comes next.

Leading in-house lawyers Julian Benefield of Foodstuffs, Rebecca Robertshawe of the Ministry of Education, Melissa Anastasiou of Spark and Helen Mackay of Juno Legal, shared their personal innovation stories. They  outlined the key strategies, tactics and tools they have adopted to drive change in their departments and organisations – highlighting what worked (and what didn’t) plus the challenges they overcame along the way.

Jeremy Sutton of Bastion Chambers provided a highly practical session on how to achieve success from simplicity. Jeremy shared how he utilises technology to make work less repetitive for lawyers and more user friendly for clients and the various ways he has achieved success by stripping things back to basics.

Sarah Peterson and Jessica Kwon of iCourts, explored how technology can be used to level the playing field, delivering practical insights walking through recent case studies.

Nick Whitehouse of Onit AI Center of Excellence, shared his journey from idea to successful LegalTech exit. Nick explored what he learnt from four years of deep R&D and experimentation with some of the largest players in the LegalTech world, whilst pulling back the curtain on the threats, the hype, and the practical things you can do to get ahead.

Bringing the fast-paced event together superbly was the MC, Erin Ebborn of Portia.

Seeing the great legal tech

LawFest continues to be the only legal event in New Zealand providing the opportunity to meet and see the leading legal technology in the one place on the one day. Even with border restrictions, we still had the largest turn out of legal tech exhibitors at the event, with many first timers all displaying their latest solutions for the legal industry.

Like the attendees these legal tech companies enjoyed the opportunity to meet with existing and potential clients once again – and doing so in-person.

Find out more !

With LawFest 21 behind us, the focus now shifts to LawFest 22 where we will look to explore further how to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing legal market.

In the meantime, if you want to find out more you can see all these sessions OnDemand - This features all the sessions from LawFest 2021 as part of over 50 speakers from New Zealand and abroad providing practical insights of how to innovate and leverage technology.


Legaltech Hub: the go-to resource for legal tech in New Zealand

Recently we have strengthened the LegalTech Hub’s position, largely to bring the legal and technology community together in New Zealand at this challenging time with COVID-19. With legal tech now in the spotlight more than ever, there is a real interest in what technologies are available that can help the legal community at this time. The dedicated Legaltech Hub helps to meet this renewed interest, as you can discover resources and legal tech solutions to help you deliver legal services now and into the future

Social media is where we share most content

Most of the latest legal tech content will be shared through our social media channels on LinkedIn and Twitter. Please do take the time to follow us on both LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest legal technology news that may be of interest to the New Zealand legal and technology community.

Recently you may have seen some of the fantastic legal technology events and content that we have been sharing. If you have anything that you think may be relevant to the New Zealand legal and technology community, please email Andrew King at

Whether it be legal tech news, stories, webinars, product releases or general announcements that you think may be of interest, do not hesitate to get in touch.

One of the key features of the LegalTechHub is the directory of fantastic technology firms providing products and services to the New Zealand legal market. Very simply, it is proving to be a valuable resource for those seeking more information about the legal tech solutions available, together with contact details and more information about ‘what they do’ and how they may help. Needless to say the Legaltech Hub is the place for all legal tech providers in New Zealand to be present – if you provide legal tech products or services in New Zealand (or may want to), being listed on the Legaltech Hub is a must.

Follow us on social media today to see everything you need to know about legal tech in New Zealand.

Emerging from COVID-19: The opportunity to adapt and transform the delivery of legal services

Since COVID -19, the legal profession like so many people and industries has gone through a once in a generation transformation.

Overnight everyone had to adapt how they worked, often changing traditional practices just to survive.

The next few months will be tough for lawyers and their clients. However, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, there is an opportunity for everyone to transform how they work – from those who had to embrace technology to operate; through to those at the forefront of legal innovation aiming to stay ahead of the game.

The first-hand experience of COVID-19 has given us a taste of what may be possible, with the opportunity to even come out of it stronger.

Technology became our lifeline

We all became totally reliant on technology, as technology became the lifeline for survival.

This reliance on technology came as quickly as we heard words like pivot, unprecedented, shift and the new normal – or as quick as some announced they were now ‘virtual lawyers’ on social media !

Overnight everyone had to start working differently – and remotely.

Some turned to Zoom (or a virtual equivalent), whilst others had access to all their systems and documents through the power of the cloud.

Unsurprisingly many that had not previously innovated or leveraged technology struggled, with some struggling to even enable their staff to work from home.

Those that had invested the time innovating and leveraging technology, still had their challenges, although they have been able to mobilise and respond quicker to the disruption.

The disruption of COVID may be the catalyst for change that many resisted for so long. Those that were reluctant to innovate or invest in technology would probably now appreciate why they need to, and the value of investing further going forward.

Sure, the traditional law firm model is not going to collapse – it is just how these legal services can be delivered may change. What COVID has demonstrated is that we can adapt and work differently if we have to – changes that for some was a long way off only a few weeks back.

Opportunities to come out of this stronger

As we emerge from COVID, we have the opportunity to continue these great strides.

It is important to explore new ways of working, new ways of winning work, whilst still personalising the client experience and leveraging technology to work smarter for clients.

Building the right culture inside organisations to enable innovation is the starting point, with a culture that is curious and open to change.

Most will want to capitalise on the success of remote and flexible working with a potential casualty being if the same size and elaborate office space is required. If we can incorporate the remote and flexible working into practices, can we move beyond the same 8-6/5 day working week (albeit potentially delivering some from home), helping productivity and shifting the focus to more outcome based.

Lawyers are going to have to help their clients navigate these challenging times. Client needs and expectations for legal services will be evolving as a direct result of the pandemic, bringing opportunities for lawyers to make their services more accessible and convenient for clients. This could include enabling interactive and collaborative online solutions to help clients.

More legal services can be commoditised, whilst others will look at new business models, pricing structures together with leveraging technology to help their firms practise law more effectively. More routine and repetitive administrative tasks will continue to be performed quicker, cheaper, and more accurately all through the assistance of technology, again to better meet the demands of clients.

Different stages of the journey

Everyone will be at different stages of their innovation journey. For some this may be simply building on the experience of working from home with zoom.

An incremental approach may be the solution, continually making small changes to how you operate.

Technology adoption does not need to be complicated or daunting, and in a truly short time many have experienced first-hand how technology can be utilised to greatly enhance how they operate.  As we move forward, this will accelerate technology adoption and make life easier if any situation like COVID should arise in the future.

The technology is available and accessible – together with some great New Zealand offerings too !

You cannot stand still

With whatever changes you do or do not make, (before or after COVID) – you cannot stand still !

It is important to remain curious and open to change. We should continue to ask – how can we do this better? All to deliver legal services that are more efficient, profitable, whilst providing greater value and outcomes for clients.

We have so much still to learn.

To navigate the opportunities, a great starting point is to learn what others are doing, but how they are doing it. It is helpful to understand the lessons learned from the experience, together with what they are doing to deliver legal services for the future in a post COVID world. We are fortunate to have many excellent New Zealand legal professionals who can share their experiences.

Those that will come out of this stronger will largely be built on the work they have invested in innovating and leveraging technology. This is an opportunity now for others to appreciate how they can also adapt how they work when they have to.


Andrew King ( is the organiser of LawFest, which is running a virtual an OnDemand event ‘LawFestLive’ on 5 August 2020. Further details can be found here –


This article was originally published in LawTalk and has been republished.

The Innovators: David Hepburn, President, Actionstep

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself

It has been an amazing 25 years since getting my Chemical Engineering degree in the UK.  I’ve found myself on operations as a young officer in the British Army, figuring out how technology can deliver better patient care in places like Vietnam, Turkey and the USA – building high performing teams and businesses along the way.  Leading our team at Actionstep is the culmination of so many parts of my journey.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Legal innovation should always be about how to deliver better value, outcomes or services to clients. But many lawyers aren’t sure where to start. When firms are willing to challenge the status quo to bring quality and service issues into the light – and then commit to solving them – we see real legal innovation.

The area where we are seeing most innovation is where firms realise that the future of their firm means less reliance on the ‘human glue’ in their service delivery and processes. Whether that’s to work out the fat in their business processes or to free up lawyers to do higher value work – the outcome is often the same – a better experience for their clients.

These firms are moving the goal posts for everyone else.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is often the enabler for firms to fulfil their innovation goals. We have a saying at Actionstep that “changing software is easy, changing process is not”. When firms want to change the way they do things, they need systems to support behavioural change.

The right technology systematises innovation into better processes so everyone gets on-board – suddenly they have a consistent “new way”. Baking their process, their innovation and their IP into their systems.

What pressures are organisations facing in the delivery of legal services?

Law firms are facing pressures from every angle – competitive pressure from more innovative firms or from alternative legal service providers. The pressure to deliver more within fixed fees – heightening the need for efficiency and automation. The commoditization of some areas of law puts pressure on firms to refocus on higher value activities that might not be everyone’s comfort zone. The demand from clients to be kept informed in a world of immediacy.  The need to find and keep good talent – again, something technology can help with as younger talent typically demand technology that reflects the collaboration, automation and tracking tools they are used to in their personal lives.

What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?

We are seeing the rise of ‘data driven lawyers’. This has been accelerated through COVID as people have had to rely more on electronic records rather than face to face updates. Legal teams now realise that inconsistencies and gaps in data lead to mistakes on documents, incomplete files and skewed reporting – all things easily solved by discipline around data capture.

When legal teams focus on really good data, they spend less time getting lost in documents and drafting and more time delivering great legal services to their clients.

We also see that immediacy and access are more important than ever for firm clients. Clients expect access to their lawyers directly. Corporate structures are falling away and clients see gate-keepers and support staff as barriers.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought to you?

15 years ago our Founder saw an opportunity to get ahead of the wave of law firm innovation. Actionstep was the first fully cloud based legal tech provider and still remains the most configurable and flexible – so legal innovation is really the cornerstone Actionstep is built on.

The reason we have such a configurable product is to allow firms to run their firm, their way – to enable legal innovation – because there is no one size fits all when it comes to law firm technology.

What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Innovation can seem quite daunting. To develop an innovation mindset, you start with just one thing. Because incremental step-changes lead to transformation. How do you pick? Listen to your clients – what are they telling you to improve? What process or activity is fundamental to that? Pick that. Try another way. Replicate and iterate. Trying to change everything at once leads to frustration and failure.

Get the best out of the tools you already have. Explore ways to use them more fully or in different ways.

Listen to what younger lawyers are doing. They should be your eyes and ears for how technology will change your practice in future.

Post Covid, what impact do you see in how legal services will be delivered?

Two things I think people have learned from COVID – firstly, clients remember the lawyers who called them up and asked them what they needed, rather than trying to sell to them. I think lawyers learned a lot about the value of being close to their clients and that will be a key focus of service delivery going forward – less about production & more about advice.

Second, I see lawyers, paralegals, practice managers and everyone else embrace self-sufficiency. Doing more yourself does not mean taking away someone else’s job, it simply means you aren’t reliant on other humans to get the information you need, the process to work or the document triple checked.  People had to upskill during COVID and can now use those skills to their advantage.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

Because if they don’t continue to innovate, they will get left behind. Our core belief at Actionstep is that lawyers are Awesome. The reason we believe that is not because of how good they are at document turnaround or their legal knowledge – it’s the impact they have at key milestones in our business and personal lives. Lawyers need to be able to get their heads out of the admin and repetitive tasks that so much legal work has turned into. Technology facilitates that – it takes care of the data accuracy, the document production, the matter management and client processing – so that lawyers can focus on advisory, interpretation, breaking new ground on legal matters and doing great work for their clients.


Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate ( He helps lawyers and organisations successfully innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services Legal Innovate includes LawFest (, LegalTechHub ( and E-Discovery Consulting (

The Innovators: Katie Bhreatnach, General Counsel, Airways New Zealand

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

Tēna koutou katoa. I am the General Counsel and GM of Customer and Regulatory Partnerships at Airways. In my current role I lead a talented and diverse group of functional leaders in Customer Management, Legal, Regulatory and Policy. Our team manages our stakeholder relationships with our regulator, industry associations, customers and the third parties we partner with. The aviation sector is fascinating and the work we do at Airways has a powerful purpose – we keep the skies safe today and tomorrow, and our vision is to create the aviation environment of the future. It’s an exciting and challenging time to work here – while the aviation sector and our organisation have been significantly impacted by Covid 19, transformational change that was already part of our strategy has been accelerated.

On a person note, my whanau is a big part of who I am. My three daughters, husband and dog offer a totally different kind of joy and challenge outside of work. I enjoy tramping and camping (preferably with no hot water, electricity or cell phone coverage), live music, travelling, comedy and the arts. I also love rugby and am a loyal Blues fan (and not just in 2020). Whenever I get the chance I head up to the far north where my parents live and everything is warmer and simpler.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

As the saying goes, innovate or die. Businesses are constantly innovating, and those that don’t risk obsolescence (just ask Kodak or Nokia). The same is true for in house legal functions. As in-house lawyers we need to be able to ensure we meet the needs of the business, and to adapt in order to remain relevant. As Charles Spillane once said years ago when he was the General Counsel of Auckland Airport, a good in house lawyer will help you navigate the top of a cliff by providing you with rope, not tell you to stay away from the edge. (Probably more eloquently though!)

What role does technology play in innovation?

When I started out in law school I hand wrote my assignments. When I started out as a law clerk, paper files and faxes were the norm. Technological change has revolutionised lawyering. It has allowed us to be more efficient and it will continue to do so. It has even changed the way in which we work. All of the lawyers in my team work remotely, part time and flexibly – and it is technology that facilitates this. We have cloud-based software that manages matters and contracts (thanks LawVu). We also have great dashboard reporting, which allows us to demonstrate to our internal stakeholders the value we offer them on a regular basis, and provides data and insights that support innovation.

What pressures are organisations facing in the delivery of legal services?

Like our non-legal counterparts, there is pressure to do more with less, and to be able to demonstrate the value that we bring. For me this is a key reason why the money in my budget spent on analytics and reporting is money well spent.

What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?

Although there are six lawyers in my team, we rely on external support in order to meet the needs of our businesses, and will continue to do so. There are times when gold plated advice is exactly what’s needed, but other times it isn’t. The disruption and innovation that is happening in external law firm offerings is exciting. When I think back to the beginning of my career in house lawyers made up a small portion of the legal community. Now we make up 25%, and increasingly take up leadership and executive roles in the organisations we work in, as the combination of legal and commercial skills is highly valued. I think these trends will continue, and I look forward to more disruption.

How have you gone about getting buy in for legal technology?

People often ask me how they can convince the organisation they work in to invest in dedicated legal software. My answer is to develop a business case that solves other people’s problems or challenges. When I come in to an organisation I spend a lot of energy finding out what my internal stakeholders’ drivers are – what’s not working for them and where can I find solutions to problems or challenges. From that I build a business case that demonstrates how matter management and contract management systems can solve their problems, rather than focus on the advantages to the legal function. Once approved, I work hard to continually demonstrate value through dashboard and KPI reporting – just like my non-legal counterparts. It’s also a great way to make future business cases for additional resource!

What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

An innovative mindset to me is seeking out problems and finding ways to solve them. To do that, think creatively and include lots of perspectives and people who will challenge your thinking. I’m a huge fan of diversity of thought, and getting to the right outcome rather than being right.


Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate ( He helps lawyers and organisations successfully innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services Legal Innovate includes LawFest (, LegalTechHub ( and E-Discovery Consulting (

Actionstep Chosen as software platform for nationwide Community Law Centres O Aotearoa network of 24 centres

Actionstep Chosen as Software provider for nationwide Community Law Centres O Aotearoa network of 24 centres

Announcement bolsters the legal practice management software company’s leading Australasian market position and CLC segment penetration

Aug 20, 2020 / Auckland, NZ. Actionstep today announces their appointment as practice management software provider for the entire Community Law Centres O Aotearoa (CLCA) network.

CLCA has 24 sites across New Zealand with 170 staff and over 1,200 volunteer lawyers servicing 50,000 CLC clients every year on the Actionstep’s software platform. These CLCs provide free legal assistance across a wide range of legal areas, including Criminal, Youth Law, Health and Disability, Individual Rights and Freedom, and Immigration, to name a few.

Actionstep’s appointment comes after a robust pilot of the software platform across 3 of New Zealand’s CLC sites.

Sue Moroney, Chief Executive Office of CLCA shared her pleasure at engaging Actionstep as CLCA’s practice management software, saying “We are looking forward to fully implementing Actionstep across 24 community law centres, after piloting it across 3 of our sites to date. Actionstep will be a game-changer for how services are delivered to community law clients - creating efficiencies that allow us to spend more time making a positive impact. We also anticipate that with Actionstep we will be able to better coordinate the work of CLCs across Aotearoa, improve practice management and help us share knowledge, relevant data, and best practice in one secure, cloud-based system - built around the unique needs of our CLCs and the diverse needs of our clients."

CLCs provide community based, one on one legal help to people who do not have the means to access legal advice through private routes. They also provide legal support to those who have particular challenges that make engaging a lawyer more difficult, such as those who have trouble reading or are living with disability, illness or mobility issues.

David Hepburn, Global President of Actionstep welcomed CLCA as Actionstep’s newest New Zealand key customer, saying “Actionstep’s appointment as legal practice management software provider to the CLCA network across New Zealand demonstrates the capabilities of Actionstep for larger customers with diverse areas of law and distributed teams. I applaud the commitment of CLCA to delivering best-in-class services to their clients with our technology supporting efficiency, capturing knowledge, and automating their ideal case workflows.”

Actionstep’s software is also used by many CLCs in Australia.

Find out more at:


About Actionstep - With you every step.

Actionstep is a flexible, easy to use software platform for ambitious legal service providers to manage and grow their practice.

Built in the cloud, with workflow at its heart, Actionstep transforms legal productivity at every step. Combining CRM, Matter Management, Document Assembly & Storage, Time & Billing, Trust & Office Accounting, Reporting and much more in one system, Actionstep gives you everything you need to run and get full visibility across the health of your practice.

With unlimited scope to scale & evolve, Actionstep’s legal practice management software will take you every step of your journey as a law firm or law centre.

Spokesperson: David Hepburn, President, Actionstep:

PR contact: Triona Saunders, Actionstep:

The Innovators: Sabina Bickelmann, General Counsel, icebreaker

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I’ve recently joined Icebreaker as General Counsel and am stoked to be part of such an iconic NZ company which is part of global movement striving to create a healthier and more sustainable future for our species and the planet.

I’ve always sought out as many different experiences and opportunities as possible. When I finished Uni with law degree in hand, I went straight to London where I worked for a US law firm before starting a graduate position in Sydney at DLA Piper (which was Phillips Fox back then). Prior to Icebreaker, I worked in the Cayman Islands and Auckland in private practice and at Pfizer and most recently led the legal function for nearly four years as general counsel and company secretary at Vend, a NZ headquartered global tech company.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Innovation is about implementing something new or different that is useful or delivers value in some way. Creativity, which is the ability to come up with novel ideas, is the seed of legal innovation, but unless it is activated and scaled, it is just still an idea and not innovation.

Legal innovation doesn’t always need to be disruptive or breakthrough, it is just as important to have a pipeline of small innovative ideas. For me, some of the best innovations are the simple ones where you slap you hand on the table and go “duh, why didn’t I think about doing it that way before!”.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Innovation and technology are not the same thing. Technology can be used to implement innovation, but the technology itself doesn’t always produce innovation. There are a few instances where technology is simply used to meet the status quo. However, in the majority of instances technology drives innovation by allowing us to do more with less, improving our organisations and lives in the process. Just look at how we are working and living our lives today.

What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?

The demand for legal tech will continue to increase. There is so much cool legal tech out there, it’s really a no brainer. In-house legal functions will continue to implement new technology to automate routine processes. The use of analytics will extend beyond managing legal costs into predicting areas of risk and exposure before issues arise. I doubt we will see robots replacing humans in the legal department, but machine learning will increasingly be applied to legal tasks.

External legal providers will continue to respond to demands from legal teams for disruptive offerings that assist in managing cost and add value. I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of subscription-based fee models which have provided me with predictable spend, as well as “crowd sourced” legal advice enabling access to high quality, specialist advice at a fraction of the cost. The demand for virtual GC/in-house legal on demand services will continue to rise, driven by “new law” firms responding to demands for flexible resources provided by highly experienced in-house lawyers seeking to live and work differently.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

I’ve been really lucky to have worked for companies where innovation and technology are part of the DNA. As a lawyer working in those environments, the internal culture of continually seeking to improve things including trying out new software tools quickly rubs off. It has been awesome to feel empowered to try new things, find out that they don’t work, and then pull the plug without fear or shame.

From a technology perspective, I’ve implemented plenty of technology solutions in a number of areas including to streamline workflows and approvals, create documents, automate record keeping and manage signatures, audits and notifications. However, to be honest, some of the best in-house legal innovations I’ve been involved with have not utilised technology, and instead are the result of great execution of a really simple idea that makes things better for the legal team and the business. For example, creating a new framework for the legal team to determine the level of legal input or rigour required around a decision based on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ “one-way/two-way door” strategy.

Legal innovation has obviously created efficiencies which have freed up me and others in my team to focus on higher value, more strategic work. In many cases legal innovation has removed pain points for the business, deleted legal work the team doesn’t enjoy and driven overall engagement.

What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Working in start-ups has taught me to not be satisfied only with making improvements. Instead, to strive to understand the source of a problem and continually ask “how would we approach this problem if there was no solution in the first place?”.

I think a great place to start is to pick a clear focus. Perhaps start by thinking about the processes or tasks that personally annoy you and that you really want to change. That’s the “why” for innovation.
Give yourself (and your team) the time and space to think. Google encourages its staff to spend 20% of their time on side projects, which is why it is one of the most innovative companies in the world.

This might sound obvious or patronising, but stop staring at your computer screen and sitting at your desk. Personally, I do my best creative thinking when I am being active and outdoors. Walking meetings and strong coffee in diverse environments are great cognitive enhancers!

You could take a formal course or read up on the internet on systematic methods of innovation where you can learn about idea management, idea selection and pipeline development. Innovation is essentially another competency which can be learned along with, for example, leadership.

As well as being a competency, I think innovation is a state of mind—it is an attitude and a culture. It helps to surround yourself with people who come from diverse backgrounds and challenge you to not just accept the status quo.

Post Covid, what impact do you see in how legal services will be delivered?

During lockdown, many lawyers who have previously feared technology suddenly found themselves seeing it as a lifeline to their survival. The realisation that technology is not to be feared will accelerate the pace for technology uptake in the profession which will in turn impact on how legal services will be delivered.

We’ve proved that working entirely through google hangouts and collaboratively through cloud-based tools such as google docs is not only possible, but manageable long term (and pretty bloody awesome!). As a result, there will be more remote working which will enable in-house legal teams and external legal providers to achieve better work life balance and do more of the things they love, which in turn will increase engagement and productivity (and a reduction in emissions from less commuting!).

I’m also hopeful that as a result of the lockdown, we have all become more conscious consumers. In-house legal teams will more than ever seek out external legal providers who can demonstrate a fair and inclusive culture (including gender equality) and a strong commitment to the environment.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

At a minimum, we need to continue to innovate and leverage technology to stay relevant. We are in a time of unprecedented change. What may have helped the organisations we support be successful in the past could potentially cause that organisation to fail in the future. Just as companies need to change and grow, their in-house lawyers and external providers need to do so also.

As lawyers we need to support our businesses to confidently adopt technology at pace. We can do that by embracing the technology tools of our customers, trying out our own new tools and upskilling generally in the areas of privacy and cyber security.

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event, and the founder of the LegalTech Hub – the go to resource for legal tech in New Zealand. 

The Innovators: Josh McBride

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a barrister practising in commercial litigation at Richmond Chambers in Auckland. I was admitted to the bar in 1998, worked in Sydney and London from 2000 to 2004, and commenced practice as a barrister sole in Auckland in 2010. Law is just one of many passions – I love boating, fishing, skiing, tramping, and mountain biking, preferably with my family.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Developing new ways of accessing and synthesising legal knowledge and process. Challenging orthodox approaches to the development of the law that has historically been constrained by limited access to legal knowledge and know-how. Finding ways to engage with and respond to more sophisticated queries from clients.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology, being a scientific solution to a practical problem, has always enabled innovation. The change that we are witnessing today lies in the scale and ambition of our expectations. We now demand that science delivers us answers not just to practical problems, such as how to put a rocket into space, but to assist us with assessing and judging human behaviours, such as likely jury reactions, or synthesising a complex pattern of share trades to demonstrate market manipulation.

What pressures are organisations facing in the delivery of legal services?

Mooers' Law tells us that information will be accessed and used in direct proportion to how easy it is to obtain. Historically, the law has not been accessible. Buried in bound volumes in member-only libraries or law firms, or in proprietary document management systems, the public have had no option but to consult with lawyers if they wanted to understand their legal rights and obligations.

That paradigm has changed. Access to legal information today has never been so easy. Paradoxically, however, making sense of the law has never been so hard. Clients routinely dump vast tracts of electronic information on their lawyer for review, much of it difficult to extract and understand without significant contextual background. Against the rise of “big data”, lawyers now have unprecedented access to legal materials, such as online statutes, commentary, and case law, from a multitude of jurisdictions. Clients routinely email their lawyer with the results of online searches for cases that might assist their own position.

The Courts have responded to this increased complexity by insisting that lawyers reduce the size of submissions, streamline discovery, eliminate irrelevant evidence, and reduce authorities bundles to only the most relevant cases. The hope is that this will somehow make litigation cheaper or easier, as the material ultimately presented to the Court is diminished.

That in turn puts huge pressure on counsel to make difficult judgment calls as to what is in or out, and to ensure that the claim is put forward in the most focussed and best possible way. The enormity of this task cannot be overstated, both in terms of the workload and the difficulty of the decisions that must be made.

Once these trends are coupled with increasingly demanding and sophisticated clients, it is readily apparent that practice at the bar is not for the faint-hearted! While technology can assist to a degree with streamlining and automating some of the processes, ultimately counsel needs to have the experience, wisdom and most importantly courage to make difficult judgment calls at every step of the litigation process, to reduce the number of documents and legal authorities, and produce a coherent – and justiciable – package for the Courts to consider and rule on. That task is well beyond the capabilities of the average lay litigant.

What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?

The market will continue to consolidate and concentrate as high volume, low value work (such as debt recovery) migrates to online platforms with automated processing. Time-consuming and routine tasks, such as discovery, will be out-sourced. Automated processes will allow documents to be sifted for relevance.

Conversely, there will be increasing demands on senior counsel to advise on difficult judgment calls at each stage of the process, such as “what is relevant?”, “what should we look for?”, “what areas of law should we research?, and “what should our evidence address?”

The role of the senior advocate and adviser will accordingly become even more relevant and critical.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

The ability to offer creative, independent solutions that take a “pick and mix” approach to the suite of collaborative and analytical tools available in the market. I find mind-mapping programmes invaluable for devising a strategy and framework for the legal theory of the case. The traditional file-sharing apps such as DropBox are now being supplanted by more collaborative and adaptable programmes such as Teams and Slack that integrate readily with video calling and allow bespoke, client focussed, teams to be constructed for specific projects. This provides a very flexible, dynamic, client-focussed way to work, and it also enables a degree of co-operation and - dare I say it – collaboration with your opponent that traditional adversarial models eschew.

What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Accepting that innovation requires some co-operation and goodwill. Challenging conventional wisdom. And in the words of Sir Peter Blake, always asking ”But how does this make the boat go faster?”

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

Because we cannot survive without it. Both the Courts and our clients expect us to synthesise huge volumes of data and legal research into punchy, focussed claims. That task is simply not possible without learning how to automate and streamline some of the traditional legal processes, such as discovery, and then using innovative technology to make sense of that data and present it in a compelling way. If we cannot master this skillset, we will lose relevance, and our clients will ultimately be forced to look elsewhere for solutions.

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event, and the founder of the LegalTech Hub – the go to resource for legal tech in New Zealand. 

The Innovators: Simon Tupman

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I started out as a litigation lawyer in London specializing in criminal defence. After five years, I became dissatisfied with my working life and so, after gaining a post-graduate degree in business administration, I ventured into the field of business consulting. After emigrating to New Zealand in 1992, I worked with Auckland law firm Hesketh Henry for two years as their first ever Marketing Manager before deciding to work for myself. Since then, I have been mentoring lawyers and law firms internationally. I live in Ohakune, New Zealand.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Innovation is more than improvement. It is about being inventive and creating valuable new ways of delivering legal services. Innovation is fostered by the culture of an organization. The culture of law firms (and the legal sector) is generally conservative, hence, relative to other industries and professions, I would suggest that many law firms would be in the ‘late majority’ or even ‘laggards’, to use Everett Rogers’ definition.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is a valuable tool that lawyers can use to make innovation happen. It has the potential to bring about much needed changes the legal system and also to improve the accessibility and affordability of legal services.

What pressures are organisations facing in the delivery of legal services?

At the time of writing, New Zealand is in the midst of a COVID19 lockdown. As a result, legal organisations are facing some unprecedented pressures. In the short term, there is the need to simply keep operating and to safeguard cash flow. In the longer term, organisations will have to be more inventive, collaborative, tech-savvy and customer-centric if they are to have a future. Transition will be swift; there will be added pressure on organisations to adopt a fresh approach to leadership; people from all corners of the organization will be encouraged to step up and lead, irrespective of their tenure or title.

What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?

Automation is redefining how many legal services are being delivered. Consequently, many traditional roles are being eliminated; conversely new role are being created thereby introducing new skill sets into legal organisations. Market dynamics, not the regulator, will determine the shape of the legal services industry and an array of technological platforms will work to help organisations deliver legal services much more effectively.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

I have been able to achieve better results working with organisations who already have an innovative mindset and culture, who are receptive to new ideas and who don’t like to stand still.

What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

COVID19 has exposed many legal organisations who may have been less than innovative in the past and who now find themselves particularly vulnerable. Leaders of those organisations now have no choice but to change the mindset of their culture. Innovation starts with uninhibited thinking that challenges the status quo. Look around, both outside and inside your organization for trends, ideas and solutions. Be totally transparent about the reality of your situation and involve all your stakeholders in finding new ideas and solutions. Start by asking them these three questions:

‘What do we need to do as an organization to survive and thrive in future?’

‘What do we need to keep, let go of, add to, or change?’

‘How can we better serve our clients in future?’

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

Legal professionals play a significant role in society by helping people and businesses get ahead in life. We are now living in the age of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, - a digital revolution that is transforming the way we work and live. Lawyers are very much a part of this world so they had better adapt or face the consequences!

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event, and the founder of the LegalTech Hub – the go to resource for legal tech in New Zealand. 

Legal innovation in New Zealand. Asia Law Portal interview with Andrew King, Founder, LegalTechHub

LegalTechHub founder Andrew King was recently interviewed by Asia Law Portal about the current state of legal innovation in New Zealand.

You can read the full interview here.

During this interview Andrew highlighted some of the recent measures to enhance the LegalTech Hub to bring the legal and technology community together in New Zealand at this challenging time with COVID-19. "I believe legal tech is now in the spotlight more than ever, and there is a real interest in what technologies are available that can help the legal community at this time. The dedicated Legaltech Hub helps to meet this renewed interest."

The LegalTech Hub is a valuable resource for those seeking more information about the legal tech solutions available. The Hub showcases everything you need to know about legal technology providers, including " details and more information about ‘what they do’ and how they may help. Needless to say the Legaltech Hub is the place for all legal tech providers in New Zealand to be present – if you provide legal tech products or services in New Zealand (or may want to), being listed on the Legaltech Hub is a must".

The interview highlighted some of the key opportunities and changes with legal innovation as a result of COVID-19, as the legal industry like so many others have been thrown in at the deep end to adapt how they work.

"What has been heartening has been to see so many that have been able to adapt, embrace and lead the changes that we now face, whilst also reaching out to others.

The COVID-19 situation is providing considerable opportunities for the legal industry to re-evaluate how they deliver legal services for now and the future. Even though these are challenging times, they will definitely bring new opportunities, especially if we can be agile, adapt and embrace change – changes that should pay considerable dividends in helping shape the delivery of legal services for a long time to come."

Check out the full Asia Law Portal interview here, to find out more about the current state of legal innovation in New Zealand.

The Innovators: Wayne Rumbles, Associate Professor, University of Waikato

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I have been a legal academic for the past 20 years. I began my academic career at the University of Waikato teaching Law and Information Technology and Criminal Law in 2000. In these early years, I quickly understood the importance of technology to law and the potential impacts of technology on law and the legal system. I have been fortunate over the years to continue to explore technology and its interface with law by developing a suite of technology related law papers at Te Piringa and sharing these with a continuous stream of students.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Legal innovation in my view requires a holistic vision of law; lawyers, law firms, students and academics must know what they wish to achieve. Innovation requires an understanding of where you are, where you want to be and the ability to plot the necessary pathway to achieve this goal. Innovation occurs along this journey by applying flexible knowledge and skills to available technology.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology provides us with the tools to innovate. It is the means by which we progress and re-imagine law, legal education and legal services.

What pressures are law faculties facing in the delivery of legal education?

Law schools are challenged to respond to a rapidly changing legal service environment that is evolving in response to disruptive technologies.
Law schools need to prepare graduates to practise in a new law paradigm where flexible, high-level skills are valued that allow practitioners to adapt and change, embracing new technologies and opportunities.

Law schools need to bring both students and academics along this journey against a background of increased expectations for student numbers, research outputs and sourcing of externally funded projects.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

As an academic working in this space since 2000, legal innovation and technology has been a constant inspiration for my research and the development of new law courses for future lawyers. Alongside papers in CyberLaw, Law and New Technologies, Digital Privacy, AI and Robotics in the Law we also teach a joint Masters in Cyber Security with Computer Science.

One of my recent opportunities has been the Technology in Legal Education for New Zealand project (TeLENZ) supported and funded by New Zealand Law Foundation. The vision for the project is that all law students in New Zealand are exposed to technology and legal innovation throughout the core law curriculum. To achieve this vision, I am teaming with academics from across the six New Zealand Law schools TO BUILD GREATER DIGITAL CAPABILITY, to develop a set of tools and resources that any NZ legal academic can use to integrate technology and the impact of technology into their core law courses. This unique and exciting project allows me to further focus my area of passion in partnership with all NZ law schools as we work together to create better prepared graduates for the changing legal workspaces.

What are some of your tips to develop an innovative mind-set in law students?

The basis for any innovative legal mindset is a firm and solid understanding of legal principles. Law schools in part need to keep doing what they are doing teaching critical analytical legal skills.

Students also need to have a range of flexible skills relevant to the current legal environment and be able to see linkages between disparate areas of learning. We cannot teach individual (or all) technologies due to rapid advancements where technology is quickly updated/replaced. However, students need to be aware of the possibilities and potential technology will continue to bring to the profession. We need to expose students to technology and the impact of legal tech throughout their legal studies.

We need to inspire curiosity and excitement about the possibilities of technology and legal tech, we need to instil a growth mind-set in future lawyers. Technology is not the end of law and lawyers but the path to opportunity and diversity of legal services.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

I say in my welcome speech for new students at the Law Faculty, studying law is the study of life, the universe and everything.

Technology and innovation is everywhere; it is what our clients, business and students are using, living and consuming. Lawyers and provisioners of legal services need to be able to interact, represent and facilitate the use of (and control the misuse of) these technologies to be relevant to the current and future users of legal services.

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event. 

The Decade in Legal Tech: The 10 Most Significant Developments

This article was originally published on Law Sites and has been republished.

In legal technology, it was a decade of tumult and upheaval, bringing changes that will forever transform the practice of law and the delivery of legal services.

Feisty startups took on established behemoths. The cloud dropped rain on legacy products. Mobile tech untethered lawyers. Clients demanded efficiency and transparency. Robots arrived to take over our jobs. “Alternative” became a label for new kinds of legal services providers. An expanding justice gap fueled efforts at ethics reform. Investment dollars began to pour in. Data got big.

Every year, I write a year-end wrap-up of the most significant developments in legal technology. But as we reach the end of a decade, I decided to look back on the most significant developments of the past 10 years. Looking back, it may well have been the most tumultuous decade ever in changing how legal services are delivered.

(Here are my prior years’ lists of the most important developments: For several years now, I’ve closed out the year with a round-up of the 10 most important legal developments 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013. In 2017, I bypassed the list to focus on a single overarching development, The Year of Women in Legal Tech.)

1. The Surge of the Startup

The very first month of the very first year of the decade brought big legal tech news – the introduction of WestlawNext. It was a major advance in legal research, the first major overhaul of Westlaw since its initial Web version was launched 12 years earlier in 1998. WestlawNext was the first to bring Google-like simplicity to legal research and the first to use a machine learning algorithm to deliver better search results, long before anybody called it “artificial intelligence.” It would inspire a generation of legal research copycats, including the following year’s launch of Lexis Advance, with that same Google-like search.

As the decade drew to a close, Thomson Reuters again unveiled a major overhaul of its legal research platform with last year’s launch of Westlaw Edge. It was another major advance for Westlaw, using advanced AI and analytics to help legal professionals find answers and perform research more efficiently and with better results.

But this time, the launch felt different. With WestlawNext, Thomson Reuters was the trailblazer, defining the path that others would follow for years to come. With Westlaw Edge, it felt more as if the company was playing catch-up. As impressive a product as it is, there was a palpable sense at its launch that the company had rushed it to market in the face of an increasingly innovative and competitive legal research market.

At the dawn of the decade, the dominance of Westlaw and LexisNexis in legal research was unquestioned. By the end of the decade, a growing field of innovative competitors had upended that dominance. Bloomberg Law, which launched in December 2009, continued to gain traction, albeit slowly. Fastcase and Casemaker became more than simply middle-tier players. Most notably, feisty upstarts such as Casetext, ROSS Intelligence, and Ravel Law brought fresh thinking to the field, introducing features and tools that had the big players playing catch-up.

One striking example of this is Casetext. In 2016, it introduced CARA, a first-of-its-kind product that could analyze users’ uploaded briefs using AI and find relevant cases the brief missed. CARA’s popularity and success inspired a generation of similar products, first from other legal research startups – such as EVA from ROSS Intelligence, Clerk from Judicata, and Vincent from vLex – and then earlier this year from Thomson Reuters, with its Quick Check, and Bloomberg Law, with its Brief Analyzer.

This, for me, is the most striking story of the past 10 years – the rise of the startup. Over the course of the decade, the legal tech industry has changed dramatically, from one controlled by a handful of dominant legacy companies to one driven by a surge of creative and feisty startups whose products are changing how law is practiced and legal services delivered.

While my example involves legal research, my premise applies across the spectrum of legal technology. I defy anyone to name an area of legal technology in which startups are not at least having a major influence on the development agenda, if not defining it. Further, to the extent they are defining it, they are often actually redefining it, changing forever our thinking about how we do what we do.

The poster child for this is Clio. As the decade started, Clio was still a fledgling company, having formally launched its cloud-based practice management platform near the end of 2008. Clio – along with Rocket Matter, which launched soon after – was quixotic in its quest, lobbying lawyers to move their practices to the cloud at a time when lawyers literally feared the cloud. It was the very model of a feisty upstart.

As the decade closes, Clio is now the big kahuna of practice management. This one-time outsider is now the status quo, a position sealed just months before the decade’s end with news of a jaw-dropping $250 million funding round – one of the largest investments ever for a legal technology company.

Undeniably, it has been the decade of the startup, a decade that brought multiple stories of ambitious law students and innovative lawyers launching companies that quickly became major players. Sure, there were plenty of failures too. Not everyone can or will succeed. But somewhere out there right now is the next Clio, the next Fastcase, maybe even the next Westlaw.

So my number one pick for the top-10 stories of the decade in legal tech is the startup – and the influence startups have had, and will continue to have, in shaping and reshaping the legal industry.

2. Skies Clear for the Cloud

For anyone new to law practice in the last 10 years, it may be difficult to fathom the degree to which lawyers feared the cloud a decade ago. We still see evidence and remnants of that, as many firms continue to resist moving core functions to the cloud. But where a decade ago the cloud seemed ominous, it now is widely accepted as inevitable.

A decade ago, companies that launched their products in the cloud were still considered adventurers, maybe even gamblers. Today, non-cloud companies – those that banked their futures on on-premises technology – are scrambling to move to the cloud, building cloud versions of their products or acquiring compatible cloud companies, while those that started in the cloud are prospering.

One conspicuous example of this is NetDocuments versus iManage. NetDocuments started as a cloud service way back in 1999. After struggling for many years to sell lawyers on its message of cloud superiority, it is now prospering as one of the most popular document management systems in legal. Meanwhile, iManage, whose on-premises product was long an industry leader, saw the need to develop a cloud version, which it launched in 2016.

In the early years of the decade, talk of the cloud often focused on the ethics of lawyers using the cloud. Starting in 2009 and 2010, states began issuing a spate of ethics opinions on lawyers’ use of the cloud. At the first Clio Cloud Conference in 2013, I spoke on the Ethics and Security of Cloud Computing for Lawyers. The year 2013 brought the ABA book, Cloud Computing for Lawyers, by Nicole Black, the first (that I recall) comprehensive examination of the risks, benefits and ethics of cloud computing for lawyers.

It was just last year when I opined here that we had finally reached the point of the legal profession’s general acceptance of the cloud as something to embrace, not fear. That was the year that marked the 10th anniversaries of the launches of Clio and Rocket Matter, the first two practice management applications to launch in the cloud, initiating a new era in development of practice-management products and wider use of those products by legal professionals.

Some among you might argue that we’d reached that point much earlier, others might contend we’re not yet there. But what nobody can deny is that, over the course of the last 10 years, we have come 180 degrees in our use of the cloud. What started the decade as still an outlier technology now ends the decade as the core of most law practices.
Something else that nobody can deny is our trajectory forward. As we cross over into a new decade, there is no question where the future lies. It is in the cloud.

3. The Untethering of Law Practice

The first iPhone came to market in June 2007, the first Android tablet in 2009, and the first iPad in 2010. These smart devices, combined with the growth of the cloud, ushered in a new era in mobility. Over the course of the decade, lawyers went from being effectively tethered to their desks to being able to work from anywhere.

Think about that. Think about how much time you spend every workday on your iPhone (or whatever smartphone you use). Think about the emails you read, the texts you send, the documents you view, the research you perform, the calls you make, the texts you send, the time you log – all on your phone.

Think about where you are when you work on your phone. Many large firms have cut way back on office space and encourage their lawyers to work virtually. Many smaller firm lawyers do not even have offices, choosing instead to work from home, from coworking spaces, or from the proverbial Starbucks.

All that is largely new to law in the last decade. And it happened quickly. By 2012, nearly half of lawyers were using iPhones, according to the ABA’s annual Legal Technology Survey Report (although 57% of large-firm lawyers still used the BlackBerry). Now, 79% of lawyers have an iPhone and 18% have an Android phone. Just 2% say they have no smartphone.

The untethering of law practice over the last decade has been a sea change so dramatic and so far reaching that we hardly even notice it anymore. But it has changed law practice forever.

4. The Proliferation of Practice Management

Practice management is not the sexiest of topics, given an industry abuzz with talk of artificial intelligence, analytics and blockchain. But it is an area of legal technology that has had a profound impact on the legal industry over the last decade. It has been instrumental in moving us from a profession that barely used technology to one that now sees it as essential and routine.

There can be no denying that this change was sparked in 2008 with the launches of Clio and Rocket Matter, the first two companies to offer practice management software in the cloud. By bringing to the cloud what had already been available as desktop technology, and by making it easier and more intuitive to use, they ignited a revolution in the use of legal technology, inspiring a slew of similar companies and making cloud-based practice management one of the most competitive areas of legal technology of the last decade.

Today, this sector offers lawyers an embarrassment of riches, with products such as CosmoLex, Firm Central, MyCase, PracticePanther, Smokeball and Zola Suite delivering a robust range of features, options and capabilities.

It is also a sector that is maturing, with developments in recent years such as LexisNexis’s shuttering of Firm Manager in 2017; the acquisition by one of the oldest practice management companies, Tabs3 Software, of one of the new cloud-based platforms, CosmoLex; and the acquisition by private equity firm Alpine SG of PracticePanther.

The biggest news in this sector, and one that appropriately came just a few months ago as a capstone to the decade, was the $250 million investment in Clio, the company that helped spark this trend a decade earlier. One of the largest investments ever for a legal technology company, it underscored how important practice-management technology had become during the past 10 years – and how much potential it still has to evolve over the next 10 years and beyond.

5. Upheaval in Legal Ethics

We were just shy of the start of this decade when, in 2009, then ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm appointed a special Commission on Ethics 20/20 to consider whether advances in legal technology and the globalization of legal practice called for changes in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

No one could have known then what a tumultuous decade it would be for legal ethics, or that the decade would close with major challenges underway to long-accepted standards of legal practice and professional regulation.

Indeed, the Commission on Ethics 20/20 did call for changes. To my mind, the most significant – one I described at the time as a sea change in the legal profession – came in 2012, when the ABA formally approved a change to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent not only in the law and its practice, but also in technology. In the years since, I’ve tracked states’ gradual adoption of this duty, and as the decade comes to a close, the number of states reached 38.

On top of that, two states have now made it mandatory for lawyers to receiving continuing education in technology. Beginning in 2019, all lawyers in North Carolina were required to complete one hour per year of CLE devoted to technology training, joining Florida in mandating CLE, after it became the first state to do so in 2016.

But tech competence was only part of the decade’s ethics story, as various forms of alternative legal services companies began to test the limits of what was allowed in serving the legal needs of the public.

No company offers a better example of this than Avvo. Controversial from the moment it launched in 2007 for its then-audacious plan to rate lawyers, it further pushed the envelope in 2014 with the launch of Avvo Advisor, a service that provided on-demand legal advice by phone, delivered by an attorney within 15 minutes, for a fixed fee of $39.

A little over a year later, it pushed further, beginning the roll out of Avvo Legal Services, providing a variety of limited-scope legal services for fixed fees ranging from $39 (for 15-minute advice sessions) to $2,995 (for applying for a family green card).

Ethics regulators choked, prompting ethics rulings in several states saying Avvo’s marketing fee for sending lawyers these cases was an impermissible referral fee. In fact, for more than a decade, Avvo faced a constant barrage of lawsuits and ethics battles that led it eventually to give up on its alternative legal services.

The irony, of course, is that the legal world as the decade closes is a much-different place than it was in 2007. The innovations Avvo introduced (or refined) – consumer-friendly lawyer ratings, fixed-fee services by phone, fixed-fee limited-scope legal services, robust Q&A forums, and libraries of consumer-facing legal articles – are now broadly recognized as useful for consumers and even accepted as standard fare.

Now, as the decade closes, the most significant development of all is the emerging push for the kinds of regulatory reform that no one could have imagined 10 years ago – for reforms that would allow private companies to participate in the ownership of legal services providers and that would broaden the ability of individuals who did not attend law school to practice law.

Just a few weeks ago, Utah’s Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform – an initiative of the Utah Supreme Court – posted the website that will serve as the hub for its Legal Services Sandbox, an unprecedented experiment in enhancing access to justice through the loosening of traditional restrictions on legal services.

That follows a vote by a State Bar of California task force that could lead to sweeping changes in the lawyer regulatory structure in that state. In July, the State Bar’s Board of Trustees authorized for public comment a set of regulatory reform options, which the task force is now working to refine based on the comments received. Soon after, an Arizona task force made a similar call for fundamental changes in the regulation of legal services. Other states – including Illinois and New Mexico – are also looking at loosening regulations on legal practice, while others – notably Utah and Washington – already license non-lawyers to practice law in limited circumstances.

So in a decade that started with an ABA commission to explore whether lawyer regulation had kept pace with advances in technology, it ends with substantive initiatives to expand the delivery of legal services beyond lawyers – even to allow the delivery of legal services in some cases with no lawyer in the picture. In a decade scarred by battles between the organized bar and companies such as Avvo and LegalZoom, it ends with growing acceptance that we need companies such as these if ever we are to serve the legal needs of all.

This decade brought upheaval in legal ethics and regulation such as we have never seen before – and it has set us on a path of reform from which there is no turning back.

6. The Ascension of the Client

His timing could not be better. In a few weeks, as we edge our way into the next decade, Jack Newton, cofounder and CEO of Clio, will release his book, The Client-Centered Law Firm: How to Succeed in an Experience-Driven World. His thesis is simple – the firms that will see the greatest success in the future are the firms that adopt a client-centered mindset and consistently create client-centered experiences.

There is nothing new about the proposition that providing better client service is a key element of law firm success. Others have told us this for generations. But Newton puts his finger on the fundamental way in which technology has upended this equation. It is that clients (aka customers) have come to expect an effortless experience that delivers good value. This is how companies such as Amazon and Uber disrupted their industries – but it is a lesson many in the legal profession have yet to learn.

Over the past decade, the tables have turned, with clients wielding more power than ever before in the delivery of legal services. It has brought about a change that futurist Jordan Furlong captures succinctly in the title of his 2017 book, Law is a Buyer’s Market. “Newly empowered clients have adopted aggressive buying behaviours and begun dictating the terms of their relationships to law firms,” he says. “Law has become a buyer’s market, and it’s never going back.”

Indeed, the rise of the client has been a defining trend of this decade. It is a trend driven by the demand for better access to legal services, better service from legal providers, greater accountability from legal providers, and fairer and more-transparent pricing.

One place we have seen this trend play out dramatically over the past decade is within corporate legal departments. Seeking greater value and more control over their spending, corporate counsel have taken more work in-house and demanded greater accountability from their outside counsel. This trend is directly responsible for the growth in the use of alternative legal services providers over the decade and for the expanding influence and importance of legal operations professionals.

But there is another, potentially even more significant, way in which the client has driven the development of legal technology and of the legal profession over the past decade, and that is the growing recognition of the profession’s failure to meet the needs of the majority of those who need legal help. These are not the clients we serve well, they are the clients we fail to serve adequately or at all.

This has been a decade in which study after study has documented the failings of the legal system to serve the poor, the middle classes, the disenfranchised, small businesses, and many other segments of our society. It has been a decade in which companies such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer have prospered by seeking to serve those populations. It has been a decade in which we have come to accept that technology is an essential ingredient in serving those populations.

Thus, from all sectors of our society, from the very rich to the very poor, from the largest corporations to the smallest businesses, the needs of the client – or, I should say, the unmet needs of the client – have come to shape our thinking about technology and the future of legal services. The legal profession has always been about serving the client, but over the decade it has become the client, more than us, who is driving how we do that, now and into the future.

7. The Global Networking of the Legal Industry

Two trends converged during this decade, with dramatic results for legal technology.

Well before the decade began, the legal industry was already becoming more global, driven by developments in technology and trade well documented by Thomas Friedman in his 2005 book, The World is Flat.

And even as Friedman was documenting that phenomenon, another was occurring – the emergence of social networking. LinkedIn launched in 2003, Facebook in 2006, and Twitter in 2006, and by 2010, legal professionals were already beginning to make use of these networks. For example, in a 2009 review, I found that a number of bar associations had established Facebook pages, and in 2008, an AmLaw 200 firm became the first to use Facebook for recruiting. By 2013, 59% of lawyers said their firms had a presence on social network such as LinkedIn or Facebook (mostly LinkedIn).

But as the decade began, most of law practice – and therefore most of legal technology – was still primarily provincial, focused largely on what was happening here in the U.S. In the early part of this decade, most of us in the U.S. were ignorant of and uninterested in what was happening in legal technology in the rest of the world.
As the decade closes, the world of legal tech has become flat. We have discovered that we are anything but provincial in the problems we seek to address or the solutions that we seek to develop. We are learning that, to a surprising degree, the problems that face the legal and justice systems in any one country are the problems shared by every country. As the decade closed, I could attend a legal tech conference in Moscow and participate in conversations that paralleled those at any legal tech conference in the U.S.

In a post here last year, I credited this development, at least in part, to the Global Legal Hackathon, an event that united 600-1,000 teams in 40 cities and 22 countries around a global effort to hack better legal tech. No question, that event was successful in opening many people’s eyes to the global nature of legal technology. But, as I look back over the decade, I realize that the real credit for that globalization lies elsewhere.

The real credit lies in the convergence of the economic flat-world syndrome and the world-shrinking impact of social network – with emphasis on the latter. Not only did world trade bring us together on an economic level, but social networks facilitated our personal connections and our ability to discuss and share our commonalities. As successful as was the Global Legal Hackathon, without the underlying connections of social media, it could never have occurred.

Think about how the legal profession’s use of social media evolved over the decade. In 2010, both Facebook and Twitter were still relatively nascent companies, and LinkedIn, although eight years old, was just beginning to gain significant momentum. In that year, just 17 percent of firms maintained a presence on any social network, with most of those on LinkedIn. By 2019, that number had risen to 80% of firms.

Social media knows no borders. Through blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, legal professionals are connected to and engaged with their peers in every corner of the globe. The problems we face as legal and justice professionals are universal, and so are the solutions we build to address them.

8. The Widening Adoption of Artificial Intelligence

At the start of the decade, AI wasn’t really a “thing” in legal. At the close of the decade, it seems to be everything.

At the start of the start of the decade, to the extent lawyers even knew about AI, many feared it as a robot competitor (as exemplified in the New York Times headline, Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software). At the close of the decade, they understand that AI is not a robot that will replace them, but rather a robotically enhanced exoskeleton that will give them superpowers.

At the start of the decade, AI’s primary use in legal was in e-discovery, where machine learning was employed to cut the time and cost of document review. At the close of the decade, AI is pervasive, used not only in e-discovery, but also in legal research, contract review, contract management, litigation, expert systems, e-billing, and more.

As I look back over my own year-end reports, I see the progression of AI’s adoption in legal:
• In 2013, I discussed the increasing use of technology assisted review (TAR) in e-discovery and cited it as evidence of lawyers’ growing acceptance of AI.
• In 2014, I said (optimistically) that AI technologies were becoming accepted as essential and commonplace (again still primarily in e-discovery).
• In 2015, I took note of Judge Andrew J. Peck’s decision stating that TAR had become so widely accepted by judges that it had become “black letter law.” That year, I also noted that AI had come to legal research, with the launch of the AI-driven legal research company ROSS Intelligence.
• In 2016, I said that the legal industry had finally gotten smart about AI, with its use growing by leaps and bounds, as evidenced by developments that year such as search giant Thomson Reuters’ announcement that it was getting into the AI game, and the announcement of an alliancebetween Deloitte and Kira Systems “to bring the power of machine learning to the workplace.”
• In 2018, I said it was the year that AI got an MBA, noting that the once-fledgling technology was now among the most dominant technology businesses in in legal.

In 2018, of $1 billion invested in legal technology that year, $362 million went to companies whose products use AI. In my post earlier this year charting 2019 investments to date, the majority of the companies used AI in some fashion.

Many say that AI is still a nascent technology. But over the past decade, it has gone from virtually unheard of in legal to pervasive. It may be true that we are still in the early days of realizing AI’s full potential in the legal field, but it is also true that AI will continue to dominate the legal tech conversation for years to come.

9. The Accelerating Influx of Investments

I have not yet tallied the total investment in legal technology during 2019, but when I added up the numbers in September, I found that the year had already set a record. At that point, the total investment had already surpassed $1.2 billion, exceeding the 2018 record of $1 billion.

Now consider this: For all of the decade’s first seven years, from 2010 to 2017, the total investment in legal tech was $1.5 billion. That included the “fluke” year of 2015, in which over $426 million was invested – a number skewed by two major investments that year, $125 million in e-discovery company Relativity and $71.5 million in legal directory Avvo. In both 2016 and 2017, funding dropped precipitously from that 2015 high.

So it is likely that, when the final tally is made, the total investment in legal tech for just 2019 will exceed the total for the decade’s first seven years.

And further consider this: While that $125 million Relativity investment in 2015 was considered huge, we have now seen a series of investments that dwarf that.

The year 2019 was bookended by two examples of this. First came news in January that Onit, a company that provides enterprise workflow products for legal management and contract management, had received a  $200 million strategic investment. Then in September, the cloud law practice management company Clio announced a jaw-dropping $250 million Series D funding round – one of the largest investments ever in a legal tech company and the largest ever in a Canadian technology company.

Investors’ tepid interest in legal tech during the early years of this decade was likely attributable to a variety of factors, among them the legal industry’s slow adoption rate for new technology, the industry’s notoriously long sales cycle, and investors’ lack of familiarity with the industry.

But as the decade progressed, the legal industry’s adoption and use of technology quickened and innovative new products caught the attention of a market ripe for innovation. Investors saw this and became increasingly interested in – and knowledgeable about – the legal industry.

The legal industry has turned a corner on its use and adoption of technology. Law firms are becoming innovators, legal departments are demanding efficiencies and process improvements, a cavernous justice gap cries out for better delivery systems, and regulatory reform efforts foretell a new era of private-sector involvement in the delivery of legal services.

Investors get this. The surge in investment that marked the end of this decade is not just a trend – it is a condition of the market from which there is no turning back.

10. The Emergence of Data-Driven Legal Practice

For generations, the watchwords of the legal profession were intuition and experience. Whether as a lawyer advising clients or a judge deciding peoples’ fates, our wisdom was our most-valued asset, and the primary driver of our decision-making was gut instinct. Not only did we not use data, but it was not available to us even if we wanted to.

The problem with that is that we have no real understanding of what works and what does not. As James Greiner, director of the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School, told me in 2017, “In no field is resistance to evidence-based thinking more ferocious than in United States legal practice.”

However, in the last few years, lawyers have started to appreciate the value of data and the insights it can provide. The most dramatic example of this has been litigation analytics – tools that take data derived from court dockets and documents and apply analytics to make predictions about likely outcomes or patterns. As I wrote in a column a year ago, we could be nearing the point where it would be malpractice for a lawyer not to use analytics.

At the center of the litigation analytics story has been LexisNexis. Following its acquisitions of Lex Machina in 2015 and Ravel Law in 2017, it expanded on the foundations established by those products and integrated them into its legal research platform Lexis Advance. The defining moment for LexisNexis came in July 2018, when it put a stake in the ground to claim the analytics space.  “Our vision … is to put the power of data-driven law in our customers’ hands,” Jeff Pfeifer, vice president, product management, said at the time.

Of course, LexisNexis is not the entirety of the litigation analytics story. Thomson Reuters put down its stake with its 2018 launch of Westlaw Edge, which for the first time brought detailed docket analytics to the Westlaw research platform. Elsewhere in the legal world, Fastcase released its Analytics Workbench, to allow legal professionals to build their own bespoke litigation analytics, and judicial analytics company Gavelytics got new funding and expanded the scope of its coverage. A study this year looked at many of these products and compared their results.

And litigation is only one facet of the larger analytics story. Legal professionals are using analytics in an array of applications, from business development to law firm ranking to legislative tracking to practice management to contract management to public records and beyond.

To go back to Greiner’s point, the legal industry is even beginning to understand the need to collect better data for evidence-based decision-making. Consider Utah’s new Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform, which says its experimental sandbox will be “driven by data” in order to protect consumers and design effective solutions for narrowing the access-to-justice gap.

At last, it seems, the legal profession has discovered the value of data as a tool to drive more-informed and more-strategic decisions across all aspects of practice.

Five Honorable Mentions:

Here are five other developments over the decade that will shape the legal profession for years to come:

1. Cybersecurity insecurity. Ah, for the naïve days of 1999, when the ABA issued an ethics opinion saying in so many words, “Don’t worry about encryption, your data is secure.” Fast forward to 2017, when the ABA felt compelled to update that opinion. This time, said the ABA, the cybersecurity question lawyers need to ask is not if, but when.

2. The buzz around blockchain. One of the most talked-about technologies of the last half of the decade was one that did not exist in the first half. But for all the buzz around blockchain, we are still waiting for the killer app.

3. The growth of the ALSP. The decade brought the rise and proliferation of alternative legal service providers such as Elevate and UnitedLex. They have become so dominant and mainstream a force that it is no longer accurate to call them “alternative.”

4. The rise of legal ops. Over the past decade, the legal operations professional has become one of the most influential positions in legal departments and law firms. Reflecting this has been the founding of the Corporate Legal Officers Consortium (CLOC) and the creation of a legal operations section within the Association of Corporate Counsel.

5. Women move to the forefront. Women have played leading roles in the development of legal technology for as long as there has been legal technology. But as I wrote in a 2017 column, the latter part of the decade seemed to be a turning point for women in legal tech, with women at the forefront of the industry to an unprecedented degree, leading companies and holding other positions of influence.

Richard Susskind: My case for online courts

This article was originally published on Legal Cheek and has been republished.

If you plan to be a litigator, you should know that most disputes in the future will be resolved in online courts rather than in physical hearings.

Other than in high value and complex cases, oral advocacy will diminish in significance as the years go by. This is what I argue in my latest book, Online Courts and the Future of Justice (just published by Oxford University Press).

To lawyers who have followed developments in Canada, the USA, Australia, China, and Singapore, this projected future should come as no surprise. But it is time now for law schools and professional training providers to factor online dispute resolution into all courses relating to litigation and arbitration. It is also time for aspiring lawyers to think about becoming involved in the development of online courts or preparing themselves for conducting litigation on an online basis.

What will drive this move to online courts? The basic case for change is that court systems around the world are pretty much broken. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), more than 4 billion people live beyond the protection of the law and courts. In some countries, the backlogs in the courts are astonishing — 100 million cases in Brazil and 30 million in Indian.

Even in countries that claim to have the most advanced legal systems, it costs too much and takes too long to pursue civil cases, and the process is intelligible only to lawyers. This, in a nutshell, is the access to justice problem. Hardly anyone can afford to pursue legal action in public court systems. Significantly, the conventional court system is increasingly unaffordable for major businesses too.

My solution to this inaccessibility is that we should introduce online courts, in the UK and worldwide. There are two different dimensions to the idea. The first I call ‘online judging’. This involves the determination of cases by regular judges but the parties do not gather together and set out their stalls in a bricks-and-mortar courtroom. Instead, evidence and arguments are presented to judges via some kind of online service and the judges then deliver their decisions not in open court or in any kind of virtual hearing room but again across an online platform.

Court proceedings using an online court are not therefore conducted in a hearing by video link, or by telephone conference call, or by real-time chat. There is no hearing. Instead, like an ongoing exchange of emails and attachments, cases are progressed and disposed of without oral argument. Of course, this approach is not suitable for all cases, but it does make sense for many low value civil disputes (although, interestingly, similar techniques are already used in high value commercial arbitrations).

In the language of technologists, the communication in physical courtrooms and virtual hearings is synchronous whereas online judging involves asynchronous forms of interaction. This means that, for the former, the participants need to be available at the same time for a case to progress. In contrast, with the latter, as with email and text messages, those who are involved do not need to be on tap simultaneously — arguments, evidence, and decisions can be sent without sender and recipient being physically or virtually together at the same time.

This shift from a synchronous to an asynchronous court set-up is not a mere exercise in process improvement. It involves and requires radical change. Even in the first generation of online courts, when human judges (and not AI-based systems) are deciding cases, online judging takes away much that many people hold dear — the public hearing, the day in court, the direct interaction with other human beings. On the other hand, experience from operational systems shows that it can make court service much more accessible and affordable, and will chime with those who spend much of their working lives online.

The second sense of online court is more general. I refer to it as the ‘extended court’. The idea here is that technology allows us to provide a service with much wider remit than the traditional court. The additional services include tools to help users to understand their rights, duties, and the options open to them, facilities that assist self-represented litigants to marshal their evidence and formulate their arguments, and systems that advise on or bring about non-judicial settlement, not as an alternative to the public court service but as part of it.

Looking much further ahead, we can also imagine a second generation of online courts in which AI will play a role, in providing focused legal advice to court users, in offering facilities to enable parties to resolve disputes without human intervention and even, I argue, in making binding determinations. This last development is some years away and may seem outlandish if not seditious. But if we are to stand any chance of clearing the backlogs around the world and are serious about access to justice, we will need to look beyond human beings assembling in hearing rooms.

Court is a service not a place.

Why Law Firms and Their Clients Will Be the Big Legal Tech Winners

This article was originally published on Attorney At Law and has been republished.

Today’s lawyers don’t need to fear being replaced—at least not by robots. They should, however, fear being outpaced (and eventually replaced) by peers who have effectively harnessed and deployed AI-powered legal tech.

Early adopters of AI legal technology stand to benefit by reducing less productive research time, leveraging data-backed insights, and outmaneuvering opponents who are content to rely on heuristics and informed guesswork.

The laggards of the industry? They won’t be leveraging the emerging legal tech tools. They will probably find themselves struggling to keep clients happy and to bring new ones in. They will increasingly face prospective clients who want to know just what efforts the firm is making to remain competitive with respect to fees and quality of advice and representation.

Two of the most significant trends affecting the industry include clients demanding more cost-effective services and the main-streaming of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). A recent study found that the price of hiring a law firm lawyer increased by 131% between 1996 and 2018, outpacing inflation. The rising cost of hiring a law firm lawyer is cited as one of the main reasons for the significant growth of in-sourcing that took place after 2010. ALSPs are on the rise and are providing clients with more sophisticated offerings—and a significant number of them are using AI to help facilitate their growth.

Even in the face of a real need to innovate, firms may find the task of innovation to be daunting and cumbersome—but the benefits of innovating in a timely way are many and the costs of sitting out while competitors ramp up are apt to be increasingly significant. There is a goldilocks zone—that I would argue that we are in now—in which it’s not too late to begin to adopt the market leading innovations and not too soon to be taking too much risk in adopting insufficiently developed solutions.

Innovation is a commitment, not a checkbox

Facing demands from clients and a changing competitive landscape, forward-thinking law firms are rising to the challenge and solving it by innovating and embracing the change.

What sets them apart from firms who don’t innovate at all, or firms who innovate ineffectively, is a genuine commitment to innovation as a means of providing better service to clients. As the leading firms realized, when assessed carefully and deployed thoughtfully, legal tech can delight clients—leading to a stickier relationship and high satisfaction with your services.

Your clients stand to benefit—here’s how

Legal tech, especially technology powered by AI, is elevating the professional standard across the industry. This has significant impacts for the professionals working in the industry, and legal technology changes the game for clients, too.

Clients gain quality, cost-effective advice.

Clients are seeking better results with lower costs when it comes to paying for legal advice. Amidst the changing trends of the legal services industry, including the rise of in-sourcing and ALSPs, law firms have a real incentive to drive efficiency in how they provide legal services to their clients.

It should come as no surprise that AI plays a significant role in realizing efficiencies. From automated contract analysis to natural language processing-enabled searches to using machine learning to gain insights into how your case would be decided on its merits, legal technology is generating a rich array of solutions to help professionals serve their clients in a more cost-efficient way.

Clients gain data-backed advice.

Legal technology isn’t limited to taking care of the tedious routine tasks that plague first and second-year associates. AI is actively making professionals better at their jobs by enabling them to leverage data-backed insights hand-in-hand with their professional instincts.

Firms may well find themselves staring at a dizzying number of legal technology companies purporting to give them a competitive edge when it comes time to litigate. The technology may rely on a judge’s or opposing counsel’s identity or which court will address their case.

There are also a number of leading firms that are leveraging AI technology to gain unparalleled insights into specific areas of law and make highly accurate predictions as to how those scenarios would be resolved if they were to go to court. This technology makes more substantial predictions and can help lawyers quantify risks and cover all of their bases when providing their clients with advice.

Clients get the best from their lawyers.

When AI-powered legal tech can accurately resolve low-impact, routine tasks and it has developed enough to meaningfully bolster a professional’s legal expertise, it’s understandable that some lawyers begin to feel curious about what’s left for them to solve.

After AI, what is left for the expert lawyer? For the next few decades (at least), the core role for lawyers will be shifting even more in the direction of the novel, interesting, high-impact, and challenging problems that only humans can excel at—the elements that led them to practice law in the first place. AI is far from replacing lawyers. It frees them up to focus their energy on the expertise-driven work that clients truly value. One thing about the end game we can be certain about is this: lawyers who choose to use AI will replace lawyers who are not using AI.

Law In The Age Of The Customer

This article was originally published on Forbes and has been republished.

This is the age of the customer. The asymmetrical advantage that sellers long held over buyers is gone. Consumers have access to market information and choice that has transformed the buy-sell dynamic. Social media provides them with a reference source and a voice. The balance of power has shifted from the supply to the demand side. The customer is king in the digital age.

Leading companies across multiple industries are engaged in multi-pronged efforts to align with customers. They are upskilling their workforces; investing in technology, people, and processes; and reimagining traditional delivery constructs to improve customer service, experience, and outcome. Digitally advanced companies are mining and analyzing data to refine target markets, better understand consumer buying habits and profiles, and track competition. They are  committing capital to shift risk from buyer to seller and updating service and product offerings to meet customer needs. They assiduously track internal performance, and monitor customer satisfaction. Data, sometimes called “the new oil,” promotes a proactive mindset and advances rapid, informed decision making.

Customer alignment is the foundation upon which successful businesses are built in the digital age. It is a holistic compact between provider and customer, a melding of buyer/seller objectives and outcomes. This is the new buy/sell paradigm and the reason why it is the age of the customer.

Where is law in this process? Unsurprisingly, it lags other industries and professional services. The principal cause is the divide between the legal profession and the industry. How this tension is playing out in the marketplace provides insight into the pace and scope of legal transformation as well as the contours of law’s future.

The Profession and Business of Law

The legal sector has two parts: profession and industry. The profession is comprised exclusively of lawyers. The industry is a trinity of legal, technological, and business management expertise. There is a cultural divide between the two; the profession is precedent bound and inward-facing. It is rooted in “how things have always been done” and is generally resistant to change. The industry is driven by a growing market void for reimagined legal delivery and customer demand for delivery models with the capability and scale to provide bundled professional skillsets proactively competently, efficiently, predictably, and cost-effectively.

The profession is tenaciously clinging to legacy regulatory, structural, economic, and hierarchical models. Lawyers have relied on self-regulation to eliminate competition and to blunt the impact of megatrends that have disrupted multiple industries. This parochialism explains why most in the legal establishment—law schools, partnership model law firms, in-house legal departments, and the  press—resist material change and pay lip service to it by operating at its margins.

Professional resistance to ‘non-lawyer’ ownership and engagement in legal activities—as lawyers define it— is alive and well even as lawyers tout “partnering with clients” and “innovation.” The American Bar Association (ABA) has nixed efforts to re-regulate the industry since the turn of the millennium. The reforms sought to relax current ownership rules that fail to recognize the distinction between legal practice and the business of delivering legal services. So too has the ABA and its dues-paying lawyer membership maintained rigid control over an archaic, one-size-fits-all core curriculum for law schools even as student outcomes have been decried by the Department of Education. These are two of a legion of examples of professional resistance to industry change and its denial that law is no longer solely about lawyers.

There are many reasons for the profession’s resistance to change—financial, structural, and cultural to cite a few. Lawyers are trained to produce the best possible legal work product no matter its materiality or client value. They are taught not to make mistakes and to identify and avoid risk, not to balance risk factors, be proactive, and deliver creative solutions. Doctrinally-skewed legal training provides a sound foundation for critical thinking that can be leveraged in many ways, but few lawyers currently possess the skills and training required to engage in the business side of legal delivery. Law schools remain diploma granters, not learning centers for life. Upskilling is virtually nonexistent among lawyers.

Law’s skills gap has led to the rise of legal service providers whose ranks are populated by licensed lawyers and allied legal professionals—technologists, project and process management experts, data analysts, risk managers, design thinkers, cybersecurity experts, and a slew of others. They engage collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams, sometimes with other providers/resources in the supply chain. Their mission is to provide solutions to business challenges that include legal as well as other risk factors. They are trained to quantify risk, the customer’s tolerance, and the risk: reward ratio before rendering a recommendation. Their decisions are data driven and they invest heavily in technology to streamline internal efficiency and to promote closer customer alignment.

A handful of tech-enabled, process-oriented, data-driven, agile providers are filling the market void created by practice-centric law firms. They are prompting legal consumers to consider whether, when, from what delivery model, and at what price point licensed attorneys are required.  This is new to law but not to other professional services. Medicine, for instance, experienced a similar metamorphosis from profession to profession-within-an industry decades ago.

Law’s Taxonomy Reflects Its Guild Hangover

Why do lawyers bristle when clients are called customers? Are legal buyers clients, customers, or both? Does it matter? Short answers: legal exceptionalism; sometimes clients and always customers; and yes. Law is locked in a culture war pitting the profession and the industry.

The client/customer distinction is more than fodder for semantical debate in a cheroot-filled drawing room. The blurring of the client/customer line results from the ongoing transformation of the legal function as well as how, by whom, from what model, and at what cost legal services are delivered. Law is undergoing a convergence of systemic changes that include: the erosion of lawyer hegemony in legal delivery, multidisciplinary practice, technology, process, data, and capital utilization, new delivery models with corporate structures and customer-centric models, and a shift in the legal buy-sell balance of power from provider to consumer.

The profession now functions in a marketplace with allied professionals, paraprofessionals, and machines. Lawyers are part of a supply chain, and law firms are no longer the only game in town. Legal expertise is one in a trinity of core delivery components that also include process and technological. This expansion of delivery elements requires new skills that include risk management, data analytics, project management, and design thinking. The practice of law—differentiated legal expertise, experience, skills, and judgment— has been subsumed by the trillion-dollar legal services industry. Practice—as it was once defined by lawyers— is shrinking. The business of law—everything else required to deliver legal services— is expanding rapidly.

The legal function and legal delivery are being reimagined and refashioned. There is a marked increase in the volume and complexity of work migrating from law firms to in-house departments, agile talent management companies like Axiom, and a handful of enterprise legal service providers that include UnitedLex and the Big Four.  A common element of each of these provider types is that their lawyers collaborate with allied professionals, paraprofessionals, and machines.

This does not mean—as many lawyers suggest—that the profession will be gutted. The unique characteristics of the attorney-client relationship, notably confidentiality, privilege, and the rules and ethics that are the cornerstones of legal practice remain intact. What’s changing are the models, skillsets, capital investment, data, and other tools and resources required to improve legal delivery.

Several large law firms have recently launched and/or expanded ancillary services   to preserve revenue, protect client relationships, and offer end-to-end capability. These are legitimate reasons from the firm perspective, but that is no longer what matters—legal buyers do. Law firms are practice-centric organizations; that is their core business. Legal service providers are technology and process organizations with different organizational structures, management, expertise, workforces, DNA, agility, access to capital, and customer dynamics than law firms. This is not to say that law firms cannot succeed in their efforts to deliver legal services, but the jury is out. Sellers and buyers of legal services confront a common question: “Who should do what?” This is the seminal issue that is reshaping the legal industry.


Record-setting capital investment in a handful of customer-centric providers is a bellwether of legal consolidation, platform models, continued market share shift, and scalability. Providers that are differentiated, scaled, capitalized, and aligned with customers will dominate the legal marketplace. That’s who customers and clients will align with.

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What will lawyers do now?

This article was originally published on L21 Law Twenty One and has been republished.

Modern Law Magazine in the UK asked me to submit an article for their January 2020 issue, which featured a host of luminaries discussing the near and mid-term future of the legal marketplace. You can find the current issue here, with my article (“What will lawyers do now?”) starting on page 7.  Below you’ll find an excerpt from the piece, but I’d encourage you to read the full issue online and in particular, the terrific contributions from Mark Cohen, Jane Malcolm, Stephen Mayson, Helen Phillips, Richard Susskind, and Joanna Swash, among others.

The rise of a new legal economy over the next several years will require a thorough review of all our assumptions about what legal work consists of and, ultimately, what purpose it serves. Everyone in legal services, buyers and sellers alike, will need to rethink their possibilities, interests, and opportunities.

For the legal profession, one question above all others demands our attention: In the new legal economy, given the rise of “I don’t need a lawyer for this,” what will lawyers do?

Answering that question will, or should, preoccupy the leaders of the legal profession over the course of this coming decade. My small contribution to that effort would be to suggest the following four categories of responses, which can be arranged in the consultant’s favourite diagram, the four-quadrant chart.

L21 news article image

What will lawyers do in the new legal economy? One of at least four things:

1. Retreat to higher ground. The rising waters of commoditization and systematization will submerge many of the low-lying sectors of activity that have traditionally supported legal careers. But some lawyers will be able to escape the surging tide by virtue of their specialities.

There will be fewer trial lawyers in future, as I’ve argued; but there will still be some, and they will be the most exceptional advocates practising at the highest levels. Clients will also still need empathetic advisors and well-informed counselors, even more than they do today, and some lawyers will develop these skills to their utmost. A few genuine experts, possessing unparalleled knowledge and insight that cannot be adequately reflected in a database entry, will also thrive.

The coming changes to our legal ecosystem will not render all species of lawyer extinct — even in the distant future, there will be lawyers performing services and helping clients in ways that will be familiar to those of us with roots in the 20th century.

2. Support the new systems. Many lawyers who find that systems and software are performing tasks for which they once billed hours will decide not to rage against the machine, but instead to support the machine, maintaining and further developing its effectiveness.

After all, someone will still have to understand how the law works, in order to translate statutory guidance and common-law reasoning into lines of code and algorithms. And someone will have to create the risk-monitoring mechanisms, design the workplace standards, and carry out the data analysis in the examples cited at the start of this article. These are lawyer tasks, and lawyers will be needed to perform them.

The development of artificial general intelligence is a very long distance away, and most AI developed in the meantime will augment human reasoning and ingenuity, not replace it. The machines still need us more than we need the machines.

3. Address unserved markets. It is a truth universally acknowledged, although seldom addressed to any practical degree, that only a small fraction of the legal problems and opportunities that people and businesses face ever make their way to a lawyer. That will change.

All the new legal systems and software coming our way sound wonderful — but not everyone will be able to afford them and access them. While rich people and large in-house law departments will experience a Golden Age of Law, the vast majority of individuals and businesses will be left to struggle through increasingly underfunded government programs and antiquated courts. These people will be in truly dire need of help — and some lawyers will respond, sacrificing higher incomes and more prestigious postings in order to serve the greater public good.

Providing community-based legal aid, building street-level systems to help people get the benefits they’re entitled to receive, crowdfunding the resources to fight for just causes — those are just some of the tasks lawyers will render in the early days of the new economy. As time goes on, more will emerge. And that bring us to:

4. Create new opportunities. If the only answers to the question, “What will lawyers do?” are “Retrench,” “Assimilate,” and “Help the poor,” then the future of the legal profession will be significantly less interesting than its past. But I’m willing to bet on lawyers, and on our creativity and passion, to do better than that.

In a legal economy premised on fewer problems, higher standards, faster performance, and integrated solutions, lawyers will be challenged to come up with new value propositions, new ways of helping people live better lives with fewer complications. What will they come up with? Maybe a “law school” that educates individuals on their legal rights and risks? An affordable online “legal utility” that replaces arcane legal information with clickable solutions? An AI-guided digital resource to replace linear and analog advice paths? A travelling dispute resolution roadshow with pop-up locations in marginalized communities?

The unexpected gift to lawyers of the new legal economy is this: Losing our old tasks will liberate us to find new purpose. Lawyers’ future will be limited only by our imagination, ambition, and compassion. We can forge the legal profession we truly want, not the crumbling legacy institution that was bequeathed to us.

What will lawyers do in the new legal economy? It’s really up to us — which means, of course, that it’s really up to you.

5 Legal Technologies You Thought Were Dead But Aren't

This article was originally published on Above The Law and has been republished. 

The 2019 Legal Technology Survey Report raises the specter of the law office of the past.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” goes the epigram attributed to 19th century French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. I could not help but think of that as I reviewed the results of the 2019 Legal Technology Survey Report produced by the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

For all the development and innovation we have seen in legal technology in recent years, some legacy technologies stubbornly stick around. Here are five technologies that you might have thought were dead within law practice but that, according to the survey, are still being used by lawyers.

1. Books

Never before have legal professionals had access to such a wealth of online research materials. From paid services to free ones, from established providers to innovative startups, we have an array of tools available to us for virtually any legal research task.

Given this, you may be surprised to learn that print materials are still widely used for legal research. According to the survey, 44% of lawyers say they use print materials for research regularly, and another 32% say they use them occasionally. Only 5% of lawyers say they never use print materials.

Even more surprising, when lawyers were asked the resource they turn to first when starting a research project, 7% answered print materials. This was only slightly behind the 10% who said they start with a bar-sponsored free research service such as Fastcase or Casemaker.

As you might expect, age is a factor here. Lawyers over 60 are more likely than younger lawyers to regularly use print materials. Fifty-three percent of those over 60 regularly use print materials, compared to 29% under 40.

2. CD-ROMs

In the early days of what was then called computer-assisted legal research, when computers were slow and Internet connections even slower, legal research companies often delivered their materials to lawyers on CD-ROMs. But as online legal research flourished, research via CD-ROMs became all-but obsolete.

“All-but” being the operative phrase. According to the survey, 6% of hangers-on still regularly use CD-ROMs. Solos are most likely to use CD-ROMs, but even at the largest firms, 4% of lawyers still regularly use them.

But the CD-ROM may be close to its last breath. Nearly half of lawyers (48%) say they never use CD-ROMs for legal research and 29% say they seldom do.

3. Fax

The fax machine is like that nagging cough that persists long after your flu symptoms have subsided. There is no rational explanation for why the legal profession continues to use the fax, and yet it does, in surprisingly large numbers.

According to the survey, more than three-quarters of firms (77%) still use the fax as a form of communications software. That number has not changed over the survey’s past three years and has actually gone up since the 2016 survey, when it was 70%. Among individual attorneys, 43% say they personally use the fax for law-related tasks.

In fairness, it appears that the bulk of those who are sending and receiving faxes are doing so via electronic fax software, with the most popular software brand being eFax, used by 57% of lawyers. The survey makes no mention of the legacy fax machines that were once ubiquitous in law offices, so it offers no insight into the extent to which they are still used.

4. BlackBerrys

It sometimes seems as if every lawyer has an iPhone, and the survey confirms this. When asked what smartphone they use, 79% answered iPhone and 18% answered Android. Two percent do not use a smartphone.

But a small sliver of loyalists sticks to a BlackBerry. According to the survey, BlackBerry remains the smartphone of choice for 1% of lawyers.

It was not long ago that BlackBerrys seemed ubiquitous among lawyers, especially among lawyers at large firms. But its decline was precipitous. In 2011, 40% of lawyers used a BlackBerry. By 2013, that had dropped to 16%, by 2016, to 3%, and now, to 1%.

5. WordPerfect

Another product that once dominated the legal market is WordPerfect. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, you would be hard-pressed to find a lawyer who was not using WordPerfect (at least among the lawyers who were using computers). But from the mid-1990s on, lawyers’ loyalty began to shift to Microsoft Office and Microsoft Word.

Aficionados will debate what caused WordPerfect’s demise. Some say it was Microsoft’s monopolistic tactics. Others blame it on WordPerfect’s failure to smoothly transition from DOS to Windows. Whatever the cause, Word is now the legal profession’s word processor of choice. According to the survey, 98% of lawyers say that Word is available to them at their firm.

But guess what? WordPerfect is still alive and kicking. Eighteen percent of lawyers in the survey said that WordPerfect is available at their firms. That is more than offer access to Google Docs, which just 9% of lawyers said their firms offer. Note that the survey question was not whether the lawyer personally used WordPerfect but whether the software was available at the lawyer’s firm.

In addition, when lawyers were asked what software they use for PDF creation, 14% answered WordPerfect — almost as many as use Power PDF (15%). The same percentage of lawyers said that they use WordPerfect as their redlining software, second to Word (86%) and ahead of CompareRite (10%).

Which, by the way, should be sixth on this list. LexisNexis retired CompareRite in 2002, yet 10% of lawyers still use it.

Some of us spend a lot of time talking about the law office of the future. But the Legal Technology Survey Report raises the specter of the law office of the past. Somewhere out there, a lawyer is picking up a book, sending off a fax, loading a CD-ROM, pecking keys on a BlackBerry, and rejoicing in WordPerfect’s much-vaunted Reveal Codes.

Plus ça change!

GCs favouring legal tech over external counsel

This article was originally published on the Australasian Lawyer and has been republished.

In-house legal teams are handling larger volumes and complexity of work and are looking to technology to help.

Rather than outsourcing more work to external law firms, general counsel are focusing on how tech can drive efficiency within their own legal teams according to a new survey.

The research from Konexo, the alternative legal services business of global law firm Eversheds Sutherland, found that 63% of in-house practitioners say they are dealing with increased pressures compared to 12 months ago.

These pressures include demands to reduce costs, while coping with a lack of resources, and a resulting impact on team culture.

“General Counsel today are operating in a rapidly evolving business landscape,” said Graham Richardson, Partner and Head of Konexo. “Despite developments in the sector, legal services have not yet been at the forefront of this evolution. However, as legal teams are increasingly asked to do more with less, technology, new operational processes and big data are rewiring how in-house legal professionals conduct their work.”

The survey shows that just 19% of respondents are planning to ease pressure through greater use of external counsel while increasing their tech usage in areas such as document automation and intelligent data analytics.

“There is significant scope for innovation in the industry and there is a real opportunity for in-house teams to assume a more strategic purpose in their organisations and outsource more, but not back to the traditional law firm model. Technology driven ALSP, with fixed-price models, will be a big part of the solution and we will continue to see the rise of legal managed service providers,” added Richardson.

Why Companies Do "Innovation Theatre" Instead of Actual Innovation

This article was originally published on the Harvard Business Review and has been republished.

The type of disruption most companies and government agencies are facing right now is a once-in-every-few-centuries event. Disruption today is more than just changes in technology, or channel, or competitors — it’s all of them, all at once. And these forces are completely reshaping both commerce and defense.

Today, as large organizations are facing continuous disruption, they’ve recognized that their existing strategy and organizational structures aren’t nimble enough to access and mobilize the innovative talent and technology they need to meet these challenges. These organizations know they need to change, but often the result has been a form of organizational whack-a-mole – a futile attempt at trying to swat at problems as they pop-up without understanding their root cause.

Ultimately, companies and government agencies need to stop doing this or they will fail.

We can build a mindset, culture, and process to fix this — what I think of as an Innovation Doctrine. But first we need to step back and recognize one of the problems.

I just spent a few days with a large organization with a great history, which like most of its peers is dealing with new and rapidly evolving external threats. However, its big best obstacle is internal. What had previously been a strength — its great management processes — now holds back its ability to respond to new challenges.

Companies Run on Process

Once upon a time every great organization was a scrappy startup willing to take risks — new ideas, new methods, new customers, targets, and mission. If it was a commercial company, it figured out product/market fit; if a government organization, it focused on solution/mission fit. Over time as these organizations got large, they built process. By process I mean all the tools that allow companies to scale repeatable execution. HR processes, legal processes, financial processes, acquisition and contracting processes, security processes, product development and management processes, and organizational forms etc. All of these are great strategies and tools that business schools build, and consulting firms help implement.

Process is great when you live in a world where both the problem and solution are known. Process helps ensure that you can deliver solutions that scale without breaking other parts of the organization.

These processes reduce risk to an overall organization, but each layer of process reduces the ability to be agile and lean and — most importantly — responsive to new opportunities and threats.

Process Versus Product

As companies and agencies get larger, they start to value the importance of “process” over the “product.” And by product, I mean the creation of new hardware, services, software, tools, operations, tradecraft, etc. People who manage processes are not the same people as those who create product. Product people are often messy, hate paperwork, and prefer to spend their time creating stuff rather than documenting it. Over time as organizations grow, they become risk averse. The process people dominate management, and the product people end up reporting to them.

If the company is large enough it will become a “rent-seeker” and look to the government and regulators as their first line of defense against innovative competition. They’ll use government regulation and lawsuits to keep out new entrants with more innovative business models.

The result of monopolist behavior is that innovation in that sector dies — until technology/consumer behavior passes them by. By then the company has lost the ability to compete as an innovator.

In government agencies, process versus product has gone further. Many agencies outsource product development to private contractors, leaving the government with mostly process people — who write requirements, and oversee acquisition, program management, and contracts.

However, when the government is faced with new adversaries, new threats, or new problems, both the internal process people as well as the external contractors are loath to obsolete their own systems and develop radically new solutions. For the contractors, anything new offers the real risk of losing a lucrative existing stream of revenue. For the process people, because the status quo is a known and comfortable space, if the contract and contractor are large enough, they put their thumb on the scale and use the political process and lobbying to maintain the status quo.

The result is that legacy systems live on as an albatross and an impediment to making the country safer and more secure.

Organizational and Innovation Theater

A competitive environment should drive a company/government agency into new forms of organization that can rapidly respond to these new threats. Instead, most organizations look to create even more process. This typically plays out in three ways:

  1. Often the first plan from leadership for innovation is hiring management consultants who bring out their twentieth-century playbook. The consultants reorganize the company (surprise!), often from a functional organization into a matrixed organization. The result is organizational theater. The reorg keeps everyone busy for a year, perhaps provides new focus on new regions or targets, but in the end is an inadequate response to the need for rapid innovation for product.
  2. At the same time, companies and government agencies typically adopt innovation activities (hackathons, design thinking classes, innovation workshops, et al.) that result in innovation theater. These activities shape and build culture, but they don’t win wars, and they rarely deliver shippable/deployable product.
  3. Finally, companies and government agencies have realized that the processes and metrics they put in place to optimize execution (Procurement, Personnel, Security, Legal, etc.) are obstacles for innovation. Efforts to reform and recast these are well meaning, but without an overall innovation strategy it’s like building sandcastles on the beach. The result is process theater.

For most large organizations these reorgs, activities, and reforms don’t increase revenue, profit or market share for companies, nor do they keep our government agencies ahead of our adversaries. One can generously describe them as innovation dead ends.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Today, companies and government agencies are not able to access and mobilize the innovative talent and technology they need to meet these challenges. The very processes that made them successful impede them.

Organizational redesign, innovation activities, and process reform need to be part of an overall plan.

In sum, large organizations lack shared beliefs, validated principles, tactics, techniques, procedures, organization, budget, etc. to explain how and where innovation will be applied and its relationship to the rapid delivery of new product.

We can build a mindset, culture, and process to fix this.


Big money is betting on legal industry transformation

This article was originally published on Forbes and has been republished.

If “Money makes the world go ‘round,” then the legal world is spinning as never before. Law has been big business for decades, but only recently has significant venture capital, private equity, and entrepreneur money been pumped into the legal sector. Last year saw an eye-popping 718% increase in legal industry investment, and this year’s capital infusion through the third-quarter has already surpassed last year’s $1 billion total and could well double it. Capital is turbocharging customer-centric providers that are leveraging technology, process, new skillsets, and data to transform the legal function and the delivery of legal services.

Why the sudden legal investment boom; what’s changed; and what does it portend? Short answers: legal delivery is ripe for scaled transformation; legal buyers are driving change and have disaggregated legal practice from the delivery of legal services; and the lawyer-centric, labor-intensive, fragmented legal industry is ripe for tech and process-driven consolidation. Technology, process, labor arbitrage, an agile workforce, the proliferation of cross and multi-border business, automation, products replacing services, platforms, automation, data, and incipient regulatory reform are transforming the legal sector—just as they have others. Capital is accelerating, scaling, and consolidating the industry.

Legal Delivery Is Not Unique—It’s Tech And Business Driven

Legal practice may have its own practice rules, but legal delivery is now operating by business standards. The practice of law has not changed much, although what is now deemed practice is a shrinking subset of what it was even a decade ago. The delivery of legal services, however, has undergone a dramatic transformation during this same period. Law firms have lost their hegemony over legal delivery. Their market share is eroding. A growing number of corporate legal departments and customer-centric providers with corporate structures, economic models that reward output (results) rather than input (hours billed) are reshaping legal delivery. They deploy business process, project management, and fiscal responsibility, new tools, new skills, data-driven, multi-disciplinary workforces, and a customer service mindset necessary in the digital era.

Law is a Trillion-dollar global industry with no Goliaths. The legal industry is fragmented, growing, has a huge untapped market for its services, and is ripe for digital transformation. Lawyers long peddled the now debunked myth that legal practice is bespoke and unique. No such claims can been made for legal delivery that has the same core ingredients as a slew of upstarts that have disrupted other industries. That list includes customer-aligned, tech and process-enabled, differentiated models; technology platforms that integrate internal resources, align with others in the supply chain, and provide easy access to clients; upskilled workforces; cultures of constant improvement; a re-imagination of the customer experience; and capital to scale. These are among the reasons why capital is pouring into the legal delivery (a/k/a legal tech).

Law’s Shifting Focus: From Lawyers To Customers

Law has long been inward-facing. Its focus has been on input--hours and billing-- not output--results and customer satisfaction.  So too has profit-per-partner, not net promoter score been law's Holy Grail. Lawyers, not clients, long called the shots. They defined what a legal matter was; used self-regulation to parry competition from other professionals; carved out territorial practice boundaries to discourage competition from “outside” lawyers; and retained near-exclusive access to legal source materials. Law firms sold one thing: legal expertise, and they cornered the market. Firms dictated the terms of engagement to clients—what they determined was best; the value they ascribed to a matter; what was necessary to achieve what they deemed the best possible legal work; who performed it and how much time was required; how and when work was delivered; and at what cost. Clients were generally compliant because law firms had a uniform modus operandi.  Law was a guild.

All that has changed. Now firms face competition. The cognitive bias  among legal buyers to engage traditional partnership model law firms has eroded. The global financial crisis and its reboot of the buy-sell dynamic of goods and services; globalization; astonishing advances in technology; and digital transformation have convinced legal buyers that legal practice is no longer synonymous with the delivery of legal services. These factors, coupled with unmet market need, are the fertile soil that new providers have cultivated. Capital is now scaling their harvest.
Clients—not lawyers—are now calling the shots and driving the transformation of the legal industry. Lawyers long controlled the delivery of legal services because legal expertise was its sole ingredient. Those days are gone—both for lawyers as well as allied legal professionals who, with machines, are now integral components of the legal workforce and supply chain. Legal delivery has morphed into a three-legged stool supported by legal, technological, and business expertise. Legal expertise is no longer, to borrow from Reggie Jackson, “the straw that stirs the drink.”

It’s The Model That Matters

Smart money is betting that lawyers can function far more efficiently outside the traditional partnership model. It’s also betting that elite legal talent can, as necessary, be dislodged from traditional firms. There’s good reason for them to think so-- peripatetic partners (“laterals”) have swapped firms for decades. That means that money--not the firm--is the glue that binds.

If lawyers can jump firms, so too can they jump delivery models—for a price. The Big Four and other legal providers have already cherrypicked elite legal talent from top-rank firms. This means that practice expertise—even at the elite level—is available. Powerful, scaled legal delivery providers like the Big Four, UnitedLex, and others with global reach, multidisciplinary workforces, models aligned with business, deep war chests, and digital transformation expertise can readily meld legal expertise with delivery capability to provide end-to-end enterprise legal services. Law firms continue to provide single-point, practice-centric solutions. Law firms were once sole-source suppliers. Now, they are a diminishing segment of a legal supply chain where differentiated legal expertise is part of a larger whole.

Capital And Scale

Legal providers must deliver at scale to be competitive in today’s emerging global marketplace, and that requires capital. LegalZoom recently received a $500M round of secondary funding at a $2Billion valuation—almost 500% more than what it was in 2014. That brings the company’s total capital haul to approximately $800MillionUnitedLex, a leading enterprise legal services company took in $500M from  private equity powerhouse CVC Capital Partners to capitalize on a “multi-billion dollar opportunity.” Axiom, the leading agile legal talent management provider, recently received a “very substantial” investment from Permira, another private equity heavyweight. This was not Permira’s first foray into the legal vertical; it had previously made substantial investments in LegalZoom and Duff and PhelpsBob Ambrogi, a legal industry stalwart, provides a fuller 2019 investment scorecard here. The list includes investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and other tech plays that are rapidly transforming the legal function and its delivery.

Then there’s the Big Four whose presence and imprint in the legal sector is receiving heightened attention. The Big Four are formidable players. They have deep C-Suite ties; multidisciplinary expertise and cross/multi-border transactions; global footprints; digital transformation prowess; commitment to constant improvement; significant investment in technology; and are doubling-down on enterprise legal services. Their annual revenue is approximately twelve times that of the largest grossing law firms. All this positions them to be major players  in the current global legal landscape.

Teaser alert: what’s to prevent AmazonGoogle, or some other tech giant from entering the legal space, creating a global platform, injecting billions into infrastructure and talent, creating a global legal services hub  that connects consumers with global legal delivery sources as never before imagined? Short answer: the inclination to do so.

Big Money Has Been Watching From The Sidelines—Until Now.

Big money has closely monitored the migration of work from firms, changing consumer attitudes, an evolving regulatory climate, and the deployment of technological advances to legal delivery. They recognize the lawyer-created barriers that balkanized legal practice do not apply to legal delivery. Technology, process, data, and other essential legal delivery components transcend geographical boundaries and can be scaled around the globe. The commonality of delivery challenges—contract management, knowledge management, data collection and mining, morphing services into products, automation, and other delivery elements-- far outweigh the differences. There is enormous opportunity for consumers to benefit from a mature global legal marketplace where a myriad of local solutions are replaced by scaled, global ones.

Capital is required to scale legal services; to keep pace with the warp-speed of business, to attract and retain top talent, to invest in upskilling , and to promote a customer-centric, diverse culture of constant improvement. Capital can, of course, come from a variety of sources—going public (permitted in the UK, Australia, and a handful of other jurisdictions), institutional capital, self-funding, and collaborative ventures. The common thread is that legal industry investment is focused on providers offering new delivery models that are aligned with the needs of consumers, not the maximization of short-term lawyer profit.


The recent infusion of capital into the legal industry is the best evidence that a tipping point has been reached. The hegemony of the traditional law firms is over,  and the partnership model will experience further consolidation and a thinning of the herd. This process is well underway and will accelerate.

It’s not simply how and by whom legal services are delivered that’s changing. The legal function is being recast. The legal industry would be wise to note what’s different about the models, skillsets, workforces, diversity, cultures, technology, processes, and customer service of well-capitalized providers. That’s what the smart money is doing.

Innovation in Law: An Oxymoron?

This was originally published on Above The Law and has been republished.

Some of the most intelligent, interesting, and high-achieving people I know are lawyers. Yet, few people would describe most law firms as anything close to “innovative.”

In my lifelong quest to encourage innovation in law, I had a conversation with Alicia Ryan, who leads the practice innovation group at Fenwick and West. She left her high stakes M&A practice to help a law firm embrace 21st century technology and social trends, developments, and innovations. According to Alicia, there are well-known historic and systemic reasons for the slower rate of innovation in law firms.

She explains, “For one, some law firms can lack disruptive competition. The billable hour model can also make things challenging. And then there’s the culture of ‘following the precedent.’” Alicia believes that new market realities are coming to law firms. According to Alicia, “The need to innovate at law firms is real. And, many folks are increasingly engaged on the subject.”

So, if you want to further the innovation effort at your firm, here are some of the best practices, according to Alicia, for getting around the institutional barriers to innovation that we all face as lawyers.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Alicia is convinced that change won’t happen unless people believe it is necessary. She explains, “New market forces are on your side and can make this an organic process.”

So, where to start? Alicia recommends talking to the people in your firm who are close to the “pain.” “Those in finance or client marketing face challenges firsthand,” she explains. She advises to “find out which practice groups or tasks are facing the most price pressure. Find out which of your peer firms are innovating and whether those innovations are viewed by partners or management as competitive threats.”

According to Alicia, if you go through this exercise, you’ll learn where innovation efforts can be most impactful. That is also where they will be more eagerly received. It’s where you’ll find more enthusiasm and open minds. Most importantly, “You’ll also learn which executives or partners are likely to champion which types of efforts,” Alicia says.

Allocate Adequate Staff Resources – Time & Expertise

Once you’ve got buy-in and a partner champion for your innovation project — like bringing on a new AI tool or piloting a robotic process automation (RPA) initiative (yes, think big!), you may think you’re ready to go. But Alicia cautions, “Don’t underestimate how high-touch managing innovative change can be! People want to see the change, but also are afraid of uncertainty and risk.”

Alicia advises to actively hold hands and manage expectations throughout the entire process. “Sending a few emails with instructions and some marketing blurbs won’t generate usage and adoption,” she explains. According to Alicia, “You’ll need staff resources and experts for whom this is a priority. They’ll need training and a mandate to stick with the project and be a resource for users for the first year of its use.”

Incentivize People to Help

Alicia explains, “It goes against human nature, especially the nature of humans who bill by the hour, to work more slowly NOW in order to go faster LATER.” But according to her, your communication plan will clarify this as you outline the vision and goals while highlighting successes.

But how can you really get people motivated to learn a new tool or update a form document? Alicia explains, “In the former case, we’ve seen peer presentations have a powerful effect. When associates who are proponents of a new tool or process present their experiences to the rest of the group firsthand, others want to get on board.”

“In many cases, your efforts will be more fruitful if you can get a bucket of billable credit hours approved in advance,” she notes. Make sure you rally up a big army of people to help. Alicia explains, “Need associates to help create and maintain forms for the corporate group? Offer some billable credit for that work. It’s an incentive, but it’s also about removing obstacles. Find out what keeps people from driving or adopting change, and start chipping away at those obstacles.”

Innovation doesn’t have to be slow and painful. It doesn’t have to be painful at all. It is a tremendous opportunity and a huge benefit to a profession that can be stuck in its ways. In fact, the greatest challenges of innovation in law may have nothing to do with innovation itself, but in convincing the risk-averse professionals of its benefits.

That’s where you come in. Arm yourself with knowledge, open-mindedness, and stubbornness to meet the stubbornness of those around you. Change doesn’t always come easy, but it’s worth it in the end! Please let me know if you have other tips for innovating in law. I would love to share with everyone.

Future Technologies: A Guide for the Corporate Legal Department

This article was originally published on Above the Law and has been republished.

As the gap between technology adopters and their less savvy counterparts continues to widen, we’re likely to see some striation in the legal tech market.

It’s no secret that the market for legal technology is becoming more saturated by the day (for proof, see Bob Ambrogi’s article from last week on the record amount of investments in legal tech that we’ve already witnessed in 2019). As we continue to see an influx of capital funding in the space, and as the field continues to crowd with new solutions, it is becoming more important for legal professionals to understand how to identify what tools will work best for them and their organizations.

A good starting point for this is to develop a basic understanding of what different technologies are out there and what they can do. The Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer survey includes some background on how to categorize different types of technology by their function and the use cases they are best suited to. The survey indicated the following categories:

  • Foundational Technologies are basic tools that deliver benefits today and set the stage for an organization to integrate more advanced technologies on an ongoing basis. These include client portals, electronic matter management, data security tools, and billing software.
  • Enabling Technologies improve efficiency, productivity, and work product, and often require some level of change in work process to fully leverage them. These include contract management/analytics software, data analytics, and practice management solutions.
  • Transformational Technologies deliver demonstrable new business results. This category includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, and blockchain.

As we have discussed before in this column, tech needs can vary widely across different kinds of organizations. For professionals in the Corporate Legal Department (CLD) space, there are several technologies that I believe will see continued investment in the coming months:

  • Knowledge Management (KM): While KM may seem to be a given to many readers, heightened complexity and volume of information was named as a leading challenge for respondents of the Future Ready Lawyer. Leverage of a manageable and intuitive knowledge management system will continue to be an important asset for corporate legal departments.
  • Contract Management, Contract Review, Contract Intelligence: The application of technology to the contract is, in my humble opinion, the hottest and fastest growing area within legal tech with an increasing focus on use cases for CLD professionals. Depending on the level of technology involved, these solutions can span the enabling technology and transformational technology categories.
  • Legal Operations, Time Tracking, Process Improvement: As the focus on legal operations continues to grow, we will see additional investment to measure costs (and time) and then help the CLD optimize spend. These solutions can also span enabling and transformational technology, depending on the type of capability they involve.

I recently spoke with Andy Polovin, General Counsel and Secretary at Uptake Technologies Inc., to discuss the use of technology within his own corporate legal department. As someone who operates within a highly nimble organization — and one that specializes in predictive analytics, no less — he had some interesting insight to share regarding the role that technology adoption plays for him and his team.

Uptake uses data analytics and predictive software to help companies improve performance in industries like energy, transportation, mining, and rail. “Our job is to predict failures on very large machines before they happen, and to empower our customers to prevent those failures from happening,” Andy said. In its five years, Uptake has grown at an impressive pace, becoming the third unicorn in Illinois in 2015 and raising $100 million in its Series D funding round, which led Pitchbook to name it the fastest U.S. startup ever to reach a $2B valuation.

As Uptake’s Chief Legal Officer, Andy is responsible for and oversees all legal, regulatory, oversight, and compliance matters. His team comprises three lawyers who specialize in commercial issues, intellectual property (including tech transactions to support the commercial attorney), and general corporate law, including governance, M&A, labor and employment, and more. The team collectively handles a wide range of other practice areas on an as-needed basis, such as real estate, tax, financing, and other areas. As the company has continued to grow, Andy’s team has implemented a number of technology tools to manage the common challenges that face corporate legal departments of all sizes, and to help the department articulate the value it provides to the business.

In the area of contract management, Andy foresees a growing need within his organization to continue to invest resources — and by the look of the current market landscape in this area, many other corporate legal departments have identified a similar need. “There is a lot of venture capital money flowing into that space right now, and we’re hearing a lot about AI in contract management that can perform certain functions without human intervention,” Andy said. “Our legal department at Uptake will likely get to that kind of solution a bit faster, given the nature of our business, but we’re not there yet. What I think is lacking in the conversation around AI in contract management is finding a simple, elegant solution that makes the operation of the in-house legal department more efficient and effective today.”

For other needs within the department, such as billing management, Andy’s team has developed an arsenal of homegrown solutions that they built on top of Uptake’s existing business intelligence platform. “Since Uptake was already using a BI program in other areas of the company, including our financial system, it made sense to use the same program for needs that we had in the legal department like billing,” he said. The solution allows Andy to access real-time information on the company’s outside counsel spend and intellectual property activity. Andy’s experience in this regard is a great example of a more nimble organization that has found an expedient path to what other tech adopters in the space are seeking — speed, efficiency, and the ability to drive value.

In terms of handling outside counsel — an area that we have covered in this column in the past — Andy and his team have not yet encountered a need to adopt another solution to do that, but as the company grows, Andy anticipates that this could be a future need. In his team’s case, nearly 70 percent of the company’s legal work is currently done in-house thanks to a highly talented in-house team. “Apart from a handful of functions, we handle the majority of our own legal work right now, but as we grow we will continue to evaluate our potential needs around outside counsel and workflow management,” he said.

As the gap between technology adopters and their less savvy counterparts continues to widen, we’re likely to see some striation in the legal tech market as certain use cases for legal professionals begin to take the lead. In next month’s article, we’ll discuss future technologies that will feature more prominently in the future for law firms.

Sharing Is Caring, Says Firm That Made Its Tech Open-Source

The U.K. firm said it decided to open-source MatMail to encourage more law firms to efficiently manage their high volume of daily emails.

“Although the idea is quite unique, it’s something all law firms should have,” wrote Shawn Curran, head of legal technology at Travers Smith, in an email. “We certainly don’t see ourselves competing with other law firms on email management, so it made sense to share it. We hope that many other law firms openly share projects that don’t provide a competitive advantage.”

Many law firms creating legal tech, from Reed Smith’s GravityStack subsidiary to Parsons Behle & Latimer’s compliance and legal tech app development solutions, share at least one goal: Make a profit from the technology. For those law firms that provide their legal tech for free, they want to provide information vetted by their lawyers to solidify the firm’s brand as an expert on a topic, as Wiley Rein noted when describing its recent gift giving app.

Instead, Travers Smith said it was motivated to make MatMail’s email filing abilities free and easy to edit because email management is a task all lawyers or their staff are tasked with.

“MatMail was inspired by the desire to give busy people time back and will therefore always be free,” Curran said.

Travers Smith launched MatMail internally after the firm’s in-house engineers starting developing MatMail in April, Curran explained. MatMail scans a lawyer’s email and compares them to emails filed in the firm’s document management system. When there’s a match, the tool automatically creates a client/matter folder in the lawyer’s email mailbox. After the folder is created, matching emails are instantly filed in the appropriate folder.

Curran described MatMail as solving a task that shouldn’t require a lawyer’s time and might be challenging for administrative staff to do correctly and/or efficiently.

“The [personal assistants]/secretaries didn’t have enough of an understanding to do the bulk of their lawyers’ email filing and some more senior lawyers get too many emails and struggled to keep up. It filled a much needed gap,” he said.

Additionally, as law firms look to incentivize associates to join their firms with various perks, MatMail demonstrates the importance Travers Smith places on work-life balance, Curran said.

“Travers Smith also likes to offer our associates a work-life balance and what better way to demonstrate that to the market than share a piece of technology that can reduce stress and give busy people valuable time back,” he noted.

Originally published on

The future of legaltech

The legal services profession is slowly but surely waking up to the potential of new technologies to disrupt and transform, says Katie Chung, assistant director at private equity firm Dunedin.

In a profession characterised by tradition and convention, change may feel uncomfortable. But law firms able to harness the benefits of new technologies now have an opportunity to secure competitive advantage.

It’s fair to say law firms have so far been slower to adopt potentially transformational technology than other sectors, particularly financial services. There are some reasonable explanations for that, concluded the Law Society in a recent paper on legaltech. Legacy systems are a potential barrier, it warns, but so too are the profession’s traditional charging model – based on billable hours, this model doesn’t encourage efficiency savings – and concerns around compliance and security.

Still, change is coming. Tough pressure on costs, from clients and the competition, is forcing law firms to consider radical new options beyond the set-up of operations in lower cost locations. Even in traditional firms, younger lawyers, often more open to new technologies than previous generations, are now reaching partnership level.

Moreover, legaltech providers are proliferating, offering a range of innovative new tools with the potential to deliver significant benefits. The competition run last year by the Government’s Industrial Strategy Fund, offering grants to developers of AI- and data-enabled solutions in the accountancy, insurance and legal professions was fierce. Independent research suggests more than 250 start-up and scale-up legal businesses have raised more than £300m of capital over the past six years, with investment increasing exponentially from 2016 onwards. International comparisons show what is possible: in the US, legaltech investment hit $1 billion last year.

Nevertheless, the legaltech industry is at an earlier stage of the maturity cycle than, for example, fintech. For those businesses able to combine the right technical solutions with the right model – and harness the support of investors and advisers – the field is open.

Certainly, the new strand of legal services firms offering more flexible resourcing models now look well-placed to thrive, particularly where they are built on bespoke technologies with the agility to support their development. Propositions such as Axiom and Halebury, which supply specialists for a range of assignments and project work, leverage ideas such as lawyer matching platforms to automate the hiring process.

One key factor driving the supply side of these platforms is the changing demographics of the profession. Many lawyers are demanding a more flexible and balanced way of working, to the extent that the traditional career goal of partnership at a top law firm is becoming less aspirational to many. That is already beginning to translate into growth in online service delivery, in areas such as dispute resolution and open-source legal documentation.

Elsewhere, the focus is on what new technology might achieve for law firms seeking to work more efficiently and productively, driven by the need for new fee models and greater transparency, as well as the ongoing trend of consolidation, particularly in the mid-market. As legal services firms increasingly look to unbundle their services, unpicking higher-value work from more commoditised tasks, space is opening up for innovative technology providers and technology-enabled service providers.

AI-powered contract review services such as Uhura and Luminance, which have received substantial backing from high-profile investors, are attracting significant attention, for example. The acquisition of AI innovator RAVN by document management specialist iManage underlines how this niche of legaltech is developing; Kira and ThoughtRiver are also making waves.

In the litigation field, meanwhile, businesses such as LitiGate want to help law firms assess the chances of success – or risk of failure – in any given case. Their technologies, based on applying AI to case documents and external data, including everything from the success rate of the parties in previous litigation to how judges have reacted to particular documents, seek to mechanise what has until now been a human skill.

Nor is legaltech the preserve only of business-to-business services. The potential for new technologies to open up legal services to a consumer audience previously priced out (or intimidated) out of the market is exciting. The Law Society points to services such as Rocket Lawyer, which enables individuals to compile their own legal documents, and DoNotPay, which helps people appeal parking fines.

Across the market, in other words, legaltech is now poised to change the legal profession. The level of disruption seen in other markets may not yet be coming into view, with legaltech more often than not focused on enhancement rather than transformation, but the direction of travel is increasingly clear.

However, technology providers will need help to break through. Dunedin’s detailed assessment of opportunities in the legal sector suggests innovation must go hand in hand with commercial pragmatism. For example, which areas of legaltech offer the potential for first-mover advantage? Already, areas such as document automation are crowded by competing innovators while others have yet to be targeted. Compliance and risk management could be an interesting area of opportunity, given the increasing regulatory burden placed on law firms in areas such as client onboarding.

International expansion will be an important part of the story. In particular, for UK based start-ups, the large US legaltech market is highly attractive, but firms will need financial and strategic support as they seek to credentialise themselves internationally. This is particularly important when considering the competition, namely the Goliaths of the global legal technology market – Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis and Bloomberg. These organisations have armies of salespeople and customer success teams, not to mention powerful brands. They also have a voracious appetite for technology solutions which can plug the gaps in their product portfolios, the most recent example being Thomson Reuters’ acquisition of London-based HighQ in July 2019. For a legaltech business which is successful in achieving a certain scale, these firms are often the inevitable home. The Goliaths have their own challenges too however, principally in their inability to drive innovation within such large organisations.

Stepping back, legaltech firms will need balance and strength to build out their products and services – and the networks required to win new clients. In a sector where law firms are often conservative in their procurement, the sort of financial strength and referral network that a private equity firm can provide could prove invaluable. All the more so in an industry where the prospective client base often expects and demands references from their peers.

Consider infrastructure too. Innovative technology businesses in many sectors have learned to their cost that greater professionalism in functions such as sales and marketing may be just as essential to commercial success as a winning technical solution.

Nevertheless, while there are practical challenges to confront, the legal tech opportunity is enormous. Given the pace of change in the sector, this may be a marathon rather than a sprint – but the legaltech starting gun has been fired.

Katie Chung joined Dunedin in 2015 and was promoted to partner in 2016 and assistant director in 2018. She is part of Dunedin’s investment team which sources and transacts deals across the UK.

Originally published in LegalIT Insider

At $1.2 Billion, 2019 Is A Record Year for Legal Tech Investments — And It’s Only September

For the first time last year, annual investment in legal technology companies reached $1 billion. This year, legal tech investments have already surpassed that, totaling at least $1.2 billion to date — a record for annual investment in legal technology, and with three months still to go before year end.

I surveyed investments in legal technology this year and found a total of $1,190,215,968 invested to date. The actual number is even higher, because two significant investments announced just this month — in LexFox,  a German company that provides legal portals for consumers, and in Axiom, one of the world’s largest alternative legal services providers — did not disclose their amounts.

The year’s biggest deal to date happened just two weeks ago, with news that two major growth equity companies had invested a whopping $250 million in law practice management company Clio. The second biggest deal came just days into 2019, when enterprise-workflow company Onit announced a $200 million investment.

Of the 41 companies listed below, at least 12 are focused on some aspect of contracts and contracting – including contract management, contract review and contract automation. These include four of the top six – Onit, IcertisContractPodAI and Fadada.

Three notes about this data:

  • Where investment amounts were reported in non-U.S. currencies, I have converted the amounts to U.S. dollars as of the date of this post, not as of the date of the announcements.
  • The numbers are based on publicly reported investments, which may not reveal the full picture. For example, I have listed a $40 million investment in Litera based on the amount reported by the investor, HgCapital Trust plc. However, that investment came from a specific fund as part of Hg’s acquisition of Litera, and the total acquisition price, while not disclosed, is said to have been more than $400 million.
  • This chart does not include mergers and acquisitions.

Here are the year’s legal tech investments to date.

Legal Tech Investments 2019

Company Amount Country Description Date Type
Clio $250,000,000 Canada Law practice management 9/4/2019 Series D
Onit $200,000,000 U.S. Legal and contract management and automation 1/8/2019 Private Equity
Icertis $115,000,000 U.S. Cloud-based contract lifecycle management 7/17/2019 Series E
DISCO $83,000,000 U.S. E-discovery 1/24/2019 Series E
ContractPodAI $55,000,000 U.K. AI contract management 7/18/2019 Series B
Fadada $55,000,000 China Electronic signatures and contract management 3/6/2019 Series C
Litify $50,000,000 U.S. Law practice management 6/6/2019 Series A
Tessian $42,000,000 U.K. Email security 1/16/2019 Venture
Litera Microsystems $40,000,000 U.S. Document technology 5/7/2019 Private equity
Notarize $36,937,968 U.S. Online notary public service 8/27/2019 Series B
Elevate $25,000,000 U.S. Alternative legal services provider 6/17/2019 Venture
Ironclad $23,000,000 U.S. Contract management for legal departments 1/30/2019 Series B
Verbit $23,000,000 U.S. AI-driven transcription and captioning 1/29/2019 Series A
Nivaura $20,000,000 U.K. Issuance of financial instruments 2/27/2019 Seed
Seal $15,000,000 U.S. Contract discovery and management 3/28/2019 Corporate
164 $15,000,000 China Legal service platform 5/6/2019 Seed
Helpcheck $12,500,000 Germany Legal help for consumers 1/16/2019 Series A $11,300,000 France Create and manage legal documents 3/12/2019 Venture
Luminance $10,000,000 U.K. AI document analysis and review 2/7/2019 Series B
ayfie $10,000,000 Norway Search and text analytics 8/15/2019 Venture
Farewill $9,400,000 U.K. Online will creation 1/21/2019 Venture
Peppermint Technology $9,000,000 U.K. Law practice management 1/25/2019 Corporate
Brightflag $8,000,000 Ireland Manage outside counsel costs 4/5/2019 Series A
Filevine $8,300,000 U.S. Law practice management 1/29/2019 Series A
Boundless $7,800,000 U.S. Immigration platform 3/21/2019 Series A
Signaturit $7,800,000 Spain Electronic signatures and document management 2/19/2019 Series A
Clause $5,500,000 U.S. Smart contracts application 6/27/2019 Series A
LinkSquares $4,800,000 U.S. AI-powered contract management 3/7/2019 Seed
Plexus $4,650,000 Australia Legal automation for in-house counsel 5/10/2019 Series A
DoNotPay $4,600,000 U.K. Legal apps for consumers 7/3/2019 Seed
Evisort $4,500,000 U.S. AI-powered contract management 2/12/2019 Seed
Lexion $4,200,000 U.S. AI contract management 7/19/2019 Seed
SeedLegals $4,000,000 U.K. Platform to manage seed-funding rounds in U.K. 5/28/2019 Series A
Clairvolex $3,500,000 U.S. IP asset management 6/26/2019 Series B
DocJuris $2,500,000 U.S. Contract review 1/15/2019 Seed
Legal OS $2,200,000 Germany Library of legal content 6/19/2019 Seed
Genie AI $2,500,000 U.K. Automatic legal contract drafting 7/23/2019 Seed
Trellis $2,000,000 U.S. Litigation analytics 3/27/2019 Seed
Orbital Witness $1,540,000 U.K. Real estate due diligence 5/16/2019 Seed
Autto $1,000,000 U.K. Legal workflow automation 8/22/2019 Seed
Josef $688,000 Australia Platform for building legal chatbots 5/6/2019 Seed
TOTAL $1,150,215,968

In addition to these, there have been other investments in which the amount has not been disclosed. Among these:

  • LexFox,  a German company that provides legal portals for consumers, announced Sept. 3 that it had raised a “seven-digit round” of financing led by Earlybird and Target Global, but it did not disclose the amount.
  • Axiom, one of the world’s largest alternative legal services providers, announced on Sept. 5 that it has entered into an agreement with private equity firm Permira by which a company backed by Permira funds will take a significant investment in Axiom.

Legal Technology in Singapore: Second Edition

This article was originally published on LawTech.Asia and has been republished. 

In October 2018, LawTech.Asia published the first-ever detailed outline of the legal technology sector in Singapore. It was the result of a months-long project to map out the root, state and outlook of the legal technology sector in Singapore, and furthers LawTech.Asia’s fundamental purpose of improving awareness, knowledge and interest in legal technology. The article was imagined as a “living document” that will continue to be updated as more news comes to the fore.

Much has happened in the legal tech scene in Singapore since then. To encapsulate these developments, LawTech.Asia is proud to present the second edition of “Legal Technology in Singapore”.

Our first edition had argued that Singapore is currently in the midst of a “legal tech revolution”, which began sometime in 2015 and which was spearheaded by the government in Singapore. The past year has seen the government invest even more resources into new initiatives to support legal tech adoption, and this edition of our article has been updated to include the following new developments:

1.Recent statements by the Judiciary on legal tech in Singapore;

2. New assistance schemes to support the adoption of technology in Singapore, such as:

  • Asia’s first legal tech accelerator, GLIDE by FLIP;
  • Tech-celerate for Law by the Law Society of Singapore, which will fund legal tech adoption by law firms;
  • Advancement of legal tech in the State Courts;
  • The establishment of the SmartLaw Guild;

3. The new creation of legal tech office-holders in public sector institutions; and

4. The development of tech-related curricula in local law schools.

In this second edition, we also posit that the Singapore legal tech revolution has entered into a new phase: new ground-up initiatives in the legal profession to support legal tech adoption. We suggest that more law firms, law students, and legal tech solution providers have started their own initiatives to encourage legal tech adoption. This new edition of our article covers, in particular, the law firms which have championed legal tech adoption by being early adopters, producing their own technology, or launching their own legal tech incubators / accelerators.

In our first edition of the article, we had also outlined three forces influencing the development of Singapore’s legal tech revolution: the liberalisation and internationalisation of Singapore’s legal industry; the increasing sophistication of clients; and increasing technological capability. In this second edition, we introduce a fourth influence: the progressive changes in Singapore substantive laws. We argue that, as Singapore’s lawmakers introduce progressive laws which encourage, rather than inhibit, legal tech growth, this would also shape the course of the legal tech revolution for the better. Laws discussed include the passing of the Payment Services Act 2019 as well as the proposed amendments to the Electronic Transactions Act.

To access the updated version of the article, “Legal Technology in Singapore”, click here!

'People-centric approach’ the way forward

With vast challenges facing the legal profession it is essential for law firm bosses to rehumanise the practice of law, and “prioritise people over budgets, office politics, timesheets and bureaucracy,” according to a chief executive.

NewLaw firm Keypoint Law has just marked its five-year anniversary since launching in the Australian market. During this time it has grown from a smaller start-up to a firm that employs 40 partner-level lawyers across 16 practice areas, as well as a team of legal, operational, finance and marketing professionals.

Speaking about the journey so far, CEO Warren Kalinko said he puts the firm’s success down to having a people-centric approach that goes beyond what’s offered at a traditional law firm.

“The challenges facing the legal profession are well known: high levels of depression, long hours, attrition of women from the law, and the discarding of older lawyers. Keypoint shows these issues can be addressed by a law firm model that “rehumanises” the practise of law, and prioritises people over budgets, office politics, timesheets and bureaucracy,” Mr Kalinko said.

“Our lawyers say that by making a move to Keypoint, they’ve been given the freedom to build closer client relationships, refocus on their career aspirations and achieve meaningful work/life balance. At the end of the day, what we are offering lawyers is the power of choice.”

Keypoint consulting principal Mark Addison backs the sentiment, having joined joined the firm in 2018 because it “offered the opportunity to break free from traditional conventions which hold many lawyers back”.

“I now run a solid commercial practice with all of the support I require, without the politics and artificial budget pressures of a traditional law firm,” he said.

“At Keypoint, I get to focus on doing what I am good at, on my terms.”

“We launched in Australia with a completely new business model, no existing client base or brand recognition, and ambition to drive transformation in the legal industry. In just five years, we’ve established a team of exceptional senior lawyers, partnered with market-leading clients and are recognised as one of the fastest-growing and most innovative firms in the country,” he said.

“By maintaining a steady focus on quality and giving clients access to a personable and value-driven service, we’ve steadily increased our market share and have emerged as a strong competitor to traditional law firms for both client acquisition and partner recruitment.”

Orginally publised in Lawyers Weekly

5 ways to get your team to actually use your shiny legal tech

This article was originally published on The Law Society UK and has been republished. 

Legal tech isn't magic and it won't solve all your problems. Sorry. Without a detailed understanding of the problems you're looking to solve, as well as the people and the processes governing them, there's little point diving into a new tech deployment in legal.

Legal tech is exciting

That enormous caveat aside, it's also obvious that legal technologies (and AI-powered solutions in particular) have extraordinary potential to make processes faster and more efficient in our industry. This is driving widespread enthusiasm when it comes to lawyers, both in-house and in private practice, procuring new AI-powered tools. Legal tech is exciting, and people want to be a part of it.

But jumping on the bandwagon doesn't lead to actual results. Your team might go through a procurement process, buy a new solution - and then it sits on the shelf as you fail to adopt it. If you signed up to a subscription model, you're now losing money every day, hoping that eventually you'll achieve a level of usage that would justify the outlay. All the while, your credibility within your business is diminishing, as your new tool gathers dust.

If you want to make sure that lawyers actually adopt the software you buy, and get real ROI from it, then here are five tips we've learned by working with our customers to achieve a successful roll-out.

5 ways to get your team to use your legal tech

  1.  Define success: if you've defined your problem properly, then you should have a clear idea of what solving it looks like. If you don't, stop. You should be able to express, with clear metrics and deadlines, what a successful rollout will achieve. Then you can focus your efforts on the components of the product that will deliver the change you need. Playing around with cool features that neither solve your problem nor achieve success is just a waste of your time.
  2. Integrate: if your new solution can work seamlessly with the existing systems of records and communications platforms your business teams use - whether that's Salesforce, Workday, Slack, or anything else - users will find it much easier to make the new solution a part of their day-to-day lives. If it doesn't integrate, that's just another barrier to getting people to actually use it.
  3.  Get focused training: concentrate on your team's actual point of need. For example, there's no point training the whole team to use the super-admin functions if most of them will only be approving documents or pulling basic reports. Similarly, make training available via in-person walkthroughs, video tutorials or documentation on an internal wiki, depending on what will land best with team members and how they prefer to consume information.
  4. Understand resistance: people hate change. Don't just force new solutions on unwilling participants. Empathise and try to understand why users might be clinging onto old systems. Inertia is hard to overcome and old habits can be comfortable - we're lawyers, after all: it's our job to be risk-averse. Be patient - users need to understand the real value and ROI that the new solution delivers before they'll really commit. If there are obstacles blocking them from using the solution, then work fast to remove them.
  5.  Report  value: if you're starting to see time savings, then report this ROI back to the senior stakeholders who signed off on the purchase. If management know about the efficiencies you're driving, they'll support you in driving even wider adoption, leading to more ROI. Conversely, if you're not showing value, why should anyone take the time to help you achieve wider adoption?

Through taking a proactive approach, and focusing on these five key points, we've seen customers achieve successful adoption that helped them to enable their colleagues, rather than frustrate them with shiny legal tech they neither want nor need. Just buying something isn't enough - a successful adoption, driving value for everyone, is the only thing that really counts.

Upskilling: Why It Might Be The Most Important Word In The Legal Lexicon

Originally published on byy Mark A. Cohen

Lawyers use words like masons lay stones. Words are tools of the legal trade. It’s odd, then, that one of the most important words in the legal lexicon, “upskilling,” is scarcely known to most legal professionals. That will change soon—here’s why.

Upskilling is a term well-known to business. In the micro context, It refers to the process of individuals learning new skills. On the macro level, it describes a tectonic shift in the workplace caused by technology. Technology has created new possibilities that can be fully realized only by a modernized workforce. That means the workforce must learn new skills and competencies that are required for new and/or changing jobs. Upskilling cuts across industries—law included. It is critical to individuals and employers alike.

Why has upskilling suddenly become so important? Short answer: digital transformation. The digital economy, enabled by astonishing advances in technology, is reimagining the provider-customer dynamic and transforming how goods and services are bought and sold. Customer-centric, tech-enabled, well-capitalized, new model providers are disrupting incumbents across industries. They share several core characteristics: a relentless commitment to improve customer access, experience, and loyalty; the efficient use of data; achieving “more with less” for the benefit of customers, employees, and shareholders; and constant improvement. Their models are built from the customer perspective, not to fit the provider economic model.

This sea-change means that many traditional jobs are morphing into something different or disappearing altogether. Upskilling is the process of preparing the workforce to fill these new positions. To borrow from Wayne Gretzky, upskilling is instilling competencies that enable workers and companies to “skate to where the puck will be.”

Upskilling entails learning new skills, but it also involves a cultural shift and change management. To be competitive in the digital age, individuals and corporations require a learning-for-life mindset, collaboration—with humans and machines-- and a willingness to embrace new ways of doing things. It also requires a global perspective, agile adaptation, cultural diversity and awareness, a global perspective, basic competency in technology and data analytics, people skills (EQ), and abandoning a zero-sum approach to advancement, The digital age requires that workers—no matter the industry--have technical skills and an ability to acquire new competencies required by a remarkably fast-paced, fluid marketplace where legacy boundaries separating industries are increasingly blurred.

The Skills Gap

Business is acutely aware of the importance of upskilling. There is a wide gap between vacant positions requiring new skills and competent candidates to fill them. This is often referred to as the skills gap. A recent CareerBuilder survey found that nearly 60 percent of U.S. employers have job openings that stay vacant for 12 weeks or longer. HR managers say extended job vacancies cost the company more than $800,000 annually.

The skills gap has been on economists’ radar screens for some time. A 2016 joint  report by the World Economic Forum and The Boston Consulting Group concluded that "managing skills in the digital age requires organizations to harness technology that enables them to leverage a data-driven approach to lifelong learning and smart upskilling". A 2017 report by Capgemini and LinkedIn revealed that "over half (54%) of the organizations surveyed said that the digital talent gap is hampering their digital transformation programs and that their organization has lost competitive advantage because of a shortage of digital talent.”

The skills gap helps explain why several leading companies are investing heavily in upskilling. Amazon, for example recently announced a commitment of over $700M to its Upskilling 2025 program, an internal training initiative to promote customer satisfaction and worker advancement. Upskilling has become a corporate priority essential to hiring, developing, and retaining the best talent to continue to constantly improve on behalf of customers. The good news is that not only are companies like Amazon investing in their workforce—to better serve customers—but they are also identifying the specific competencies required for jobs yet to be created. This requires rigorous mapping, identification of core competencies, and a commitment to follow-through on the upskilling process. It is a significant investment in the future of the workforce and customer relationships. Most legal providers have yet to make this investment.

Is It Any Surprise That Legal Upskilling Is Lagging?

 Legal professionals trail other industries in digital readiness. Gartner reports that only 19% of in-house legal teams are well-prepared to support enterprise digital transformation. The lack of digital readiness is even lower among law firms.  Most legal professionals—including General Counsels and their teams—are unequipped to deliver the transformative legal services that business clients demand. To service digital clients, legal professions must be proactive, agile, collaborative, digitally experienced, and function at the intersection of law, technology, and business. Global perspective, cultural awareness, agile teams, constant learning and improvement, are critical transformative skills and competencies presently considered outside the core knowledge of the law.

The legal industry has a skills gap that reflects the guild hangover and entrenched views of its key stakeholders—law schools, firms, and even most in-house departments. These stakeholders are loathe to respond to changing consumer expectations of the legal function. Lawyers no longer define legal tasks—legal consumers do. That’s why the practice of law is shrinking and the business of delivering legal services is expanding. Practice skills will be required by fewer lawyers but delivery skills will be essential for most. Legal educators and most employers have yet to read the memo.  The legal establishment’s failure to respond to this market reality is exacerbating an already growing legal skills gap. The problem will accelerate when consumers put more pressure on providers—and not necessarily “legal” ones—to do more with less and to better serve them.

 Why Does Law’s Skills Gap Go Relatively Unnoticed?

Why is law’s skills gap rarely discussed much less addressed meaningfully? For starters, the industry remains internally-focused; profit-per-partner (PPP) makes headlines but net-promoter-score (NPS) barely registers mention. It’s the same story with legal delivery models. The legal press provides blanket coverage of peripatetic partners (laterals), firm mergers, and innovation award recipients, but it rarely examines new legal delivery models, multidisciplinary collaboration, or the impact of digital transformation on the legal industry?

Law school rankings are monitored like the stock market but little coverage is given to a handful of upskilling programs like The Institute for the Future Practice of Law (IFLP),LawWithoutWalls (LWOW) that are tackling the problem, though not at scale. A handful of foreign law schools including BuceriusIE, The College of Law (Australia), and St. Gallen are  embedding upskilling into their curricula, but they too draw scant domestic notice.

Singapore: Where Upskilling Is A National Initiative

 Singapore, renowned for “punching above its weight” in technology and fintech, is likely the world’s most digital nation. It’s no surprise, then, that the Government has tasked the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) to apply digital principles to the legal function. SAL is galvanizing all segments of the legal ecosystem in this effort—Government, the judiciary, regulators, business, the Academy, and international thought leaders. Singapore’s efforts to modernize the legal industry speak to the power of identifying objectives, rigorous analysis, problem solving, pressure testing solutions, collaboration, implementation, and scaled adoption.

One of SAL’s many noteworthy initiatives is Development Maps of LIFTED, a mapping of competencies for legal practitioners and allied legal professionals. The program was designed and implemented by LIFTED, SAL’s educational arm, to create clearer professional development pathways and learning journeys to guide successful legal careers.The mapping has been developed into a learning needs and program recommendation web application The app is robust in its taxonomy of digital age legal positions, required competencies, and self-serve tools for mastery. All these tools and others to help Singapore's legal industry with its digital evolution are aggregated on a single platform known as Lawnet Plus. The mapping is also integrated with a multi-industry national skills upgrading portal known as MySkillsFuture.


Lawyers and other legal professionals will soon be familiar with upskilling. This is not a term to be tossed around lightly—like innovation, for example. Nor is it a one-size-fits-all panacea to prepare for a legal career. Upskilling is a multi-step, lifelong process. It starts with a rudimentary understanding of the legal industry and a recognition that law is now about clients, not lawyers. The industry is not solely about lawyers; it is equally about other professionals and paraprofessionals that are all legal professionals.

Upskilling is also about choice and opportunity—what role(s) does one seek to play in the profession/industry and what competencies are required? Unfortunately, most law schools fail to provide meaningful guidance to students in this area. That must change.

Upskilling is best delivered—as in Singapore—via an integrated, stakeholder-aligned, multi-dimensional process. This may not be feasible in larger nations. In the US, for example Amazon and other large multinationals are helping by committing substantial investment in the individual for the betterment of the company and its customers. Most law firms do not take this long-term investment approach not only because of their partnership models but also because they have yet to materially change their practice-centric cultures, lawyer-centric hiring practices, and zero-sum mindsets. Most legal professionals—at least for now—will have to upskill largely on their own.

Technology enhances the opportunity for the global legal industry to collaborate and to address its skills gap at scale. The first step is to acknowledge this is a global challenge and that no nation has a monopoly on good ideas how to solve it. It’s not artificial intelligence that will marginalize legal professionals but it might be their failure to upskill that will.

What Consumer Tech Can Tell Us About The Future Of Legal Tech

Business tech is still behind, but it's able to learn lessons from the consumer side.

If you spend any time at all online, you have almost certainly experienced a form of data targeting. You know the drill: you log onto your Amazon account to search for an item you want to buy, and less than ten minutes later, that item and items like it are showing up in the sidebars of other websites you’re browsing. A half hour after that, you’re seeing ads at the top of your personal email inbox for the same merchandise. It’s not a coincidence — it’s the result of targeting technology from consumer sites that can track your searching and purchasing behaviors, actively trying to get to know your preferences in order to better serve you content that you are likely to consume or purchase. If you’re not expecting this sense of “connectivity” between vendors, the experience may seem annoying or even downright creepy depending on the context.

When targeting works well though, it provides an amazing sense of convenience and reduces the overall work required by the consumer — sometimes even driving to a better outcome. Imagine booking airfare for a weekend getaway and then having an offer for a great hotel deal (that you otherwise would not have found) show up in your inbox. Fewer mouse clicks, information that you need at your fingertips, and an optimal outcome. Sounds much like the holy grail of knowledge management to me.

The mechanisms that make this possible are similar in form — albeit, more sophisticated — to some of the technologies we have discussed in this column before. AI tools, specifically machine learning and data analytics, are two common technologies used by marketers and content providers to analyze information and deliver content at the right moments to the right audiences. A wide range of online consumer content, from the product suggestions you get on Amazon to the movie recommendations you see on your Netflix account, are generated by algorithms that have identified commonalities in your search history and preferences.

Many of the technologies that we enjoy today — the Internet, mobile phones, and GPS to name a few — rose out of military investments as part of the Cold War. The trend I think we will increasingly start to see is the consumer marketplace (which seems worlds ahead of the business marketplace) start to influence the business-to-business (B2B) market. In recent years, AI tools have become more common and ingrained in B2B technology — including legal content and solutions. As specific use cases for these technologies become more developed and more widely used, I believe that there are some trends that we’re likely to see in B2B tech moving forward — and with those trends, there are lessons that the B2B community can learn from the consumer tech world as well.

Using Algorithms for Recommended Content

When you conduct a search for a product on Amazon, the site uses an algorithm to learn about you and your customer journey based on the items you search and the keywords you use. This same mechanism could become a tool for technology providers to find recommended content for their users – including attorneys. An attorney managing a $1B deal in the health compliance space might find it useful to have recommended news stories and resources served to her on her dashboard based on her search history. We already know that algorithms can be built to do such a thing — and if applied in a legal tech platform, it could prove to be a useful tool for legal professionals.

If you use streaming sites like Hulu, Spotify or Pandora, you’ve probably come across one or two recommendations that, from your point of view, make absolutely no sense based on your preferences. This is probably because a) the algorithm hasn’t been that well trained yet, or b) your preferences range so widely that it’s difficult for the algorithm to identify recommendations for you accurately. For situations where the behavioral data is not sufficient to get a good “fit” with customer preferences, demographic data can fill the gap. In the legal context, it’s helpful to know who the attorneys / researchers are, what their area of specialty is, and (potentially) who their clients are / what matters they are actively working on. This data, when combined with behavioral data, can help to refine search / recommendation results.

Security Obligations

As mentioned above, the tracking ability of consumer sites can be alarming for many people — particularly as vendors get aggressive in collecting additional demographic data for each of us. The nature of many white collar professionals’ work — and especially that of legal professionals — is often very sensitive, and as such, tech providers should be mindful of their obligations to their clients from a privacy standpoint. Providers could look into making auto-generated recommendations something that could be enabled or disabled, based on their individual clients’ comfortability with that kind of feature.

Dean E. Sonderegger is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., a leading provider of information, business intelligence, regulatory and legal workflow solutions. Dean has more than two decades of experience at the cutting edge of technology across industries. He can be reached at

This post was originally published on

Why GCs Aren't Buying What Legal Tech Is Selling and Why It Matters for Firms

On the one hand, technology companies aren’t doing themselves any favors by flooding the market with, at times, dozens of the same offerings, few of which solve specific problems the in-house community has, GCs say. But at the same time, general counsel admit to being distracted, budget-constrained and often unfamiliar with the capabilities of the products they are being pitched.

“It’s overwhelming,” says HUB International chief legal officer John Albright. “There are hundreds of these vendors, and most of them you’ve never heard of.”

As Albright sees it, the legal technology industry is “heavily fragmented,” with vendors selling solutions to a discrete issue that doesn’t necessarily solve the full problem he has or fit into the larger organization’s information systems.

“You need to understand where this is going to fit in my universe,” Albright says. “How is it going to be most effective? If you have all of these toys that are doing their own thing in a vacuum, they aren’t being fully integrated and data isn’t flowing into the so-called data lake.”

Albright touches on a common problem raised by both buyers and sellers of legal technology: the idea that the solutions only solve part of the problem or don’t seem geared toward any real problem at all.

“Everybody wants to sell you their thing that’s not necessarily what you are looking for,” says Howard Harris, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for the U.S. and Canadian BMW Group companies. He argues that the whole definition of legal technology has become too amorphous for buyers to get their heads around.

Legal industry analyst Ryan O’Leary of research firm IDC agrees, noting that this confusion often comes from legal technology companies themselves. Too often, he says, these companies are more focused on what they can do, rather than what they should do.

“All of the vendors are obsessed with trying to prove the use of the technology, as opposed to accepting the fact the lawyers want the technology and they need to differentiate among themselves,” he explains.

Brooks Brothers general counsel Rachel Barnett adds that legal technology is only as good as the business case it solves for.

“Technology should be focused on, ‘How do I use this to create a business case with ROI?’ Instead they create technology and say, ‘You figure out what you need it for, here are 20 different use cases for our tech,’” Barnett says.

Finding a Path

The budget is the No. 1 inhibitor to tech adoption, Barnett says. Any company pitching her should at least have a slide or two detailing how the product will save her money.

“Their entire proposition has to be, ‘My tech saves you money and here’s how,’” she notes.

Michelle Fang, general counsel of car-sharing company Turo, agrees. Her company was founded in 2010 and still maintains a legal department with fewer than 10 attorneys. The idea of piecing together disparate solutions, she says, is simply infeasible from the start.

“Companies like mine just don’t have the resources to invest in legal in that way,” she explains.

The perception that legal technology isn’t solving actual problems or doesn’t provide a clear return on investment has driven many large legal departments to address the problem themselves, using in-house technologists to build out solutions that work for their organizations, GCs say.

Harris says he either needs to justify the cost of buying technology or use internal resources to meet his department’s needs. He often chooses the latter.

Zach Abramowitz, an analyst and consultant in the legal technology space, has spent the past several months helping GCs at large companies navigate their adoption of legal technology, showing the in-house community is engaged in this space.

Like many of the GCs who spoke for this article, he thinks things are progressing somewhat normally for an industry’s adoption of tech. And he’s bullish on the future.

“A lot has to do with building a product that really, really solves critical issues, and the legal industry is complicated,” Abramowitz says. “I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg on this.”

While general counsel can be slow to adopt technology, they are quickly looking for ways to operate like their chief financial officer and chief information officer counterparts, who come to board meetings with plenty of data on hand, Abramowitz says.

The problem is that there is no central repository for that data in the legal department, O’Leary says, similar to what human resources has in Dayforce and the sales department has in Salesforce.

“Each of these internal departments has something that does everything they need to do. Lawyers don’t have that; everything is so piecemeal,” O’Leary says. “You have to buy a contract management solution over here, you have to buy an e-discovery solution over here, you have to buy spend management, an e-billing solution, a LexisNexis subscription.”

Beware of the Buyer

The reason adoption or clarity around legal technology may be slower, Albright says, is because the buying audience is slower. Couple lawyers’ generally slow buying cycle with a product few of them understand, and the industry’s penetration into the market is slowed as a result, he says. But he doesn’t think that will stop the consolidation of legal technology companies, as those who aren’t selling enough need to look to merge into new offerings.

“Our entire industry has had a hard time updating itself to become more practical and efficient,” Barnett adds. “And so what you are seeing is other people coming in to try and fix a problem, like legal ops and technology. But until the whole industry is willing to change, we will always be in this disjointed place.”

Having some GCs sit back as the industry wades through the morass of legal technology offerings isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Albright sees it. Waiting it out could be a good alternative for those who don’t want to be cutting-edge.

“We don’t target leading-edge. One, we don’t have the budget and, two, we don’t want to be the test case,” Albright says. “We want Walmart or someone else out there to go ahead and validate it. Once it’s working, we will invest. Most GCs fall into that bucket.”

Once a critical mass of GCs adopts, though, the floodgates could open for tech vendors—as long as corporate customers are kept happy. As Fang puts it, “a satisfied customer is the best referral that any company can hope to have.”

In a women’s general counsel network she participates in, Fang says posts asking about different technologies are constant.

“I would certainly tap my network of GCs to say, ‘What vendors are you using, and are you happy with them?’ That tends to be one of my main go-to places for anything, whether it’s a law firm or whatever it is I’m looking for,” she explains. Barnett says.

Are Law Firms the Solution?

Short of using a legal technology consultant, which Albright says have their own agendas in pushing the tech companies they’ve partnered with, GCs are left to figure this out on their own. But what they should be asking, he says, is for their outside law firms to help.

“You should be asking your law firms to give you annual tech presentations,” Albright says. “What do they have? What do they bring? You can start making decisions not just based on lawyers you like or law firms’ reputations, but on who has the best technology.”

Clients have forced the adoption of alternative fee arrangements and pushed outside counsel on diversity. So, Albright asks, why can’t they do the same with technology?

As Abramowitz sees it, law firms are best positioned to assess and compile the best legal technology to help a broad array of clients. And some, like Reed Smith spinoff Gravity Stack (Abramowitz consulted on its launch) are starting to offer technology consulting as a value-add at no charge because many view it as the price of doing business.

The companies that have been most successful, whether it be law firms, tech companies or alternative service providers, Abramowitz says, are those offering solutions with multiple touch points into a client’s problems, not just a one-off product. The more successful those companies become, the more they will be able to further consolidate as companies look to match up different solutions into one service, he says.

For Albright, the companies doing the best at offering complete technology solutions are the Big Four.

“They have a service and operational footprint that is massive and a completely different mindset to approaching this,” Albright says. “They are a sizable threat to law firms.”

The corporate legal market agrees. In an IDC survey of 200 corporate legal department respondents that was provided to ALM, 76% of legal departments said they have hired or plan to hire a consultancy or advisory firm in their digital transformation efforts.

“They’re really the gatekeepers,” IDC’s O’Leary says. “As a legal technology company, to penetrate the corporate market, it’s really important to partner with a Big Four or other consultancy to get your foot in the door.”

Originally published in

How lawyers can successfully embrace social media

This article was originally published on the New Zealand Law Society and has been republished.

The legal profession is only starting to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that technology brings, although many aren’t taking advantage of what is one of the most popular forms of communication today – social media.

Social media can provide great opportunities to engage with existing clients, but also help you win new work and clients.

Before exploring how you can embrace social media, it is important to look at just why social media can be so valuable for lawyers and their firms.

Enhance your brand

Many lawyers will have LinkedIn accounts, and many use Twitter. However, there are many that either are not present on social media or not maximising their use of it.

For many, social media is about connecting, but it is also a great way to stay relevant to existing clients and potentially win new business.

When you are more visible to your target customer base, they’re more likely to buy from you when they need your legal services. Social media doesn’t just keep your company’s name in front of potential customers, it also gives you the opportunity to constantly stay relevant to them.

Your content can reach a much wider audience than traditional marketing. Sharing great content on social media like blogs, podcasts, videos, e-books and downloadable guides, your potential client base will be able to read content they may not otherwise have come across.

Social media is a lot more than just circulating press releases. It is a great way to be authentic and connect with real issues. Just as it is important to increase the visibility of the brand of your organisation, it is also important to increase the presence of the personal brand of many of the subject matter experts inside your organisation.

There are a growing number of law firms and clients who are on social media – this will also include your competitors. If your competitors are leveraging the social media well and you aren’t it could mean the difference between winning or losing new clients.

Social media doesn’t need to be expensive

Social media can be a very cost-effective option for you to connect with who you want to.

Most organisations have moved from traditional forms of advertising like print to digital advertising. Unlike a lot of digital marketing, social media can be a very cost-effective option for you to connect with who you want to. Digital advertising can still be very expensive, so to see any real benefit you must run a continuous campaign.

Social media is free to use. If you handle your own social media management, running a social networking campaign is as cheap as it gets.

Embracing social media can be a great tool to enable smaller brands the same platform as larger ones.

Where to start?

Getting started is not difficult, although it is important that you do have a strategy of how you and your organisation will use social media, similar to having a strategy with other parts of your business.

You can be totally self-sufficient, through to working with a specialist that can take care of your strategy, content and delivery of your social media.

The choice is yours.

Many engage marketing firms, who often cost thousands. Many may be great at marketing, but they are not always specialists in providing support for the legal profession and to their clients.

If you get the right advice and have a strategy in place, it is very simple to be self-sufficient in your implementation and management of your social media content.

Expertise that is tailored to the legal profession is essential.

A social media health check is a great way to start

A social media health check will be useful for those new to social media, together with those that may want an independent perspective on taking their social media engagement to another level.

The health check will review what’s working, what’s not and what can be improved on across your social media channels. You can look at small incremental changes that can improve your social media engagement, ensuring your social strategy ties into your overall business goals. Have you the right hashtags, have you linked the right people and organisations?

A social media health check will usually consist of:

  • A discussion of how you currently use social media, plus what you are looking to achieve; and
  • Recommendations to improve how you use social media.

The health check can be as simple as a phone conversation with some easy to implement recommendations, through to further strategy and implementation advice.

Start embracing social media today

Social media is now part of doing business, and if your firm isn’t already active on social networking sites, now is the time to start.

Social media doesn’t replace in-person contact, but it is another channel of communication to help take your brand to another level. It is the opportunity to share what you are doing, be authentic, and connect with the industry.

The choice is yours as to how you use social media, what is important though is that you do use it.

Legal tech in New Zealand: Where’s the disruption?

This article was originally published on the New Zealand Law Society and has been republished.

Legal technology is a burgeoning industry with an enormous and vibrant array of conferences, workshops, hackathons, CLOC events and seminars around the world. Add the word “disruption” and throw in talk of artificial intelligence and robot lawyers and it becomes both exciting and sometimes confusing. In this issue of LawTalk we look at some of the legal tech developments in New Zealand and talk to some of the people involved.

So, what’s “legal tech”? A good working definition comes from US lawyer and legal tech commentator Jonathan Nessler:

“Some legal technologies are designed to help law firms to acquire more clients. Some of these technologies help law firms better serve current clients by helping the firm operate and provide legal services more efficiently. Legal tech also includes certain technological advancements, like Blockchain and artificial intelligence, that are being identified as technologies that many experts predict will disrupt the legal profession in an unprecedented way.”

Of course, digital technology has assisted lawyers since the 1970s and the days of dial-up databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, through to BriefCase and LINX in New Zealand in the late 1980s, followed by CD and then online legal information. Legal tech moves the game from finding out what the law is to the things lawyers do.

Being able to automate routine tasks and to customise to individual needs also has the potential to enable lawyers to change how they work and how they sell legal services. This is where the “disruption” element enters.

“The biggest challenge in terms of advancing more universal adoption [of new legal technology] remains that many lawyers simply favour the traditional way of working,” three British academics concluded at the end of 2018.

In “Disruptive technologies and legal service provision in the UK: A preliminary study” (available through SSRN) Dr Alan Cunningham, Professor Andrew Jones and Professor Bruce Tether from the University of Manchester use surveys and observation to look at “the increased application of technology to the difficulties involved in efficiently and transparently providing quality legal services”. Things are changing, they say – at least in the UK – with a quarter of all new legal service organisations introducing a new or improved service in the last three years and a whole new landscape of start-ups emerging; many with an exclusive focus on legal service provision.

“On the whole, clients demand accessible, excellent service, value for money and transparent, competitive fees. The increased application of technology solutions in the legal sector – and competition from alternative business structures utilising tech solutions/tech focused law start-ups – may result in increasing pressure on traditional firms to adopt the application of fixed fee and invoice transparency. This may result in the further challenge of satisfying in-house procurement and the development of outsourcing specialists.” (at 52-53)

New Zealand, of course, also has a healthy legal tech industry. Automio and Simmonds Stewart, LawHawk and a number of other clever enterprises and products such as Actionstep, LawVu and several smart contract developers have all emerged in the last decade or so. A lot of the focus has been on behind-the-scenes products and services for purchase by law firms or in-house teams. Basically, a range of tech tools and solutions are either being offered directly to New Zealanders wanting to access some transactional legal services such as wills or to firms and in-house operations which want to automate some of their functions such as contract generation.

LawFest founder Andrew King’s LegalTechHub includes many tools for more efficient lawyers but it’s moot whether the result will be serious disruption of our legal services industry. Legal Beagle’s standard documents (“our legal documents cost between $20 and $350 – way cheaper than a lawyer”) may be a good indicator of the current level of disruption.

Where’s it all going?

Recently Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Daniel Katz caused consternation at the June 2019 Artificial Intelligence in Legal Services Summit in London when he predicted a massive consolidation in the legal tech world.

“You can’t have 17 people doing the exact same thing, without a dime’s worth of difference. The products are not that differentiated in most instances. You’re going to see acquisitions, you’re going to see bankruptcies and you’re going to see platforms,” he said.

The predicted platforms are a number of mega legal tech app stores. Professor Katz – who is also vice-president of global legal work and operational support firm Elevate and therefore has a commercial interest in this as well – says big players such as LegalZoom and the Big Four accounting firms are already moving towards one-stop app stores for legal tech.

The New Zealand environment

Respected legal practice commentator and creator of the annual Future Firm Forum, Simon Tupman, says he feels that technology has made some legal services more accessible, more easily understood, the price more transparent, and in some cases cheaper.

“I’m not entirely convinced technology is really transforming law firms but it is true to say we do now have smarter tools to manage and measure things that matter in the workplace compared with 20 years ago, eg, document management, health and wellness, client satisfaction, etc. In spite of all the technological advances, I believe the operational focus in many law firms is still much the same as it was 20 years ago. Many are still recording hours billed and using partner profitability as key measures of productivity and success.”

The world is changing and law firms need to change too, Mr Tupman says.

“Law firm leaders would do well not to rely on technology to keep step with change but to drive an agenda that focuses their operations on client satisfaction, team well-being and engagement, and environmental performance.”

Biggest changes

Two important players in the New Zealand legal tech scene were asked for their views on what is happening and where they see things developing. Gene Turner, a former Buddle Findlay partner, is founder of document automation developer LawHawk. eDiscovery pioneer Andrew King has developed and organised the annual LawFest event which is the most important gathering and forum for New Zealand’s legal tech.

Looking at the legal technology available and being used in New Zealand now, what do you see as the biggest changes over the last decade?

Gene Turner: Looking back to 2009, so much has changed. For me, back then, the biggest thing would have been being able to check my email on my iPhone, and some stuff we were doing with Word Macros for document automation.

The biggest overall change since then would be the widespread adoption of cloud technology. As a lawyer who wanted to use technology, but needed an IT team to install and maintain it for me, even just for a trial, it just felt like it was going to be too hard and expensive to even work out what was possible.

With cloud technology, it’s so much easier to sign up and start testing and using many products straight away, often on free (or very low cost) trials. If it doesn’t work, or I find something better, I can turn it off. There’s nothing to stop anyone (lawyer, secretary or manager) from having a play with some new software on their own computer at home to see what it can do, and how it could support their firm and their clients.

All the technology that we use at LawHawk is now either directly via the cloud, or still available over the internet through the managed IT service that Resolve Technology provide for us.

Integrations are also a lot easier with cloud software, and that is increasingly happening. This means you don’t have to look for one single overall solution forever – you can pick different specialist products for particular issues, and combine them with other existing or new systems, and then change them as needed.

There’s also been a lot more investment into the sector. You can see this in a number of ways. In the document automation space the main players (HotDocs and Contract Express) have both been acquired by substantial legal platform providers (HotDocs by AbacusNext and Contract Express by Thomson Reuters) who are investing heavily into the platforms and rolling out new products and functionality. At the same time there’s a host of new entrants all looking to provide a new way of doing it. There is a lot of choice.

There’s also a lot of powerful functionality that is being rolled out through normal business tools offered by Microsoft and Google that can effectively be used as legal tech.

Andrew King: There has been so much change with legal tech.

Over the past few years there has been considerable development of great legal tech locally. This has resulted in some fantastic legal tech start-ups, with many now taking their solutions to the world.

One of the key developments is that many of these solutions have been lawyer-led, or by those inside a law firm that are intimately aware of pain points. They have developed solutions to meet these problems – ultimately making lawyers more efficient and to better meet the demands of their clients.

This has contributed to us creating the LegalTechHub as a resource to keep up with everything you need to know about legal technology in New Zealand.

The market has evolved from why you need to innovate and leverage technology to how we can actually do this. From a LawFest perspective, it is great to see an influx of people attending to find what others are doing and their practical examples of how they are innovating through leveraging technology. It is vital to continue to explore ways that you can adapt and thrive in this changing market, to help you deliver legal services for today and the future.

Do you think the various legal tech developments have had any real impact on the way New Zealand lawyers deliver legal services?

Andrew King: These are exciting times with the impact that legal tech is making and will continue to make.

Technology is changing how legal services are delivered and will continue to change. Legal tech has become integral to the delivery of legal services, as it enables lawyers to do things better, cheaper and faster.

An increasing number of lawyers and their firms are opening up to the opportunities to innovate through leveraging technology.

Routine and repetitive administrative tasks are being automated, freeing up lawyers to spend more time working with their clients to create better outcomes. Many of these tasks are now being performed quicker, cheaper and more accurately through the assistance of technology.

How we access case law, research, manage documents, dictate, bill and communicate is all changing. Technology continues to be a game changer for conveyancing, research, wills, M&A and company searches, together with using data to help make better business decisions for you and your clients.

Close to my own heart, how eDiscovery is approached has changed dramatically. Thanks to the great tools available you can get to only what you need without having to eyeball every document.

Sure, technology cannot and will never do everything. Critical skills like analysis, judgement and problem solving are just as important as they have ever been; it is just that technology can be used to assist in this. The technology should help to make lawyers’ life easier, more efficient and better meet the demands of clients.

Gene Turner: For those using the new technology in a material way, as part of a core business process, we have definitely seen substantial positive impacts. Some of these are financial, but they also include higher quality, lower risk, better relationships with clients, increased learning, and greater overall job satisfaction.

As one of our customers said, they were struggling under “an unmanageable workload with more and more demands being thrown in”, but “using LawHawk has made the impossible task possible and the team now feel like they have doable jobs”. Not a bad result from a very targeted project.

Overall though, not really. Most lawyers are not really at the point where they are doing anything meaningfully different. I don’t think this is unique to New Zealand. An Australian with a good understanding of that market told me that “we find that there is a deep, but mostly denied concern about being ‘replaced’,” if they use technology, and “more sophisticated adopters know that they are not about to be replaced and that they can look at a wide range of tools for a wide range of solutions, but that is only about 10% of the potential user base”. So there’s room to improve…

I’m sure there will be a point where lawyers realise it can be lawyers AND tech, rather than lawyers OR tech, but it’s not here yet.

Progress will also be easier when the people you work with are also comfortable using the technology. Most legal processes involve multiple parties, so you can’t just choose to change things yourself. As a simple example, I love digital signing and would use it every time if I could. But if the other party isn’t comfortable, I still have to print, sign, scan, email, file … I hope this changes soon.

Is legal tech just about tools which make lawyers work smarter and more cost-effectively, or could it be more revolutionary?

Gene Turner: At this stage, what we’ve seen is a lot more about using technology to do the same work, for the same clients, in a better way, but using the same business model. That in itself can yield some fantastic results because we all know that the way a lot of law is delivered can be improved a lot, and you can increase the amount of service and the quality without trade off.

There’s definitely a lot more potential for revolutionary change too, including how lawyers could deliver different services, to different clients, using different business models. You can really embed your firm into your client’s core business processes and make a massive difference. However, that will most likely need to come after more people have adopted the technology and can more easily see those opportunities and how they can be achieved. Things might become more interesting then, because competition could increasingly be for the whole of the market, not just a share of it.

The revolution will come, but only when enough people are ready to change.

Even if the rate of change has to be more measured, I would love to see more ambition as to the objective. I think it’s disappointing that both the Bazley report and the recent commentary around young lawyers unionising seem to be based on an assumption that legal work can only be done by working long hours, and so there’s a focus on increasing compensation. With clever use of technology, we could see real progress in areas of access to justice, law firm culture, diversity, and part-time work if we were more open to investing in better outcomes and changing the way we work.

Andrew King: Before technology is considered, it is important to consider exactly what you want to achieve to meet your business goals – and if technology can enable you to achieve this.

Sure, technology can greatly assist lawyers to work smarter and more efficiently, although it can be so much more.

Legal tech provides opportunities – the opportunity to deliver legal services that better service your clients and the potential of new clients. Your clients’ needs will be evolving, and they will require innovative ways of delivering legal services.

Embracing technology and new business models will open new opportunities, which will make you more valuable. Technology should be at the heart of your new business models, as it can provide amazing opportunities to generate new revenue streams. You can start selling legal products online, anywhere from legal documents to services. Technology can help level the playing field delivering opportunities to compete with firms that may have more resources.

Technology can also help provide greater access to justice for those who may not always seek legal services due to cost. This will be provided by non-traditional sources, which will include ‘robo-advice’ and ‘chat-bots’ for straightforward legal problems.

There will be further automation of tasks that are time consuming, costly and presently performed by humans. The profession will be able to focus on practising law and providing expert legal advice for their clients, instead of being restricted by time consuming administrative tasks.

The law firms of tomorrow will be the ones that innovate through leveraging technology, to deliver more efficient, valuable legal services that better service clients. The ones that choose not to, could be left behind by an increasingly competitive market.

Silicon Valley Execs May Be Drawn to Legal Tech as Revenues Rise

This article was originally published on Bloomberg Law and has been republished

Mike Gamson’s recent decision to leave LinkedIn to become CEO of e-discovery company Relativity is a notable illustration of a mainstream technology executive looking to take advantage of the burgeoning legal tech sector.

Executives like Gamson, who have helped build big tech operations, can be invaluable to smaller legal tech companies seeking venture capital and growth that could include a public offering, according to industry recruiters.

Gamson downplayed the notion that Relativity is looking for an IPO path, at least for the time being.

An increasing number of legal tech companies are fitting comfortably in that space. Investments surged in 2018, from $233 million two years ago to $1.7 billion last year, according to figures from the Legal Tech Sector Landscape Report by Tracxn Technologies.

Executives like Gamson, a former senior vice president with LinkedIn, “can bring scale around systems and processes, and build layers of management,” said Mike Doonan, a managing partner with SPMB, a tech executive search firm based in San Francisco. “They know how to get companies to the highest size.”

Growth Experience

Silicon Valley headhunters say they haven’t seen tech leaders with Gamson’s pedigree make this type of move before.

In a general sense, one path for legal tech companies—like financial tech and other so-called “vertical software” organizations—is to pursue someone with a “domain” background, who possesses subject matter expertise, said Kathryn Ullrich, technology partner and head of the U.S. diversity practice with the Silicon Valley office of executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

She said the alternative is to concentrate on candidates with proven abilities to kick start a company, who have helped grow tech companies from $10 million in revenues to $100 million, or from $100 million to $500 million or $1 billion. In other words, those “who have gone through that growth curve,” said Ullrich.

In cases like Relativity, “growth experience can trump domain experience,” she said.

The IPO Lure

Moving to a smaller, private company can be a potent lure for a would-be CEO, said Doonan. For instance, their compensation can include an equity stake that may be converted to stock in an IPO. It’s not clear what Gamson’s compensation package includes.

There is recent precedent for legal tech companies taking this route.

The Los Angeles-based law company Elevate, which last month received a $25 million funding boost from a private equity firm, disclosed in a company presentation that it’s aiming for a public listing on the AIM stock exchange in London in 2021.

In February, the alternative legal services provider Axiom—which now generates more than $300 million per year, according to Prism Legal blog—took steps to prepare for its own IPO. Relativity’s annual revenue is reportedly in the low nine figures.

About $400 million was invested in legal tech in the first quarter of 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Law Analysis. Some $332 million went to companies headquartered in the U.S.

‘Incredible Momentum’

Gamson, who had been with LinkedIn for almost a dozen years before making the jump to lead Relativity, said in a press call last week that he joined the company because of its growth and potential, and the “incredible momentum” in the legal tech market.

Gamson said he “wouldn’t be surprised at all” to see other leaders from major mainstream tech companies make similar leaps to legal tech.

Gamson, who had served on Relativity’s advisory board since 2017, noted increasing venture capital investments in legal technology will continue to make legal tech leadership an appealing career move.

Yet although there is recent precedent for legal tech companies moving to become public, Gamson said Relativity doesn’t “see it as a goal, per se.” But he said that he and other company leaders plan to keep their options open.

Effectively managing New Zealand's increasing discovery volumes

This article was originally published on the New Zealand Law Society and has been republished.

Globally the data volumes experienced in the discovery process are increasing rapidly and this is no different in New Zealand.

A common myth in New Zealand has been that our discovery data volumes are only small.

This is not the case.

Sure, the volumes experienced here will be smaller than more litigious countries, but New Zealand volumes are still increasing exponentially. We are all communicating differently than we did in the past, while the devices we use to communicate and store information continue to evolve.

Experts now estimate that data volumes are doubling every 18-24 months, thus making how to effectively manage these volumes a consideration for anyone tackling the discovery process.

How are New Zealand data volumes increasing?

Looking back a few years in New Zealand it may have been typical for a dispute to only have a few gigabytes (GBs), but now it is very common to see in excess of 100GB if not more as the starting point for discovery.

Let’s take a dispute with a couple of individuals. Solely looking at their emails, it is not uncommon to see 4-5GB per person, equating to 10GB.

Most matters will have even greater volumes of data, including more custodians and sources, as many send and receive thousands of emails within a year, while the disputed period may be several years. This can easily equate to tens of thousands of documents, and into the hundreds of thousands if anyone were to print them out.

If you are not seeing these volume increases in your discovery process, are you starting with all the potential information?

Getting to only what you need quickly and cost-effectively

Obviously, not all the increased data volumes will be relevant to the dispute.

No one expects you to read all the information, or at least ‘eyeball’ every document if we want to get through them quickly (and cheaply) – nor is it humanly possible.

How to manage these increasing data volumes is an important consideration for anyone undertaking an investigation or discovery exercise. We now need to work smarter, as the objective of any discovery exercise should be to facilitate a method of getting to the most important information quickly, cost effectively and accurately.

To get started, it is worth investing an hour at the outset of a matter to work out the best way to approach the discovery exercise. The time invested at the outset could save thousands down the track, not to mention lessening the burden for you and your firm.

So much of the data is simply irrelevant

The greatest obstacle in most discovery exercises is the considerable increase in the amount of irrelevant information.

On most matters, the amount of key discoverable documents may not be too different to the numbers experienced previously. The key is: how do we get to them, as so much of the information will probably be irrelevant.

No one wants to have lawyers investing their time (and the clients’ money), looking at information that may be totally irrelevant. The skill is to come up with methods and leverage the use of technology to get rid of what you don’t need so that you can devote your energies at only looking at what matters most.

Using powerful eDiscovery technology will be a great advantage to help remove the irrelevant information so that you can focus on the most important information.

The need for powerful discovery tools

These escalating data volumes and the rising cost of managing the data, make it increasingly important to use the right eDiscovery software to tackle the discovery process.

The typical ‘rule of thumb’ is, as the volumes and complexity of a matter increase, then so does the need to look at more powerful tools – especially if you want to manage the discovery process efficiently, cost-effectively and accurately.

These tools can help you cull and filter what you do not need, so you can focus on what you do. Features like Technology Assisted Review (TAR) and grouping similar content together can enable you to quickly and accurately move through the documents to review.

It is no coincidence that three New Zealand regulators have taken on Relativity  widely acknowledged as the leading eDiscovery platform globally. Many are also looking at other powerful tools like Ringtail and Everlaw.

It is not to say one of these tools must be used on every matter as there are other good tools available.

Explore the tools available

It is worth having a look at what else is available, even if you are currently satisfied with your existing eDiscovery software. Ask yourself if these tools are giving others an advantage over you?

Evaluate your eDiscovery software options every 12-24 months to ensure that you are equipping yourself with the most effective discovery tools.

Again, be sure to seek impartial advice – not just from those selling the product.

Like the rest of the world, the volumes of data experienced in the discovery process in New Zealand continue to increase rapidly, requiring smarter ways to manage this information. The skill is to find an effective method get through this information so you can focus on only what you need in a way that is quick and cost-effective.

Why Is Law So Slow To Use Data?

"Data is the oil of the digital era,” proclaims a 2017 Economist  article. Big business—especially tech giants like Alphabet (Google’s parent), Amazon, Facebook, and Apple among others-- are mining data like Standard Oil processed petroleum a century before. Why is the legal industry still running on gut and instinct while the businesses it serves are propelled by data?

A recent survey by business analytics powerhouse  RELX Group polled 1,000 U.S. senior executives across the health care, insurance, legal, science, banking industries as well as government. Law finished last among industries—just ahead of government—in utilizing big data in some form. Of the law firm leaders surveyed, only 44 percent said they offer employee training on big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Law also lagged in its use of AI/machine learning and automation adoption.

How can a trillion-dollar global industry that serves the largest, most tech-savvy businesses remain a data wasteland in the digital era?  Short answer: legal culture and the myth of lawyer exceptionalism; law’s traditional labor-intensive, leveraged approach that supports the traditional partnership model, sustains profit-per-partner,  and is the cornerstone of its resistance to change; a growing misalignment with business, especially its reliance on data; limited investment; and law’s spurious correlation between data and confidentiality (for an extreme example of this, see the recent French Government ban on the publication of statistical information about judges’ decisions that carries a five-year prison sentence for violation). No matter the source of law’s resistance to data, legal consumers-- especially corporate ones-- are increasingly demanding that legal providers base their recommendations on data, not hunch. Their counsel must also be proactive, predictive, holistic in assessing risk factors, fastdifferentiated, and cost-effective. Data is crucial to satisfying clients' mandate.

Why Data Matters

Today In: Industry

 Data is critical to rapid, informed decision making. It is essential to to understanding an organization’s customers-- their changing needs, threats, competition, objectives, and satisfaction. It is also essential to streamlining internal operations, proactively identifying and mitigating risks,  gauging performance and reward, and fashioning individual and collective benchmarks from which to measure and catalyze constant improvement. Data is a resource of and energy source for business. But not all data is of equal value. It must relate to relevant information and be collected and analyzed in ways that help drive rapid, fact-based decisions. This is where data and technology intersect with human analysis. This process is essential in today’s warp-speed business environment. Law has been slow to adopt data analytics, but that’s changing.

How important is data?. A McKinsey report reveals data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers; six times as likely to retain customers; and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result. How valuable is data and the ability to interpret it? Salesforce just ponied up $15.3 billion to buy Tableau Software, a Seattle-based maker of tools that convert arrays of numbers into understandable charts, graphs, and maps. Tableau converts data into information that is critical to informed, rapid business decisions.

Originally published on

A LawFest retrospective

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Lawfest 2019 attendee Jay Pierce and has been republished.

I recently attended LawFest2019 and was struck by how the event had matured since I last attended the inaugural event in 2013. As a newly minted lawyer at the time, I walked straight into large commercial litigation that would have me in discovery for most of my first two years. While excited to be part of a big cases, I was daunted by the volume of work.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to attend a new ediscovery conference called LawFest. It was a comprehensive overview of the topic (EDRM, online courts, views from the bench). This experience would see me championing new tools and developing workflows. It was all about cool new gadgets! Having started down this rabbit hole at Tompkins Wake, the stars aligned when Jon Calder, its current CEO, unexpectedly stepped up to MC.

The recent LawFest was an entirely different beast. It focused on thoughtful, deliberate, and meaningful innovation - change that adds value. The lineup was a who’s who of NewLaw. From LawSquared’s Demetrio Zema, L’Oréal’s Anna Lozynski, to O10 Group’s Tristan Forrester and Lisa Leong (you promised singing and did not disappoint!), the message was about authentic relationships sitting at the heart of innovation.

Just as LawFest rescued us from Summation in 2013, its latest iteration provided much needed context to the barrage of AI and blockchain in 2018. LawFest clearly has its finger on the pulse. Well done Andrew King. I look forward to seeing how this beast grows.

Putting wellbeing at the heart of things

Traditionally built on a work-hard-at-all-costs attitude, looking after your mental, physical, and emotional health has not always been seen as a priority for legal professionals. MAS has a long history of providing services for members of high-pressure professions and recently partnered with the New Zealand Bar Association and to extend its unique approach of caring for its Members health and wellbeing to New Zealand’s barristers.

Over the past five years, the law sector has experienced a cultural shift in the space of workplace health and wellbeing. Heightened awareness around mental health, pay equity, and the #MeToo movement mean the culture of the profession is slowly changing.

Maria Austen, a barrister specialising in employment law and investigations says the spotlight on these issues has raised wider conversations about the importance of mental wellbeing and health within in the law profession. Maria has worked as a lawyer for over 20 years and remembers when times were different.

“We’re realising that especially with women, allowing a work/family balance is important, and has a huge effect on the culture of a law firm, and the performance of the individual.”

The law profession was renowned for its late nights, stressful deadlines, and until recently sometimes a “blowout” party culture. When you add trying to juggle all the other pressures of family life into the mix, it can lead to burnout and mental health issues.

Austen suggests that the former prevalence of old-fashioned workplace attitudes, which often didn’t consider additional pressures placed on female lawyers who elect to have a family, could be a contributor for some to overwhelming stress.

“To feel a true work/life balance, you have to know your workplace supports you.”

Those working in the profession need to focus on relaxation outside the office; creating an environment with minimal stimuli. Practitioners also need to enjoy the time in between big cases and projects to gather their breath and recharge before the next big job commences. A focus on health and well-being and fixed time for reflection is vital to success.

“Burnout isn’t just work-related - it affects all areas of your life. If you’re not properly getting the downtime you need, it’s possible things could start feeling unmanageable. When you’ve got space to breathe, capitalise on that because it might not last long.”

Changing pressures Andrew King sees the pressures many working in the legal profession face every day. In 2011 he founded LegalInnovate, and as part of that has been advising law firms on how best to use modern and innovative technologies.

King says traditionally the law sector has been slow to change, although this is definitely changing with firms looking at how they can adapt and thrive in this changing market.

“It’s a unique situation. In some firms, there are lawyers who will resist tech changes and still endure the pressures of menial or manual work. For me, it’s a matter of educating them on how it will benefit their client, their time, and their bottom line - because often they are just unaware.”

Pressure mounts from clients and younger lawyers entering the workforce, who expect a certain level of technology. When this level isn’t met, it can hinder the success of the firm, and drive young employees to more tech-savvy workplaces.

This creates unique stress for older lawyers to learn how to implement new technology, both for the sake of in house processes and for the quality of service they can provide for their clients he says.

“It can have a negative effect on culture and productivity if employees feel their time could be used more efficiently. And as for clients, they want specialised law advice, not to be invoiced for administration tasks.”

The successful lawyers of tomorrow will be the ones that innovate through leveraging technology, to deliver more efficient legal services. King says those that are open to innovation and embracing technology will be the ones that lead the way. The ones that choose not to, could be left behind by an increasingly competitive market.

“The profession should continue to ask themselves ‘how can we do this better – to deliver legal services that are more efficient, profitable, whilst providing greater value and outcomes for their clients,’” he says.

Focus on wellbeing Health and wellbeing of Members have always been at the heart of things for MAS (Medical Assurance Society) which has partnered with the New Zealand Bar Association to provide insurance and financial services for NZBA members.

MAS General Manager of Marketing and Products, Mike Davy, says what sets MAS apart is being a mutual. Being owned by its Members makes it natural to truly prioritise things that benefit the membership - protecting what matters most to them, including the mental and physical health and wellbeing of Members and their families.

In recent years, MAS has also made efforts to consider the wellbeing of the wider society and natural environment, choosing to be a responsible investor that doesn’t invest in companies that make or sell armaments, make or distribute tobacco, and doesn’t invest in companies in the fossil fuel industries.

The most recent expression of this mutual culture is a cyber-bullying benefit which allows members to claim up to $5,000 a year to cover the costs of a cyber-bullying event such as counselling, lost salary, relocation or private tutoring.

“We’ve got a long history of looking after our members and their families’ wellness and we’re always looking at ways to improve the lives of our Members so they can focus on getting on with life without worry,” Davy says.

Are the robots coming for my job?

This article was originally published on MAS Hub and has been republished.

Technology has always made our jobs and lives easier. From the printing press to the motor car, the telephone and computers, each development has marked an advance in human ability. But, thanks to the popularity of dystopian futures and sci-fi movies, some look at the near future of work with fear that humans will become redundant as artificial intelligence (AI) and robots replace us in our jobs. Others see tech advances as a chance to eliminate the monotonous tasks and focus more on what they actually trained to do.

Leading the charge in digital humans

Auckland-based tech company Soul Machines is leading the charge in creating AI digital humans who can recognise and respond to non-verbal cues which are being increasingly used in the service industry. These digital humans have memories, emotions and empathy, created by the world’s only digital DNA and brought to life by the world’s first virtual nervous system.

Soul Machines is creating digital assistants for companies including ANZ, Air New Zealand and UK-bank NatWest as well as digital doctors and medical assistants and digital teachers.

Chief Business Officer Greg Cross is excited for the potential opportunities in the role AI will play in the future of work.

“We have this construct of ‘when will AI be better than us?’ I don’t know when or if it will ever be achieved. It’s an interesting debate, and as a company, we’re focused on creating ways in which humans and machines will be able to cooperate and collaborate together.”

Cross says digital humans will be able to fill roles and complete tasks humans increasingly don’t want to do, such as servicing remote areas.

“Many high schools in rural communities don’t have access to specialist science teachers like physics or chemistry teachers because we don’t pay teachers enough money, and increasingly people studying science at university don’t want to be teachers.”

The changing face of work

The technology may also allow people to work less, spending more time with their families and communities.

“The 40-hour work week is a relatively recent invention. The weekend is a recent invention. We’re already seeing societies in different parts of the world experimenting with a four-day week. Who says that wouldn’t be a good thing if those people spent more time focused on communities, on families and on problems we’ve historically created such as the environment?”

The changing face of work will mean a shift in the capabilities that are in demand, but that’s happened in society before, and it will happen again, he says.

“Go back 50 or 60 years when the airline industry was a fledgling industry and think about all the people who work in that industry now. Think about technology: the internet, the smartphone industries created new demands and opportunities for new skills and new capabilities.

“The potential speed of this change could magnify some of the problems around skill shortages as society looks at how we retrain and reskill parts of the workforce.”

As for whether this technology could be corrupted for evil, Cross is optimistic.

“Is there potential for many things to go wrong? Is there potential for bad people to do bad things? If you go back and look in history, that’s always happened; that’s not unique to the era we live in. I’ve got an optimistic view that, while bad people do bad things, by and large over time good always triumphs evil and the best traits in humankind overcome the worst.”

The GP

Huge potential to improve health services

Richard Medlicott sees huge potential in AI and big data tech developments for the industry but says they are a long way off from being relied upon for quality diagnoses.

The Medical Director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and a GP in Island Bay, Wellington, Medlicott has been watching with interest the development of Babylon in the United Kingdom. Babylon is designed to assist the struggling National Health Service system where wait times to see doctors can be in the weeks or months. Instead, Babylon promises chatbot diagnoses and video GP consultations. However, its launch has been riddled with challenges as obvious diagnoses are missed by the application. Still, the potential is promising, he says.

“The opportunity is to use AI-driven chatbots for symptom triage. As the software gets better, it will hopefully reduce GPs’ workloads, but at the moment, it’s potentially dangerous if it’s not able to determine if you’re having a heart attack or not.”

Chatbots and challenges

One immediate challenge with chatbots is that they are sending more patients to see doctors, increasing workloads.

“At the moment, there’s a barrier for getting care so people usually wait for 24 hours, and lots of the time things get better on their own and they don’t need to go and see their doctor. But if you get rid of that barrier and someone has a sore tummy for an hour and checks with the chatbot who recommends they see their GP, that increases the workload.”

Medlicott says he remains cautiously optimistic of the potential although he thinks GPs will be employed for some time to come.

The challenge for chatbots comes when dealing with multiple ailments. It can handle the complexity of diabetes, but will it handle diabetes combined with heart disease, depression and a sore knee?

“GPs run on fuzzy logic and understand human complexity and have empathy so they’ll always have a role, but if these systems can help us, that’s great.”

The Developer

AI won’t replace doctors

There is a lot of buzz around AI, but it’s not coming to replace doctors, says Sarah Zub of Vensa.

The Kiwi healthcare start-up’s technology is used by 65 percent of GPs across New Zealand to send patients text message reminders about appointments, blood test results and immunisations. To date, they’ve sent more than 50 million messages.

Now Vensa is working in the precision-driven healthcare space to reduce the workload for lab results through AI that will recognise normal parameters for test results, sending more complicated results back to GPs for follow-up as per best practice. The AI will be able to prompt GPs, suggesting possible missing lab tests for things that may have fallen through the cracks.

Augment the experience not disrupt it

“We’re focused on increasing access for better wellbeing for patients. We’re creating really amazing, intuitive and smart tools for clinicians. This will help to reduce workloads on primary care providers, and they can feel empowered to do more of the incredible work they’re doing in our communities,” Zub says.

These solutions are designed to augment the experience, complementing the clinical judgement of doctors.

“There’s strong evidence that supports ongoing relationships with the same primary health providers. Chronic disease develops over time, and the same physician can identify that early so we’re facilitating with the GP rather than trying to disrupt it. We want to take away the administrative burden that’s causing most of the burnout in our current systems,” she says.

Vensa is completing research feasibility studies and will be releasing tools out to market over the next two years.

The Lawyer

Frustrated with the inefficiencies of the legal profession, Andrew King decided to be a champion of technology.

Lawyer and clients benefit

Now he runs E Discovering Consulting, where he works with law firms advising on tech to help streamline their business, and puts on LawFest, an annual conference on legal innovation and technology.

King says worldwide the profession has been slow to modernise but legal technology advances are offering efficiencies and speed that benefits both lawyers and their clients.

“The speed with which AI can deliver information to lawyers that previously required human input looking through research, reading documents, that’s delivered so much quicker. It eliminates some of the mundane administrative tasks and allows lawyers to use what they went to law school to learn as opposed to doing admin-type work.”

Let lawyers use their judgement

The Christchurch-based man says over the past five years he’s seen more willingness to adapt to a modern style of working that integrates technology.

Technology for the legal profession spans everything from entry-level document templates and dictation products through to chatbots taking information from clients up front, allowing lawyers to jump in when legal expertise is required.

“Where it adds value for lawyers at the moment is using tech to gather information for lawyers who then use their judgement, empathy and critical thinking skills to add to it.”

The future of the industry is bright, he says, with lawyers’ interpersonal skills more important than ever.

“Lawyers need to be curious, adaptable and looking to change but that’s not just with technology; that’s with everything we do.”

Where it adds value for lawyers at the moment is using tech to gather information for lawyers who then use their judgement, empathy and critical thinking skills to add to it.

The Dentist

Digital imaging for dentists

For many decades, technology has consistently provided opportunities for the dental profession, but in the end, informed personal care requires human interaction and interpretation, says dentist David Crum.

Crum, who was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to dentistry this year, says one of the earlier areas he can see AI having an impact on is digital imaging.

“Scans hold a huge amount of data, and treatment options for dental decay based on digital information is a real possibility, but the difficulty is in nuances and how you collect conversational data and other things that have an effect on where treatment should be carried out and how.

Computers won’t replace dentists

“The bottom line is that there will be data collected from digital imaging that will be extensive and helpful across populations, but to adjust to a patient’s circumstances still relies on human interpretation.”

One of the biggest hurdles is getting databases sufficient in size given dentists generally work within individually owned private practices that keep different sets of records.

“I see potential in more accurate diagnosis and treatment, but dentistry is still a largely surgical treatment-based profession, so I think when we are talking changes across populations, access and cost, it’s more likely we’ll see preventive ‘medical’ science rather than technology make the biggest impact to move us on from what we currently do. I don’t see computers as the dentist’s replacement.”

New Zealand legal services and lawyers — what might happen?

This article was originally published on New Zealand Law Society and has been republished.

Predicting or speculating on future developments is fraught with danger. So many things can intervene. It can also be unfair to ask someone to look forward, with a myriad of possible influencers always ready to take things in new and unexpected directions. At the same time, marshalling current themes and practices and tracking their possible growth and adoption can be a very helpful way of benchmarking the current state of an enterprise or the wider industry in which it sits.

LawTalk asked five innovative New Zealanders working in the legal services industry about the changes needed today and what they think could happen over the next few years. They were each asked the same questions and asked to limit their answers to around 300 words per question.

Michael Smyth ( is a sole practitioner and director of Approachable Lawyer Ltd. He has been in private practice for 23 years, six of those working in London. Michael has a particular interest in understanding how legal services can be delivered more efficiently to meet client needs. He contributed a series of four articles to LawTalk in 2017 which looked at the results and some of the themes uncovered by his survey of 79 legal services users.

Claudia King ( is CEO and founder of Automio, which aims to enable the automation of legal tasks through the use and development of technology. Automio won an innovation award for the APAC region in the 2017 Janders Dean & LexisNexis Innovation Index. Claudia was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 2007 and practised law at Dennis King Law until her retirement from practice in July 2017 to focus on Automio.

Simon Tupman ( is a consultant to law firms on leadership, culture and change. He is the organiser of the annual Future Firm Forum which had its 10th anniversary in Queenstown in 2017 and which brings together law firm leaders and staff with international speakers to look at the latest developments affecting the legal services industry. Simon began his career as a lawyer before emigrating from the United Kingdom and developing a career over 20 years as a speaker and author.

Andrew King ( founded E-Discovery Consulting in 2011 with the aim of using technology to simplify the discovery process. Before that he worked for a decade in London at two multinational law firms, returning to New Zealand for two years as Bell Gully’s Litigation Support Manager. Andrew is also creator and organiser of LawFest, an annual event designed to show the latest developments, topics and trends in the intersection of technology and the law.

Gene Turner ( is Managing Director of LawHawk, an online document generation service for lawyers and procurement specialists. Gene founded LawHawk in 2016 after working for 17 years as a corporate and finance lawyer, with the last six as a partner at Buddle Findlay. He has an MBA (Dist) from Victoria University of Wellington and is on the Advisory Board of the Australasian College of Law’s Centre for Legal Innovation.

What are the biggest changes you think New Zealand legal services providers need to make to remain viable?

Michael Smyth: Technology is an accelerator of change. It enables businesses to deliver solutions and outcomes quicker and more efficiently than ever before. If your clients are embracing technology (which most are) then you need to embrace it too. If you don’t, then your clients will go elsewhere.

Efficiency means delivering good advice quicker and at a fraction of the cost. Put simply, if you deliver legal services the way you always have, then you are behind the curve. Law firms need to ask how they can use technology to reduce their overheads and pass those savings on to their clients. For example, we don’t yet know the capabilities of artificial intelligence. Can it do the job of a paralegal or junior lawyer? Will certain types of law become commoditised? Can you automate a conveyancing transaction to limit (or eliminate) the amount of time a lawyer needs to spend on the transaction?

Think also about how your clients want to receive their legal advice. Some clients are sophisticated enough that they don’t need you to draft an entire document for them but would rather collaborate with you in the drafting process to reduce the cost. It’s not that they want to pay less necessarily, but they want to see value in your output and don’t measure value by how long you have spent doing something but by the value to their business.

Think also of your lawyers. They don’t want to be chained to a desk in the city and will demand more flexibility in how they work. Whatever their gender they will want to be paid the same based on the quality of the work they produce and not how many hours they spend in the office filling out timesheets.

So as technology uptake continues, innovative pricing solutions and remuneration structures need to be developed to ensure value is still being delivered and law firms remain viable.

Claudia King: The biggest change New Zealand legal services providers need to make is to improve leadership and decision-making processes. The traditional partnership model means many law firms are not run like proper businesses, and are not led by people with an inspiring vision for the future that is communicated to everyone in the firm. Decisions by firms are slow and often based on emotion and fear, rather than well-researched and thought-out business strategies. Partners and practice managers often don’t understand what new technologies do and how these technologies support their firm’s strategic plan (if they even have a strategic plan), and they are holding firms back.

To remain viable firms need to create leadership teams with the right people who can inspire and facilitate innovation, and create agile decision-making processes so they can make better decisions faster. The current leadership teams at many firms will not be the leadership teams firms need to go forward, so some difficult decisions will need to be made by firms.

Another big change firms need to make is to drastically improve the client experience. Many firms operate the way they always have, without understanding what it is their clients really want from their lawyers. There is also a large and growing number of people who refuse to use lawyers because they consider lawyers out of touch with their needs as clients. Jump in any Facebook group for Kiwi businesses and you’ll see the non-lawyer members helping each other with legal problems based on what they find in Google and their own experiences.

To remain viable firms need to spend time really understanding what their clients want. Once firms understand this they can set strategies to better serve their clients and working out what technology they need to improve the client experience is a key factor. This avoids the scattergun approach that most New Zealand law firms are taking when choosing their technology.

Simon Tupman: There are effectively two groups in New Zealand who provide legal services: law firms and in-house counsel. The latter group is gaining ground and learning fast about how best to add commercial value to their clients and how to operate most effectively and efficiently. For this group, I think the challenge will continue to be how best to resource their departments, and how best to exert influence on their CEOs and boards so that they are perceived to be much more than lawyers managing reputational and legal risk. The growth of in-house counsel augurs well for their future.

Law firms on the other hand face much bigger challenges which will require them to completely re-think how they operate if they are to remain viable. The fundamental difference today compared with 10 years ago is that legal services has become a buyer’s market. Clients call the shots not the lawyers. Law firms have to understand and be prepared to meet new criteria for purchasing legal services such as pricing, convenience, and overall commercial value. Time, and billing by the hour, has already become irrelevant. Increasingly, by their numbers and assisted by social media, the new generation of employees are calling the shots when it comes to the conditions of their employment. Employers need to shape new vibrant workplace cultures that break away from the traditional structures and offer a whole new way of flexible working, autonomy, high-trust and motivation. Numerous studies and ‘best employer’ benchmarks show that those organisations who invest in their people are more productive and profitable.

There will be some casualties as the progressives take on the conservatives, but it is both inevitable and imperative if firms want to stay ‘ahead of the curve’. This will require visionary leadership, something that has been as scarce as hen’s teeth in the 30 years I have been involved in the profession.

Andrew King: The profession is facing considerable change with growing pressures forcing law firms to operate more efficiently and effectively in how they deliver their legal services.

Most law firms are facing greater pressures from their clients to reduce costs, whilst delivering a faster and more accurate legal service. They also face greater competition from other firms that are already leveraging technology to provide a more cost-effective offering to their clients. There are now new sources of competition, where professional services firms, technology companies and alternative legal providers are moving into the legal market.

Innovation through leveraging technology is becoming a game changer for providing legal services. It is the opportunity to do things better, better than what we do at present and for less money. The profession is only starting to take advantage of the opportunities that technology brings – opportunities that many other industries have embraced for many years.

Many legal services can now be commoditised, whilst others will look at new business models, pricing structures together with leveraging technology to help their firms practise law more efficiently.

Being tech savvy is becoming an essential skill for practitioners and will become more so as technology evolves further. It is not necessary to understand how it works, but more if it can help add value to what you do. Technology will never do everything, critical skills like analysis, judgement and problem solving are just as important as they have ever been; it is just that technology can be used to assist in this.

The law firms of tomorrow will be the ones that innovate through leveraging technology, to deliver more efficient legal services. Those that are open to innovation and embracing technology will be the ones that lead the way. The ones that choose not to, could be left behind by an increasingly competitive market.

Gene Turner: Change the business model, from selling time to selling solutions: Many law firms’ problems come from a business model based on selling time, which rewards inefficiency and discourages innovation. Moving to fixed fees, retainers and subscriptions for agreed deliverables will be game-changing.

Look externally, and to the future: Most law firms are still inwardly focused, with emphasis on maintaining and defending outdated practices that have worked in the past, rather than what will work best in the future.

Firms need to look outwards, towards the wider economy and best practices for the future. Looking at the most innovative legal services providers and other professional services firms in New Zealand and overseas, it’s easy to see plenty of opportunities and room for long term first mover advantage.

Find their clients’ real problems: I talk to organisations every day who have problems that lawyers could help with but currently aren’t involved with, or even aware of. There is a huge amount of work that is now being done without a lawyer anywhere in sight, because even though it has important legal aspects:

  • It is not sufficiently “legal” for lawyers to want to do it the way it is currently done; or
  • The way it is currently done makes lawyers too expensive at the prices lawyers want to charge.

Develop new solutions for them: Lawyers either don’t understand their clients’ real problems, or aren’t interested in addressing them because:

  • It doesn’t fit with perceptions of what lawyers should do; or
  • Lawyers don’t want to invest in new ways of working.

Lawyers should come up with new solutions for these problems before someone else does. What’s really crazy is that most lawyers will only become interested when they can see their competitors already doing this work, and it’s too late!

What do you see as the major developments which will happen in the delivery of legal services in New Zealand over the next five years?

Michael Smyth: Artificial intelligence is already here, but how it can be used to best serve the client is still really to be discovered. But I don’t believe AI will replace lawyers completely anytime soon. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other ways in which law firms can deliver a more streamlined service to their clients without using artificial intelligence. I believe the quality of online solutions for legal problems will improve, thereby making it easier for clients to access legal services without being saddled with the lawyer’s hourly rate.

Lawyers will likely become more mobile and the desire for big city offices with all their overheads and associated traffic problems will diminish. Clients will be much more comfortable to reach out to their lawyers remotely to avoid unnecessary visits to the city office and get answers quicker.

The commoditisation of basic legal services will push lawyers to either become more specialised or get involved in more complex legal problems which require a greater emphasis on lateral thinking rather than an encyclopaedic knowledge of the law. The top lawyers will be those who have a greater command of the soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate effectively with others, read a room, empathise with a client, negotiate a good price, deliver a persuasive argument, manage complex projects, or simplify complex issues in a way that anyone can understand. Lawyers who prefer to sit in the back office and do research are probably a dying breed.

Claudia King: One of the major developments I see is new business models (ie, the way law firms make money) becoming more common as law firms find ways to better serve their clients and themselves. Instead of billing a fee for a specific service, firms will start using subscription models to create recurring revenue for access to a range of legal services and resources, as well as selling legal products like contracts, legal documents, legal courses and legal guides. Legal products can be sold over and over again online without much extra effort.

It’s encouraging to see some lawyers already questioning whether there is a better way they can use their skills and expertise to serve their clients and earn revenue, rather than exchanging time for money by providing services. More law firms will do this, and firms will start looking at the hidden gold in their firms – the huge amount of intellectual property their firms own (every law firm has shitloads of IP) – and will look at how they can make these valuable assets generate revenue for them. The internet provides a huge amount of opportunity to generate new revenue streams and this extends to lawyers as long as they are entrepreneurial. This means we’ll see lawyers gaining skills outside of the law, like leadership, strategic planning, coding, sales, financial, and digital marketing skills.

To execute these new business models firms will need well thought-out business strategies and ‘buy in’ to this new direction from everyone in the firm. Technology is a crucial factor in both setting and executing these strategies, as the only way to deliver these new business models is to use amazing tech. So strong, inspiring leadership will be key to rolling this out.

Andrew King: How legal services are delivered has changed and will continue to do so.

The fundamental practice of law will remain the same, however those who see the opportunities in exploring new ways to innovate and drive efficiency and adapting to change will lead the way. They will be able to -

  1. Make their firm more efficient and ultimately profitable; and
  2. Deliver a better and more valuable service to clients.

To address these growing challenges many legal professionals are recognising they need to look to technology. The greater access to technology and innovative processes should help level the playing field, enabling smaller firms to compete with larger ones. For lawyers embracing technology and new business skills it will open new opportunities, which will make them more valuable.

Routine and repetitive administrative tasks are being automated, freeing up lawyers to spend more time working with their clients to create better outcomes. Tasks like accessing case law, research, manage documents, dictate, bill and communicate will change further. Many of these tasks are now being performed quicker, cheaper and more accurately through the assistance of technology.

There will be more opportunities to practise law outside of the traditional law firm model. You will not necessarily need state of the art offices in Shortland Street. It is becoming easier to have support services through embracing accessible technology and on demand services, all with considerably less overheads.

Even if the legal profession is not currently embracing some of the technologies available, it is important to keep abreast of what opportunities that technology may bring. Being a LawFest member and attending LawFest 2019 provides the opportunity to learn more about how the profession can deliver legal services both today and into the future.

Simon Tupman: I think legal services will become much more accessible and affordable with solutions available for straightforward work at the push of a button on an iPhone. Buyer sophistication will force legal service providers to meet the market by embracing technology and redesigning their business models. In the process we will see new structures, new automated processes, and new styles of law firm emerge to take advantage of a latent market for legal services.

In-house counsel will continue to grow in numbers and influence, offering better career options than private practice.

Traditional law firm structures (partners, senior associates, etc) will disappear to be replaced by more agile, accommodating and innovative models. Law firm personnel may reduce with only the essential workforce retained full-time; the rest of the work will be contracted out to specialists in their respective legal or operational fields. Firms will be populated by more non-lawyers with new skills essential for service delivery. Traditional offices may be a thing of the past as progressive firms scale down, work from home or use hubs to carry out essential work. Increasing emphasis will be placed on making law businesses great places to work by adopting a ‘one team’ inclusive approach and by providing sufficient inspiration to engage the team. To facilitate all of this, I believe it would help to de-regulate the legal services industry in New Zealand so as to allow non-lawyers to be directors of law firms and to allow for alternative service providers similar to the UK and Australia. Failure to do so could prove to be a hindrance for incumbents and start-ups looking to make the most of the brave new world. It could also be the final nail in the coffin for the New Zealand legal profession.

Gene Turner: There won’t be one particular thing, it won’t all happen at once, and it won’t stop after five years. It will be a wide variety of small and continuous improvements that all build on and reinforce each other.

Everywhere I look, I see systems developing that are made up of combinations of people and technology. Increasingly, those combinations are being linked seamlessly by APIs (application programming interface). Stephen Ward, the founder of Billy Bot from the United Kingdom, recently spoke at a series of events organised by the College of Law’s Centre for Legal Innovation. “Billy” was a fantastic example of how this type of system can quickly grow from a very small base by adding more and more connections.

As more integrated end-to-end business process solutions are developed, legal services will increasingly become embedded into those broader processes and solutions. Legal compliance and delivery of many legal services will happen automatically, and mistakes through human error will be less common.

There will be a lot more collaboration than has been the case. Law firms will collaborate with each other, and with other solution providers and clients. Clients will collaborate more with each other, particularly in legal compliance.

Those lawyers that are involved in building and maintaining these systems will be very well positioned for the future. As well as the more predictable licensing revenue they should be able to earn from providing these systems, they should also be best positioned to seamlessly pick up whatever additional legal assistance is required.

Other firms could find that there is less legal work fixing mistakes or providing similar advice to multiple clients, and where legal support is required, it automatically goes somewhere else. There may be limited opportunity to crack into this new work from a weak competitive position.

Do you think the New Zealand legal profession in 2028 will be very different to the profession in 2018?

Michael Smyth: When I started my legal career in the early 90s in London I had a stash of 10p coins so I could ring the office from the High Court if something was wrong with the document I had been given to file; not many had mobile phones. A year or so in, PCs were put on lawyers’ desks (rather than being confined to secretarial staff) and they had considerably less memory that my phone does now. Email was starting to become mainstream but it was used more as an internal communication tool than anything else, although that didn’t stop my supervising partner giving me typed memoranda if he needed me to do something. Correspondence was dictated, amended (sometimes many times), sent by post, and if you received a reply in a few days that was considered quick. We had fax and telex, but that was only for urgent matters. The pace was much slower.

So if I jumped into a Tardis to go back to those days I probably wouldn’t believe how antiquated we were. Similarly, if I had a crystal ball in the 90s I would be shocked to learn how I work now – the thought of running a virtual paperless office back then was beyond comprehension.

The pace of change suggests that the scale of changes which occurred in the last 20 years will now happen in the next 10. Therefore, anyone would be naïve to think that it will be the same in 10 years as it is now. We can guess what it might be like, but I suspect we will just be guessing – unless you have a Tardis.

Claudia King: Yes I think there will be a crazy amount of change in the next 10 years, so the legal profession in 2028 will look really different. In 10 years law firms will likely have high performing workforces made up of:

Lawyers (human ones) performing higher value legal work, like advocacy and advising on more complex commercial transactions.

Legal technologists (humans) who work with the firm’s digital workforce to create lawyer bots (software that automates tasks that have traditionally been carried out by lawyers), and create and recommend other technology solutions for the firm’s human lawyers and the firm’s clients.

Lawyer bots and other technologies that support the firm’s human lawyers to carry out higher value legal work, and carry out lower value legal work for the firm’s clients. This is the firm’s digital workforce, and it will include AI and Blockchain-based smart contracts.

Each of these three workforce groups will work together to ensure an excellent client experience for the firm’s clients. Firms need to start planning for their digital workforce now.

My vision for the future is that we will no longer have written legislation and contracts like we do today. Legislation and contracts will instead be created using AI legal bots, so instead of reading legislation and trying to apply it to a specific situation, a person who wants to understand how the law applies to them will ask an AI legal bot about their situation and then the bot applies the law to that person’s situation. This does away with the need to draft written legislation – instead the law can be written in logic flows. When a person asks an AI legal bot to apply the law to their specific situation, the AI legal bot can then, if required, go on to record the intentions of contracting parties using a variety and combination of technologies and mediums, including smart contracts, video, text, audio and illustrations.

Andrew King: Ten years is a long time, but we will continue to see even greater change in how legal services are delivered. The legal profession of 2018 is already very different to that of 2008.

There will inevitably be further automation of tasks that are time-consuming, costly and presently performed by humans. The profession will be able to focus on practising law and providing expert legal advice for their clients, instead of being restricted by time-consuming administrative tasks.

We are a long way off lawyers being replaced by robots. Problem solving, creative thinking and expert legal advice will be in higher demand. The technology should help to make lawyers' life easier and more efficient.

There should be greater access to justice for those who may not always seek legal services due to cost. This will be provided by non-traditional sources, which will include ‘robo-advice’ and ‘chat-bots’ for straightforward legal problems.

The billable hour should become outdated as clients look for more innovative cost structures, where the goal is to improve value for clients – so firms will be expected to produce more for less, but with the technology now available this transition is manageable.

The technology available is improving all of the time. There are an increasing number of New Zealand legal tech companies, with some led by lawyers, who have identified a problem and developed a solution to address these issues.

There will be further evolution and innovation in how legal services are delivered.

In this age of disruption, you cannot stand still, as it will be important to remain curious and open to change. The profession should continue to ask themselves: “how can we do this better – to deliver legal services that are more efficient, profitable, whilst providing greater value and outcomes for their clients.”

Simon Tupman: Yes. I think the legal profession as we know it will become increasingly irrelevant and will eventually disappear to be replaced by a competitive ‘legal services industry’, one full of opportunity and one that is already taking shape thanks to some fundamental events and changes in our society. Generational change, technology and globalisation are just three of the major triggers of change that are revolutionising the world of business, not just the legal profession.

For decades, lawyers and law firms have had a monopoly on the delivery of legal services but not anymore. Buyers of legal services no longer need to consult a lawyer or a law firm to access legal services, thanks to deregulation (overseas), the emergence of law firm/lawyer substitutes (accountants, online documentation, expert applications that automate traditional tasks), and ‘NewLaw’ innovation start-ups such as Riverview Law (UK), Hive Lawyers (Australia) and Valorem (United States) who have taken real steps to meet the needs of a buyer’s market through specialisation, restructuring and automation and in the process, are redesigning the DNA of the ‘legal market’.

These trends are not temporary fads. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle. There is no going back to ‘the good old days’. Firms that ignore the trends and their ramifications do so at their own peril. Professor Stephen Mayson, former director of the UK-based Legal Services Institute, stated as far back as 2007: “The profession would be well advised to lose its current tendency to equate the legal services market with the legal profession. The market may grow and prosper; the legal profession may not.” Take note.

Gene Turner: I hope so! The way law is currently practised didn’t work well for me, and I know it doesn’t work well for a lot of lawyers.

There is good reason for hope though. Every other area of our life is changing so much, so why should law be any different?

I think it will happen more quickly and naturally than many expect, and a lot of the current barriers to adoption of new ways of working will disappear. For example, software that is currently only used to a limited extent because it is new, separate and server based, and requires training on how to use it with other systems, will become integrated into other cloud-based systems we already use so that we don’t even notice it – just like we now use Siri and Google Maps without thinking.

Clients and law firm staff will increasingly demand improvements from their law firms. At present a lot of them don’t know any better, and assume that their law firms are better than they actually are.

Law firms will increasingly want to make the changes anyway, either because they are losing work and realise they need to improve in order to remain viable, or because they can see the opportunities it creates.

I hear the talk about diversity and how law firms need to satisfy their client needs without sacrificing all the other areas of lawyers’ lives, but little seems to be changing. While the issues and solutions are complex, my view is that the technological changes that are coming will be at the core of addressing the work/life balance issues that play a part in the wider discussion. We can already see through our work with lawyers that automation is removing a lot of the hours, stress and repetitiveness from their work, and allowing them to do work that is much more enjoyable.

Google head addresses reluctance to change

This article was originally published on Corporate Counsel and has been republished.

Google’s head of legal operations, technology and strategy has spoken out about the legal profession’s “stubbornly resistant” nature towards disruption, offering an insight into why such reluctance occurs, and its effects in-house.

Speaking at last week’s Corporate Counsel Summit, Mary O’Carroll zoned in on the topic of disruption, noting that every profession and industry imaginable has been transformed in the past 150 years, except for law.

In describing the challenges to the industry’s disruption, Ms O’Carroll gave five reasons as to why this reverse phenomenon has occurred, noting first that law firm profitability and business models are not motivated by efficiency.

She then highlighted that regulations, including partnership structures and the consensus market have also posed a challenge to change, until now.

People-oriented processes, threats to the profession, and the “lawyer brain” are the three other factors which have ensured the steadfastness of many of the customs and traditions of the profession, according to Ms O’Carroll

But “disruption is here”, she stated, citing a Harvard Law School comment that “the warning bells have been ringing for at least two decades: The legal profession as we’ve known it is doomed, and lawyers must adapt – or face extinction”.

Referring to a Forbes Magazine statement that “corporate legal departments are driving change”, the head of legal operations listed a number of factors driving current disruption, including economic pressures, changing roles of the general counsel, the growth of the in-house sector, and an introduction of legal operations and increased implementation of technology.

Reflecting also on the rise of legal operations such as her own, Ms O’Carroll quoted Law 360, which has previously said “change is coming to the law, and it will be propelled by the legal operations professional who crave innovation rather than fear it”.

Interview with Eric Chin, the man who coined the phrase "NewLaw"

Eric Chin is the man who coined the phrase “NewLaw”. He has consulted to the legal industry for nearly a decade, first at renowned consulting firm Beaton, and now with his new firm, Alpha Creates. Josef Legal sat down with him to talk about legal tech, NewLaw, how the legal industry has changed over the past decade and where it is headed now.

This article was originally published on Josef Legal and has been republished.

If you were a lawyer right now, what would you be most concerned about?

The seven most expensive words in the business of law and in the practice of law are: “We have always done it that way”.

We live in a legal bubble where, to work your way up to be the key decision maker of a firm, you have to conform to the group. This is the way business and practice has been carried out for decades. And these words echo in the hallways of not just law firms, but other professional service firms too.

I remember starting my career as an analyst and, as you do, being really enthusiastic and just wanting to contribute my ideas. I once asked a manager about why we hadn’t thought about changing our service. And the response I got was: “We have always done it that way.”

If we continue to think like this, we will be stuck in the old way of doing things and we won’t be able to unleash efficiencies into the practice of law and the business of law. Can you imagine if we didn’t have electronic calendars today?

And what would you be most excited by?

When I first started my career in the legal industry, it was still a time when the law firm career path was the go to path and a move in-house was seen as a step down or for lawyers who have not made the partnership track.

All of that has changed now. Top-tier lawyers move in-house because the challenge of running a legal business unit is completely different to practicing in a law firm. Also, in addition to that, you now have so many more pathways for lawyers, like NewLaw, LegalTech and the Big 4. The career path for lawyers has tripled.

Secondly, if I was a lawyer today, I would be excited by the explosion of LegalTech solutions in the market that will make me more efficient in how I practice and how I will ultimately run my legal business.

You’ve consulted to the legal industry for a long time. Do you see it as different to other industries?

The legal industry has its quirks. There is the practice of law and then the business of law. Because the practice of law usually takes precedence over the business of law, the way lawyers work and win clients is different to other industries. For example, other industries aren’t bounded by geographic areas, so it is easier to scale expertise across jurisdictions. But in law, there are different legal systems and you need a local practising certificate.

And what are the consequences of these differences?

There are a number of consequences. For example, lawyers can be a bit closed off to doing new things. From a tech perspective, because the total addressable market is not as big as a fintech product or solution, there are limitations on technological developments. And, even though law firms hire a lot of professional support services - COO, CTO, BD professionals - because practice takes precedence over business, they don’t have level playing fields internally.

You coined the phrase "NewLaw". What do you mean by that? Has its meaning changed over time?

As I originally conceived it, the NewLaw business model describes the businesses that use labour arbitrage at the centre of their business model in the delivery of legal services. Some of the examples of this of course include legal process outsourcing firms, lawyer secondment firms and fixed fees legal service firms that leverage on demand lawyers.

Since its introduction, of course, different industry analysts and experts have put forward their own definitions.

In contrast, the LegalTech business model is a business that uses technology arbitrage at the centre of the delivery of legal services.

It’s also important to understand the context in which I came up with the term NewLaw. In September 2013, I was writing a paper which made predictions about what the legal industry would look like in 2018.

And does it look like you thought it would?

Some things have come true. NewLaw is now mainstream. There isn’t anyone who hasn’t heard of alternative legal service providers or managed services. In 2013, the whole concept of alternative legal service providers was new.

A big moment was when AMP’s general counsel, Brian Salter, came to the market and said for law firms to stay on the AMP panel, they needed an arrangement with a legal process outsourcing company where the work is outsourced to the most cost-efficient provider. Now, obviously, the larger law firms have their own offshore legal service centres to do that. Some have also expanded into NewLaw services. What did surprise me was the Big 4 setting up their own NewLaw service.

Is NewLaw a big part of the legal industry?

By reputation, yes. Statistically though, it is still small. A study by the Association of Corporate Counsel Australia in 2017 revealed that legal departments outsource 9% of their work to NewLaw firms. But, even though it’s only 9% of the total market, it’s growing quickly. In the same study 5 years ago, it was less than 5%.

Why do you think NewLaw came about? 

To understand the rise of the alternatives, you have to look into the history of the legal industry. Up until the 2000s, when an organisation had a legal need, it essentially had two choices: first, to turn to its in-house legal department and second, if expertise was required, to engage law firms. Law firms built a very successful business model providing expertise arbitrage to corporate legal departments.

When you think about it the law firm business model is about hiring, training and then billing based on expertise provided to the client. It is not until the turn of the millennium when the industry was engulfed by both outsourcing and technological trends that new solutions were conceived. The outsourcing trend in the 2000s gave birth to NewLaw firms and of course the technological trend in the 2010s gave birth to LegalTech firms.

You recently started Alpha Creates. Why? What is your mission?

After spending 9 to 10 years working in the market, I’ve seen the strategic agenda in law firms boardrooms change dramatically. Most of the projects I worked on about 10 years ago was around helping law firms with growth whether it was practice specialisation, geographic expansion or mergers and acquisitions. But then we saw the rise of the alternatives in the form NewLaw firms, the re-entry of the Big 4 and the rise of LegalTech in the last 24 months.

All of that combines to create a hyper-competitive market that puts innovation at the top of the list for law firm boardrooms. Alpha Creates is a reflection of those changes in the market. We are a group of innovation, strategy and technology consultants that have come together to help legal service providers, whether you are a law firm, NewLaw firm, LegalTech firm or a Big Four accounting firm to help work through those trends in the market, to build better legal businesses.

If you look at the Australian market, 23 of the 50 largest law firms have now established an innovation function. We can scale our offering according to the firms’ innovation and technology journey, whether they are at the start or at a more mature stage of their journey.

For technophobic lawyers, how should they approach legal tech and innovation? Where should they start?

There has been a lot of hype around artificial intelligence in the market. The reality is that we already use artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

Unless you’re still using a Nokia 3210 or Nokia 3310, the smartphones that we carry to make phone calls, check the weather, take pictures, check our emails, calendars and text has built-in artificial intelligence whether it is imaging AI or assistant AI.

It’s really not that big of a leap other than to change habits.

When you think about it, innovation is essentially adopting new ways of getting to the same or better outcome in a more efficient way. For example, we all use washing machines (I am a big fan of Hans Rosling). Instead of wasting time and energy hand-washing our clothes, we just put it in the washing machine. That time saving translates to productivity to do other things in our daily lives, like reading, exercising, spending time with our family or even working.

We've been friends for a while now. What is Josef to you?

My relationship with Josef has evolved from a perception that it is a chatbot that is focused on the access to justice space, to an understanding that it is an expert system that amplifies law firm productivity with automation. I put Josef ahead of washing machines for sure!

Why law firms need to embrace technology

The advances in technology have greatly transformed how law is practiced, with even greater change on the horizon.

Traditionally the legal profession has been slow adopters of technology, but this is changing as law firms are being forced to change how legal services are delivered, largely to better meet the demands of their clients.

The law firms of tomorrow will be the ones that innovate through leveraging technology, to deliver more efficient legal services. Those that are open to innovation and embracing technology will be the ones that lead the way. The ones that choose not to, will simply be left behind by an increasingly competitive market.

Stop your clients from looking elsewhere

Each year we see greater advancements in the technology, and also how firms are utilising the technology.

Most law firms are facing more pressures from their clients, as they want greater value, speed and innovation from their law firms. Law firms are having to look at new ways to deliver legal services, ways that are both flexible and cheaper.

When we look back a few years there has been considerable change in how the practices of law firms have evolved.

Reduce the costs of running a law firm business

How we access case law, research, manage documents, dictate, bill and communicate has all changed significantly over that time. These tasks previously were manual exercises, mostly involving paper methods and took considerable time to complete. Many of these tasks are now being performed quicker, cheaper and more accurately through the assistance of technology.

In the future, there will be further automation of tasks that are time consuming, costly and presently performed by humans. Lawyers will be able to focus on practicing law and providing expert legal advice for their clients, instead of being restricted by time consuming administrative tasks.

Further automation of legal tasks will enable law firms to be more innovative in how they service their clients.

New opportunities

Innovation through the use of technology is becoming a game changer for providing legal services. It is the opportunity to do things better, better than what we do at present and for less money.

This digital disruption means the law firm product has to change. Many legal services can now be commoditised, whilst others will look at new business models, pricing structures together with leveraging technology to help their firms practise law more efficiently.

The legal profession need to re-skill to take advantage of the developments in technology to stay relevant in your particular field. This will require many to diversify their skillset. This in turn creates a whole different area of law embark on.

Keeping up

It is becoming increasingly difficult to practise law without a grasp of technology. Technology competence now needs to be at the forefront of practitioner’s minds. Being tech savvy is an essential skill for lawyers and will become more so as technology evolves further.

Even if the legal profession is not currently embracing some of the technologies available, it is important to at least keep abreast of what opportunities that technology may bring, both today and into the future.

Find out more at LegalTechHub & LawFest

The LegalTechHub is a great resource to keep up with everything you need to know about legal technology in New Zealand. The hub provides a listing of leading tech companies servicing the legal industry.

The annual LawFest conference is a must for anyone that wants to innovate and leverage technology. The one-day event is a great way to learn how to adapt and thrive in this changing market.

Are NZ law firms behind the 8-ball in innovation?

The legal profession globally is facing considerable change as growing pressures are forcing law firms to innovate in how they deliver their legal services.

Law firms are only starting to take advantage of the opportunities that technology brings – opportunities that many other industries have embraced for many years.

Globally law firms are ahead of where most New Zealand law firms are in innovation and utilising technology, not in all cases, but on average we’re much slower to move. Many firms here are still using outdated systems that put them at a heightened security risk, slow them down and cost them more money in the long run.

Those that are prepared to innovate have the best chance to adapt and thrive in a changing market.

What’s driving legal innovation globally?

Historically, the legal profession has been slow to adopt change, but they are now starting to innovate to better meet the changing demands of their clients.

Most law firms are facing greater pressures from their clients to reduce costs, whilst delivering a faster and more accurate legal service.

They’re also facing greater competition from other firms that are already leveraging technology to provide a more cost effective offering to their clients. To put the pressure on even more, there are now new sources of competition, where professional services firms are moving into the legal market. These firms are equipped with innovative practices and an abundance of technology solutions.

These pressures are driving more law firms to explore ways that they can innovate to drive efficiency and increase productivity.

Embracing change

For many, legal innovation is simply exploring new ways to deliver legal services.

This involves developing new business models and skill sets. The fundamental practice of law will remain the same, although it’ll be enhanced by innovation and use of technology to deliver legal services faster and more accurately.

For example, we may see the billable hour become a thing of the past as clients look for more innovative cost structures, where the goal is to improve value for clients – so firms will be expected to produce more for less, but with the technology now available this transition is manageable.

One recent study shows innovative firms in Australia are increasingly utilising ‘Legal Process Outsourcing’ as an effective means of controlling costs, managing and scaling resources, and improving their overall service delivery.

Internationally, firms are now placing greater emphasis on implementing digital strategies. Many law firms are appointing innovation roles within their firms, and some have ventured further into developing new products and services, including building software, or working with technology experts to assist this process.

Impact of global trends on the NZ legal profession

Globally there are many examples of how law firms are responding to these increasing pressures, and turned them into opportunities.

Artificial Intelligence, automation, blockchain, smart contracts and the general automation of repeatable tasks is becoming more mainstream. Whilst a focus of innovation and leveraging technology is to drive profitability, there is now greater emphasis to reduce digital risk, with cyber security being an increasing priority for law firms and their clients.

These global issues and trends are now starting to impact New Zealand law firms.

We face many of the same issues, although at present many global firms are ahead of where New Zealand firms need to be. This is starting to change with a number of exciting developments by New Zealand firms. As time progresses, we hope to see more law firms here placing greater importance on innovation and leveraging technology.

However, many in New Zealand are just starting this journey, and need to learn more about how they can innovate and adopt technology into their practice.

These opportunities will provide New Zealand legal professionals with the opportunity to adapt and thrive.

5 tips to get the most out of LawFest 2019

LawFest is the one event of the year legal professionals should attend to learn how to adapt and thrive in a changing market.

We continue to evolve the event, showing you the opportunities to innovate and embrace technology. Speakers will provide practical insights of how they are innovating, with – what they are doing, where they started + what comes next.

We’re just a few days away now and we want to make sure you get the most out of the day, so here are 5 things to do before or on the day of LawFest 2019:

1. Download the event app

We have a brand new LawFest App. This will be your ‘go to’ resource for everything at LawFest.

You’ll be able to check out the delegates and speakers, set your session schedule for the day, have your say in the event feed, and find out more about the exhibitors before and during the event.

You can download the LawFest App here for iPhone and Android.

2. Make a game plan

All of you that have been to LawFest know it is an action-packed day, so make sure you have a plan to ensure you get the most out of the day.

It’s important to have a plan of what you want to get out of the event. Check out the speakers and their sessions so you know which ones are important to you. Prepare any questions you may want to ask, or make a list of what you want to learn.

Again, this can all be done in the LawFest App.

Arrive early. Registrations open at 7.30am, which is the same time the exhibition hall opens. This provides a good opportunity to meet some of the exhibitors prior to the start of the formal proceedings at 8.30.

3. Bring a colleague

Some organisations send just one staff member to LawFest, whilst others bring a whole team. Often it is easier to get more from an event when you are not alone and have colleagues with you.

We want to make it easier for you to bring more people from your organisation. As you have already registered, if you did want to bring another colleague then contact us to add a colleague at a discounted rate.

4. Meet the exhibitors

Take the opportunity to meet with our exhibitors in our exhibition hall.

LawFest is the only event in New Zealand that provides this unique opportunity to see the products and services of leading technology providers. This year we have the largest ever gathering of tech providers at a NZ legal event.

As an added bonus, many will have great prizes and offers for you!

You can relax in our enhanced premium zone in the exhibition hall, which has plenty of space to take a breather from the action.

If you want to see the technology first hand, then do not miss our new Tech Demo stage next to the registration desk. The presentations during the breaks will showcase the latest and leading technology available.

5. Get social - interact and engage

Get involved or follow the event on Twitter or LinkedIn – just use, or look for the #LawFest2019 hashtag to join the fun.

Follow us on Twitter here or on Linkedin here. Even if you are not able to make the event, this can be a great way to experience part of LawFest.

The event is much more than just the great educational content. There are many opportunities to network through the day and to enjoy our hospitality at one of New Zealand’s most prestigious venues.

The event doesn’t just end at 5.30, make sure you stick around for our extended networking drinks. This is a great opportunity to network with colleagues, speakers and exhibitors, all in the premium zone of the exhibition hall.

Hopefully these tips will help you get even greater value from attending LawFest.

We look forward to seeing you on the 21st of March.

PS. As an appetiser of what LawFest brings, take a quick look back at the fun and excitement of LawFest from last year.

The opportunity to innovate through leveraging technology

Technology is changing how we work in all aspects of life and the legal profession is no different. The profession is facing considerable change as growing pressures are forcing law firms to innovate in how they deliver their legal services.

This is also impacting barristers and how they practice.

Changing landscape

Traditionally the legal profession has been slow adopters of technology, but this is changing as barristers need to explore how legal services are delivered, largely to better meet the demands of their clients.

For many, legal innovation is simply exploring new ways to deliver legal services.

Trends are showing consumers of legal services are starting to look for fixed or capped fee structures, are wanting more value at a lower price, and are not necessarily looking to traditional legal resources for legal services, they’re going to innovative professional service firms that offer a wider range of options.

The fundamental practice of law will remain the same, although it’ll be enhanced by innovation and use of technology to deliver legal services faster and more accurately.

New opportunities

Innovation should be embraced as an opportunity and not seen as a threat.

Innovation through leveraging technology is becoming a game changer for providing legal services. It is the opportunity to do things better, better than what we do at present and for less money. The profession is only starting to take advantage of the opportunities that technology brings – opportunities that many other industries have embraced for many years.

Different parts of the journey

Many are at different parts of this journey – some will be at the forefront of legal innovation, whilst others will only be starting this journey.

Those just starting’s experience may be considerably different to those at the forefront of innovation and leveraging technology. Even if you are not innovating yourself, or simply just starting your innovation journey, it is important to be aware of what is available, what others are doing and what the future holds.

Being tech savvy is becoming an essential skill for practitioners and will become more so as technology evolves further. We’re seeing refreshing examples of those who see the opportunities in exploring new ways to innovate and drive efficiency, and a growing number of legal professionals recognising that to address these pressures and challenges they need to look to technology.

The legal profession need to re-skill to take advantage of the developments in technology to stay relevant in your particular field. This could require many to diversify their skillset. This in turn creates a whole different area of law embark on.

You do not have to be a mechanic to be able to drive a car!

There should not be an expectation that barristers need to learn technology so in-depth, or even learn to code or develop software. Technology will never do everything, critical skills like analysis, judgement and problem solving are just as important as they have ever been, it is just that technology can be used to assist in this.

It will help to be aware of the solutions that are available, to help you perform your job better.

What’s new?

How we access case law, research, manage documents, dictate, bill and communicate is all changing. These tasks previously were manual exercises and took considerable time to complete. Many of these tasks are now being performed quicker, cheaper and more accurately through the assistance of technology.

Artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, court technology, the general automation of repeatable tasks and embracing the cloud is becoming more mainstream.

Artificial intelligence

AI is all around us with examples like Siri, Amazon Echo, Alexa, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and Pandora radio. These are all forms of AI with recommendations tailored to your previous choices. This is learning from the information that the technology has put together, related to your preferences.

The same technology can also be applied to the practice of law, to make barristers life easier, to work smarter and ultimately ensure you are more profitable.

AI involves machines performing work that traditionally could only be completed by humans, although also has the potential to go deeper having machines think like humans. AI capability is moving ahead at a rapid rate, although we are still a long way off lawyers becoming obsolete.

As far as AI relating to the automation of repetitive and routine tasks, some of the uses include –

  • Legal research
  • Document generation and templates
  • Due diligence
  • eDiscovery
  • Chat boxes or Robo-advice

A prominent example of AI earlier this year was JP Morgan developing a program called COIN for contract intelligence which interprets commercial-loan agreements, that had previously taken 360,000 hours of lawyers’ time annually.

eDiscovery is a process that has long embraced AI and automation. There are tools that help to provide smarter ways to address a process that can quickly become time consuming and costly, especially with the ever-increasing volumes of data. Technology Assisted Review is popular as it can save barristers hundreds of hours looking at documents.


Blockchain is a development that is still in its infancy, especially for the practice of law.

Put simply, Blockchain is a piece of software with a digital ledger of information. This includes a record of transactions grouped into blocks with references back to data in previous blocks. This creates a chain of blocks, known as blockchain. Transactions are broadcast to all participants to be validated. The use of blockchain will evolve, but is often used for identification, copyright and patents, Smart Contracts with share trading and property auctions.

Court technology

Technology that is used in a courtroom is developing significantly.

Preparing briefs, pleadings can be hyperlinked to documents, with the ability to collaborate and annotate key evidence. How technology is used preparing for trial (whether it be a courtroom or an online process), will evolve. At present the use of technology is largely imitating the same practices as conducted with paper. This is not always more efficient, and not innovative.

Embracing the cloud

The cloud is dramatically transforming how barristers work.

Embracing the cloud is an appealing option for barristers that will not have the big budgets of large law firms or corporates to make an expensive investment in on premise technology. In almost all circumstances cloud solutions are more cost effective, more secure, and enable greater access to leading technology that barristers may never have been able to buy themselves.

What does the future hold?

These developments will continue to transform how the profession practices. They will help make barristers life easier, work faster and ultimately more profitable.

In the future, there will be further automation of tasks that are time consuming, costly and presently performed by humans. There will be a greater adoption of AI, and embracing the cloud to improve the access and cost of these solutions. The profession will be able to focus on practicing law and providing expert legal advice for their clients, instead of being restricted by time consuming administrative tasks.

Even if the legal profession is not currently embracing some of the technologies available, it is important to keep abreast of what opportunities that technology may bring, both today and into the future. Those that are open to innovation and embracing technology will be the ones that lead the way. The ones that choose not to, could be left behind by an increasingly competitive market.

There are exciting legal tech start-ups in New Zealand. Some are led by lawyers, who have identified a problem and developed a solution to address these issues. To name a few we see the work of Automio, LawHawk, LawVu, and CataLex.

Be part of what LawFest has to offer

LawFest continues to lead the way in New Zealand in raising awareness and preparing the profession for what comes next.

After the success of LawFest 2018, which attracted over 250 legal professionals from across the country, LawFest 2019 is back again in Auckland on 21 March 2019. There is a limited time 2 for 1 ticket offer to encourage even more legal professionals with an interest in innovation and technology.

The NZ Legal Technology Index and the LawFest membership are both fantastic new initiatives. The membership enables greater access to anyone interested in learning more about innovation and leveraging technology, whilst the index enables legal professionals to explore and connect with the right people and right technology to solve business challenges, to help deliver legal services more efficiently.

This article was originally published in the New Zealand Bar Association’s ‘At The Bar’.

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