The LawtechUK Launch Event took place in Edinburgh yesterday. It was to launch the new chapter in the life of LawtechUK with CodeBase & Legal Geek being, since 1 April 2023, the implementing partners.
It was good to see this event come to Scotland as to date LawtechUK has often appeared to be LawtechEng&Wales. For example on their existing website (we heard from Jimmy Vestbirk that a new one is coming) they have a page about the ‘UK Jurisdiction Taskforce‘:
Established by the LawtechUK panel in 2020, the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce (UKJT) is an industry-led initiative, tasked with promoting the use of English law and UK jurisdiction for technology and digital innovation.
So “English law” and “UK jurisdiction”!
The fact that there are three distinct legal jurisdictions in the UK (England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) is perhaps appreciated more by the new implementing partners. Let’s hope that is the case anyway. Or is it just because CodeBase are based in Scotland and nothing to do with legal jurisdictions?!
LawtechUK Launch Event Introduction
Jimmy Vestbirk of Legal Geek introduced the event, commenting on how warm it was in the room. It was exceptionally warm.
The Panel Chair
It wouldn’t be a tech event without technical problems. When trying to beam in Christina Blacklaws (LawtechUK Panel Chair) we had a black screen for a little while. An engineer appeared and fixed it.
Christina told us about LawTechUK including stressing that it does get its hands dirty. Although I’m not sure we got any real examples of that.
Next up was Mike Freer MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Courts and Legal Services). He said a few times that he was genuinely excited. You wouldn’t have thought so from his delivery! It appeared to me that he was reading a speech written by a civil servant (all Ministers do, don’t they?) and had little real idea (and certainly no personal excitement) of what this was all about.
At least Mike Freer didn’t mention Parker, as Lord Keen at such events always used to!
We were also told that a LawtechUK trip to Singapore was coming up. I’ve commented on those jollies before: Lawscot Tech meet and go global!
We were also reassured that the Government will do whatever they can to help LawtechUK.
LawtechUK Launch Event – CodeBase + Legal Geek
Next up at the LawtechUK launch event we heard about the CodeBase + Legal Geek partnership.
We were told that they will fade into the background making LegaltechUK more prominent.
Mentoring is the thread that will run through everything.
Some surprises will be in store apparently.
A LawtechUK map of Legal Tech providers will be developed like the Legal Geek one. Does that not just mean LawtechUK will use the Legal Geek one and put their own badge on it?
A number of events will be held throughout the UK. These will be in person and also online. The next one is in Cardiff.
Barclays Eagle Labs
We then heard about Barclays Eagle Labs.
They apparently bridge the gap between Legal Tech and legal practice. They are doing a good job at that they claim but no real examples of this were given.
LawtechUK Launch Event – Scottish Legal Tech Start-ups
The next section of the LawtechUK Launch Event had four Scottish Legal Tech start-ups tell us about themselves.
Andrew Byers represented Alta IP
It was not really clear to me from Andrew’s presentation how the Alta IP software actually works.
But I was able to glean a bit more from the Alta IP website.
It would appear that Alta IP enables you to identify and rank all the IP created by a business and create a Registry for the IP Portfolio of a business. You can categorise and Map all the IP relevant to selected products, projects, collaborative partnerships, assignations, exits and M&As and create appropriate Schedules of IP. You can also select commercially relevant and critical IP for protection by Registrable and/or Un-registrable IP Rights to secure a defendable IP position in local, regional and international marketplaces. And undertake in-depth IP due diligence to minimise or avoid IP-related risks related to investor-investee diligence, trade sales/exits, M&As, collaborations, product launches, research projects and funding applications.
However, there are no examples on the website of the look and feel of the software once logged into it.
Danae Shell of Valla said she likes to think of themselves as the Ikea of legal.
I assumed from that flat pack that you build yourself. I always pay extra to get a someone to do the build for me!
She told us how it can cost £5,000 in lawyer’s fees to get a £4,000 settlement. Whereas with Valla it will cost you £500.
Valla is an unbundling platform for legal work. The client can do as much as they can themselves before they need a lawyer.
Valla is focusing on employment law first.
Again it was not quite clear to me how the software actually works!
However a look at the Valla website and the software appears to allow you to get your story right, upload and organise evidence and generate tribunal and settlement documents.
Although, not a B2B company I did wonder if this software might help lawyers with their client onboarding and preparation for an initial consultation.
Richie Stewart gave us the lowdown on Amiqus at the LawtechUK launch event. He didn’t have to do so for my benefit as Inksters were a very early adopter of their technology. We were also instrumental in getting an API created by them for Amiqus to work within our case management system.
Amiqus digitally verify and onboard staff or clients in minutes.
9 out of 10 of the largest law firms in Scotland use it.
£90 billion is laundered annually. Amiqus helps you reduce the chances of being a party to that.
Finally we heard from Aleks Tomczyk about Exizent. Software designed for probate and estate administration (executries as we call it in Scotland).
Aleks told us that Exizent had been designed to improve the experience of bereavement for everyone involved. It reduces friction, cost and risk. It increases customer satisfaction and makes everyone’s job easier.
They had built a cloud based system to make life easier for a law firm. It was an extremely complicated process to do that. A long time was taken to build the platform involving a multi-year journey.
To me it sounded like a case management system albeit dedicated to estate administration. Most law firms have a case management system but usually don’t use them very well. Most of those case management systems, if configured properly, probably can do much of what Exizent can do.
It may well be that Exizent has special features that might set it apart and, if so, might be useful if it could work in association with existing case management systems via an API. Maybe it can. Aleks didn’t cover that.
I don’t want to be a doom-monger but it did remind me a bit of Veyo (the special conveyancing platform that never took off).
I think that it is difficult to build a new case management system (especially a niche one) for use by lawyers that will ever get market traction due to the existing long term players in that field. And I am not a big fan of the Frankenstein Legal Tech model that Big Law invariably end up creating, i.e. lots of different software bolted onto one another.
However, you can take a 14 day free trial of Exizent so I may, some rainy day, give it a whirl before I pass final judgement on it.
LawtechUK Launch Event – Q&A
All four Law Tech vendors then participated in a question and answer session. No one asked any of them if they had or were planning to incorporate ChatGPT into their products. This was somewhat refreshing. Legal Tech can function it appears without ChatGPT.
We learned that Exizent is a B2B platform. They have discussed a direct consumer platform but have no plans for that at the moment. They think individuals need the best possible legal advice.
Law Society of Scotland Partnership
Amiqus said that they benefited from their partnership with the Law Society of Scotland and them being happy with the software. I don’t think that the Law Society of Scotland check/certify any software. They just take your money and let you use their badge as I have blogged about before: Law Society launches Lawscot Tech but what is it?
Reinventing the wheel?
Exizent said they had built an accountancy platform on top of a legal one. They clearly don’t realise that many existing law firm practice management systems already are exactly that.
Use cases before starting up?
There was an admission from Valla and the other Legal Tech vendors that they had no real use cases before starting up but have obtained that through actual use. So build it and they will come?
Sarah Blair asked the last question of the day at the LawtechUK launch event: If you had a magic wand what is the challenge in the buying / selling of Legal Tech that you would change?
Lawyer adoption of Legal Tech
The overwhelming agreement was adoption by lawyers. Law firms being willing to try new Legal Tech said Aleks Tomczyk.
Richie Stewart said that lawyers are busy. They see change as a hassle. You need to bring them with you. Every legal firm thinks they are different. They are not. Well, I think the Plug & Play Law ones might be just that little bit different 😉
Danae Shell said she was not selling to lawyers so lawyer adoption was not a problem for Valla. She thought that customers need a better understanding of their legal rights.
One of the main issues about Legal Tech and lawyer adoption is the absence of actual lawyers at events such as this. Was I the only one in the room? If there were others I imagine we numbered a handful if that. And how many of those, like me, were decision makers when it comes to buying Legal Tech?
The late great Charles Christian referred to this at the Law Tech Futures 2012 Conference as “the holy grail of legal technology conferences”. I blogged about this back then:
One pertinent point raised by a delegate was that the organisers should be doing more to get Law Firm Partners to attend. Charles Christian responded that this was the holy grail of legal technology conferences. If law firms just send their IT people to these conferences will they really be getting the messages that the conferences convey. Will they be able to change if they don’t know what they need to change. It came across in the conference that lawyers don’t let their IT people speak to their clients. Will lawyers know that this should change if they don’t attend conferences to hear this but instead simply send their IT people to them?
Even lawyer member organisations like the Law Society of Scotland haven’t cracked this with their Lawscot Tech initiative: Is the mist starting to clear around Lawscot Tech?
The Challenge from the LawtechUK Launch Event
Maybe the challenge to Codebase, Legal Geek and LawtechUK is to find ways to engender greater lawyer engagement in their activities to, in turn, help the vendors with the challenge of lawyer adoption of Legal Tech.
Reactions on Social Media on LawtechUK Launch Event: The one that ignored ChatGPT
On LinkedIn the following comments have been made:-
Paul Ryan (Mobile and Web Apps For Legal):
All interesting stuff. I must admit we (Focis ) have moved away from these kinds of collaborative events recently. A major problem they seem to solve is “access”. It’s difficult for startups to access what they perceive as a heavily regulated market. Of course it is regulated but not in way most startup perceive it to be. The reality is startups formed by people who have worked in law firms (qualified or not) understand this and tend to do better on adoption. I’ve never found “uptake” to be a challenge when the product is right, though it’s easier when working internally and with a good Partner / Management team. Now working as an independent from the outside of a law firm I do find it more challenging mainly because firms have been let down in the past.
As an aside my own wariness of these kind of events, sadly through experience, is law firms , well established providers and very well funded “startups” get far more from them because they learn a lot and can implement / develop quickly. I’d humbly suggest the ones that tend not to benefit as much are the ones who often do have health and innovation of industry generally at heart of their goals.
I do still hope such events and groups can benefit all is adoption of standards.
Thanks Paul for your insightful comments.
Graeme Johnston (Software to map work – before that a lawyer):
Standards is an interesting one. I’ve been doing quite a bit in that area and a number of the major London and global law firms have contributed significantly. They’ve been able to do so by virtue of having some more specialist roles within their KM, LPM, LPI and tech groups. Some tech companies who get it have also contributed. Speaking to regional law firm audiences, there’s been interest but insufficient resource to engage as meaningfully as the London firms on something which requires real time and effort to build but where most of the benefit will go to the broader system. And for IHLs it’s even harder given how resource-constrained they are. That said, with the v2 launch of noslegal earlier this month, it’s now at a state of maturity that we’re thinking about how to engage more broadly. Ideas welcome – Scotland / generally!
And on Brian’s original point, yes, a community effort about adoption would be an interesting one. A challenge would be to get a good quality discussion going which is genuinely collaborative, open and not dominated by a single camp, and which doesn’t degenerate into showing-off, sales & marketing and other short term transactional stuff. Happy to chat about ideas if you like.
Yes I was going to tag you on there but didnt want to intrude. Adoption of standards particularly around data exchange is REALLY hard but you’ve got further than most.
Thanks – I think that second sentence sums things up quite nicely! It reminds me of Douglas Adams: *mostly* harmless. 😅
Malcolm Mackay WS (Employment lawyer | Writer to the Signet | Consultant):
It is essential to look at this from the perspective of the client. In some areas of law there will undoubtedly be benefits to clients and the current and future generations of lawyers will figure those out as they are well equipped to do. However, for many the thought of lawyers producing even more words and charging to do so will not be attractive. Hourly billing, which is still a point of tension between lawyers and clients, was preceded by charging by the word for drafting documents, which is no doubt why deeds and contracts still contain many unnecessary words. Brevity, wisdom and empathy are, for example, three key attributes of a fine lawyer but I don’t see this aspect of new technology helping to develop these.
Thanks Malcolm. Very true and wise words.
Clare Fraser (Product Specialist | AI Enthusiast | Accessibility & Inclusion | Public Services & Digital Scotland Service):
Nope not much on #ChatGPT but you must have been one of the few people there who escaped my #Openai lawtech project which [name of a LegalTech journalist who does not want to be mentioned on this blog] is writing about. See demo https://www.linkedin.com/posts/clare-c-fraser_techforgood-ai-ai-activity-7064924881787736064-blj-?
Dana Denis-Smith (🚀 Expand your in-house legal team & expertise with experienced lawyers and paralegals | Tap into Obelisk Support’s large pool of legal professionals):
Great to read your summary as usual and your thoughts.
Rob Marrs (Education, Training and Learning | Diversity and Inclusion | Legal Tech):
I couldn’t make it along. Thanks for the summary though.
Thanks Rob. I had half expected to see you there.
David Gilroy (I lead a marketing agency who specialise in helping law firms make more money from their website. I am looking for M&A (to acquire) opportunities in the agency space):
GREAT blog post Brian.
On Twitter the following comments have been made:-
Saved me plenty more time here. Might swap my chatGPT plus subs for SummarizeByBrian ?!