Despite the rail strikes, LegalTech in Leeds travelled down to London from Leeds on Wednesday 4th October for day 1 of the LegalGeek conference.
The event kicked off at 10am with a series of 8-10 minute talks from experts across the field including LawtechUK, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), BRYTER, Luminance and a fascinating talk from Angelique de Lafontaine and Sam Wharfe at Bupa, who spoke about how the organisation has created an 'Innovation Lab' in an effort to reduce barriers to innovation and try and create a culture whereby people do not have a fear of failure and they are comfortable sharing their ideas.
Another talk that was particularly interesting was 'What mental health is and isn't and why it matters', by Joanne Theodoulou at Simply Business. Joanne spoke about how the term 'mental health' is often both overused and miss used, and that mental health actually refers to a positive emotional state and the ability to function cognitively and maintain good relationships. Joanne made the point that fluctuations in mental health differs to mental illness, and that understanding the distinction is important in order to get the language use right. Joanne finished her talk by encouraging the room to educate themselves by using all the information publicly available.
This talk was extremely insightful and well aligned to the interests and activities of LegalTech in Leeds which will be hosting an event next week in partnership with Leeds Trinity University, on the topic of mental health across the law profession.
Before breaking for lunch, we also heard from Rashida Abdulai from Strand Sahara who gave a talk on LegalTech and development in Africa. Rashida outlined some examples of LegalTech firms that have made huge impacts on the way legal services across Africa are delivered such as LawPadi and Crime Sync.
After a delicious lunch from the independent street food vendors, there was plenty of time to network and explore the exhibitor hall where there were lots of creative games and activities such as basket ball, whack a mole, VR experiences, pancake making, ice-cream and pick a mix stools and even stick-on tattoos.
As well as making lots of new connections at the event, it was great to see lots of familiar faces from the LegalTech in Leeds community including Addleshaw Goddard, Barclays Eagle Labs, Barrister Link, Calls9, SYKE and The University of Law.
After an afternoon filled with more inspirational talks and an insight into the in-house legal team perspective from the likes of Chanel, HSBC and BT, day 1 concluded with a closing keynote from Jenny Radcliffe, also known as the 'People Hacker'.
Jenny spoke about social engineering and how human error is behind 95% of security attacks, making the point that it doesn't matter what security you have in place, physical or digital, hackers only need to work on the human that can unlock that security. Jenny finished her talk by stating, "I don't think we're the strongest defence, but we are a defence". Listening to Jenny, we were able to draw parallels to an event we held last week in partnership with Jungle IT, which focused on cybersecurity and also dove into the dangers of social engineering.
We started day 2 attending a workshop session delivered by Adam Roney, Calls9 and Patrick Grant, The University of Law, who spoke about a joint project they have been working on which has involved the development of a Generative AI virtual assistant - which is currently in the proof of concept stage.
Adam and Patrick took us through their journey, highlighting some of the challenges they have faced throughout the process, but highlighting the huge potential societal impact that the technology could have on improving access to justice and legal services for the most vulnerable and underserved parts of our communities. By significantly speeding up and improving the triage process, people will get access to the support they need quicker.
Adam and Patrick concluded by opening the discussion up to the room where they were questioned on topics such as liability, risk, data ownership and ethics.
Before lunch, we got to hear from actor and television presenter Richard E. Grant, who engaged in a candid and open discussion with the audience about grief and its impact. Richard drew upon his personal experience of grief and how he has been navigating it day by day. The talk led to audience members sharing their own stories and experiences, creating an opportunity for everyone to come together and remember the importance of the 'human' element- a key overriding theme of the conference.
After a second day of indulging in the different street food on offer for lunch, the afternoon was filled with short pitches from LegalTech firms across the UK, with solutions ranging from document automation and AI to a marketplace platform for barristers and solicitors.
Overall, the event was a fantastic experience and a brilliant example of how UK LegalTech is leading the way in terms of innovation and creativity.
UK legal services is becoming increasingly innovative and competitive across the global landscape due to the adoption of LegalTech solutions which are allowing law firms to cut costs through things like AI and automation and better serve their clients needs.
LegalTech is not going to replace the lawyers and the 'human' element of the profession is more important now than ever before. Ensuring diversity across the workforce and protecting the mental health of lawyers will also enable law firms to remain competitive and better deliver legal services to clients.
If you are interested in any of the themes or events mentioned in this post, please contact: Leedslegaltech@whitecapconsulting.co.uk
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