#JDHorizons London 2019 – The one without Justin

Justin North couldn’t be at #JDHorizons London 2019 but his colleagues ensured his presence was still felt!

So you may recall that last year I won a life time pass to #JDHorizons (the annual conference organised by Janders Dean) as a result of dressing up as Willy Wonka.

I didn’t have to dress up this year. Last year the invite was a chocolate bar with a golden ticket inside. This year it was a seedbom that you could plant to grow wildflowers.

When the conference on 21 June started we heard that, due to illness, Justin North could, unfortunately, not be there. This was such a shame for Justin as I know the efforts that he goes to in order to make #JDHorizons a very special event. But his team at Janders Dean did him proud and kept it all running like clockwork. I just checked in with him and am pleased to say he is well on the way to recovery and should soon be back to full health again.

JDHorizons London 2019

As always there were lots of speakers with on the whole just 15 minutes each to present. This format is a good one as it forces conciseness and allows you to hear from a wide variety of speakers. I couldn’t possibly cover all the talks here but will summarise some of the ones that caught my attention from what I tweeted at the time or picked up from other tweets. It is on the whole sound bites without necessarily identifying the speakers who made them (simply because on the whole I didn’t keep a track of that when tweeting).

Legal Tech Learnings:-

  1. Don’t jump to solutions (or, even to problems)
  2. Ask about the design, development, and iteration process
  3. Assumptions are dangerous

Myth Busting:-

  1. Myth #1: There is a technology “Magic Bullet”. Legal operations is all about practical problem solving. Spend time understanding the problems your lawyers have and prioritising them
  2. Myth #2: You need special systems to obtain MI. MI is everywhere! The information is there, you just have to look.
  3. Myth #3: Legal are Special. No they are not.

Always start with process. Lawyers never document process. They should. Start with shadowing. See what they are doing, why, could it be done better. Lawyers don’t like change.

After process then people, technology and data.

Don’t change for change purposes. Change because it is needed.

People think they need permission to be curious. Curiosity can lead you anywhere – no correct answer.

It was asked who were using RPA in their law firms. Not many hands went up. I wondered whether RPA was really Robots as we usually perceive them? Probably not. Maybe more hands should have gone up.

We need automation just to relieve the stress created in organisations.

There was talk about bots helping customers. I hoped the speaker was not speaking about legal chatbots!

There had suddenly, at this stage, been a spike in the reference to robots:-

One day everyone will have their own Robot the speaker told us. I pondered that four and a half years ago a legal futurist said we would all have avatar clones of ourselves in 5 years. Coming to you all soon in 2020 then!

#JDHorizons London 2019 - Robots will create more jobsAlthough at least we were told that the net effect would be jobs created not lost by the introduction of robots.

Taking a slightly different viewpoint on Robots was Artificial Moggy. A cat who has recently taken #LawTech Twitter by storm with his/her (it is not clear yet which) “#LawCatLogic“. We got the most concise presentation of the day with #LawTech in 3 cat memes. The message was:-

  1. AI can’t tell a cat from a croissant. So don’t go there.
  2. Avoid shiny new toys. Play with your old balls.
  3. Robots in law = science fiction. #bringbackboring

There was an interesting format when a group of children on a pre recorded video asked a panel at the conference to answer some questions:

Explain innovation: Try something different, find better ways to do things, take the lego pieces and create something new (don’t follow the instructions).

Is innovation a craze?: Know what you need before buy in, figure out your problem and get people to change (little steps along the way – hard yards).

Law firms are not very good at measuring stuff.

Does Alex G Smith believe in innovation dust?: No he wears a T-Shirt that says boring. Fights against the press release culture. Hype cycle, #bringbackboring cycle. Doesn’t help when words like “startupification” is used.

What bed time reading would you recommend? Invisible Women (to do with Data from a male perspective), The Book you wish your parents had read (about being present with your children), Why do we do what we do – understanding our dreams, This is Service Design Doing.

Is this really what you wanted to do when you grew up? No – A spy.

There was a nice message from Hugo to his dad Justin.

Don’t worry about the Tech think about how you use it. Search not machine learning.

Lawyers don’t need to code. I have written about that on here before: Lawyers and coding and Document Automation is not a good use case for Lawyers Learning to Code

If you have good tech and good use case and manage expectations then adoption almost comes but need to make it easy for lawyers.

If something is going to revolutionise the practice then too much is likely to go wrong. If incremental improvement is involved then you can live with step one and move onto step two when ready.

Nir Golan commented on this point on Twitter:-

This is a huge issue Brian. Lot of the bloggers out there working against incremental improvement don’t understand the risk invoked in the work and why incremental improvement’s the best way to reach real long term adoption. That’s why understanding your customers is key.

I’m a big fan of incremental improvement and have given talks on and blogged about improving at my own law firm Inksters.

A lot of tools already exist to deal with much of what you do right now and that can make it better.

Christie Guimond told us that we often hear that we don’t have enough female partners, females in Legal Tech and female founders. But we do have them. She Breaks The Law has been formed to collaborate and tell their stories.

Merlie Calvert of Farillio was the main final speaker of the day.

A lot of noise and a lot of talk about Legal Tech and the need to change. A lot of it is around a view law is broken. Don’t believe that.

Real meaningful change takes time and patience.

Great people are magnets to other great people.

Knowledge is power but only when you share it.

Be a pirate and burn your boat so you can’t go back, keep going forward.

At the beginning of the day we heard from the inspirational teenager Amika George about her campaign  for free menstrual products in all schools. By the end of the day £25,000 had been raised at the event for her cause.

Each table at the conference had an iPad open to the Gender Avenger Pledge so attendees could easily sign and declare that they “will not serve as a panelist at a public conference when there are no women on the panel.”

Going on at the same time and as part of the conference was the #EnigmaJam with iManage RAVN. We were given a round up of the results of that at the end of the conference.

Jamming at #JDHorizonsReflecting on the Conference Kerry Westland tweeted:-

Key messages from today are about understanding the problem you are trying to solve, collaborating with a wider ecosystem and that there aren’t magic bullets – you have to be in it for the long haul!

That sums it up nicely. It was a conference without hype and with a good dose of reality. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you have to work hard to achieve change and improvement. #JDHorizons was a good antidote to much that we hear at other conferences and read in some parts of the legal technology press today.

#LawSucks at ~JDHorizons Breakfast Mojitos

As expected from Janders Dean the event had touches along the way that no other legal conference I have been at has come close to matching. From mix your own breakfast Mojitos (with #Lawsucks reusable metal straws), unlimited candy, red and blue pills, gin ice cream to afternoon fizz. Their swag was sustainable without needing to be gagged.

red and blue pills at #JDHorizonsAlso for me conferences are often about the people. This event was no exception with me meeting again old friends, meeting for the first time friends I already had made on Twitter and meeting others for the first time.

Alex G. Smith, Nir Golan. Brian Inkster, Christie Guimond, Priya Lele and Helen Burness at #JDHorizons London 2019
Alex G. Smith, Nir Golan. Brian Inkster, Christie Guimond, Priya Lele and Helen Burness

If you are down under you can experience #JDHorizons in Sydney on 24 and 25 July.

For a taster watch the video of #JDHorizons London 2019:-

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