This year’s Legal Geek conference was held last week in London. Jimmy Vestbirk’s annual lawtech gettogether has just got bigger and more influential. In 2016 there were 500 delegates, one stage, and 20 startups showing their wares in the startup alley. Two years later there were 2000 delegates, three stages and over 50 startups.
Two memories stand out from two years ago. First, a thrill – widely shared I think – at discovering that there really was an ecosystem of serious startups using trying to bring modern technology to the practice of law. Second, that many of those startups were out to fundamentally alter the practice of law. They were moving fast and breaking things. AI would do away with document reviews. Blockchain would do away with contracts. I had fallen down the rabbit hole, and nothing would be the same again. Or at least that’s how I remember it.
Fast forward two years and the landscape looks pretty different. Thinking has developed and some cold-headed maturity has set in. The focus is much less on the tech itself and more on advancing the way in which legal services are provided. We heard a lot about process improvement, service design, solving real problems. And people. Tech, rightly, is seen a means to an end, not the end in itself.
So tech is not going to “solve” law. That much ought to have been obvious. But what should we expect? My view is that tech can oil the wheels of legal practice. It can take friction out of the system and help in getting the basics right. If this sounds more mundane, it is. But it is also valuable, realistic and sustainable.
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Meet The Author
Max Cole is a former solicitor at leading city law firms and a practising barrister.
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