Legal tech is SO 2020. Here's why.

For tech to be truly impactful and effective, it needs to be solving for an organisation, not nurturing siloes. Why is legal specific tech an outdated notion? What should tech companies be focusing on instead? Where is the real power of AI?

Legal tech is SO 2020. Here's why.
Photo by Ajeet Mestry / Unsplash

I'm Lorna Khemraz, a lawyer you'll usually find in the crux between practical solutioning and philosophical musings. These are my uncensored thoughts after attending the Future Lawyer UK conference (7th Edition) for the second year in a row, this time as a speaker. The conversations I had, the sessions I listened in to, the landscape I got to observe - all left me with plenty of food for thought.

Firstly, I’ve got to say it’s always nice to be welcomed with delicious treats and coffee. Especially nice to see some healthy food options with yoghurts and fruit (and not just the usual pastries) although I couldn’t stomach anything whatsoever until after my panel session. Lovely to have the option though. The perks you appreciate when you happily work away in the home office 98% of the time.

It was pretty easy to assess the landscape right off the bat. There were a lot of vendors in attendance. A lot of private practice lawyers keeping in touch with the realities of their clientele I presume (the sea of dark suits were a big giveaway), several Alternative Legal Service Providers (aka ALSPs) and tech solution providers on the scene. Even though it was the In-House day, I found there was a small minority of in-house counsel actually in attendance, many of which were speakers and panellists.

I thought there was a very interesting mix of solution providers and vendors - CLMs still very much a creature of their own, data analytics emerging more in this space which is great to see because data is the new oil and all that, a lot of players in the ALSP space which is a clear indicator that clients are looking for more fluid and versatile forms of support. Throughout, it looked like the focus was still on legal tech specifically and I’m here to challenge that notion and call for change because I think legal tech is so 2020.

Why build tech to supercharge an already costly legal function? It’s time to democratise and decentralise expertise for organisations.

Time to break down the siloes.

Time to realise that it’s not all doom and oblivion beyond the wall.

The wall was erected a long time ago to retain control and protect but many of the old threats are dissolving or at least changing shape, meaning the approach to risk and defense also needs to change. Technology is transforming and becoming more reliable, steerable and auditable. Businesses are maturing. They are ripe and ready to self-serve on a lot of expert support.

Legal specific AI and legal tech that purely and only serve the needs of Legal are, in my opinion, an outdated notion.

Legal teams need to evolve in how they deliver value. They need to embrace the fact that AI is here to deliver on a lot of what legal teams have historically delivered and now, it’s time to move on. It’s time to evolve.

Tell me how you spend your day and I will tell you if you’re wasting your time.

  • Are you answering the same questions for the business over and over again? (”Who are our sub-processors? What’s our approach to data encryption? Where are our servers located?”)
  • Are you answering questions about what your contracts contain (”Hey, do we have permission to use [Customer]’s logo in our marketing”)
  • Are you assisting sales with their customer contract negotiations by proxy? (”Our customer wants the governing law to be in California, is that okay?”)
  • Are you repeatedly being asked about benefits (”Hey People Team, I want to work abroad this summer, what’s the process for this and how many days am I allowed to work remotely?”)

If you’re in the business, do you think it’s absolutely ridiculous to have to wait 10 days for a response from Legal, HR, Compliance or Marketing about something routine and straightforward when your Uber Eats delivery can show up before you’ve even had the time to set the table and choose your Netflix selection for the night?

Then why isn’t it more obvious that ZERO FRICTION on some very specific (but very common) use cases is a no brainer? I’m talking about answering RFPs, filling out vendor questionnaires, addressing routine questions, negotiating customer and partnership contracts, putting NDAs and DPAs in place, reviewing supplier agreements, the list goes on.

Why are organisations still spending extensive resource on addressing queries and workflows manually that can be automated with Generative AI?

Why are organisations choosing to miss out on the wealth of benefits GenAI can bring - I’m talking faster growth, increased deal velocity, increased data collection at all the points of automation which then act as extremely valuable insights to inform business development and growth, increased employee satisfaction because people are doing more exciting work.

This is the exact reason why our entire premise is to help expert teams package their support and deliver it to the business as a product, on-demand, so they’re enabling business so much faster and more effectively on various workflows.

Where does that then leave the lawyers, the privacy experts, the compliance officers etc I hear you ask.

Well it leaves them to do the work they’ve actually trained for. The type of work that doesn’t make you question your 7 years of grueling preparation. The type of work that truly creates a dent in terms on business impact. I’m talking about the creative strategising, scaling products and market reach, product legal packaging, data compliance, securing regulatory licenses, negotiating needle-moving deals, advising on risk.

Life is too short to spend most of your day answering to the same repetitive and uninspiring questions over and over again.

And the power for these small, repetitive queries to throw off your entire day is so understated. They are always urgent. They still take time to address. And they are, frankly, a distraction and nowhere near as impactful enough to warrant the distraction. So they are essentially, a waste of time, a waste of energy and they chip away at your mental well being. They do so because they slow you down, they dilute your impact, and they simply aren’t the exciting type of work that you want to be doing.

Have you ever stopped and appreciated the very nuanced skill set that good experts bring? The ability to view something with a 360 vision, the analytical quality of their observations and comments, the ability to step back and advise on both the pros and the cons, the foresight to address potential hurdles and highlight opportunities, the agility and readiness to pivot no matter the situation. This kind of versatility in skill set is invaluable to an organisation. So, let’s give experts more room to thrive and have impact instead of bogging them down with work that can be done by a robot.

So - coming back to my point - why the lack of urgency in leveraging AI?

Why so much attachment to the status quo?

Why sit of our hands any longer?

Why so much fear?

Why waste MORE time?

The sooner and quicker you start experimenting, the quicker you’re on your way to finding what can work best for you AND your business.

Sh*t is happening FAST. Real fast. It’s happening RIGHT NOW. Why the leisurely pace? I really do not get it.

Yes, the road ahead is not going to be all roses and rainbows. Assume that a lot will go wrong, in the short term - but long term success is the ultimate prize. There’s too much to lose in waiting around.

The faster you experiment with and implement GenAI, the faster you start your transformation as to how you need to adapt as an individual and a professional. How you choose to do this is entirely in your control and the possibilities and opportunities. are endless.

Our jobs are changing. The way we bring value is changing. The change is to be felt on a very individual level and that is something that each and every person needs to take responsibility for.

If you get it and have started that process already, I commend you. If you haven’t, no need to look back in regret - it’s not too late to start (just yet), but soon it will be.