Photograph copyright Jorge Duarte Estevao – www.jdestevao.com
Highlights from the Alternative In-House Technology Summit 6-7 February 2018
Having attended Alternative Event’s first legal technology conference in February 2017, there was no way I was missing the second one …
Here are some of the highlights from where I was sitting.
Introduction by Julia Chain, Advanced Discovery
Julia Chain introduced the conference, noting that one difference between 2017 and 2018 was the increasing number of legal operations directors being brought on board by forward-thinking GCs. The number of legal tech products in the market place can perhaps be daunting with common questions arising such as:
- What do these products do?
- What do I need?
- Why can’t I find one vendor that delivers everything?
- Why is it so hard to get funding to buy in legal tech?
Chain observed that we, the profession, need to redefine what “being legal” is, and what legal services are: “Redefining that means we have to embrace technology” and use it as a help, as a tool.
Keynote by Derek Southall, Hyperscale Group
The force of energy that is Derek Southall delivered the keynote session. Southall is a delight to watch, whirling through his presentation like someone who clearly enjoys a multi-vitamin smoothie (or two) of a morning. Here are just some of the highlights of his speech.
“The world is getting faster and more difficult”. The Big 4 have arrived, with Deloitte being the last of the 4 to get ABS status. This is a good thing, as they bring different approaches. The SFO, The Law Society and SRA are all supporting legal startups. The cyber-attacks of 2017 are perhaps convincing people that cloud security could be more secure than on premise.
Jobs? Yes, people do need to adapt. Much of the legal industry will be under threat. With ever more people trying to get into the profession, we must think about the future of the industry. “Do we train to be technologists now?”
Southall referred to Richard Susskind’s list of new legal roles, stated in his book and recently referred to at the CLOC EMEA conference on 23 January.
Southall is delighted to see the rise of the legal operations professional, in his mind clearly the way forward. In this whistle stop tour of the world of legal technology, Southall mentioned the continuing rise of IBM, AI, the inspired joining of iManage and RAVN, the continuing growth of Riverview Law’s KIM, Contract Pod, HighQ, BillyBot, Flex, Blockchain etc. Plus everything else out there from knowledge management to document/email management to intelligent document assembly to eBilling solutions to matter management.
Southall also spoke about the rise of non-legal technology in the legal field. This was a recurring theme during the day. Examples include Slack, OneNote, Skype, Trello, Workplace, Yammer and Google. These team communication tools are at our fingertips, capable of making a major impact on how we work and improving efficiency.
Photograph copyright Jorge Duarte Estevao – www.jdestevao.com
Workshop highlights: Choosing the right partner for your legal tech
Various round table workshops were on offer including a lively session hosted by Andrew Dey of Advanced Discovery and Tim Wilson of Mitratech. These sessions provided an excellent opportunity to learn from your peers and share different experiences. Some of the following hints and tips are well known by those of us who’ve implemented systems before, but for the uninitiated, such advice could save much time and potential heartache:
- Does the vendor understand your organisation and jurisdiction?
- What jurisdictional tax concerns do you have that any legal tech solution would need to address?
- What data security concerns do you have?
- What security policies might any vendor have to pass to get through your company’s first hurdle?
- What user experience do you want your colleagues to have?
- Will a cloud-based solution give you what you need?
- Do you need the solution to interact with any other IT platforms on site?
- How can you future proof any system you invest in?
- How do you select a legal tech vendor?
- RFP process? A lighter touch?
- Do you involve Procurement or not?
- If yes, how do you manage that to get the result you want – at an acceptable price?
- What support will a vendor offer you before, during and post implementation?
Panel discussion highlights: How to get the best from your legal tech providers
Further tips emerged from an experienced panel of GCs and legal operations professionals chaired by Karl Chapman of Riverview Law (Chatham House Rules applied):
- Chapman: the question to ask is “Here’s the problem. How does technology help address the problem?”
- When selling a legal tech solution to your company, focus on it being a business transformation programme.
- Think of arguing to your CEO, “If we could reduce contracting time by X, what would that do for profitability?” Think about whether you can cut costs or generate income in some way.
- Know what you need to draft a credible business case. This requires a real understanding of what the product can do/deliver/how/when.
- Ensure your finance team is realistic about the returns (ROI) you will see, and timelines for this.
- Don’t over promise and under deliver.
- Have the right internal people on your team.
- And no, they don’t have to be lawyers (but let’s try and not call them ‘non-lawyers’, shall we?)
- Give the project implementation team the time, resources and skills they need to get it right.
- Testing the tech in a pilot area – a proof of concept – can be a very good idea.
- Understand what the tech can realistically do – then set realistic expectations based on that.
- Make sure your tech vendor understands your company’s internal workings – e.g. gateways/governance hurdles they have to cross.
- Warn your tech vendor if your company moves at a glacial pace. If you’re not nimble, tell them this.
- Sensible questions to ask vendors: Do you just switch it on? Do you have to configure it carefully?
- Can you work with the vendor? It’s not just the what, but the how.
- Change management: brace yourself. People (including lawyers) may have to change their working practices to adapt to the system rather than the system adapting to them.
- Effecting change: it’s about education and communication. You’ll need a combination of carrot and stick approach.
- People have to know why the tech is coming in.
- Implementation can be hard.
- Feel free to take a consultative and encouraging approach but be prepared: ultimately you will probably need to take a hard line. Honest conversations are required.
- Be prepared to mix up your leadership style, moving from a democracy to master/commander.
- Post-implementation, difficult conversations may be required in-house – e.g. the legal team will no longer receive legal work in that way. Here is the new system.
- Accept that you will never make everyone happy with new tech. Try and get peers/happy users on board to help you sell the story.
- Data: yes, still the buzz word. Once you have it, you can use it. In my words, “news you can use”.
- On unbundling the work: once you see what’s coming in you can deal with it.
Other ideas from smaller in-house teams & disruptive GCs
- Focus on helping your business colleagues – not so much on what this would mean for your legal team.
- How can you help them bring in money/make profit faster?
- Talk to your colleagues – what keeps them awake at night? How could you ease their pain?
- It may turn out that you are wrong about what they want/what concerns them.
- Align your thinking to theirs.
- Educating the business to do non-legal work (previously done by Legal) can only be a good thing.
- So educate your business colleagues and give them the tools they need.
- Yes, that means you’ll have to learn to trust them to an extent.
- Use tech – and not necessarily legal tech – to make your lives easier.
- Look at WhatsApp, Slack, Microsoft (and using it properly) and SharePoint.
- Investigate Flex – for experienced paralegals at £20 per hour.
- Check out the Lexoo platform as a cheaper outsourcing solution.
- Network with your peers. You don’t have to be an island …
The psychology of innovation – Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, Meta Profiling Ltd
“Technology has unleashed innovation and entrepreneurship”. The post-lunch session invited interaction. Questions posed to generate discussion included:
- My company will need to become more innovative to survive and thrive in the next 10-15 years. Yes/No.
- My company has a clear strategy for becoming more innovative in the next 10-15 years. Yes/No.
- How do companies become more entrepreneurial?
- What is entrepreneurial talent?
- What type of leaders do we need to allow this type of talent to thrive?
- What are your company’s main barriers for creating an entrepreneurial culture?
I’m not providing answers here – just giving you a flavour of issues discussed. The final messages were:
- If you foster entrepreneurial talent you will have competitive advantage in terms of innovation.
- In every industry changed by disruption, the net effect has been total market growth.
This is one of the best legal conferences in the calendar in my view. Benefits of attending:
- Knowledge and experience sharing.
- Carefully selected and relevant vendors present – showcasing their products, conducting demos and answering your questions.
- Subject matter experts doing their thing.
- An energized bunch of people in attendance.
- You may come away with fresh ideas or perhaps just confirmation that you’re on the right track.
If you’re unsure whether the future involves legal tech and innovative ways of working, this conference will clear that up for you nice and simply. It’s yes.