Monday 21 September 2015
In this blog post, qLegal Student Adviser and LLM student, Raveesha Gupta, describes a LawTech Meetup hosted by qLegal on 20 August 2015.
The Meetup was part of the LegalGeek.co series of Technology and Law events organised by Jimmy Vestbirk, the founder of Legal Geek. The events aim to bring together the technologists and the lawyers who help innovate and, as they call it, ‘disrupt’ the legal profession.
qLegal was established by Queen Mary University of London in 2013 to provide free legal advice, workshops and resources to tech start-up companies and entrepreneurs.
The two lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs, Caroline Ferguson, founder of the Living Lawyers and Daniel Van Binsbergen, co-founder of Lexoo were the speakers at the event. The Meetup was a great success and was attended by people from both the legal and the technology industries. The evening started with an informal ice breaker in the form of a speed networking session where each person had a chance to briefly introduce themselves to the other attendees at the Meetup. The speed networking was then followed by talks from Caroline and Daniel. After that the speakers addressed questions from the audience and the evening ended with informal drinks and pizza.
Caroline, who has worked as a corporate lawyer for nearly ten years, spoke on the topic ‘Women who Law Tech’. She shared her personal journey from being a lawyer to becoming an entrepreneur who now helps lawyers embrace technology. She is passionate about what she is doing as she believes that the clients need better services, the legal industry needs to avoid duplication of work to be more efficient so as to increase profitability and productivity, and mainly for lawyers to have better health and happiness by decreasing their stress levels. On the one hand she discussed the potential and opportunities that the legal industry possesses and on the other she raised concerns about the challenges like the difficulty in bringing change in traditional law firms, engaging people and the gender diversity issues. She elaborated on how technology can make the job of a lawyer easier if the law firms put their people first instead of focusing on the billable hours. She believes that the legal industry needs to tap equally into the potential of its female resources as much as their male counterparts. The mind-set of lawyers needs to change so as to think of how technology can be helpful when a pitch comes to them before they start working on it and the people at the top need to move from aspirational values to the actually practised values. She highlighted some of the changes that have been taking place over the years due to the increased use of technology especially by young lawyers. Great tools for lawyers to work more efficiently, more flexible options of working for lawyers, law schools being the incubators of innovation for law firms, interactive portals created by law firms for their clients are some of the changes she mentioned. Her start-up, Living Lawyers aims to design a twenty first century law firm and she closed on the note that the traditional law firms need to embrace the skills that are coming through and build an environment that helps people thrive in it.
Daniel’s topic for the evening was ‘Leaving Law to start a Law Start-up’. He also shared his personal story of how he decided to start a business of his own after practising Finance and Mergers and Acquisition law for about five and a half years. He gave a few tips on what to keep in mind when starting your own business which he learnt as part of his own personal experience. He suggested that if someone is trying to start their own business they should not spend time concentrating on the competitors as it is better to enter a market where you can win clients instead of trying to carve your own little territory which nobody needs or cares about. He talked about the advantages as well as disadvantages of having a venture capitalist fund your start-up, and according to him, the decision should be a personal choice depending upon what the entrepreneur wants from the business in future, as the venture capitalists fund the ideas which aim for a high growth business and it would mean a decreased freedom. He advised not to limit the ambition as no matter what one does it is going to be hard anyway and keeping the focus on growth is the key to add value and have a successful business. Lawyers starting their own business need to not worry about the groundwork which every lawyer thinks about instead they should think like entrepreneurs and start working on their idea and worry about the legal issues once the business has been put in place. To start a business one needs to portray themselves as what they ought to be with confidence to be taken seriously by people. He learnt that to pitch a business idea to a venture capitalist one has to be confident and needs to hide all the insecurities about the idea. He believes in the motto “Fake it until you make it”. He also pointed out that there are fewer entrepreneurs in the legal sector so the upside of doing something innovative in law is that there is less competition and more potential for success as it has a huge market. He finished by saying that it is not supposed to be easy and everybody is facing some problem or the other so nobody is alone in that sense. The only way to improve is to try a lot of different things and learn how to do things on your own.
The speakers raised some very important concerns regarding the legal industry and how technology can be used to address these concerns. Change is an inevitable part of every industry and the legal industry is no exception. Technology has made our lives easier and the law firms need to embrace this fact and use the technology to their advantage to provide better services and be more efficient in their work. Law and Tech need to go hand in hand so as to have more satisfied clients who demand transparency and also happier lawyers who deal with a lot of stress due to the lack of work-life balance. Change is a slow process and is not easy especially in the legal industry but it will take place at its own pace and hopefully, we will have a technologically revolutionised legal industry in future.
- Raveesha Gupta