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Legal Innovation in Toronto

Legal Innovation in TorontoLast week I was in Toronto. I went over the pond for the launch of Mitch Kowalski‘s latest book ‘The Great Legal Reformation: Notes from the Field’. Stephen Mayson in reviewing the book said:-

Through in-depth case studies and vignettes, Mitch Kowalski takes us on a tour to meet some of the trailblazers breaking the legal service provider mould, allowing us to eavesdrop on his conversations with them. This is not a glimpse into the future of how he and others might see the legal world developing as the Great Legal Reformation unfolds. This is insight into the here and now – into what these innovators have already envisioned and achieved. These are the platforms from which yet further innovation and re-formation of the market will be driven.

Brian Inkster and Mitch Kowalski - Toronto - Canada

In Chapter 10 Mitch meets me on a visit to the Inksterplex in Glasgow. Now I was meeting Mitch again, but this time at the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. The Legal Innovation Zone was a very apt venue to host the launch of a book that dives “deep inside some of the world’s most innovative legal providers” (John Chisholm).

In his talk Mitch pointed out that whilst there was no Canadian Chapter in his book (USA, Australia, England and Scotland *waves* are all covered) there is plenty of legal technology innovation in Canada but not law firm innovation. He suggested that regulation in Canada hampers it.

Legal Innovators network at the Legal Innovation Zone

But here we were in the Legal Innovation Zone in Toronto which is filled to capacity by 20 legal start up technology firms, a community of 35+ entrepreneurs who burn the midnight oil with the aim of being the next big thing to disrupt the legal industry. Many will no doubt fail but some could be the disruptors that Mitch is not currently seeing within Canadian law firms. I was thinking that all law firms could do with a Legal Innovation Zone within their own four walls.

In the Legal Innovation Zone $80,000 in total seed funding is up for grabs for winning teams in support of their artificial intelligence legal solution. Apply by 10 November!

Legal Innovation Zone Canada and The Great Legal Reformation - Notes from the Field

Some sound bites from Mitch’s talk:-

  • The original Reformation [started five hundred years ago in 1517] lasted over 100 years [until 1648] so the great legal reformation may not happen overnight.
  • New players [NewLaw] have a huge advantage because traditional law firms [BigLaw] can’t move fast.
  • Over time we don’t need so many lawyers because law can be done in different ways.
  • Is the partnership model broken? Yes 100%

After the book launch looking out the window of a bar in the same building that houses the Legal Innovation Zone I tweeted:-

It did feel like I had landed in the future.

The next day I was the guest speaker at the Toronto Legal Innovators Round Table held in Thomson Routers offices overlooking downtown Toronto. My talk was entitled ‘The Great Legal Reformation: Notes from Scotland’ in homage to Mitch’s book and his Chapter on my law firm, Inksters. I told the Inksters’ story and persuaded the Round Table to don Inksters Christmas Hats even though it was still October!

Inksters Christmas Hats - Toronto Legal Innovation Round Table - October 2017

The Round Table consisted of a very interesting array of lawyers, legal technologists and academics who all get the need for innovation and are all doing their part in the Great Legal Reformation. I was pleasantly surprised to see at the table fellow Scot, Paul Maharg. I last saw Paul when I was speaking about legal technology at a conference at Nottingham Trent University in June. As he did then he also live blogged my talk in Toronto. So you can read all about it on his blog: ‘Brian Inkster in Toronto‘.

Ryerson University - Law Practice Programme - Toronto - Canada - Webcast by Brian Inkster

Later in the afternoon I was back in the Legal Innovation Zone. This time to do a live webcast to the students on the Law Practice Programme at Ryerson University. There are two routes in Ontario to become a lawyer. You can spend 10 months after completing your law degree working within a law firm as an articled clerk (like our two year traineeship in Scotland) or you can do the Law Practice Programme at Ryerson. The programme is billed as:-

An innovative alternative to traditional articling through a rigorous and demanding eight-month program combining on-line training and experiential learning with a hands-on work term.

Brian Inkster and Chris Bentley - Ryerson University - Law Practice Programme - Toronto - Canada

Managing Director at Ryerson, Chris Bentley, introduced me to the students and kept me on my toes, as did the students, with thought provoking questions.

One student asked if some of the fun activities we promote at Inksters (e.g. Christmas Hats, This is Your Trial and Inky the Sheep) might trivialise the gravitas of the legal profession. My answer was that most law firms who hold the gravitas approach all look exactly the same: boring. At Inksters we differentiate ourselves from them and that can only be a good thing for us and our clients.

I had only just adjusted to the five hour time difference before I was on a plane back to Glasgow with jet lag to contend with once more. It was a flying visit to Toronto but a very enjoyable and enlightening one. As Mitch says in his book:-

So it’s no wonder that Cold War spy George Smiley wrote that a desk is a “dangerous place from which to watch the world,” particularly during the Great Legal Reformation. To really understand what’s happening at law firms, one needs to get out of the office and poke around in the fog—and so I did.

I was glad I had left the Inksterplex to see, meet and learn from innovators in Toronto. I make a point of getting out and about and meeting other legal innovators as I have done recently in London, Nottingham and Cork. Innovation needs exploration.

The Great Legal Reformation - Notes from the Field by Mitch Kowalski

N.B. I have just touched on Mitch Kowalski’s book ‘The Great Legal Reformation: Notes from the Field’ in this post. I will return on this blog later with a detailed review of it. In the meantime you can order your copy in the UK via Amazon in Canada via Amazon and in the USA via Amazon and no doubt wherever you are via your local Amazon. In Toronto it is available for purchase at Ben Macnally Books.

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