Legal Innovation Talks - Collaboration in LegalTech

LegalTech in Leeds







This week at Platform in Leeds, we held our second event in a quarterly series of Legal Innovation Talks, in partnership with our Strategic Partner Bruntwood SciTech.

LegalTech in Leeds is an initiative co-ordinated by Whitecap Consulting which aims to bring together the legal and digital sectors. The initiative has been gaining momentum and to date, LegalTech in Leeds has held 9 events, all positively received by attendees and with full write-ups which can be found here.

We kicked off proceedings with introductions from Katherine Megson, Innovation Programme & Events Manager at Bruntwood SciTech, who gave us an overview of the offering at Platform and the role that Bruntwood SciTech plays more broadly in creating regional innovation ecosystems.

Katherine finished by giving us an update on the exciting upcoming events they have planned such as the Founder to CEO event on 8th December and Female Founders Forum on 25th January, all of which can be registered for here.

Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting, opened the event with an overview of LegalTech in Leeds and the agenda for the day, thanking all of our sponsors and partners for their continued support: Addleshaw Goddard, Bruntwood SciTech, Barclays Eagle Labs, Calls9, CSP, DAC Beachcroft, Jungle IT, Leeds City Council, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, Leeds Law Society, Leeds Trinity University, LawtechUK, rradar, The University of Law, Walker Morris.

Chloe Thompson, Consultant at Whitecap Consulting then gave an update on what LegalTech in Leeds has achieved so far, detailing the progress of the initiative. This included the growth in social media presence (LinkedIn followers up by 40%, Eventbrite followers up by 30% and email subscribers up by 20% in the last month); an update on the planning of the 2023 annual conference; information about upcoming events and the launch of the LegalTech in Leeds website.

Chloe also revealed that from January 2023, LegalTech in Leeds will be adding virtual learning lunches to the calendar of events. There will be one every month, hosted in partnership with experts across the sector, designed to be targeted sessions that are interactive and encourage discussion around a specific topic.

Next up, we had Tom Matusiak, Director at Leeds Law Society & Legal Director at Stewarts who started by championing the strength of the legal sector here in Leeds, reminding us that law is a key pillar of the city’s economy. Tom referenced the 2020 LegalTech and Innovation report, providing a number of additions to the ecosystem map of law firms that have now opened or are opening offices in Leeds.

Tom finished by highlighting the theme of the day and the importance of collaboration between the legal and tech sectors in order to make progress in law, giving multiple examples of where we can see this happening already, i.e., Leeds Law Society which brings together a diverse group of law firms and the Law Commission consultation on digital assets.

Jonty Abbott, Managing Director at Fluid spoke next about the challenge surrounding the digital skills gap and the need to train the current workforce to become more digital, stating “80% of the workforce in 2030 are employed today and so we can’t just wait around for STEM students”.

Jonty then asked the room, “who fears that robots will take over their jobs?”, this then led into a demonstration of a robot completing a manual data admin task, showing that by utilising tech to set-up a basic robot, the time lawyers spend doing repetitive, mundane tasks can be significantly reduced.

The key takeaway from Jonty was that setting up these robots does not require leading-edge technology or highly specialised tech knowledge and skills, the capability is within the current workforce and most likely, within the tech that already resides in the legal sector.

We then heard from Steve Bravery, Head of Law at Leeds Trinity University who gave us an insight into where LTU is in relation to LegalTech. Steve started by highlighting the opportunity for educators to ensure that they are producing the ‘modern law graduate’, by providing a non-traditional way of delivering core learning with added value.

Drawing on the digital skills gap, Steve spoke about the importance of understanding what digital skills students have when they get to university, and what professional digital skills they need to develop to meet the needs of employers. Steve states that as a placement university, Leeds Trinity University wants to build co-beneficial relationships with employers, providing value to both them and the students.

Steve finished with two key updates from the University including the 2023 Professional Challenge which will see LegalTech in Leeds as one of the challenge setters and the launch of the university’s city base campus, located just off Boar Lane in the heart of Leeds city centre (subject to a ‘change of use’ planning application), anticipated to host students in the 2024/25 Academic Year.

Eimear McCann, Commercial Director at TrialView then spoke to us about the impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic had on digital adoption across the legal sector, resulting in a transition to virtual rather than in-person.

Eimear stated, “on a macro-level, everyone has changed because of the pandemic and more people are working from home, saving time and money.” Eimear highlighted specific benefits of tech adoption relating to the legal sector such as reduced litigation costs and a significantly reduced impact on the environment. Giving us some stats, Eimear revealed that you would need to plant 20,000 trees to offset one arbitration hearing, with the carbon footprint 19 times higher when conducted in-person compared to virtually.

Eimear finished her talk by giving an overview of TrialView, a platform that offers the full life cycle of a dispute, from early case review to E-bundling, to live presentation. TrialView also offers a dynamic digital workspace which facilitates collaboration on a case review, all with the assurance of security.

The session finished with a panel discussion on the topic of collaboration within LegalTech, chaired by Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting, featuring the speakers from the session including Jonty Abbott, Steve Bravery, Eimear McCann as well as Deborah Fleming, Marketing & Business Development Director at Walker Morris & Paul Berwin, CEO of Berwins.

Deborah Fleming opened the discussion by providing an overview of how Walker Morris is committed to driving innovation within the firm, stating that currently, “there is limited collaboration and engagement with tech firms.” Deborah spoke about an internal campaign that the firm has recently launched called “I did that”, with the aim of trying to embed innovative thinking within the culture.

Walker Morris is working with LegalTech in Leeds to encourage employees to share their thoughts and ideas on how technology could be used to improve client experiences as well as their ability to do their jobs more effectively. After an internal filtering process, Walker Morris plans to take these ideas to tech firms with the hope of finding appropriate solutions.

Paul Berwin then gave a perspective from a law firm based in Platform, a tech and innovation hotbed. Paul stated that at Berwins, there is already a large focus on tech due to their daily interaction with tech firms and a large proportion of their commercial clients being tech firms. Paul is also one of the founders of Leeds Digital Festival which has grown to be an international success, running over 2 weeks with over 300 events.  

“There needs to be visionary and strategic leadership when it comes to tech adoption and innovation. At Berwins, we ask ourselves: does it make our lives easier, and the clients experience better? If the answers yes, then let’s do it.” - Paul Berwin, CEO of Berwins.

Jonty Abbott from Fluid joined the discussion by highlighting the importance of trust when encouraging collaboration between the legal and tech sectors, stating that “there’s an inherent fear of technology providers, people think we have a hidden agenda.” Jonty expresses that we need to create a mutually trusting environment between the legal and tech sectors, where law firms can propose ideas on how they can do their jobs better and tech firms support them in achieving this.

“Until we create this trusting environment between legal and tech, you’ll always get suboptimal relationships and solutions.” – Jonty Abbot, Managing Director, Fluid.  

Steve Bravery raises the challenge around regulation, stating that the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) are now actively trying to take away some of the barriers to collaboration.

Jonty suggests that law firms ask themselves a series a questions before going to market to look for a technology solution. For example, where are you inefficient? Where are the opportunities to improve the experience for your client and what are you clients’ main gripes? Once armed with this information, Jonty argues that law firms will be better equipped when having discussions with tech firms.

He finishes by talking about ownership, “we’re trying to change the view of ownership to once a law firm adopts a piece of tech or software, it’s their tool and they own it, rather than law firms thinking it’s been imposed on them. Taking ownership of their own tech will help them realise it’s a facilitator.”

We then heard Eimear's thoughts as she agrees with the importance of trust in collaboration by stating “when I was a practicing lawyer, I didn’t have time to scan the market and review a piece of tech or a solution, so you need that trusting relationship with tech firms. Currently there’s a ‘them and us’ attitude.”

Deborah finishes the discussion by stating, “collaboration benefits everyone and to achieve successful collaboration, you need diversity of thought.”

After a number of thought-provoking questions from the audience, Julian Wells concluded the session by thanking all of the fantastic speakers, our host Bruntwood SciTech and our sponsors and partners.

Finally, Julian also thanked the team at Calls9 for all their hard work on the LegalTech in Leeds website which we are delighted to announce is now live.

We now look forward to our next event, Tuesday 13th December at Avenue HQ where we will be hosting our LegalTech in Leeds Christmas networking drinks. Please join us to celebrate a great year of LegalTech in Leeds events.

To keep up to date with our 2023 events, follow our Eventbrite page.