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On July 1, 2021, Wednesday, Law Ninja organized a workshop on “The world of Legal Tech” by global experts Olga V. Mack and Colin S. Levy. Law Ninja is a platform that facilitates skill building for lawyers and law students.
The event was hosted by Rohan Bilimoria. Following were the guests from the event.
Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered digital negotiation technology. She embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law.
Colin S. Levy is a speaker, writer, and legal tech evangelist with more than a decade of experience in corporate transactional law. He has parlayed this experience into his speaking and writing career, educating lawyers on how to leverage technology to improve the delivery of legal services.
After the introductions, the guests started with the explorations of what is meant by legal tech and what is the field of legal tech about.
What is legal tech?
Starting with the field of legal tech, Colin highlighted the fact that tech existed in various ways but legal industry thought of it to exist in its own bubble and that was short sighted and arguably dangerous. He looks forward to engage with talking to people working in front lines of legal tech
Currently, he mentioned, he spends time writing and inspiring others about tech in use of legal profession. He said that even clients expect lawyers to use technology and that business is not waiting for law to catch up.
On what is meant by legal tech, Olga mentioned that, “Anything that helps legal field develop bigger, faster, cheaper. Combination of process, technology, people and improvement of overall design.”
She further clinked legal tech using an analogy of emails and stated,
“What email did to communication, meaning it improved, streamlined, made it more fun; is what she hopes legal tech will do to legal profession.”
She mentioned that there is part where you start with efficiency and part where you continue with it through sustainability.
She said she hopes that the field of legal tech helps us design a sustainable, more enjoyable legal practice.
Furthermore, Olga also spent a moment acknowledging the apprehension about legal tech making lawyers redundant. She mentioned that the manner emails have not decreased communication, merely changed its nature, similarly legal tech wont decrease need for lawyers.
Adding to what legal tech means, Colin mentioned that,
“Legal tech is in part about not new tools but using existing technologies better and making them more productive. An important element of legal tech is to reimagine legal community. Make it client centric, forward thinking culture. That will take time as any cultural change needs.”
In addition, he stated that in terms of jobs for lawyers, there will always be need for lawyers. The change will be in the kind of tasks the lawyers do and the way they perform it. Colin also extended his opinion on it, through using the example of automation of creation of documents.
Colin stated what legal tech would help us do is, “Not spend so much time reinventing the wheel.” “It’s about tech, people, process.”
How do the existing legal practitioners get started on it?
Colin started discussion around how to start using legal tech by saying that, it does not have to happen “… by looking at tech, but understanding what problems you are trying to solve.”
The real question, he states is what is the problem one is seeking to solve and what is prompting the need for technology.
He further stated, “Once you have a firm understanding of what you are trying to solve, its easier to look for and solve the problems. Legal tech is a vast area and easy to get overwhelmed by. So, it’s easier to focus and then get started to navigate.”
Adding to such understanding, Olga emphasized, “You don’t want to be a hammer looking for a nail.”
Furthermore, she mentioned, “Once you identify the problem and who your primary target is, it helps you embrace the data task mentality. Solution may be a complicated tech or a minor tweak with change in process and existing legal tech. As a legal lawyer when you do data tasking, the effective solution will jump at you. That’s when you know you found the right one. You will find no big budget is needed. Tech is not difficult.”
Emphasizing on data tasking mentality, she stated that such mentality is critical for legal tech and makes dialogue within companies and stakeholders easier and healthier.
What would be advice for law students to get started on legal tech?
Colin started the discussion for how to start for law students by saying that, “What legal tech communities want is people looking to learn more. People are more than happy to respond and give advice.”
Giving a general advice he also stated that blogs by experts is also an enriching way to learn. For a more focused learning, he mentioned that startups functioning in the field can give exposure about how they function.
Reiterating the need to focus on specific area, he mentioned that, “have an area on what you want to focus on. Have your focus on one area. Otherwise, you tend to feel overwhelmed if you tend to look everywhere”.
Olga gave two important recommendations in that regard.
First is, she said, “Adopt mindset of saying yes atleast once.” She emphasized on trying new things and then decide for oneself.
On the legal tech profession being a new one she stated that “The good indication that you are early is when they call for lawyers. Like internet lawyers.”
“Consider saying yes early, as it is opportunity to get in early and make part in shaping it.”
Second, she said that, realize that saying early yes is important because there is a really long tail of innovation.”
Expanding on her personal experience of entering the field of law, she stated that she was interested in technology policy and wanted to contribute in shaping lives of people. Her initial interest was in privacy. And when she took courses in privacy and tech in law school, the curriculum consisted of seizures and constitutional cases. There were no technology specific cases.
Currently she mentioned that students and practitioners are contributing to the grand schema of laws and policy around technology which is also going to form the base for the future. Although she mentioned that the tail of innovation is long and as much advantageous it is to enter early, at the same time one is never too late.
On artificial intelligence (AI), robots taking over the world, dystopia and its relation to law and legal tech
Olga started with mentioning the recurring disagreements on the definition of AI by various technologists. She rather focused on the results, where are we are going and what will be the journey.
She said that, currently, “AI is beginning, not too late and tale of innovation is very long, so good time to get in as it is scalable and has many applications in legal profession.”
Automation, she said will make things bigger, faster and cheaper. Highlighting the mundane work that professionals often have to do she said that it is “…an opportunity to stop doing things that are mundane and don’t require brain power.” She further mentioned that smart people who jump through hoops and steps of life really well often tend to feel unhappy while being in the professional lives. The reason she states is, “you can’t take smart people and give them idiotic things to do.”
“Legal tech, she states, allows highly intelligent people to let them do what they do best.”
“Copy pasting, etc isn’t what makes you happy”, she mentions
Adding to it through his own experience at doing mundane tasks he mentioned that, “I got a smart phone in my hand and is doing far better. And I am looking at computer and doing miniscule of what it is capable of. AI makes people happier and more productive.”
On issue of defining AI he said that “AI is an overused term and got deluded in to a marketing term.”
Differentiating between different kinds of AI, he stated that there also are robots who can jump and do things. But AI is not only about that.
He mentioned that “AI is about making educated and informed decision on lots of data. That’s where tech is coming.” He added technology can do mundane things where lot of data and files are involved. “AI is just a term”, and “what it is going after is how people work and what work is for people.”
On the fear mongering of robots, he mentioned that, “Right now it is not about robot replacing you or taking things away from you. At this point we are not there. This fear mongering might be counterproductive.”
On pandemic and concept of remote lawyer and value of remote lawyers.
The workshop also discussed the value that remote lawyers hold and the manner in which technology has aided the remoteness of the legal work.
Starting with few instances where Colin had managed things remotely before pandemic, he stated that “You don’t need to be in office to do work, with how things with tech stands.”
Although he mentioned there are certain elements like adhoc chats and passing by conversations that help in building relationships and communications in a physical setting.
Post pandemic, he stated that some people would want to be in office. But virtual and remote working of lawyers has also helped people who because of restrictions could not access courts or go to office of lawyers.
On issue of lack of collaboration in case of usage of technology in remote work
OIga mentioned that, in order to be a successful remote lawyer, what is needed is, “Powerful computer and stable internet and being a part of organisation that gives training and support to success. Working remotely is a skill as is going to office.”
She further added that for organizations as well, “Building remote culture is an intentional act”. Before joining one has to evaluate the vision, culture and building tools provided by an organization to empower an employee for the remote culture. How the employer makes sure that the employees are not isolated is an important factor.
Adding to the importance of collaboration, she mentioned that “Collaboration is another intelligence, what you need to develop. Effective teams are collaborative team. There are many ways to collaborate. During pandemic, definition of collaboration has expanded.”
Differentiating collaborations from pre-pandemic times, she mentioned that, “Previously, you had to play in a set box, pass the box and be courteous. Now it is increasingly remote from folks all over the world.” Another expansion of contours of collaboration she mentioned is the “simultaneous part of it.” “Now collaboration is simultaneously working with the team.” She added that while the present collaborations might have made things faster, we are still scratching the surface. Pandemic is exerting pressure to have more options of collaborations.
Collaboration is an important skill to develop whether you practice law or not.
Increasing number of Initial Public offers to fund legal tech
Olga mentioned that there is a fifty percent chance she might get such predictions right but the increasing IPO’s suggest that technology operating to connect things in office is importance.
She suggested that although few areas of the ecosystem are connected through technology, there are missing parts which are not connected through technology. As she states, “These flurry IPO’s suggest that these needs to change.”
Moreover, questioning the idea of “legal” tech, she mentioned that, “I don’t think there is something like legal tech. its enterprise software that happens to be optimized for lawyers but it also needs to be optimized for entire company.”
Olga cited an example of the technology of “DocuSign”, which is used widely for electronically signing documents. She questioned if that is a legal tech. “How many people think of it as legal tech.” The technology is used for the legal purpose of attesting a document but isn’t though to of as legal tech. What the technology solves if the problem of an enterprise, she reiterated.
She said in applying this change of technology and making things easier, “Lawyers happen to be little behind the curve and process needs to be faster.”
Furthermore, she added that, “What IPO’s indicate is that market perceives that there is value. What it indicates is that there is a critical mass of people who see value in this technology.”
Adding to what the IPO’s indicate, Colin stated that “It indicates, that there is sort of a growing recognition of legal tech being a misleading term.”
Legal tech may be accurate till some extent, but it is too narrow and broad at the same time, he mentioned. People wanting to understand it better have to think about it not through terms but tools and cultural change.
Furthermore, adding to the increasing importance of legal tech, Olga mentioned that people who are looking to pivot can do so, since the importance will increase eventually.
On importance of academic education in field of legal tech
Emphasizing on importance of practical exposure instead of academic education, Colin stated that, “No matter what kind of degree you have, there is always going to be lot to learn more.” He said, “attitude and desire” are more important. He added that “If you want to pursue an advance degree, it helps conceptual grounding...” “… in terms of you being productive and successful rests on ability to learn and consolidate more information.”
He further said that degrees are for “academic value more than it is for practical skills.”
My advice would be Colin shared, “rather than focusing on degree, focus on finding work in the focus areas of what you want to be learning.”
On getting academic degrees, Olga mentioned that degrees don’t matter. Rather she mentioned that one needs to start learning by getting hands on experience and solving problems.
How can we bridge the AI skill gaps and where can people in legal field sharpen the skills?
Olga opined that as with any disruptive new tech, “Most innovative things are coming out of universities. When that is the case, it is an indication that it is an early tech.”
She added that, “The best way to learn is by building.”
Sharing her own experience, she mentioned that her expertise comes from working right next to people who were involved in building tech products. Stressing on the importance of such exposure, she mentioned, “When you do that you get to know the community and are part of shaping the ecosystem.”
There is no universal answer to such questions she said and that one needs to figure it out strategically. While academic education and starting careers at certain places may give some advantages, important question is where one wants to go and how to get there.
Adding to it Colin said that “I think its safe to say that we have bias for action, but it really depends on what ultimate goals are. Where you want to go and what you want to be doing.”
Ending the workshop on one piece of advice
Ending the workshop, Colin shared that,
“Go on and engage. Listen, read and try to engage with people in field. That kind of thing is very helpful.”
Similarly, Olga mentioned that,
“Have an open mind, learn by doing, and it if doesn’t feel right pivot. You can pivot at any point in your career. Pivots are not limited to age, gender or any other privilege.”
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