Julian Wells, director at Whitecap Consulting, kicked off proceedings. Whitecap has been coordinating the LegalTech in Leeds initiative since its inception in January 2022. Since this time, nearly 30 events have taken place, bringing together the legal and tech sectors in the region and helping create a LegalTech community.
Tom Matusiak, Director of Leeds Law Society and Legal director at Stewarts, gave one of his customary opening addresses on behalf of Leeds Law Society, taking the audience through some key recent industry developments relevant to the event, and to LegalTech more broadly.
Tom outlined that the legal sector has developed in Leeds over time to be one of the pillars of the Leeds economy, with a full range of law firms, legal service providers and in-house legal teams serving a range of regional, national and international individuals and corporates. Tom quoted that Leeds is ‘The UK centre of excellence for legal services outside of London’, and explained that Leeds Law Society has long been supporting and building the connections that promote the legal industry in Leeds, and is proud to be a partner of LegalTech in Leeds
Tom went on to say that law firms are gold mines of data, with data sets including: time allocation data; financial data; document usage and creation data; communication data; process flow data; and contact and relationship data.
Reflecting on the field that his own firm focuses on, Tom said:
“In the area of legal disputes the disclosure process is a field ripe with data – the review of millions of documents takes place on platforms which are in an arms race of technologies to analyse data points – to faster understand connections between: communications; words; events; individuals; and organisations.”
Our first keynote speaker was Graham Moore, Founder & CEO of Katchr, a Huddersfield-based software firm that helps help law firms to improve performance by providing fast and easy access to information. The firm’s stated mission is ‘to help law firms continuously increase the value they gain from their data’.
Graham has been focusing on data and technology in the legal sector for the vast majority of his career. He has worked for law firms for more than two decades, helping them use data to generate reporting and insight using technology.
Graham used examples from running, cycling and sport in general to highlight the role that data plays in terms of the desire not only for immediate data and analysis, but for meaningful insight that can help.
He explained that data in isolation is not useful. It needs context in order to create meaningful information. But information does not add value unless you analyse and interpret it, in order to generate insight against which you can take action. Turning insight into action requires communication between the key parties that are involved.
Katchr has worked with numerous law firms to help them access data and turn it into actionable insight, and Graham talked through some specific examples of projects with law firms.
Graham highlighted that fundamentally, in generating value from data is all about people and culture, because of the importance of the way data is captured, stored, managed and used is reliant upon the people that work in the organisation. This was a theme that would be consistent across the speakers and panel discussion.
“Data can be used to solve problems. My mission has always been to help law firms use data to better solve the problems they face.”
Jonathan Wright is a Partner at Abstract Tech, which is part of Abstract Group.
Abstract Group is a global consultancy practice founded and headquartered in Leeds. The business is made up of a set of complimentary businesses specialising in the respective areas of business transformation, software design and development and talent insights. These services have been brought together to deliver an end-to-end suite of complimentary services for its clients, who have included law firms and other legal sector projects.
Jonathan’s talk focused on a project Abstract Tech completed with the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.
As part of this project, Abstract Tech was tasked with bringing in an agile approach to working and expertise in digital transformation. Abstract’s solution delivered change so quickly that the law had to change to allow people the right to access their data in a different way. The improvements and efficiencies in the process reduced appeal cases from 3 months to 3 days. The project involved engaging with a wide range of stakeholders including solicitors, courts, the general public.
“We delivered change so drastically and so quickly for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service that the law had to change to keep up with it.”
Jonathan also shared a personal story which provided an example of the challenge of obtaining data to historically understand the medical history of an individual with a complex personal story that involved growing up in foster care. The story highlighted the role that data can play in enhancing the way that society works and the ability of individuals to gain answers to questions they have about their medical history.
The final speaker was Andrew Sharp, who is Principal Consultant at The Oakland Group.
The Oakland Group is a data consultancy operating at the intersection of process, analytics and governance. Working with data, IT and business leaders from a wide range of organisations including some of the world’s best known brands, the firm helps its clients on their digital journey.
Andrew explained that The Oakland Group’s operates across multiple sectors, but the fundamental of data governance are generic. The firm’s clients have included law firms, financial services firms, and also the Information Commissioners Office.
Andrew focused on the importance of governance in terms of the management of data. He explained that in the first instance it’s key to know where your data is, the roles that your people play in data ownership and responsibilities, data quality, risks and issues, and the improvement and monitoring of data.
After the keynotes, there was an interactive panel session that included questions and input from the audience. For this session, the speakers were joined by Joe Leslie, Head of Commercial Finance at Walker Morris, and Michael Peel, Operations Partner at Ison Harrison, two locally-based law firms collectively employing more than 800 people in the region.
A wide-ranging discussion, followed, but the role and importance of people in the management of data within law firms was a prominent and recurring topic. We heard how the introduction of new systems and processes can create the opportunity to capture data in a standardised format, which can help reduce the number of reporting silos that can exist within a firm. At the same time, ensuring the required data is entered into these systems can be a significant challenge, which puts the effectiveness of the systems and associated processes at risk.
Thank you to everyone who took part in the event as speakers or attendees, and particular thanks to Katchr for partnering with us on this event, and to the team at Abstract Tech who made everyone feel so welcome on the day.
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