LegalTech in Leeds is an initiative coordinated by Whitecap Consulting that was created in 2022 to help develop a specific new legal community in the Leeds City Region.
It aims to bring together the legal and tech sectors in the area, with three core objectives: helping to facilitate the digital transformation of the legal sector; supporting tech entrepreneurs seeking to engage with the legal sector; and enhancing access to legal services for consumers and businesses in the region.
Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting, opened the event with a brief overview of the initiative and the agenda for the day, thanking all of our sponsors and partners for their continued support: Addleshaw Goddard, Barrister Link, 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, SYKE, Toca, The University of Law, University of Leeds, Walker Morris.
Chloe Thompson, Consultant at Whitecap Consulting then gave a progress update, sharing a number of stats from 2022 demonstrating the growth of the initiative. Over the past 12 months, LegalTech in Leeds has hosted a total of 12 events including seminars, networking drinks and the inaugural 2022 showcase conference. These events have attracted almost 800 sign-ups with a high attendance rate and an even balance of new and regular attendees.
Over the course of the 12 events, there were a total of 94 speakers with 60% of these being debut speakers and 13% being speakers from outside of the Leeds City Region. There was also even representation from speakers across both the tech and legal sectors (23% and 22% respectively).
Chloe finished the update by outlining a number of key goals for this year, including hitting the 2023 diversity targets, continuing to drive more interest and engagement in the initiative, including through the growth of social media activity, and hosting the LegalTech in Leeds – ‘The Big Hack’ and the 2023 Showcase Conference.
Next up we had Luke Corcoran, Director at Leeds Law Society and Senior Lawyer at Government Legal Department, who started off by highlighting the historic strength of the well-established legal sector within Leeds City Region. Luke then touched upon the exponential growth we have seen in the way we use technology in our daily lives, stating that the legal sector is no exception, “LegalTech is revolutionising the way we provide legal services.”
Luke finished by reminding the room that “creativity is in the region’s DNA”, and that Leeds Law Society is fully committed to helping move the Leeds legal sector forward, demonstrated by its continued support of the LegalTech in Leeds initiative.
Jungle IT were up next, represented by Jonathan Asquith, Managing Director, Natalie Ledgard, Business Development Relationship Manager and Matthew Simmons, Chief Solutions Architect. Jonathan started by introducing the firm, stating that “Jungle IT develops future-ready IT strategies that prime businesses for success,” helping clients to navigate technological change.
Natalie then presented some findings from a survey involving the top 100 UK law firms:
Highlighting the challenge around recruitment and retention and the need for future strategies to address it. Natalie’s next slide took us on the journey of digital transformation, setting out a clear 5-step process: Ambition, Evaluate, Execute, Accelerate and Optimise.
Matthew then dived deeper into these stages of digital transformation, providing the room with guidance on what to consider at each step when designing a digital transformation roadmap.
· Step 1: Ambition – Define your strategy and set objectives that are aligned to wider organisational goals.
· Step 2: Evaluate – Analyse, audit and review technology usage and infrastructure landscape.
· Step 3: Execute – Establish OKR’s and KPI’s and define how success will be measured.
· Step 4: Accelerate – Ensure the plan is commercially absorbed through activities such as workshops and adoption toolkits.
· Step 5: Optimise – Review OKR’s and nuance the roadmap based on assessment and evaluation of the impact on the business, clients and employees.
Jungle IT finished their talk with three key tips for the legal sector:
1. Prioritise compliance actions.
2. Prioritise systems and hardware actions.
3. Prioritise license and applications actions.
Gary Gallen, CEO at rradar was up next discussing the challenges around innovation and driving change within the existing law firm structure. This led to Gary building rradar from the ground up with the aim of utilising technology to deliver legal services “smarter, better, faster”.
Gary made the point that digital transformation needs to be aligned to a business plan which recognises your clients needs and wants, “have a clear business plan and know who your clients are and what they want – they are crucial to making digital transformation a success.”
Gary also expressed the importance of bringing the people within your organisation on the journey with you, appreciating the disruption that digital transformation is likely to cause to the business and listening to the feedback from employees.
rradar provides a shining example as the firm has just committed to a 12-month digital transformation programme which will see the integration of all current systems, functions and legal services into one super-platform, allowing for greater innovation going forward.
Sharing his past experience with implementing a number of digital transformations across rradar, Gary had some advice for law firms, “be really clear on the business plan and work backwards from the desired outcome so that both the law firm and the technologist are working towards a common goal.” As well as some advice for tech firms, “familiarise yourself with the main concerns of and challenges faced by lawyers.”
Gary finished his talk by stating that digital transformation does not have to be a huge project with a huge budget; it can be incrementally improving the internal efficiency of backend functions.
The last speaker of the day was Azeem Rashid, Director at Lawtech 365, who started by telling us of a recent case which saw the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) issuing their largest fine to date (£20,000) to a law firm for not having the right policies and procedures in place.
Lawtech 365 helps the legal sector to address these challenges by streamlining compliance processes to avoid fines and penalties issues by the SRA. Azeem also spoke about his background in the legal sector and how the solutions within Lawtech 365 have been purpose built for law firms with the support of the land registry, SRA and The Law Society.
Azeem then delivered a short pitch for Verify 365, an onboarding solution for the legal sector utilising AI-powered biometric ID verifications. Verify 365 delivers the following for law firms:
· Biometric verification ensuring that your clients are who they say they are.
· Conducts thorough ID checks, including government-issued ID and address verification.
· Conducts AML checks to ensure that your clients are not on any financial crime watchlists.
· Performs source of funds checks to ensure that the money your clients are using is legitimate.
· Includes e-payment and e-signature capabilities, making the onboarding process fast and efficient.
To conclude the session, we had a panel discussion on the topic of digital transformation chaired by Julian Wells, featuring our speakers including Jonathan Asquith, Matthew Simmons, Gary Gallen and Azeem Rashid as well as some additional panellists including Scott Foley, IT Director at Addleshaw Goddard and Rachel Wood, Business Development Manager at Digilegal.
Scott kicked off the discussion by introducing himself and talking about a recently concluded digital transformation programme that has taken 4 years to complete, focusing on improving the backend efficiency at Addleshaw Goddard.
Scott agreed with the sentiment that digital transformation is a continuous process and spoke about some of the key challenges specific to a larger law firm such as Addleshaw Goddard. For example, with regards to procurement, there are a number of due diligence checks that need to be done when reviewing technology solutions and they often fail to comply with such a highly regulated sector, especially solutions offered by startups, “security and functionality both need to be equally considered.”
Azeem joined the discussion, talking about how it’s important to specifically design and develop solutions for law firms based on a core understanding of the sector and its dynamics, rather than trying to sell a generic solution or piece of technology.
Rachel agreed with this sentiment, stating that the founder of Digilegal also has a background within the legal profession.
Julian then asked panel, “what are the challenges surrounding selling to the legal sector and how does it differ to other sectors?”.
Rachel answered first by stating, “it’s important to understand their needs by listening more than talking. Make it relatable and clearly demonstrate the value and benefits. Lastly, be consistent and follow through on what you say you’re going to do.”
Jonathan joined in by stating that it can often come down to a matter of cost when the conversation should really be focused on the impact that the technology or solution will have on the business.
Matthew joined in by stating that “technology provides the tools to help lawyers do their job more efficiently and more effectively, but it won’t do their job for them.”
Gary agreed with this statement by talking about the importance of the knowledge that lawyers possess, “lawyers are the key because they understand what the clients need, and technologists are there to try and improve how lawyers can deliver legal services. The sooner lawyers exercise control over their knowledge and technology needs, the better."
The audience then asked the panel, “how do you keep employees engaged through digital transformation?”
Scott replied first by stating that “digital transformation is about people, not technology” and so you have to engage lawyers by understanding what their needs and requirements are. Scott advised firms to demonstrate the benefits to lawyers through proof of concept and to ringfence some resource to train on the solution or technology so that they can take it back and train the rest of their team, “training is delivered much more effectively from users themselves”.
Gary ended the session with a final comment, “if you’re going to do something that could take years and cause disruption, you have to be willing to sacrifice fee earning time.”
Overall, the first event back of the year was a huge success with lots of audience participation and thought-provoking discussion. Our next event will be our LegalTech in Leeds Networking Drinks at Avenue HQ on Tuesday 7th February, 18:00 – 20:00.
Data and Cyber Security Seminar, in partnership with CSP – Thursday 9th February.
LegalTech in Leeds Learning Lunch – Wednesday 15th February.
LawTech Innovation Showcase, partnership with Walker Morris – Tuesday 28th February.
LegalTech in Leeds – ‘The Big Hack’, in partnership with Bruntwood SciTech – Thursday 9th & Friday 10th March.
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