I, 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.
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:-
- Facilitate a thriving legal technology environment by bringing together solicitors and their employees with technologists
- Through technological advances, improve efficiencies and create competitive advantages for solicitors and clients
- Showcase a globally respected hub for legal technology innovation in Scotland
- Collaborate with partners in other business sectors throughout Scotland and globally
- Engage the Scottish business community’s interest in the legal sector
- 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 –
- Paralegals and others employed in the legal eco-system
- Scottish and UK prosperity-focussed government agencies
- Strategic partners and stakeholders
- Commerce, finance and industry
- Law Society of Scotland
The Lawscot Tech values are:-
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):-
- Amiqus ID
- FinTech Scotland
- Queen Margaret University
- University of Dundee
- University of Glasgow
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 email@example.com
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.
Watch a video of the trade mission produced by The Department of International Trade:-
— UK in Austria (@UKinAustria) November 13, 2018
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.
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!
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.