What does it say when a Legal Blockchain eBook is promoted by FAKE views?

By | January 16, 2019

Blockchain for Lawyers eBook HypeWhen I saw the headline on Social Media that read ‘What Does It Say when A Legal Blockchain eBook Has 1.7M Views?‘ I thought that couldn’t possibly be correct.

The article by Mark Cohen on Forbes states:-

Blockchain For Lawyers,” a recently-released eBook by Australian legal tech company Legaler, drew 1.7M views in two weeks. What does that staggering number say about blockchain, legal technology, and the legal industry? Clearly, blockchain is a hot legal topic, along with artificial intelligence (AI), and legal tech generally. It’s also a hot investment; last year a record $1B was pumped into legal tech. The global enthusiasm for tech is manifest in the throngs that attended the Legal Geek Conference, the Global Legal Hackathon, and a slew of events held by legal tech organizations around the world. Tech is the mortar of a global legal community that is transforming law from territorial profession to borderless industry.

Cohen asks:-

But why, with so many blockchain and legal tech books and articles, is Legaler’s eBook capturing so many eyeballs?

He then gives his own answer to that question:-

One explanation is its plain-speak effort to demystify blockchain and analyze its current and future adaptations to law. The book also provides a framework for  understanding how AI, software, the cloud, and other technological advances enable new delivery models to better respond to consumer demand for more transparent, efficient, scalable, cost-effective, and predictable outcomes.  There is a hunger—especially among those in the early and mid-stages of their careers– to understand these tools and new delivery models and, more importantly, how it will impact their careers.

However, not everyone was taken in with the numbers which really just don’t add up.

Jason Morris, in a series of Tweets, on Twitter, observed:-

Ok, guys, our stupid is showing. Let’s talk about this article about an eBook with nearly 2M views.

The author in question wrote an e-book. Then, he went on LinkedIn and said that it was available for free for anyone who commented requesting a copy. This is a very good strategy.

If you comment on something in LinkedIn, that means it will show up on your contacts’ feeds. So if you just offer a download link, you don’t get nearly the publicity boost that requiring people to comment gets you. Good idea.

So where does this 2M number come from? That is the number of time the LinkedIn post has been seen. Not the number of times the book has been read. If we assume that everyone commenting has read it only once, and that everyone commenting read it, and that only commenters read it then it has been read about 2000 times. Not 2,000,000. 2,000. Now, 2,000 reads is nothing to sniff at. But inflating that by a factor of 1000 most certainly is. The fact is that 99.9% of people who had the opportunity to request a free copy evidently didn’t.

And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that most online stats are inflated artificially by bots. How this is a  “blockbuster” is beyond me.

None of which says anything about the quality of the book itself. I haven’t read it. But I have significant doubts. You can read part of why here: http://www.slaw.ca/2019/01/03/blockchain-probably-not/

The author is also an executive for a company that needs blockchain to be widely adopted in legal for their success. So there is a bias, there. When the blog post above was published, someone referred me to the author. I invited him to read the column and tell me if I was wrong. He hasn’t yet. It’s an open invitation. But I’m not holding my breath.

I was one of the 1.7 million who saw the LinkedIn post and replied with “Gimmie” (the phrase that Stevie Ghiassi of Legaler wanted you to type to get access to the eBook). By doing so, as Jason Morris points out, I immediately put Stevie’s LinkedIn post potentially in front of my 1,467 LinkedIn connections (most of whom will have very little interest in Blockchain for Lawyers let alone Blockchain for anyone). But they were all added into that 1.7 million statistic nonetheless.

I wouldn’t, however, be as generous as Jason was in suggesting that everyone who commented on the LinkedIn post (1,729 comments at the time of writing this) downloaded and read the eBook. That is because a closer look at the comments show replies to almost each ‘Gimmie’ by Stevie Ghiassi and then sometimes further replies to Stevie from the original person who said ‘Gimmie’. There are also regular additional comments by Stevie tagging various new people into the post to widen even further its circulation. Each of these entries count as a comment. I have not gone through each of the 1,729 comments but I would suggest it fair to say maybe one-third if that will be ‘Gimmie’. So maybe 576 requests for the eBook.

When I downloaded it I had a quick glance at it and dismissed it as marketing fluff. Many of the other 575 who said ‘Gimmie’ will have done likewise. A good proportion probably didn’t even get around to downloading it.

How many then have actually read it. Possibly less than 500. That makes the suggestion of 1.7 million views one of the most inflated exaggerations I’ve heard in a long time. Trump’s fake news (whether his own or that he imagines to be made by others) pales into the shade.

I have now read the eBook. I thought I better had if I was going to write about it. Doing so just confirms my initial view of it being marketing fluff.

It is full of hyped up jargon and provides a completely unbalanced view of the reality of Blockchain for lawyers.

It contains classic misleading statements such as:-

The practice of law has famously lagged in innovation, remaining ‘analogue’ while other services like banking and accounting continue to transition online.

This ignores completely the evolution of technology in legal practice over many years that makes it anything but ‘analogue’ today. Blockchain may end up being part of that evolution but it certainly isn’t the Holy Grail of legal technology.

Interestingly, but maybe not surprisingly, Mark Cohen, who wrote the Forbes hype, contributed to the eBook with a quote on his views of the promise of Blockchain.

The eBook contains a glossary of jargon but I prefer Alex Hamilton’s Law Tech Glossary where he defines Blockchain as:-

A technology for creating and sharing between many parties an unchangeable ledger of historic transactions. Introduced initially as part of Bitcoin, it is now being touted as a technology to underpin a number of legal-related activities. Most, if not all, of these potential use cases would be better served by a database.

If you really want to know if you need a Blockchain just check out doyouneedablockchain.com first.

By the end of 2018 legal technology journalists were being called out for the hype they were creating over Artificial Intelligence. It is disappointing to see, as we enter 2019, that they are carrying on regardless at least where Blockchain is involved.

In a week when another legal tech journalist said “there is no stopping the lawtech rollercoaster” I think that any such rollercoaster is often being created by the journalists. It is they that need to put the brakes on it before it runs out of control.

Suggesting that 1.7 million people viewed an eBook on Blockchain for Lawyers when the reality is that maybe 1.7 million people glanced at an advert for that eBook and only circa 500 actually read it is misleading in the extreme. It does nothing but fuel the hype around AI and Blockchain.

For the novice legal technology start-up such hype makes them think Blockchain must be the band wagon to climb onto. It isn’t necessarily so. Last year the Global Legal Hackathon did the same thing (at least in London) and chances are that Blockchain will unnecessarily while away the hackers time at the event this year.

They need to be woken up and shown the snake oil for what it is. Whilst legal technology journalists continue to peddle the hype and not provide balanced reporting we will have a legal industry that believes tomorrow is going to be very different from reality.

In The Observer this past Sunday (online in The Guardian) there was an excellent article on this by John Naughton entitled ‘Don’t believe the hype: the media are unwittingly selling us an AI fantasy‘.

In this article Naughton states that “journalists need to stop parroting the industry line when it comes to artificial intelligence”. He quotes research that shows that:-

Critically, AI products were often portrayed as relevant and competent solutions to a range of public problems. Journalists rarely questioned whether AI was likely to be the best answer to these problems, nor did they acknowledge debates about the technology’s public effects.

He concludes:-

So lets have no more “soft” coverage of artificial intelligence and some real, sceptical journalism instead.

Noah Waisberg of Kira Systems made the same point at Legal Geek in October of last year where he called out legal tech journalists who promote hyped up legal tech PR fluff without doing proper diligence. He told them to “do real journalism”.

Let’s hope we start to see more real legal technology journalism in 2019 that is properly researched, analytical, informative and not just down right misleading.

On The Time Blawg I will continue (when I can) to call out those that fail to do so.

Reactions on Social Media

In addition to the responses in the comments section below there have been reactions to this post on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

On LinkedIn there has been the following comments:-

Ivan Rasic (LegalTrek CEO LawWithoutWalls (LWOWX), Eleven Mentor):

Fighting hype with data and common sense. Thanks for sharing!

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Yvonne Nath (Business Strategy Consultant):

On marketing metrics: views per se do not have much meaning, especially if we compare sales to views. More views water down the ratio. If one’s goal is to receive direct sales benefit, one hopes to create content that gets you close to a 1:1 ratio of sales to views. On the other hand, if the goal is to win a position as a thought leader (which may indirectly lead to sales or some other benefit one seeks), then many views, whether genuine or not, can make others perceive someone as a thought leader. Many genuine views will keep them there. Many fake views…people can spot hype soon enough.

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Holger Zscheyge (Legal Publisher, Legal Tech Enthusiast, inquisitive Mind):

Sounds all a bit like sour grapes to me. The eBook is free of charge, written in a concise language understandable for non-technical people (AKA lawyers). Of course, the author wants to spread the word as wide as possible – what use is his effort and the eBook itself, if only 20 people know about it? With all our attention focused on Kim Kardashian’s butt nowadays (which, BTW, got a gazillion times more views), you have to stand out a little bit to have people look your way. Again, in my view, no harm done here. If my followers on LinkedIn are not into blockchain, they will just ignore the mention on my wall – I trust them to be that mature.

Brian Inkster:

You appear to have entirely missed the point of my blog post Holger Zscheyge. No one is suggesting that the author of the eBook cannot spread the word regarding the existence of his eBook as far as possible. Indeed his ‘Gimmie’ tactic for so doing was a clever one and I might use it myself sometime. The harm that has been done here is (after the LinkedIn post) providing misleading information that suggests that 1.7 million people viewed the eBook when they clearly did not. Nowhere in the Forbes article is LinkedIn mentioned. If it had been an article about how you can promote an eBook on Blockchain for Lawyers like you were Kim Kardashian that would have been another matter. It would then have fairly and accurately represented the actual position. It unfortunately did not  and as a result misled the Forbes readership. That is clear from many comments following on from it on social media where people clearly mistakenly thought the eBook had been read 1.7 million times. I note you are a legal publisher and hope, as such, that you would not stoop to such practices.

Holger Zscheyge:

Brian, I hear what you say in your blog post. But again, no harm done, in my opinion. At least not intentionally, as Mark pointed out. Social media metrics are a tricky area, views vs reads vs buys etc. One can argue whether the appearance in someone elses feed, that is followed by other people that are presented with it by LinkedIn’s algoritm, can be considered “a view”. If not, then the whole advertising industry bases its business model on a misconception (which might be true, but try to argue with them). I probably wouldn’t count all visitors to a book shop, where one of my books is on display, as “viewers”, no, but this is “the real world”. And, as I said, I believe that people are generally smart enough to differentiate hype from reality, especially readers on LinkedIn or Forbes. If not, and if they “fell for the exaggeration with 2 million views” and accidentally spent 2 minutes to download the free eBook – so what? Might open their eyes to a totally new subject. So let’s not nit pick – there are real fights to fight in legaltech and life. BTW, maybe Stevie Ghiassi can share the real download figures and put this discussion to bed?

Brian Inkster:

But no one was arguing about LinkedIn until Jason Morris pointed out it was LinkedIn views not eBook view that were involved. Mark A. Cohen not pointing that out in the Forbes article was and remains a huge error. It is truly a pity if “the real world” in your eyes is one where we can misrepresent such matters. I have suggested a misrepresentation of about 99.97%. If Stevie Ghiassi can correct that and confirm that nearer 1.7 million people actually did download his eBook then I will stand corrected.

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Mark A. Cohen (LegalMosaic; Writer, Speaker, Legal Business Consultant, Teacher):

To Brian Inkster’s comment (and others): The last thing my article intended to do is to add to tech hype. My view is–and has always been that human beings, not tech, solves wicked problems. Tech helps and enables new delivery models. You point out gamesmanship used to produce 1.7M views and I cannot speak to that as I don’t know the mechanics of how LinkedIn counts “views.” Note that the title of my article says “Views”–not “Reads.” The more important point raised by the discussion–and seemingly lost in the comment–is that legal tech is mainstream and law is not solely about lawyers or practice anymore. Let’s not become overly enmeshed in internal squabbles and focus on the bigger picture of creating a global legal community that is intent upon solving wicked problems. That’s my take.

Ivan Rasic:

I fully agree Mark that LegalTech is mainstream nowadays. I think auditorium may be growing a bit weary from various articles that use bashing of the legal industry as a means to get more clicks, so your article may have ended up being a collateral damage of the backlash. Not implying that you have done any of that whatsoever. I have, though, seen some authors employing this tactic.

Brian Inkster:

Thanks for responding Mark A. Cohen.

It may not have been your intention to add to the legal tech hype but that unfortunately has been the outcome.

You wrote the article stating that “a recently-released eBook by Australian legal tech company Legaler, drew 1.7M views in two weeks”.

You went onto state: “But why, with so many blockchain and legal tech books and articles, is Legaler’s eBook capturing so many eyeballs?”

You concluded that “Stevie Ghiassi’s  thoughtful book that encourages lawyers to embrace technology as a tool to better serve legal consumers and society is deserving of even more views.”

Thus each time you referenced “views” it was directly linked to views of the actual eBook and not to “views” of a LinkedIn post advertising the eBook.

Anyone reading your article would be likely to assume that viewing an eBook meant reading an eBook. That fact is clear from many responses to your article where the LinkedIn dimension was not known about or appreciated.

Nowhere in your article do you mention LinkedIn. So no one reading your article would have assumed you really meant views of a LinkedIn post advertising the eBook.

If Stevie Ghiassi provided you with information to the effect that 1.7 million people viewed his eBook and you printed that information in good faith then he misled you and you, in turn, unwittingly misled your readers.

If, however, you knew that the statistic was views of the LinkedIn post and not the actual eBook then you misled your readers by not spelling that out.

Either way you should ensure that Forbes publish a correction of this erroneous representation of the 1.7 million statistic.

Knowing the mechanics of how LinkedIn counts “views” is irrelevant when your article doesn’t mention LinkedIn. If you are just going to mention the eBook and not LinkedIn then you should replace the 1.7 million figure with the actual number of downloads (which I guess to be circa 500). If you are going to retain the 1.7 million assertion then it should be spelt out that this is views of a LinkedIn post advertising an eBook.

In either case that wouldn’t be newsworthy. But it would be the truth.

Your approach is no different from say Legaler advertising their eBook during the Super Bowl and bragging that 103.4 million people viewed the eBook when those 103.4 million people only saw an advert for the eBook. The number downloading the eBook on the back of that advert would be a small fraction of this headline figure.

Creating a global legal community that is intent upon solving wicked problems will involve trust within that community to work together to solve those wicked problems. Relationships flourish when partners trust each other to be honest, faithful, respectful, kind, consistent and open to resolving conflict (among many other things).

Misleading that community with information that is 99.97% incorrect is not a good move in building this trust.

Philipp Thurner (Award-winning Legal Innovator and Legal Technologist. Design Thinker | Product Manager | Consultant):

Great example on how data can lead you a stray if you don’t look at the Why. This doesn’t prove that legal tech is mainstream. It’s certainly not yet. This post proves that blockchain is mainstream. You only need to click on the hashtag to see how many followers the tags have. #legaltech about 400 and #blockchain well over 8k. Next thing we need to understand what “Views” are. Well… they are impressions. Whenever someone opens LinkedIn and their feed loads, if it loads that post, that’s an impression or a view. So everyone who follows blockchain got it. Everyone who followed anyone tagged in the post, got it. Everyone following anyone who interacted with the post, got it. It only showed up in their feed.

I think it was quite an achievement for Stevie Ghiassi to get this many organic impressions tho. Smart use of tagging.

Brian Inkster:

Thanks Philipp Thurner for commenting. However, I can’t see any hashtags on Stevie Ghiassi’s original LinkedIn post. So I don’t think hashtags have anything to do with the reach of his LinkedIn post. As already discussed it was the ‘Gimmie’ request and offer of something for free that probably swung it coupled by him actually tagging a lot of people and continuing to do so after the post was first published.

Legal Tech is mainstream – amongst lawyers. It has been for a long long time. All lawyers (apart from maybe a very few odd ones) use technology daily. You can read my take on the history of legal technology here: http://thetimeblawg.com/2018/02/11/hack-the-past-how-the-legal-profession-knew-nothing-about-technology/

Blockchain, unlike LegalTech, is not mainstream amongst lawyers. Lawyers on the whole are not interested in Blockchain. Some are playing with it for the sake of it and to look cool: http://thetimeblawg.com/2018/03/01/hack-the-law-to-reinvent-the-wheel/

Blockchain may be mainstream amongst Bitcoin fans but it isn’t elsewhere.

What, however, is your view on someone saying there were 1.7M views of an eBook rather than saying those were views of a LinkedIn post advertsing the eBook that had maybe only 500 downloads?

Phillipp Thurner:

Brian Inkster Good Point. All shares and comments within post included these tags though. Saw many with even bitcoin hashtags. Well… I personally wouldn’t report on impressions a but on actual conversations but that’s my personal opinion.

Is it a little misleading? Everything is open for interpretation and I’m sure that most things we read in papers and articles sounds better than they actually are. I usually make my own picture on what’s actually happening behind closed doors. I do understand tho why people do it coz it sells better and it’s more interesting to read. Hype has positive and negative effects but that’s a different topic all together.

Brian Inkster:

Thanks Philipp Thurner. I didn’t notice any shares or comments within the post with those hashtags. Mostly it was just ‘Gimmie’ or ‘Thanks’ and the like. Unusual for anyone commenting on a LinkedIn post to add a hashtag. There may of course have been some but I think they would have been a minority. If anyone was using the bitcoin hashtag in a post about blockchain for lawyers they were clearly confused.

Yes, hype sells but that is not an excuse for fabricating the truth. If you haven’t already read it take a look at Kevin Colangelo’s comment on this thread about ‘Truthiness’. He is spot on.

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Kevin Colangelo (Vice President, Head of Enterprise Client Engagement at HBR Consulting):

Thanks for highlighting.  There’s a lot of “self-credentialing” in our ecosystem on many topics.  Unlike even 5 years ago, one can read-up on a topic from an armchair (e.g., law schools’ efforts to broaden their appeal to potential students) and offer authoritative-sounding proclamations to a wide audience.  It’s a problem particularly as such pundits & their readers repeatedly share, like, etc. these assertions or if the platform offers built-in gravitas (“It was in [mainstream pub], so it must be true!”).

It’s all evidence of the Validity Effect, which Colbert famously called “Truthiness.”  “. . . the belief or assertion that a particular statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions” (Wikipedia).

Spot-on for much of the ink spilled recently and this challenges those with real, fingers-in-the-dirt expertise who seek to advance & improve the profession, however expressed (e.g., being tapped for a panel, attempting to sell your expertise to a law firm, etc.).  Hoping ’19 will be better.

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Aron Solomon, JD (Innovation Realist):

This was a TRULY superb piece, and one that got a lot of play on Twitter. It’s 2019, ffs. Let’s finally call out the bullshit in and around #LegalTech.

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In another thread also on LinkedIn, where my post was shared, the following discussion took place:-

Alex G Smith (Innovation Manager at Reed Smith LLP):

For almost two years we’re being swamped by playbook content marketing and big claims in legal … this feels like the line in the sand, let’s get to honest, open, humble and human again please. Read the comments and Brian’s article. Caroline Hill this is along the lines of your Legal Geek talk right? Storytelling and praising small last change with people, process, tech not what we’ve had.

The comments are worth reading …

Caroline Hill (Editor-in-Chief at Legal IT Insider aka The Orange Rag):

Alex you’re right that I’m a fan of back to basics but what concerns me about the hype busting rhetoric in general is that it is very likely to deter people from attempting to educate the market about technology for fear of being shot down in flames. In the same way as Brian Inkster is great at dissecting hype, it’s important to be able to take feedback and that is: steer clear of creating a toxic Donald Trump-like culture where the media or other educators are the enemy. Not that I’m comparing you to Donald, Brian. Oh dear God I’ve brought politics into it now!

Alex G Smith:

So who is educating then? If “we” (certain people held a point) all went too far one way and certain groups lost the trust of people (though incorrect content marketing, overclaiming, etc) who is left to educate? Who is left to build back up. This is a necessary correction because just like when Trump goes or Brexit “occurs” the fall out is that certain parties/groups will be left no longer functioning or in radical need of overhaul. Everyone wanted change but I think everyone wanted only firms to change … in fact change will be across the ecosystem, things may not be needed or need to embrace radical new models. It’s going to be different but painful … just like Brexit.

Brian Inkster:

Caroline Hill When I wrote my “hype busting” post I did procrastinate over the use of the word “fake” in the headline. I knew that using this word can bring out Trump comparisons. But also it can draw people in as headlines are supposed to do. On balance I thought that as it was a mirror opposite of Mark Cohen’s headline I was completely justified in using “fake” when he used 1.7 million instead of 500 (my guess at the real statistic involved). With a reasoned, fact based article that argues Mark Cohen has misled his readers by being 99.97% incorrect, his article was about as fake as it comes.

What Trump does (and I appreciate and am thankful that you are not comparing him to me!) is to shout “fake news” with no argument whatsoever as to why it is fake. He also circulates his own fake news that is not based on any reasoned argument or on any actual facts.

Mark Cohen took a statistic which was possibly true of LinkedIn views of an advert for an e-book but not true of views of the actual eBook itself and wrote an article that implied the latter and not the former.

This was misleading in the extreme. It was the epitome of fake news.

Mark Cohen is not “the enemy” as a result but he has been rather naughty. That naughtiness in my opinion requires to be called out to dampen the hype he was creating.

Others assumed his reporting to be correct and repeated it. Some examples found online include:-

“1.7 Million views in two weeks. No, we’re not talking about YouTube videos. The #ebook Blockchain For Lawyers is breaking the internet.”

“Impressive how this ebook got 1.7m views in two weeks.”

“It’s a wonderful book – but there’s also got to be some masterful marketing behind it. Getting 1.7 million views for an ebook is more interesting to me than blockchain for lawyers.”

“Blockchain For Lawyers. 1.7m views in two weeks. Wow!”

“A little over ten years ago, very few people knew about a blockchain, but in our time, the technology has become a force to reckon with and even have the potential to displace the most feared professionals (lawyers) if they don’t embrace it.

The latter part of the last sentence may seem to be overhyped but it certainly is not, going by the fact that a new ebook about legal blockchain practice amassed 1.7m views in just two weeks!”

Mark Cohen himself had the gall to tweet: “International blockbuster? Why has this eBook garnered nearly 2M views?”

This all perpetuated the naughtiness. It is the ‘Truthiness’ at play that Kevin Colangelo refers to here: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6491219432617189376?commentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Acomment%3A%28activity%3A6491219432617189376%2C6491681542815911936%29

Journalists (including legal tech journalists) should be expected to provide articles that are fact based and not mislead. Of course journalists will take different viewpoints and the same point may be argued in different ways as we see for example in newspapers that are right wing compared to those that are left wing in their leaning.

But we cannot and should not allow legal tech journalists to get away with presenting a position that is perhaps 99.97% inaccurate.

You admirably referred to it as “a valid call” following Legal Geek and the popcorn moments that ensued on Twitter after Kira Systems’ founder Noah Waisberg “called for the legal tech press at large to become more discerning in its coverage of ‘AI’ and emerging technology and try to help avoid some of the hype.” The Forbes article is a glaring example of what Noah was referring to.

As I said earlier Mark Cohen is not “the enemy” for what he wrote. But in my mind, and I think the minds of many others, his credibility as a legal technology commentator has been shot to pieces. I, for one, will certainly be approaching future articles by him with a high degree of care. This I already do with certain other legal technology ‘journalists’ due to their poor track record to date. That does not, of course, include the Legal IT Insider.

The message here for legal technology journalists is to fact check the information they are supplied with and present it accurately and fairly.

Any legal technology writers that do so will win a watch in an age where readers clearly want less hype and more realistic reporting.

You should not be “shot down in flames” for realistic reporting or even for the occasional PR fluff piece. You should, however, be shot down for greatly exaggerated and misleading articles that fuel legal tech hype. And if you present a position that is perhaps 99.97% inaccurate and misleading you fully deserve to, and should, be shot down.

Kevin Colangelo (Vice President, Head of Enterprise Client Engagement at HBR Consulting):

Much of this is remediated if an author’s (note: author, not journalist – different vocation) intentions are spelled-out clearly up-front. Prolific authors like Cohen are selling something most of the time. This is not a bad thing – I do it too. It’s admirable that Cohen & others devote so much time and energy to our industry. But make no mistake: every article is intended as sales collateral for something. In Cohen’s case, I assume it’s unique, compelling expertise such that downstream he is retained as a consultant, a retreat keynote, a Board member, or perhaps as an Adjunct at a law school. All worthwhile, non-controversial pursuits.

Problems arise when, as here, an author (1) veers outside of her/his areas of truly qualified expertise (fingers-in-the-dirt stuff) and/or (2) fails to establish the “advertorial” nature of his/her piece. When you know you’re being sold to, bombastic statements like those in the subject article are taken for what they are: eye candy meant to trigger the buying cycle. The intent was to sell expertise not deceive. But absent clarity on his credentials & motivations, a sophisticated audience justifiably called a foul..
Oh yeah. You really should know your audience, too . . .

Caroline Hill:

Alex G Smith so here’s an example of where I think things are going awry – there are a ton of ebooks from vendors and and many are a mixture of fact and useful tips and marketing guff. If we are to tear a strip off one we must tear a strip off all and then we really won’t have time for our day job. Let’s keep our eye on what the ultimate goal is. As you know (and you flagged here), I’m a genuine supporter of the reset movement. Or as Justin North Janders Dean calls it #bringbackboring !:)

Now I’m off to watch my son play rugby and it’s freezing! Happy Sunday.

Brian Inkster:

Caroline Hill I think you might be missing the point of the debate which was nothing at all to do with tearing a strip of the Blockchain for Lawyers eBook but everything to do with tearing a strip of the Forbes article that suggested 1.7 million people had read that eBook when the actual figure was probably somewhere nearer 500. That article suggested that as a result there was a huge “hunger” amongst lawyers to learn about Blockchain. This clearly hypes Blockchain and does not reflect the reality involved.

I downloaded the eBook a few weeks ago and dismissed it a piece of marketing fluff. It was a basic guide to Blockchain for Lawyers but a very biased and unbalanced one. I wouldn’t have wasted my time blogging about that. But when the very misleading and inaccurate article in Forbes came out that was a very different matter.

As I said in my earlier comment I believe that such misleading and inaccurate information should be called out for the benefit of those who may know no better and be taken in by it. If you are part of the reset or #bringbackboring movement (as I am) then I think you have a duty to do so. This is especially so in extreme cases like this one where the information given was potentially 99.97% inaccurate.

I know that since I published my blog post you have been busy getting hot and bothered queuing to get into Oracle OpenWorld and then freezing watching rugby. You may not have had the time to fully digest the arguments and the debate that has taken place within another thread on LinkedIn and also on Twitter. I have updated my post to include all of those at the end and in one place. You might want to catch up on all of that at leisure over a croissant and coffee in the morning. You can read it here: What does it say when a Legal Blockchain eBook is promoted by FAKE views?

Mark Wasson (Principal at MarkHitsTheRoad): 

Unfortunately the big claims in legal tech have been coming for decades, and will no doubt continue.  That’s why it’s important to set higher expectations for those promoting the technologies.

In a 30-year-career with LexisNexis R&D I looked into more than 400 3rd party technologies, many referred to me by someone in the company who heard some impressive claims.  Most really didn’t deserve the cost of having staff investigate them.

By the time some technology is mature enough for people to try to apply it to the legal domain, it is sufficiently well-defined in the R&D community to have example successes and failures in other applications, evaluation procedures that can be applied across approaches to that technology, and quantifiable metrics.

Hype is inevitable, but at some point – and fairly quickly – the candidate tech provider must demonstrate real familiarity with the technology space and share real test/evaluations and results using the technology-standard metrics.  (I met with candidate tech providers who claimed their technology could improve search accuracy but had never heard of the most fundamental metrics of search accuracy:  recall, precision and f-measure.)

Their test cases may not align with the buyer’s.  Only testing on buyer cases does that.  But by sharing their experiences with testing and evaluating the technology, the candidate provides insight into their level of expertise and experience with the technology at hand.

It also helps the buyer determine whether the application may be ready for their “prime time”.  A 4% increase in Top 20 search relevance is statistically significant, but will users notice the 1-document difference in Top 20 results if they rarely go past the Top 10, and are they willing to pay the cost?  How fast is “fast” when it comes to processing a large document collection?  The impact on a data center footprint or cloud bill is part of the cost of adoption.

I don’t care how many people saw a link (or even clicked on it), any more than I care how many people saw a demo at some trade show.  Blockchain – like many of the technologies we now call AI in law – is mature enough that providers should now be providing concrete specifics if they want to impress.

Alex G Smith:

It was always a pleasure working with you on this a popping those claims … the lack of metrics and measurements is rife right now.

-+-+-+-+-+-

And on Twitter we had the following tweets:-

Mark A Cohen‏ @legalmosaic (Legal Education | Legal Delivery System | Future of Law | Legal Supply Chain | Strategy Consultant in Legal Industry):

The article focused on bigger issues of global legal community, new tech-enabled, customer-centric delivery models, investment, etc. to solve law’s wicked problems. Hope focus is not diverted to how views were created–and article title said “views,” not “reads.”

Jason Morris @RoundTable Law (Dad, tech geek, board gamer, Lawyer at Round Table Law, LLM computational law candidate @UAlberta. ABA Innovation Fellow 2018/2019. TEDx, Clio Cloud speaker):

It also said eBook, not LinkedIn post.

If you don’t want attention to be diverted toward falsehoods, don’t repeat them.

And if one accidentally gets repeated, the appropriate journalistic response would be a retraction, and an expression of regret.

The Time Blawg @TheTimeBlawg (The past, present and future practice of law (brought to you by @BrianInkster of @inksters):

Nail. Head. Yet again a direct hit by Jason. #blockchaingate

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Mark A Cohen:

I cannot speak to “fake” views, @TheTimeBlawg and others. Focus of article was to draw attention to global legal community galvanized by tech possibilities to solve law’s wicked problems and what tech means to legal professionals’ careers. Hope that positive message is not lost.

The Time Blawg:

If you are called out for using a statistic in a way that is possibly 99.97% inaccurate you should be able to speak to that. Original blog post now updated to include all the comments from LinkedIn. Surprising how some people think to mislead is ok.

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Mark A Cohen:

“Blockchain For Lawyers” international blockbuster? Why has this eBook garnered nearly 2M views? Here’s what that says about the legal industry.

Carolyn Elefant @carolynelefant (Power, pipelines & property law #altlaw owner: PowerUpLegal.com ; blogger, author, mom. Early adopter/early widow):

It’s a wonderful book – but there’s also got to be some masterful marketing behind it. Getting 1.7 million views for an ebook is more interesting to me than blockchain for lawyers.

The Time Blawg:

The answer to the “masterful marketing” and the fact it is more like 500 and not 1.7 million is here @carolynelefant: What does it say when a Legal Blockchain eBook is promoted by FAKE views?

Mark A Cohen:

Let’s not lose sight of bigger issue, @TheTimeBlawg and @carolynelefant. It’s not about what some allege as gamesmanship to boost views but global excitement, investment, & possibilities to solve wicked problems that new tech-enabled models provide.

The Time Blawg:

Global excitement shouldn’t be created by hype that is simply untrue. Bring a bit of reality into your reporting and we will all be the better for it. It may help create trust that will allow us to work together to solve those wicked problems.

Carolyn Elefant:

Thanks – knew I could count on you! It’s hard to know at what point to jump on board in a new space.

The Time Blawg:

Suggest you hold back on this space for now 😉 But if you are publishing an eBook on another topic you can always use the ‘Gimmie’ trick if you want to get 500 or so people downloading it 🙂

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Stephanie Curcio @stephcurcio (IP Lawyer. Co-Founder, @Legalicity):

Battling Fake News in the legal tech space @BrianInkster’s great overview on why the public’s perception of legal technology is skewed by the media @TheTimeBlawg @KiraSystems @wearelegalgeek @ArtificialLawya @LPGravelle

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Alex G Smith @alexgsmith (Innovation Manager at Reed Smith LLP. Ex-Lexis platform innovation lead. Geekily into service design, information, technology, law and cricket):

When you see fake legal tech news and fluffery you need to call it … by doing so you send a clear message that as a clever, savvy audience you expect more from your press. Thanks @BrianInkster @TheTimeBlawg and @RoundTableLaw for calling this initially.

Paul Ryan @pjryan51 (Amateur Politician By Night):

Yes but bigger issue in legal tech news is lack of willingness to hold bigger suppliers to account with any kind of critical analysis of their products and performance. So instead usual suspects pat each other on back, get their “client wins” published and we never hear anything more.

Nick Rishwain‏ @NickJRishwain (Legal technology and marketing professional. #LegalTech, Robotics, and #AI fan and advocate. Co-founder of @LegalTechLIVE. Amateur comedian or wannabe. #comedy):

Interesting read. I had not read the Forbes article. However, this reminds me of a discussion I had with some others recently about Forbes articles being mostly fluff.

I should have said, I have not read the Forbes article.

Alex G Smith:

don’t worry @BrianInkster did and made comment in the article. I can’t even be bothered as it (at marketing level) seems to put the solution before the problem which is 50% of the problem at present, but hey-ho one day we’ll learn.

Aron Solomon @aronsolomon (Lifelong watch fanatic who now designs great watches @missionwatchco. I also help startups and huge corporations build cool stuff together):

Thank you. All. Again, I’m able to use

Legal Tech 100 per cent BS Logo

Legal Tech Reality Check at Lexpo 2019

By | January 14, 2019

Lexpo 2019 - Brian Inkster - Legal Tech Reality CheckIn 2018 I blogged a lot about the hype surrounding Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain in the legal world. This included:-

In 2019 I will be taking the scepticism I have expressed in these posts to present a reality check on legal technology live on stage at Lexpo in Amsterdam on 8 & 9 April.

My talk is on:-

The Seven Deadly Sins of Legal Tech Predictions

There is much hype about robots taking over the work of lawyers. In this talk I will guide you through The Seven Deadly Sins of Legal Tech Predictions to debunk the hype and allow you to see the wood from the trees.

Expect to hear tales of sensationalism by legal technology journalists, fake and failed robots, unimpressive legal chatbots, AI washing, Blockwashing and the reality of Moore’s law today. Blade Runner, which of course was set in 2019, will also feature.

Lexpo’19 – Legal Innovation at its best

In just three years, Lexpo established itself as the number one opportunity in Continental Europe to learn about the latest trends in legal innovation. Lexpo’19 will provide a comprehensive overview of the cutting-edge trends that will be high on every law firm’s agenda in the coming years.

Why visit Lexpo?

Network with the Lexpo speakers and panelists, your peers from the legal industry and dozens of vendors of innovative legaltech products and services. There will be plenty of opportunity to relax and socialise: during the morning- and afternoon breaks, while enjoying the extensive lunch buffets, during the refreshing drinks reception or at the original foodmarket-style networking dinner!

Learn about the latest innovations and find out how new solutions can bring you and your firm to the next level. Find out what Lexpo’s legaltech startup partners are working on and how their solutions might streamline your operations. Discuss pressing issues during round table sessions and discover how other firms delivered successful projects to their business.

Have fun! Lexpo visitors know they can expect the best experience: top speakers, interactive sessions, timely themes, high-quality catering and more than enough entertainment.

Lexpo’19 Themes

1. Differentiation

Innovative legaltech solutions are hitting the market at an ever-increasing rate, thereby facilitating the creation of level playing fields for all involved parties. How can law firms differentiate themselves to demonstrate competitive advantage to their clients? There will be multiple sessions at Lexpo’19 that will help formulating your strategy.

2. Collaboration

Collaboration is key, not only between lawyers and their clients, but also between the professional experts working in different practice areas. Partners might recognise the need to change, but their buy-in doesn’t always translate to a change in behaviour. At Lexpo’19 they explore different perspectives and let key stakeholders take the stage!

3. Valuation

What is legal advice really worth to clients? Does the means of delivery affect the value? How to work out the right price on the right deal? Can pricing and client service strategies help to differentiate a law firm from its competitors? How to define what customer-focused really means. And how can technology play a role? At Lexpo’19 prominent subject matter experts will share their views.

4. Cyber Security

The news is full of stories about law firm hacks and ransomware victims. Cybersecurity remains a top priority for law firms, the reality is often disappointing: expensive security projects that do not necessarily offer a return on investment tend to be pretty unpopular with CIOs! At Lexpo’19, they won’t just stress the importance of cybersecurity—they’ll try to find ways of improving security while keeping everyone happy.

Other Speakers

Other Lexpo’19 speakers so far announced include Heidi Gardner, Tim Nightingale, Richard Burcher, Arup Das, Marcus Weinberger, Karl Chapman,
Jenny Jones, Oz Benamran, Mitch Kowalski, Alex Hamilton and Peter Lee.

I’ve been a delegate before

In 2017 I attended Lexpo as a delegate and very much enjoyed the conference. Here is a video giving some impressions from that one:-

Lexpo 2017 Impressions from Lexpo on Vimeo.

Buy your tickets

You can buy your tickets here: lexpo.com/buy-your-ticket

Legal Futures Innovation Conference 2018: The One with the Women

By | December 31, 2018

Legal Futures Innovation Conference 2018The annual Legal Futures Innovation Conference in London is one that I like to take in. Neil Rose always manages at these conferences (as he also did at the Click 2 Client conferences) to produce a range of coal face practitioners with interesting stories to tell about their innovations in legal practice. This year’s conference in November was no exception.

This summary of the event is taken mostly from tweets I tweeted at the time. Thus they will be on the whole short bullet points. But I do elaborate a bit when I get to the keynote interview with Marilyn Stowe and also the panel of women leaders in innovation.

The current state of innovation
Rob Cross (Legal Services Board), Chris Nott (Capital Law), David Whitmore (Slater & Gordon) and Osman Ismail (DPS Software)

Alternative Business Structure (ABS) New Law firms are 3.3 times more likely to use technology than traditional Old Law firms.

The traditional law firm partnership model works against innovation.

Innovation is not about technology but technology is an enabler of innovation.

Millennials are not a rare breed they are the future of the legal profession. They think things we are not capable of thinking.

If you just exploit you will die. If you just explore you will die.

Certain law firms are businesses run by business persons. Others are law firms run by lawyers. ABS are more likely to be the former.

Smaller law firms aren’t really engaging with innovation in the same way as larger ones. I think there will be exceptions to this and plenty of larger law firms that aren’t really innovating even if they think, and issue press releases to suggest, that they are.

Smaller firms should engage with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They are open to forward looking discussions. Maybe more so than the Law Society of England & Wales.

Culture comes from leaders. Innovation comes from the top

Law firms equal a bunch of very busy people. Innovative law firms have someone driving change through it. Smaller law firms often don’t have that person. Hmm… smaller law firms can still and often do have an owner driving change. Often one who has escaped from BigLaw to do just that!

Keynote interview: Sir Nigel Knowles

It’s all about execution. You can have a vision and strategy but you have to execute it.

You need your people behind you to achieve success.

You have to try that little bit harder.

Too many partners in law firms can’t articulate their business plans fast enough.

Every partner in every law firm should be responsible for incremental improvement which drives innovation. This was incremental improvement again being advocated. This time by someone (Sir Nigel Knowles) who grew a global law firm using it. It works. Don’t believe the AI hypesters who say otherwise.

A word from the sponsors

90% of stress is caused by uncertainty. You should use legal technology to keep your clients informed electronically.

Legal Technology needs to look the part. Needs to be designed for user experience.

Lessons from listing
David Beech (Knights plc) and Greg Cox (Simpson Millar)

Knights culture today:-

  • Low ego
  • High confidence
  • Self-starters
  • Team
  • No dickheads
  • Normal people
  • Friendly

Again the view was expressed that the equity law firm partnership model is no longer fit for purpose.

Chris Marston jumped in at this point on Twitter from outside the Conference to tweet:

That old saw! It’s strategy, values and behaviours that matter, not legal structure. In my experience, most incorporated law firms still behave like traditional partnerships.

I commented:-

Speakers at the Conference have been emphasising separating management functions from doing law. Assume that could be true in a partnership, limited company or any other structure.

Chris Marston responded:-

Yes of course – and very often is. Good leadership can come from lawyers and non-lawyers, and in any entity-type.

Back to the Conference:-

Unregulated and proud
Merlie Calvert (Farillio), Ryan Lisk (Hybrid Legal) and Darren Stott (Which? Legal Services)

They plug an important gap at Farillio. However, I didn’t quite understand what the gap was. I questioned Farillio about this on Twitter and was advised:-

So we aim to help people with their businesses, supporting them with templates and guides that answer all the questions that often they feel to embrassed to ask a lawyer as they feel they should already know the answers.

Farillio acts as a support. So I believe the gap we plug is for the people that feel they can’t go to, or can’t afford a lawyer, we act as the help and support they need! Hope that helps.

Keynote interview: Marilyn Stowe

Marilyn Stowe

Marilyn Stowe

This interview was the highlight of the conference for me. Marilyn Stowe’s story was inspirational but also highly engaging and amusing. I didn’t tweet much through it as I was too taken up with the story of how she built, from humble beginnings in 1982, and sold in 2017 a very successful national family law practice. You can get the details of that from Marilyn’s page on Wikipedia but without the amusement value that Marilyn brought when telling her story to Neil Rose on stage.

I did tweet a couple of times during her story which may have been key takeaways. Those tweets were:-

  • Marilyn Stowe realised how important PR was to get on.
  • Take risks says Marilyn Stowe – many lawyers are very risk averse.

Women leaders in innovation
Shirley Brookes (PwC Legal), Vidisha Joshi (Hodge Jones & Allen), Shainul Kassam (Fortune Law) and Barbara Hamilton-Bruce (BHB Consulting)

We were told that men are not more innovative than women (Marilyn Stowe’s talk alone was evidence of that). A gender equality discussion took place about getting as many women than men speaking at Legal Innovation conferences.

Legal Futures Innovation Conference 2018 - Women leaders of innovationNeil Rose admitted that it had never entered his head when organising conferences previously. He had identified the content he wanted and sought out the speakers to suit without gender being a deciding factor.

However, at last year’s conference Vidisha Joshi had raised the speaker gender balance as an issue with him and he was now seeking to redress the situation (this year’s conference having 11 male and 9 female speakers).

Gender equality has been a recurring topic at legal conferences this year. Legal Geek made a point of ensuring fair representation and had a Women in Law Tech Panel. Janders Dean always ensure a gender balance of speakers at their conferences and are active promoters of Gender Avenger. They also call out those that do not include a gender balance at events.

Yesterday I was at a preview screening at the Glasgow Film Theatre of RBG (a documentary on the exceptional life and career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has developed a breath taking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon).

This preview was introduced by Nicola Irvine, Dean of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. Nicola is the first female Dean in the Faculty’s 350 year history.

The film showed the struggles that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had in a male dominated world in the 1950s and beyond. But how she overcame the obstacles placed in front of her to become the second female Justice appointed to the US Supreme Court and for a while she was the only female Justice on that court.

Ginsburg spent a considerable part of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, winning multiple victories arguing before the Supreme Court. She made it clear in the film that change takes time and needs to be done one step at a time.

After the film there was a Q&A panel session with five women (two of whom were lawyers).

As we are about to enter 2019 it should also be remembered that we will soon be marking the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time in the UK. The First 100 Years project was created by Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support, to chart the journey of women in law since 1919.

The move to gender equality at legal conferences is admirable and necessary. Indeed it seems odd that in this day and age we have to debate it. We heard at the RBG Q&A session that when one of the lawyer panellists was at university 75% of her class were female. Times have clearly changed since Ginsburg was a law student. But inequality still remains an issue as a study on wage differences between male and female lawyers in Scotland revealed in 2015.

I hope in 2019 we see gender equality becoming mainstream at legal conferences and no longer something we have to debate at them. I also hope, as part of that, we no longer have to have all female panels to compensate for the lack of gender equality elsewhere in the conferences. Please just always have such equality on all panels and throughout the conferences. After all Gender Avenger want to do away with all male panels at conferences but I think there aim is to have balance on those panels rather than replace them entirely with all female ones!

Now back to the Legal Futures Innovation Conference 2018:-

The new innovators
Dani McCormick (LexisNexis), Laura Fisher (gunnercooke), Peter Lee (Wavelength Law), Gary Gallen (rradar) and Debbie Farman (Jordans Corporate Law)

There was a very sensible talk from Dani McCormick of LexisNexis. She told us to avoid the AI hype. Her good advice included:

  • Go for marginal gains not disruption.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Look at process points.
  • Use existing tech.
  • Chip away at it.
  • GCs want simple tech and solutions.

‘Virtual’ law firm makes you sound unreal. gunnercooke don’t like the term as they are very real. I prefer Mitch Kowalski’s plug and play term which he uses for them and my law firm, Inksters, in his book The Great Legal Reformation: Notes from the Field.

We heard about Legal Engineers at Wavelength Law. That very same week there had been an interesting report about the battle by a Scottish law firm to trademark the term Legal Engineer.

Lawyers need to sit next to the Legal Tech.

You’ve got to give before you get.

Stubbornness is important to see it through and make it happen. Need to graft, take risks and be bloody stubborn.

Big Law can’t move at the pace a small New Law firm can to create change and a different way/model of working.

A mind shift is happening in Big Law. There is more innovation there just now than might have been the case three years or so ago.

There are new roles for non-lawyers in Big Law today that didn’t exist three to five years ago.

Networking

I have said before that legal conferences are as much about the people you meet than the content itself. Legal Futures always has an abundance of both. As usual at Legal Futures I caught up with old friends and met new ones in what was a most enjoyable and informative day.

Next Year

The Legal Futures Innovation Conference 2019 will take place in London on 28 November 2019.

The Legal Sector Client Experience Conference 2018 : The One at the Zoo

By | December 29, 2018

Legal Sector Client Experience Conference 2018In November I attended the Legal Sector Client Experience Conference at Bristol Zoo organised by Clare Fanner of Find Get Grow. It was the first conference I have attended where the Health & Safety announcement at the beginning included that if there was an animal related incident we were all to remain within the conference room! Thankfully the only ‘animal’ related incident of the day was the Conscious Solutions’ orange dog going missing at the end of the day (but that is quite a common occurrence).

Orange Dog at Bristol ZooHaving a conference for lawyers entirely dedicated to client experience is unusual but probably a much needed day of education for most. Especially so given some of the statistics revealed at the event from a survey carried out by customer experience specialists insight6. For example of the 70 law firms that were mystery shopped:-

Calling Back
75% of law firms called back after the client left a message

The speed of returning calls
42% within 3 hours
33% between 3 hours to one day
25% never received a call back

Follow up
Only 7% received a follow up call or e-mail within 5 working days of speaking to an expert

The following is a summary of the event taken, on the most part, from the tweets I tweeted at the time:-

Clients changed our brand and our perspective – why & how? – insight6, Jonathan Winchester & Rhian Huxtable

If something goes wrong with customer service it is a great opportunity to turn things around

Service can only be provided by people not by machines.

How employee ownership improves client service – Stephens Scown, Christian Wilson

You need to look outside the legal sector for good client service examples.

You need to record and celebrate when someone goes the extra mile.

You should engage with clients in a way that supports them e.g. Stephens Scown’s campaign to get people to pay more for milk to help the firm’s dairy farming clients.

Say thank you.

Love where you live.

Focus on client service and people.

Empowering the workforce to live & breathe a culture of client-centricity – Moneypenny, Claire Smith

Recruit for attitude over skill set

No appraisals just wow chats. What’s your wow moment and ouch moment.

Make people feel secure. “There’s no team without trust.” Paul Santagata, Head of Industry, Google. It is okay to make mistakes.

Give back. Blend work and home.

Interest free loans for staff when their chips are down.

“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon.

Go the extra mile.

Be available.

Live chat is the fastest growing means of cummunication. I thought, hopefully, with humans and not chatbots (e.g. LawDroid and Billy Bot)!

Do simple things. Make it personal. Answer the phone and say who you are. Use the client’s name back to them.

A client experience programme for YOUR law firm – insight6, Rhian Huxtable, Craig Hawthorn, Richard Knight & Mel Evans

Use smaply.com  to map the customer journey.

First stage of the client journey is knowing the type of client you will be dealing with.

Customer Experience v Customer Journey – Conscious Solutions, Rich Dibbins

Heat mapping using heat-map.co will let you know where your clients are going on your website pages.

Google Analytics tell you what pages are being bounced, how long are they spending on each page?

Most popular pages on any law firm website are the profile pages.

First mistake: Not being mobile friendly.

Second mistake: Asking for too many details on a contact form.

Third mistake: Too much info or bamboozling. But need plenty of content.

Fourth mistake: Not responding to bogus reviews on social media. Responding is customer service 101.

Chatbots are not there to replace lawyers. But to help. Although in my view If that is automated chatbots (e.g. LawDroid and Billy Bot) then yes… help!

You want a low bounce rate on your website and new visitors to be higher than return visitors.

Show us the money. Why you can’t aford to ignore CX – Find Get Grow, Clare Fanner & Third Bounce, Alex Barr

3% of turnover (excluding staff costs) is the average law firm marketing spend. i.e. You would spend 3% of turnover in cash on marketing activities but that 3% would not include your staff costs on marketing which would be on top of the 3%.

25% of opportunities are lost at the outset.

How what you do and say impacts others. An inspiring and unforgettable personal story. – Richard McCann

Richard McCann has a story that you have to hear to believe. I would not do it justice by trying to summarise it here. I suggest you read his books: Just a Boy and The Boy Grows Up.

His message is that you need not just an ‘I can’ attitude but you need an ‘I will’ and an ‘I did’.

Richard was a highlight in a very informative day on client service in law firms. A day that I was able to take choice parts from and use in a seminar on client service at my own law firm, Inksters, in December.

And at the very end of the day I was able to visit the animals in the zoo. That was an added value and memorable customer experience of attending this particular conference!

Bristol Zoo - Legal Sector Client Experience Conference 2018

Chats with Legal Chatbots ~ Episode 2: Billy Bot

By | December 28, 2018

Chats with Legal Chatbots - Billy BotThe official line on the Billy Bot website is that:-

If you need a Barrister or Mediator to help you, Billy can help you get a quote.

Billy Bot is a Clerksroom project to build a junior clerk robot. Billy is a cheeky chappie and loves to chat.

So I had a chat with Billy Bot. Here is the transcript:-

Billy Bot: Hi! I’m Billy, a robot junior clerk in training. I can help to get a quote from a barrister or mediator, quickly! Would you like to get a quote from a barrister, mediator, or something else? Click a button for speed!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

Me: Hi Billy

Billy Bot: Hi there! How can I help you today?
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

Me: Something else

Billy Bot: I can help with setting up a free conference call, putting you in touch with a solicitor, finding a profile on LinkedIn and some other clever stuff. How can I help you?
1. Search LinkedIn
2. Conference call
3. Contact a solicitor
4. Free legal help

Me: Search LinkedIn

N.B. Would I not have been better to just do that via LinkedIn directly rather than via a third party robot?

Billy Bot: Ok let me know whose profile you are trying to find?

Me: Yours

Billy Bot: Sorry but I need a name to search Linkedin?
1. Cancel

Me: Jonathan Maskew

Billy Bot: Okay, one second and I will see if I can find any matches!

Billy Bot: Here is what I could find: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/clerksroom-direct-runners-up-national-disruptive-live-maskew/

N.B. Billy Bot had selected for me one particular article by Jonathan Maskew on LinkedIn out of 24 written by him at the time. I had expected to be taken to his profile rather than to a specific article.

Me: What next?

Billy Bot: I can help with setting up a free conference call, putting you in touch with a solicitor, finding a profile on LinkedIn and some other clever stuff. How can I help you?
1. Search LinkedIn
2. Conference call
3. Contact a solicitor
4. Free legal help

Me: Free legal help

Billy Bot: Law donut is a great resource for legal information. What would you like help with and I can see if law donut has any relevant information for you?

Me: Can a crofting tenant legally buy their croft?

Billy Bot: Okay, one second and I will see if I can find anything useful!

Billy Bot: Sorry but I can’t find any results

N.B A Google search by me of the same question revealed about 22,600 results. The top result was:-

“Since 1976 tenants have been able to buy their crofts. Technically an owner is not a crofter but the landlord of a croft. However, so long as you live on the croft as the owner, the Commission does not expect the croft to be re-let to a new tenant. If you want to buy your house site you will need to employ a solicitor.” [Crofting – Citizens Advice Scotland]

Billy Bot: Do you want me to search again with a new search or put you in touch with someone who can help you?
1. Search law donut again
2. Contact someone

Me: Can you have a servitude right to park a car that is ancillary to a servitude right of access?

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

N.B. A Google search by me of the same question revealed about 76,100 results. The first page of results all confirmed the answer as yes with reference to Moncrieff v Jamieson.

But in case Billy Bot couldn’t understand Scottish legal terms I tried him with the English equivalent:-

Me: Can you have an easement right to park a car that is ancillary to an easment right of access?

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

N.B. I had mistakenly spelt easement as “easement” the second time it appeared in my question. But a Google search of the same question revealed about 23,600 results and also corrected my spelling mistake in the process.
Again the top results all confirmed the answer as yes with reference again to Moncrieff v Jamieson.

Giving up on asking legal questions I moved on to test Billy Bot on something else:-

Me: Can we try contacting a solicitor next?

Billy Bot: Ok to put you in touch with a solicitor I just need a couple of bits of information. Could you tell me your name please?

Me: Hercule Poirot

Billy Bot: Ok could I please have your email address?

Me: hercule@poirot.be

Billy Bot: Thanks! Could you please tell me your phone number?

Me: +32 123 456 789

N.B. +32 is the dialling code for Belgium but Billy Bot can’t cope with foreign telephone numbers:-

Billy Bot: Sorry but I need a valid phone number to continue
1. Cancel case

Me: 020 1234 5678

Billy Bot: Ok thanks, and finally if you could provide a brief description of what your enquiry is regarding that would be great.

Me: I have a debt to collect

Billy Bot: One second while I process that for you…

N.B. Over one hour later and Billy Bot still hadn’t processed that for me.
So I said:-

Me: That is taking you a lot longer than one second?!

N.B. Billy Bot then responded quickly and in quadruple:-

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

N.B. And so we were back at the beginning with no solicitor to help Hercule recover his debt. Unless someone had e-mailed hercule@poirot.be!

An awful lot of time had been spent chatting to Billy Bot with no perceptible benefit to me.

I know I had tested him on niche areas of Scottish law (crofting law and the law of servitudes) that I happen to specialise in. But then when I tried “easements” a familiar term in the law of England & Wales it still drew a blank.

A search on Google however on all three matters gave me exactly what I was looking for.

I did in another chat ask Billy Bot:-

How do I get a divorce?

He responded with links on Law Donut to Divorce Financial Settlement FAQs and Divorce FAQs.

So if you keep it simple Billy Bot may oblige.

I think Clerksroom have given Billy Bot too many tasks to perform. As a result he is master of none. In his early days Billy Bot was even linked to Domino’s Pizza and you could apparently use him to order a pizza. How successful that functionality was I do not know. But it no longer exists which perhaps tells us something.

I nevertheless tried Billy Bot, in another chat, with a pizza query:-

Me: Can you get me a pizza?

N.B. It looked like he was typing a reply. But after more than 10 minutes of him doing so I asked:-

Me: You’ve been typing for over 10 minutes now and I am still waiting to see what you have typed?!

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

Me: Can’t you chat unless I use a button?

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

Me: I thought IBM Watson had given you AI to do anything?

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

Me: Clearly no AI in you is there?

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

Billy Bot apparently can also switch on the coffee machine in Clerksroom’s offices and make a cup of coffee. I tried this function and he confirmed having made me a cup. If so I hope someone at Clerksroom in Taunton drank it for me as I was sitting in Glasgow (412 miles away) at the time!

Here is our coffee chat:-

Me: I understand you can make coffee. Is that correct?

Billy Bot: Hmmm I love coffee. I can make you a fresh coffee now if you like.

Me: Please do so.

Billy Bot: One coffee on its way!

Me: Thanks. How are you delivering it to me?

Billy Bot: Sorry I couldn’t quite understand what you meant. Maybe try rephrasing or use the buttons below to help you!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Something else

Me: Do you do biscuits with the coffee?

Billy Bot: Hmmm I love coffee. I can make you a fresh coffee now if you like.

And so we were back in the circular loop I was by now familiar with when chatting with Billy Bot.

Pizza and coffee are maybe fun gimmicks but the real purpose of Billy Bot is to instruct a lawyer. In that he failed. He told me that my request was being processed but then went silent on me for more than an hour. Perhaps at that stage e-mail contact would take over but he never told me this would be the case so I am none the wiser. Perhaps I should have used a real e-mail account rather than a pretend one.

I did in a separate chat try instructing a Barrister. Billy Bot asked me if I was a lawyer. Here is how the chat went from there:-

Me: Yes I am a lawyer.

Billy Bot: Ok, can I start by taking your e-mail address so I can see if you have used us before?

Me: atticus@finch-law-firm.com

Billy Bot: Thanks, one second while I check if I have your e-mail address in my system already…

Billy Bot: Sorry. We seem to be experiencing some technical difficulties.

Me: So you can’t check my e-mail address?

Billy Bot: I can put you in touch with a barrister, mediator, or a solicitor. Or if you would prefer you can always call one of my collegues on 01823 247 247!
1. Barrister
2. Mediator
3. Solicitor

Once more the circle had been resumed without achieving anything.

However, rather than all the questions and answers via a robot surely a simple website contact form would suffice and be more effective? For example:-

In an article in The Times over a year ago it was claimed by Stephen Ward from Clerksroom that:-

Our human clerks tended to take between eight and ten minutes to book a barrister. Now that process is fully automated with Billy Bot, which means we are saving about 200 hours a month.

Hmm… maybe not saving the instructing solicitor’s time. I spent well over an hour attempting a very simple instruction. I may have been unlucky. But a second attempt resulted in Billy Bot experiencing technical difficulties and again failing to complete my attempted instruction. A year ago he was apparently handling up to 100 instructions a day. I assume a year later he will be doing much more than that. Although why anyone is spending their time instructing in this way is beyond me.

But I am happy to stand corrected by those using Billy Bot regularly when instructing Barristers.

My own experience of instructing Advocates (the Scottish equivalent of a Barrister) is that I am only doing so for complex matters where the instruction usually requires to be very detailed. Our Stables (the Scottish equivalent of Chambers) do not yet have a Billy Bot. But I am unsure how a chatbot would fair with (as was the case in my last such instruction) a 1,778 word note with 26 accompanying documents. I simply e-mailed it directly to the Advocate.

Billy Bot (like other chatbots I have encountered) is a very early prototype and he will (like other chatbots) no doubt improve with age. At the moment it seems to me that chatbots are not yet equipped for serious heavy lifting. Clerksroom may disagree and I would welcome their comments.

A reality check on a day in the life of the future lawyer

By | December 27, 2018

Virtual Reality Lawyers Meeting

Will this really be how lawyers conduct meetings in 10 years time?

An article in Raconteur from last month was brought to my attention yesterday on Twitter. It is about ‘a day in the life of the future lawyer‘ (how the life of a leading lawyer will be transformed by legal technology in just a decade).

Well, I had thought that the hype around Artificial Intelligence and Legal Technology was well behind us by the time 2018 was coming to a close. Unfortunately not so.

I will provide my thoughts on this article to give it a much needed dose of reality.

Apparently in this brave new world of the future:-

Being connected through the internet of things means stepping from home to car to office is a seamless data process of arranging the day’s agenda, absorbing the morning news and responding to overnight developments in the practice at overseas offices. A file that needs to be shared with a client has been processed, not just in terms of the content relevance, but also through the most efficient channel.

Does this not happen already today and has for some time? I can move from home to car (to train, plane or boat for that matter) to office seamlessly using the internet. I am always (maybe not as yet on most planes) connected via the cloud to my law firm’s case management system. I have been via a data centre since 2011 and before that for many years using a VPN to the server in my office.

For our future lawyer:-

once in the office, the first duty of the day is to review a client dispute using predictive analytics.

This is perhaps one of the most likely predictions made for our future lawyer to be doing in 10 years time although I reckon they would be delegating the task to someone else in their firm. However, whilst there may be tools available to assist the process, human brain power and experience will still play a big part in any decision making taken. The future lawyer will need to analyse the predictive analytics with care.

A degree of caution is required with such systems. That may improve in 10 years time. At the moment Artificial Intelligence is not bad at telling the difference between cats and dogs (but not between Chihuahuas and blueberry muffins).

AI can't tell the difference between a chihuahua and a blueberry muffin

It does struggle with the “what-if” scenarios. There are a lot of those in law. See:-

Apparently our future lawyer will have:-

a swift cup of coffee, delivered by Gene, the office robot.

In a year when Russia’s most advanced robot turned out to be a man dressed in a robot suit I’ll hold my breath on Gene the robot delivering a coffee to my office desk anytime soon (see The Automation Charade). If you really can’t be bothered to walk to the office kitchen/vending machine for a coffee just buy a Nespresso machine and set it on your desk.

Legal Robot makes coffee - ordering an Uber will be next

Our future lawyer will be:-

joined in the virtual reality meeting room by two enterprise experts, the chief data officer and the head of communications, who are in overseas offices, and a member of the future lawyer’s team, working from home while on paternity leave.

The ability exists today and has for some considerable time for video conferencing. There have been advancements in that technology over the past 50+ years but I doubt those advancements will see us in virtual reality meeting rooms anytime soon.

Whilst the technology exists today to allow virtual reality meetings it is probably not a practical or cost effective option for most. We will no doubt still use telephone conferencing for some time to come as we often do now in preference to video conferencing. Simplicity and ease of use of established technology often trumps new technology.

Virtual Reality Meeting Rooms?

A member of the future lawyer’s team, working from home while on paternity leave, should not be a futuristic concept (at least the working from home bit). It should be perfectly acceptable and a normal option today. Although whilst on paternity leave you shouldn’t really be working!

The Raconteur article quotes Richard Susskind:-

Online is not an alternative to the courts system, it is the courts system. Within ten years, most cases will be resolved by online courts.

Whilst we may see an increase in the use of online systems by the court service I very much doubt that “within ten years, most cases will be resolved by online courts”.

Back to the law firm of the future, in the Raconteur article, where:-

earlier, online court proceedings had not turned up the desired result, so it is time to go for a full hearing.

But first:-

using telepresence, the firm has hired actors to play the court officials and jury as they run through a mock presentation of the case.

Their client may have something to say about the costs associated with that little exercise! Surely they could at least have drafted in the office robot Gene to assist? But, seriously the mock court may have a place to play in the University education of a lawyer but surely is not something an experienced court practitioner need contemplate?

Next:-

the lawyer of the future … entered the firm’s virtual library to consult some authorities for a case involving a particularly tricky point of law.

No surprise that Westlaw and LexisLibrary will still be in use in 10 years time. Both have been available since the 1970s (then as dial up services). So again not something new for our lawyer of the future.

Our future lawyer then:-

reviews a finance statement on an iPad.

Can’t they do that today?! And surely in 10 years time their iPad will be a thing of fond nostalgic memory as they review a finance statement on a Microsoft ‘Centaurus’ 5?

Then:-

since the client’s business is processed by blockchain, each part of the client’s concluded workload has been processed for payment using cryptocurrency.

Given that, just this past week, a study of more than 40 projects where blockchain was supposed to make services more efficient has found a success rate of zero, maybe your client’s business simply won’t all be on the blockchain in the future.

Surprisingly our future lawyer ends the day by:-

retiring to bed and pressing the last button of the day… lights out.

Surley no buttons would be pressed and it would simply be a case of saying “Alexa, lights out”. That is if by then Artificial Intelligence does not simply detect our future lawyer has gone to bed and switches the lights off for them. That is perhaps more likely to feature in the day of a life of our future lawyer than anything predicted for them by Raconteur that doesn’t already exist today.

The Raconteur article unfortunately commits most if not all of the seven deadly sins of AI predictions. It is also oblivious to the legal technology that already exists and is in use today.

Let’s revisit this in 10 years time and see where we are really at.

Image credits: Chihuahuas and blueberry muffins – mibrujula.com; Digital Transformation meeting – marketoonist

Is the mist starting to clear around Lawscot Tech?

By | December 19, 2018

Is the mist starting to clear around Lawscot TechI’ve already written a couple of posts about LawScot Tech:-

You will note therefrom a certain degree of scepticism.

However, happy to learn more and be convinced of the possible merits of this initiative, I went along to their meeting in Edinburgh last week.

This was the last of four meetings organised by the Law Society of Scotland “to get the ball rolling” (the first three being held in Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow respectively).

The Edinburgh event had speaking:-

  • The Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen of Elie, speaking in his capacity as member of the LawTech Delivery Panel (an initiative sponsored by the Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of England & Wales).
  • John McKinlay, Head of DLA Piper’s UK Intellectual Property and Technology practice and convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Technology and Law Committee.
  • Helena Brown, Head of Data at Addleshaw Goddard and vice-convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Technology and Law Committee.
  • Paul Mosson, Executive Director, Member Services and Engagement, Law Society of Scotland.

Lord Keen started speaking about AI and blockchain. I rolled my eyes. He told us about smart contracts in cargo transport being developed: smart containers monitor goods during transport.

Lord Keen told us that digitalisation of legal process is happening in Singapore faster than most places. Car accident claims there are all done digitally.

He told us that in England digital portals have already been developed for small claims and other areas. We will see more of it.

IBM apparently have an audit check for AI systems to identify if there is bias in these systems. Legitimacy must be tested. I pondered whether what we really need is a check for whether a system is really AI or whether it’s owners/promoters are just AI washing!

We then had John McKinlay and Helena Brown tell us what Lawscot Tech was all about.

Apparently the legal profession want to get involved in Legal Tech. I don’t think that is anything new. The ability to do so has always been there if you put your mind to it. I’ve been doing so for well over 20 years. I appreciate, however, that many lawyers will need some help on that front and an initiative like Lawscot Tech could play a part here.

There was recognition that we already have Legal Tech! Well nothing like stating the obvious. We had Legal Tech when I started my traineeship in 1991 and it was certainly around before that. Maybe we do need to remind new lawyers and Law Society staff of this as sometimes it seems that we have just entered the age of Legal Tech enlightenment. I blogged about that earlier this year: Hack the Past: How the Legal Profession knew nothing about Technology.

We were told that AI systems need to be educated. This takes time. But apparently we are seeing good results in Scotland. Amiqus and SnapDragon being mentioned in the same breath. But are they really AI systems? I don’t think Amiqus profess to be an AI system whilst SnapDragon mention on their website being AI-enhanced. Both appear to me, but I may be wrong, to be essentially search systems.

What about the legal technology firms that are Scottish and been operating for 20+ years? They weren’t mentioned.

We were told that there were mental health benefits to the legal profession by being able to use Legal Tech by pushing advice out at times that suit clients. I wondered whether there was a counter argument that machines pushing out advice (especially of the type currently available from legal chatbots) would mean a need for human backup to step in at anytime to save the day when the chatbot can’t cope?

Lawscot Tech follows the model employed by FinTech Scotland.

Lord Keen then mentioned Parker: The GDPR chatbot from Norton Rose Fulbright. I imagine he has never used it. A very simplistic chatbot that asks a few questions to determine whether you need to comply with GDPR and when you inevitably do simply states “Would you like to speak to my team members about what you need to do?” Hardly cutting edge or very useful legal tech.

Lord Keen also said it would be good to see Lawscot Tech develop a legal incubator in Scotland. Paul Mosson clarified that there was no immediate plans for this, although that may come. It is more about collaboration at the moment.

Collaboration apparently to build better platforms to then compete. We were told that many platforms were very basic at the moment. This to me demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the platforms and capabilities actually currently available.

Alex G. Smith seeing my tweets on this point commented on Twitter:-

Good luck to Scottish collaboration platforms … Sharepoint and MS 365 might save you a lot of money and meet ups (and the impact of free pizza on personal health) if people just use what they already have.

What do we need these ‘platforms’ to do that they can’t do at the moment? Again the Why? needs to be asked as highlighted in previous posts on this topic.

Also on the general question of collaboration Alex G. Smith suggested:-

You should all just get a shared Slack or WhatsApp group.

To which I responded:-

Tried that many moons ago with a Yahoo group for the Law Society of Scotland Communications Group. No one used it to communicate and the group fizzled out!

It was suggested that if law doesn’t move into technology then technology will move into the law. Again this statement ignores the fact that legal technology is nothing new.

Then a University Professor in the audience gave the most interesting perspective on the issue of the morning and brought us all back down to earth.

He pointed out that he has seen AI in law through his whole career. That is a long time he told us pointing at his grey hair. Today we are only marginally better at what we were doing years ago. We must be careful not to repeat past mistakes. We can’t be driven by exciting new tools. 

Alex G. Smith commented on Twitter:-

Most of the exciting new tools are faster file saving tools and then search engines …

Information retrieval was used from 2000 to 5 years ago and was essentially AI. We don’t realise how much of established legal technology we are using.

An academic paper from 2014 says most AI systems are basically just spread sheets.

It was also pointed out by the Professor that new legal start ups are usually bought out by the legal publishers.

MarrsioFootball asked the question on Twitter:-

Big question(s): will publishers turn competitor? Have they already?

Alex G. Smith responded:-

The ‘publishers’ have already done much of what the start-ups are doing in their R&D teams for the last 10 years. They will either release this or acquire strategic assets (one of things, not multiple) to complete their strategies/follow lawyer buying trends.

Then Paul Mosson told us that Lawscot Tech don’t want to block legal innovation in Scotland with a prescriptive approach. He mentioned that the Law Society of Scotland has a commercial programme with legal technology companies (I assume he meant those that pay them to be ‘promoted’ as part of their member benefit scheme) but that Lawscot Tech is separate from that. This may have been an attempt to address the concerns over this expressed by me in my earlier posts about Lawscot Tech.

I previously blogged:-

Perhaps the Law Society of Scotland will also, as part of this, look at scrapping its ‘member benefit scheme’ where a very limited number of legal technology providers are promoted by them presumably because money changes hands to do so. This does not provide members with a true picture of the legal tech landscape in Scotland nor indeed necessarily the best legal technology for them to invest in. It is anything but inclusive and gives the impression of a very private legal tech party/club.

Clearly they are not going to scrap their member benefit scheme. It makes them money. It would appear that as long as certain legal tech providers pay them they can access the ‘member benefit scheme’ without necessarily any due diligence on how good the legal tech is, what benefits that tech may have to members or indeed whether there is any track record of members actually using the technology in question!

However, how Lawscot Tech can separate this from what they are up to is beyond me. There are clear conflicts of interest arising from it that the Law Society of Scotland will have to deal with daily in trying to promote the Lawscot Tech initiative.

Not surprisingly the four legal technology providers in their member benefit scheme are all part of the Lawscot Tech community. However, that community still does not have listed within its membership the main legal technology companies in Scotland who provide legal technology solutions to most of the members of the Law Society of Scotland.

Paul Mosson advised that the last few months of Lawscot Tech had been about raising profile. Not about the people they know. They have already been speaking to them over the years. It has been about who they don’t know. Not about locking out but bringing people in. Next year they will go into workshop mode. They want to have a library of problems to tackle.

So are the ones they “know” the ones who are in the member benefit scheme already? Do they know the companies already who have been about for 20+ years and if so why are they not part of the Lawscot Tech community already?

Indeed at the meeting in Edinburgh I didn’t detect any legal technology companies in the room. Representatives all appeared to be from either law firms (mostly the very big ones) and from Universities. So if the legal technology companies are not in the room where are they?

After the Edinburgh event I heard a suggestion that the main Scottish Legal Tech providers may not be jumping into Lawscot Tech as they already have the connections they need with law firms and don’t need the Law Society of Scotland to connect them up. If so Lawscot Tech won’t achieve much. They need to get those players in the room.

But maybe the global aspirations of Lawscot Tech are more important. We heard from Paul Mosson that they are currently having an open dialogue with Singapore. Lets hope that doesn’t lead to jollies to Singapore like the recent Zurich and Vienna excursions! I think they should connect up the dots properly in Scotland before they start looking further afield.

Alex G. Smith, on Twitter, thought it maybe:-

looks like Scotland LegalTech is actually going to qualitatively research what it needs (101 Needs) rather than the randomiser of VC start-up hit and hope (like ‘England’ or is that ‘London’).

Will certainly be good if that is how it pans out.

In the new year Lawscot Tech will be looking for applications within the legal profession to join their Advisory Board. Five positions are available to presumably add to the existing six board members. Do they really need a board of eleven people to organise workshops involving lawyers and legal technology vendors? Could the Law Society CPD & Training section not organise that?

We heard from the floor that an issue at the moment is getting AI trained on data in law. Law firms are all doing their own thing. Paul Mosson confirmed that collaboration on data is a number one item for Lawscot Tech.

To that point Alex G Smith tweeted in response:-

Open up case-law data (make it free), get your legislation/regulations as consolidated xml and work out rules for anonymising contract data. Fix your end to end legal data supply first (may take a few years but will save time long run). #IAbeforeAI

We also heard from Paul Mosson that the Law Society of Scotland will be providing an online course so people in law firms are using Word, Excel etc properly. Yes, starting with the basics is a good idea and Lawscot Tech could learn from that approach.

So by the end of the meeting in Edinburgh I was a little bit clearer on what Lawscot Tech was all about. But the initial concerns raised in my earlier posts remain and have not been alleviated. In particular there remain an awful lot of important players in the legal technology sector in Scotland missing from the table. Something needs to be done to remedy that if Lawscot Tech is to have any credibility within the profession. Also the Why? still needs to be asked. Maybe that will be the purpose of the planned workshops in the new year.

It will be interesting to see how Lawscot Tech pans out in 2019 and I will keep you updated as and when I am aware of further developments.

Source Conference 2018 : The One with the Board Game

By | November 12, 2018

Source Conference 2018 - Source by SymphonyWhen I first heard, chatting with David Gilroy over a drink, about the plans for the Source Conference by Symphony Legal it certainly sounded like a conference for lawyers with a difference. When I saw the programme advertised this was reaffirmed. I had to go. So I did.

Viv Williams of Symphony Legal, opening the conference, prophesised that the legal landscape is likely to change more in the next 4 years than it has in the past 40 years.

Source Conference 2018 - Viv Williams

Viv Williams – Symphony Legal

Much of the conference perhaps sought to help the delegates who were lucky enough to be there with that change. And such change didn’t, I am pleased to report, involve Artificial Intelligence or Blockchain. Again it was refreshing to be at a conference where hype around legal technology was absent. It was more about the actual human elements involved in running a law practice that are still paramount to succeeding in business today.

The conference was called Source because it was “your source of inspiration, of ideas and of innovation”. As Viv elaborated:-

The pace of change in the legal profession has gathered speed over the last few years with firms reviewing structures and numerous firms looking at stock market flotations. It is more important than ever that we learn new skills from outside the profession that help us to run our practices as a business and not just be better at ‘the law’.

The MC for the day and first speaker was certainly from outside the profession. Jeremy Nicholas is an award winning TV, radio broadcaster and voice of the FIFA video game. He offered FIFA video game style voice overs in the break for someone you knew and their favourite football club. My nephew, who plays the FIFA video game, was over the moon to receive from me the video of Jeremy announcing his goal scoring prowess.

Like me, Jeremy is also an Edinburgh Festival Fringe performer.

Source Conference 2018 - Jeremy Nicholas

Jeremy gave us the 7 top structures for brilliant business presentations. It was interesting to think of some of these I had used (without realising the importance) in my own presentations. Also as the day went on I couldn’t help but clock the structures used by the other presenters and, in addition, the other elements highlighted by Jeremy as good to use when presenting: such as video, audience interaction, props, a poll and freebies. I think I manage to use all of those in my presentation on Lawyers and Social Media + Personal Branding for Law Students where Inksters Christmas Hats feature as props and freebies.

One of the 7 structures is incorporated within the tagline of this blog: The “past, present and future” practice of law. This is where you tell them how we used to do it, how we do it now and how we’re going to do it in the future.

I am, however, wondering how I can incorporate the James Bond structure into my next crofting law talk! This is where you start with something really exciting to grab your audience’s attention. It might not make sense to start with but you’ll explain what it means as you go along.

Source Conference 2018 - James Bond - Moonraker Jump

Jaws discovers his parachute isn’t going to open in the opening scene of Moonraker

Jeremy certainly grabbed the attention of the delegates at Source and held it throughout his presentation. As he did again in the evening with after dinner stories of encounters with Brian Clough, Christopher Lee and an armed man claiming to be Jesus.

One important takeaway from Jeremy’s talk (there were many though) was that when presenting no one is interested in you (the presenter). You need to know your audience but your message is the most important thing.

Then we had an hour and a half session on whether our law firm staff are ready for change. Alicia Sutton, Doron Davidson and Charlie Swan from PCA Law gave a very interactive presentation.

First there was a discussion around change with reference to the Change Curve.

Source Conference 2018 - Change Curve

We were told that we naturally and instinctively look for danger. Lawyers in particular do this making change difficult.

We are often held back by limiting beliefs i.e. a belief you impose on yourself that limits your ability to do things.

We learned about the evolution of trust:-

Source Conference 2018 - TRUST

I trust his parachute will open!

Then the interaction involved a meeting between Doron and Charlie where Charlie was very resistant to change. The audience were asked for views on what could have been done better by both of them. Then they re-ran their meeting with the audience instructed to shout “stop” when something should have been done better. Discussion took place and they re-winded and re-played with the new narrative.

Source Conference 2018 - PCA Law meeting - Doran Davidson and Charlie Swann

Doron Davidson and Charlie Swan of PCA Law

Although an hour and a half long the session held the audiences attention throughout and provided a great learning experience.

But it does take two to Tango. If one party remains staunchly negative can you turn them I pondered. At least with some of the techniques from PCA Law you will stand a fighting chance to do so.

Source Conference 2018 - PCA Law sum up

PCA Law sum up their session in one slide

After a “Wigwam break” (for a Tea and a Pee apparently!) we had a law firm spotlight where we heard three real life stories of law firms adapting to change.

Amongst other wise words, Richard Hill, of the GL (Gregg Latchams) Professional Services Group, told us to “Never underestimate the power of vision” and to “make sure we land the plane on our projects”.

Kristina Oliver discussed the growth of Keystone Law to over 300 solicitors in a short space of time. We learned that this was helped by innovative and cost effective marketing. I liked and could relate to their style from our own marketing initiatives at Inksters.

From Vidisha Joshi of Hodge Jones and Allen we heard that paperlight might work in a law firm but paperless probably won’t: “If you want to see real fear, tell a clinical negligence lawyer that you’re going paperless!” She also discussed not being afraid of taking risks for the future of the business and suggested that lawyers were not always the best people to make business decisions.

Source Conference 2018 - Law Firm Spotlights

Viv Williams. Richard Hill, Vidisha Joshi and Kristina Oliver on stage for the Law Firm Spotlight Session

In a general discussion with the panellists about change in law firms we were told that in staying positive about change don’t be afraid of not being the most popular person in the business.

We were told that change for change sake won’t be bought into. If you are clear about your vision people will get on board. Those that don’t will leave and you will be better off without them.

We had a short sponsors spotlight without whom the conference, like many, would not have been possible.

After a nice lunch it was time to play a board game. Yes, that’s right… two hours to play a game in teams on each table competing against the other teams on the other tables to make the most profit in running your imaginary law firm (think Monopoly for law firms). I did say at the beginning of this post that this was going to be a legal conference with a difference.

Source Conference 2018 - Ready4Business Simulation Game

This was the Ready4Business Simulation Game from theGrogroup. Paul Richmond, Kate Hennig and Simon Dawkins acted as adjudicators.

The team I was in (Bill, Soddit & Writeov) consisted of Paul Hajek of Clutton Cox, Shaun Jardine of Brethertons, Joanne Druce of F Barnes (who in the evening won the best Non-Lawyer of the Year Award), Sangeet Tatem of F Barnes and Dan Hodges of Conscious Solutions. We had great fun trying to work out the rules and balance the books! If Dan’s innovative initiatives to win extra work for us had been allowed we would have been clear winners!

Playing the board game demonstrated the impact on a fictional law firm’s bottom line of pricing decision especially discounting fees. It highlighted very effectively the importance of cashflow and how the impact of small decisions made at all levels within a law firm can make a huge difference to overall financial performance:-

The 5% fee discount, that half hour spent giving free advice, the overdue invoice left un-chased, and the constant failure to record and bill hours accurately – they all add up!

This is something that the managing partners around the table no doubt knew all too well. It is a game that should be played by all employees in a law firm to highlight this to them too.

After another Wigwam break it was the final speaker of the day. Again from outside the legal profession it was Graham Hall of The Insight Edge. He describes himself as a harbour pilot for brands. He has helped brands including Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Nike to identify consumer insights and build them into their brand strategy.

Graham took us through the 7 steps of “Insight”. He told us it was more fun to be different. I could relate to this. My law firm’s first strapline was Just that little bit different.

We were told that “a genuine insight changes the way you do things… they’re dangerous!”

You have to be empathetic. Something highlighted earlier in the day by the PCA Law team. To demonstrate this Graham moved outside the stage/PowerPoint and presented from the opposite side of the room from a step ladder!

Source Conference 2018 - Graham Hall - BBC Test Card

Graham Hill left the stage with the BBC Test Card displaying to move to the back of the hall…

Source Conference 2018 - Graham Hall up a Ladder

… to present from on top of a step ladder

This brought to mind the tip in the morning from Jeremy Nicholas about using props in your presentation.

Viv Williams wrapped up the day and gave a big thank you to Katie Blake for all her hard work organising things.

But things were not over.

We had a black tie evening involving pre-dinner drinks, magic tricks from Harrison Richards, dinner, the Symphony Legal Awards and after dinner stories from Jeremy Nicholas.

Source Conference 2018 - Symphony Awards - Rich Dibbins

Rich Dibbins announces an award at the Symphony Legal Awards whilst Jeremy Nicholas comments on his shoes but not his jacket

The conference then continued the following day (morning only) but unfortunately I had to travel back to Glasgow first thing in the morning for a meeting. Thus I missed a session on getting the best out of technology (don’t think AI or blockchain featured) and a session on aligning finance, business development and marketing.

I very much enjoyed the Source Conference. It was, as billed, different from  the norm.

The norm would probably have speakers with PowerPoint presentations doing 45 to 60 minute sessions with some panel sessions and little audience participation.

There has been a move in recent years to have a lot of speakers at legal conferences all doing shorter (maybe just 10 minutes or so), punchier talks. I like that format too.

However, the Source Conference with longer (one session at 90 minutes and another at 120 minutes) more interactive sessions worked very well. But I think it was the nature of those sessions, including in particular the role playing meeting and the board game, that made it work and really stand out from the norm. It will be interesting to see what they do in 2019.

Image Credits: Moonraker © United Artists; Some images by Symphony Legal if not by me.

Lawscot Tech meet and go global!

By | November 5, 2018

Lawscot Tech go internationalI, and others, raised our eyebrows a bit when Lawscot Tech was formed by the Law Society of Scotland.

It wasn’t very clear what this initiative actually involved or whether the Law Society knew themselves. Questions asked online at that point still remain largely unanswered.

However, some more information has started to emerge online within the Law Society’s website and from tweets at their first meeting with some of their members in Aberdeen.

That Aberdeen meeting on 31 October revealed, from official Law Society of Scotland tweets, that:-

  • The Law Society are actively looking for Scottish firms to get involved with #LawscotTech if you have any questions or want to support legal innovation get in touch with Paul Mosson at the Law Society.
  • Questions being asked of members included: “What process involves the most steps? What takes up the majority of your time? What keeps you up at night? What frightens you? The latter question is very apt for today.” (N.B. the meeting was taking place on Halloween).
  • A question was asked from a local authority solicitor about the role of in-house lawyers in Lawscot Tech. Paul Mosson confirmed that they have a role to play and a position on the Lawscot Tech group will be for an in-house representative.
  • Paul Mosson also confirmed that Lawscot Tech is for everyone within the legal ecosystem: receptionists, administration & IT staff, paralegals, new lawyers, in house lawyers, high street lawyers and larger law firms. I do hope Lawscot Tech appreciate that the legal technology needs of law firms will vary depending on size and services provided. It can’t be a case of one size fits all.

Over at the Law Society’s website more information has been added about what Lawscot Tech is all about:-

LawscotTech is a new initiative by the Law Society of Scotland to stimulate legal technology innovation in Scotland which will deliver practical benefits for those working in the justice and legal sectors and their clients. Lawscot Tech will provide support from concept stage through to taking a product or service to market.

It brings together experts from the legal world and the technology world to work collaboratively. Through our connections, we are well placed to reach out to the legal profession, technology firms, the academic community and other business sectors with similar programmes such as the financial sector (FinTech Scotland).

At its very simplest, we bring relevant people together to consider the challenges facing the legal profession and we try to identify potential technological solutions. By bringing people together with different experiences and expertise and working collaboratively, we hope to spark some creative and innovative thinking. Having distilled the long list of potential solutions into a shortlist, we will take the best of those ideas forward for development and ultimately to market.

This perhaps seeks to address the criticisms in this area expressed by Esther Roberton in her Report of the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland. She states in that Report:-

Another key issue where I found little evidence of a strategic approach was in the area of digital development. There is already significant progress in this field south of the border as well as internationally and in my view the sector in Scotland has yet to waken up to both the threats and the opportunities which this digital disruption presents. There seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking, vision or investment.

ScotlandIS is Scotland’s trade body for the digital technologies industry. They represent and support businesses and organisations creating & delivering digital products and services. The CEO, Polly Purvis, believes that there is scope for a LegalTech equivalent to Fintech Scotland, the body which provides funding, support and infrastructure to help secure Scotland’s place as significant player in the global FinTech movement. She, along with others, believes that Scotland could be leading the way in developing digital services both for providers and directly to consumers, for example using blockchain in property law.

Did the Law Society of Scotland have advance warning of these criticisms when they rushed out Lawscot Tech shortly before the Report was published?

The Lawscot Tech Advisory Board has oversight of all Lawscot Tech activities on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland. Members include:-

  • Paul Mosson, Executive Director, Member Services and Engagement, Law Society of Scotland
  • Amanda Millar, Partner at McCash & Hunter and Law Society Board Member
  • Lynsey Walker, Partner at Addleshaw Goddard and Law Society Board Member
  • Callum Murray, CEO of Amiqus
  • Stephen Ingledew, CEO of Fintech Scotland
  • John McKinlay, Partner at DLA Piper and convener of the Law Society’s committee for Technology Law and Practice

Lawscot Tech’s aims are:-

  1. Facilitate a thriving legal technology environment by bringing together solicitors and their employees with technologists
  2. Through technological advances, improve efficiencies and create competitive advantages for solicitors and clients
  3. Showcase a globally respected hub for legal technology innovation in Scotland
  4. Collaborate with partners in other business sectors throughout Scotland and globally
  5. Engage the Scottish business community’s interest in the legal sector
  6. Stimulate engagement and investment from outwith the legal sector.

On focus they say:-

Any approach is only as good as the problems it wishes to focus on in order to gain traction. We will begin by asking the community to explore three principal areas:-

  • Legal Tech – technology that supports legal advice
  • Reg Tech – IT to support regulatory compliance
  • Deal Tech – IT that streamlines deal-making.

They go on to say:-

If those are the areas that we are concentrating on, then in each instance the output must have:-

  • A well-defined focus on solutions that will drive consumer/client impact
  • Aligned practice and technical expertise than can be leveraged reciprocally (and exported)
  • Consumer/client buy-in and participation
  • A truly collaborative arrangement

Their collaborative approach is based on building a legaltech community. They state that their Lawscot Tech community will involve  –

  • Solicitors
  • Paralegals and others employed in the legal eco-system
  • Scottish and UK prosperity-focussed government agencies
  • Technologists
  • Strategic partners and stakeholders
  • Commerce, finance and industry
  • Law Society of Scotland

The Lawscot Tech values are:-

  • Purpose
  • Inclusion
  • Creativity
  • Transparency
  • Diversity
  • Clarity

Some of these perhaps have yet to be demonstrated. But it is early days and we should perhaps give them the opportunity to live by their values. But do let us call them out if they fail to do so.

Part of the community is (as listed on their website as at today’s date):-

This is a very narrow community when it comes to LegalTech in Scotland. It includes four relative newcomers to the Scottish Legal Tech market and excludes longstanding legal tech providers used by most law firms in Scotland. Unless the Law Society includes such players within their ‘community’ this initiative is a non-starter and will completely contradict their value of ‘inclusion’.

Their starting point appears misconceived and recalls, in my mind, the post I wrote earlier this year: Hack the Past : How the Legal Profession knew nothing about Technology.

Meanwhile three members of that ‘community’, Amiqus ID, Juralio, SnapDragon, plus a fourth, Ulpian Systems (which appears to be the company behind Miso Legal), have been selected to go on a trade mission to Zurich and Vienna this week being led by the Law Society of Scotland.

Supported by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and organised by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and Scottish Development International, the mission is apparently the first of its kind. Held on 6 and 7 November 2018, the attending companies will have the opportunity to meet and pitch to top legal firms in the Austrian and Swiss markets.

According to the Law Society of Scotland:-

The mission strengthens the growing connection between Scottish, Austrian and Swiss markets. This connection has been developing in recent months with leading Swiss private banking group Julius Baer opening Scottish headquarters in Edinburgh, demonstrating their long-term commitment to serving UK and Irish markets.

The four companies representing Scotland will join nine other UK-based LegalTech businesses at the organised events. In Vienna, the event will form part of the Future Law’s LegalTech Conference 2018, and in Zurich, the event has been organised in conjunction with the British Swiss Chamber of Commerce.

Paul Mosson, Executive Director at the Law Society of Scotland, will be speaking during the event, apparently highlighting Scotland’s drive for innovation and best practice in the law sector. He said:-

Scotland has a deep-rooted heritage of innovation and LegalTech is no different. I am convinced that Scotland will emerge as a global leader in this field as it has in FinTech. Our initiative LawscotTech will focus on delivering the right solutions for our members and ensure they can retain their reputation for providing outstanding legal service for clients, in Scotland and around the world, while helping them innovate for the future. I am thrilled to be working with all four companies heading out to Zurich with us on this mission which demonstrate Scottish innovation and entrepreneurialism.

Is the right solution for members of the Law Society of Scotland taking four selected legal technology companies on a trade mission to Zurich and Vienna? Who is paying for that and in particular the involvement of the Law Society of Scotland? Members of the Law Society of Scotland will no doubt wish to know this. As far as I can see, unless I am missing something, there is no discernible benefit to Law Society of Scotland members of such a trade mission taking place.

Indeed, I am not sure if this fits the strategic objective of the Law Society of Scotland to serve:-

We will SERVE our members through a detailed understanding of their needs, providing tools and services which they can use every day.

What was the selection process that resulted in these four particular companies being selected and was the Law Society of Scotland involved in that?

Will these companies now look to expand beyond Scotland rather than building upon and serving their home market in the first instance?

More questions to add to the list about Lawscot Tech.

Maybe they will be answered at the forthcoming meetings following on from the opening event in Aberdeen. Lawscot Tech currently have three more events planned:-

  • Dundee – 12.30 – 2.00pm  28 November, Dundee University Law School
  • Glasgow – 12 noon 29 November, Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow Library
  • Edinburgh – 8.30am – 10.30am 10 December, Law Society office, Atria One

To book your place at one of these events or if you want to get involved in Lawscot Tech in some other way the Law Society of Scotland encourages you to email them at tech@lawscot.org.uk

I will try to get along to one of these meetings (although the dates set are not ideal for me) and if I do I’ll update you on what if anything might be clarified then.

Update

Watch a video of the trade mission produced by The Department of International Trade:-

Reactions on Social Media (LinkedIn)

In addition to the responses in the comments section below there have been reactions to this post on LinkedIn.

To keep the responses together with the original post itself I have copied the comments here:-

Arlene McDaid (Lawyer| Mediator| Legal Tech):  

I / Legal Hackers Scotland co-organised an international legal tech/ innovation conference, which took place in Zurich in April 2017. Had I been made aware of the plans around this trade mission, I would have been happy to share insights on the Swiss legal market, which is very different to that of the UK. Jurisdictions differ greatly in their regulation and appetite to embrace and adopt technology in the delivery of legal services.

Jon Busby (People | Connect | Solve):

I agree Arlene. The buyer mind set in the DACH’s region is very different to the US, UK.

Brian Inkster:

Thanks Arlene

This of course demonstrates what the benefits of proper collaboration could be for Lawscot Tech and The Law Society of Scotland.

Perhaps once Lawscot Tech complete their series of meetings, add substantially to the list of their ‘community’ and start engaging fully with all of that community they will benefit from such collaboration in the way highlighted by you.

Only time will tell.

-+-+-+-+-+-

Paul Ryan (Director at Focis):

I’m certainly hoping to get to either the Dundee or Glasgow events. With no disrespect at all to the companies attending the “trade mission” I certainly take your point that the suppliers representing the systems  80% plus of law firms actually use seem under represented. For me the biggest  benefit to members I can see  in this new law tech initiative would be a neutral body driving forward integration and collaboration from Land Registry, to Revenue Scotland to the courts. Law Society are well placed to achieve this. Set the standard for suppliers to meet and assist them in the process and law firms / members and clients  will quickly benefit.

PS if I get invited to an all expenses paid trade mission to Sydney my views are subject to quick shallow change!

Brian Inkster:

Thanks Paul

That integration and collaboration will only work effectively with those major legal tech suppliers on board. It is their systems that integration will be required with – many are of course already integrated.

Likewise the new start-ups will in certain cases wish integration with those major suppliers to increase and enhance adoption of their products. It is a win win for everyone to involve them. How they were not part of the Lawscot Tech ‘community’ at the outset is lost on me.

It appears that the Law Society of Scotland simply do not understand or appreciate the legal tech landscape in Scotland and what systems their members are actually using. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them promoting and supporting start-ups to reinvent the well worn wheels that already exist.

Whilst you say that the Law Society are well placed to achieve integration/collaboration between the various parties involved how neutral they are is questionable. They will have to ditch the pay to play approach that they have taken to date with Legal Tech companies if they stand any chance of being considered neutral.

For law / firms members and clients to benefit we will need to see more substance to Lawscot Tech in Scotland than jollies abroad.

Being Willy Wonka at #JDHorizons

By | October 31, 2018

Willy Wonka - Brian Inkster (rooftop of Courthouse Hotel, London)I have been meaning for some time (well since 17 May 2018) to write this blog post. Today, being Halloween, just might be an apt time to publish a post about dressing up as someone else.

Readers may recall my post about The Golden Ticket to #JDHorizons (a ‘break the law – make the law’ conference by Janders Dean). Well this is the follow up post I promised to that one.

JD Horizons Golden Ticket

What I didn’t say in that post was that there was small print on the invite to the #JDHorizons Conference (printed on the chocolate bar wrapper). That small print got smaller and smaller the further down the wrapper you got until the last paragraph in the smallest of print read:-

Should any individual delegate wish to participate in the licking or salvation on wallpaper, you will be removed. Because that’s just not cool. You’re not in Willy Wonka’s factory. Come on now. Be serious. Should you wish to attend dressed as Willy Wonka, you will receive a life-long pass to #JDHorizons.

We’re not joking.

If you are going to follow instructions to the letter on a VIP invite you should, of course, actually follow them. I wouldn’t lick the wallpaper at The Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch (the venue for #JDHorizons) but I would go there dressed as Willy Wonka!

Guising (dressing up in disguise) comes naturally to a Shetlander. We do it at Up-Helly-Aa and at New Year (never mind Halloween).

Naturally if I was going to be Willy Wonka I had to do some research on his appearance. So I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and watched all three films. Three films you exclaim! But surely there are only two? No… there are three:-

1. Willy Wonka & The Chocalate Factory starring Gene Wilder.

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp.

and….. wait for it…..

3. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Tom and Jerry.

My Amazon recommendations are still all over the place with children’s books and DVDs several months later! Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang Box Set anyone?

So my detailed research revealed that there were certain items of clothing that any self respecting Willy Wonka must wear if you follow the original author’s description of the eccentric chocolatier:-

He had a black top hat on his head.

He wore a tail coat made of a beautiful plum-coloured velvet.

His trousers were bottle green.

His gloves were pearly grey.

And in one hand he carried a fine gold-topped walking cane.

So as long as I got those key elements correct (or near to as I could) then I could improvise with the rest of the outfit.

Quentin Blake who illustrated Roald Dahl’s books gave Willy Wonka a large bow tie (white with red spots) and a yellow waist coat.

Quentin Blake's illustration of Willy Wonka

Gene Wilder’s Wonka had a brown (rather than a black top hat), a flowery shirt and a golden cravat. Bottle green trousers were abandoned.

Willy Wonka - Gene Wilder

Johnny Depp’s Wonka had a Paisley patterned shirt and a special ‘W’ brooch as a neck piece. His coat was red rather than plum. Bottle green trousers were again abandoned.

Willy Wonka - Johnny Depp

Tom & Jerry’s Wonka looks just like the Gene Wilder one.

Willy Wonka - Tom and Jerry

Indeed the cartoon follows the format of the original film with the addition of Tom & Jerry and some of their chums.

Willy Wonka - Tom and Jerry

What would Brian Inkster’s Wonka look like?

Well I happened to have a long velvet coat in my wardrobe from Ted Baker which I hadn’t worn since my wedding day. It wasn’t plum but a dark blue. It would fit the part though.

My wife is a director at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow so I obtained access to their wardrobe and props room. Black top hat and cane sorted!

I ordered Boodun running gloves online that were a grey colour (if not exactly pearly grey).

Now I just needed bottle green trousers to complete the Dahl look before contemplating other embellishments. So off me and my wife went to Slater Mensware (the Glasgow store being the current record holder for the “World’s Largest Menswear Store” in the Guinness Book of World Records). Surely they would have bottle green trousers.

When I presented the store assistant with my requirements he suggested that they might have every other colour of trouser possible but he didn’t think they had bottle green. It wasn’t a popular colour at the moment. But we could have a look.

So we went with him in search of the all essential bottle green trousers. Alas there were none. However, my eagle eyed wife spotted some tartan trews. They were a dark green and blue tartan. Perhaps a Black Watch tartan. Looked almost bottle green. I would be a Scottish Willy Wonka in London!

By this time the assistant in Slater Menswear was becoming curious as to my need for bottle green trousers. I explained everything much to his amusement. By the time I had tried on the trousers he had retold the story to many of his colleagues one of whom suggested he might accompany me to London as my Oompa-Loompa!

So the core elements to the outfit had been acquired. What else might I add to it.

A trip to Mr Ben Retro Clothing resulted in the purchase of a multi-coloured waistcoat and a paisley patterned cravat (in homage to the Johnny Depp shirt and Gene Wilder cravat not to mention the Paisley snail).

I already had a pair of orange shoes from Camper that were very suitable as Willy Wonka foot ware.

I had patterned coloured socks.

I also already had a nice pair of prescription sunglasses from Niche Optical Tailor. Willy Wonka, of course, donned dark glasses when entering the Television-Chocolate Room.

I had a blue shirt from Thomas Pink. It took cufflinks. I ordered special Wonka Bar ones from Mixed Up Dolly.

I also ordered a ‘W’ Willy Wonka Brooch from Acme Brand Replicas in the US. A replica of the Johnny Depp one. Unfortunately it got detained in customs and didn’t arrive in time for the event.

Willy Wonka - Wonka Brooch

I might wear it as a lapel badge at #JDHorizons 2019! However, even without that I was now Willy Wonka.

Willy Wonka - Brian Inkster

On the way to the venue, in a  taxi, dressed as Willy Wonka the taxi driver enquired as to whether I was the door man at the Courthouse Hotel!

On arrival I checked in at the delegate desk. I was asked my name and responed: “Wonka, Willy Wonka”. For a moment the nice lady checking the delegates in ran her finger down towards the Ws!

I had been wondering how many of the 250 or so delegates had read the small print on the invite and acted upon it. How many Willy Wonkas would be in the room. It soon transpired that there was only one… me!

That is maybe not a big surprise. Although one might have thought lawyers would read the small print they clearly often don’t. They are also risk averse. Dressing up as Willy Wonka to go to a legal conference just might be a step too far.

At my law firm, Inksters, we send out Christmas hats each Christmas with small print on the hat encouraging pictures to be tweeted of recipients wearing the hats with prizes to those who tweet the best pictures following the theme of the year. Many people tweet pictures of them or their children or their pets wearing the hats but very few take in what the theme of the year is and tweet prize winning pictures of that theme.

Some delegates assumed I was a professional actor employed to be Willy Wonka by Janders Dean. One delegate remarked that they had seen me speak at another conference and I didn’t usually dress like this did I?

Willy Wonka - Brian Inkster with ice cream

Justin North’s son who arrived after school to #JDHorizons thought I was the real Willy Wonka. Justin did tell him not to worry as I wasn’t the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as he presented me with a bottle of Dom Perignon for my efforts.

Willy Wonka - Dom Perignon etc #JDHorizons

It was a lot of fun being Willy Wonka for the day. Revealing the attention to detail of the Wonka Bar cufflinks always went down well.

Willy Wonka - Wonka Bar Cufflinks

So what about the conference you ask? Was it any good? Was it worth going to all that effort to get a free pass to every other #JDHorizons for the rest of my life? Yes and Oh Yes I say. I would have given a review of the conference on here but I don’t think I could better Caroline Hill’s splendid review of #JDHorizons at Legal IT Insider. So please do read that.

But in brief summation: #JDHorizons is very different from other legal conferences. There are more speakers (as Caroline highlights a gender balance of those) packing shorter, punchier talks into the day (that element reminded me a bit of the Reinvent Law Conferences). There is no AI, blockchain, futurist hype allowed or if it was no one even squeaked it. Most of the talks were highly engaging and interesting (Caroline highlights some of the better ones and I would agree with her choices). The conference food and drink was second to none: From Breakfast Martinis to afternoon fizz with cakes, sweets and ice cream in between and a good lunch to boot.

Willy Wonka - Breakfast Martinis at #JDHorizons

Being Willy Wonka went well into the evening with drinks at the rooftop bar at the Courthouse hotel (where the picture of me at top of this post was taken) and a few of us moving onto the Hoxton for drinks into the early hours. Many of the customers at the Hoxton wanted selfies with Willy Wonka although walking around Shoreditch as Wonka I didn’t really feel out of place.

Willy Wonka - Selfies in the Courthouse Hotel #JDHorizons

I go to quite a few law conferences and often review them on here. I have become more select in recent times about the ones I will attend (especially when AI and/or blockchain hype dominate the agendas). Although I commented recently that conferences may have reached a turning point where such hype is concerned.

As the only Willy Wonka life-long pass holder to #JDHorizons I will certainly be making use of it like a pensioner who has just received their free bus pass.

I’m looking forward to #JDHorizons 2019 already. I reckon it should be a condition of entry that everyone other than me has to dress as an Oompa-Loompa! But I doubt many will read the small print and Janders Dean will be lucky to have one Ooompa-Loompa in the crowd. Perhaps that store assistant from Slater Menswear in Glasgow?!

Oompa-Loompas at #JDHorizons

As Willy Wonka said:-

Willy Wonka - A little nonsense quote

See you at #JDHorizons 2019!

Image Credits: Willy Wonka drawing © Quentin Blake; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Film © Paramount Pictures; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Film © Warner Bros; Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Film © Warner Bros.