LegalTech in Leeds successfully hosts its second SME Law Firm Forum - 20/02

LegalTech in Leeds







On 20th February, LegalTech in Leeds & Bruntwood SciTech successfully maxed out the venue capacity hosting the second SME Law Firm Forum

The event, hosted by LegalTech in Leeds and Bruntwood SciTech, aimed to bring together the SME law community with tech and LegalTech firms across the region to discuss and shed light on the unique challenges/barriers faced by SME law firms when adopting and integrating technology solutions.

The event kicked off with welcoming remarks from LegalTech in Leeds and Bruntwood SciTech, setting the stage for a collaborative discussion. The room had the opportunity to introduce themselves, representing a diverse set of firms, experiences and perspectives.

Emma Pearmaine, Managing Director, Ridley Hall Solicitors & Director, Leeds Law Society

Emma has been a true champion of the SME law community since the inception of LegalTech Leeds and was instrumental in the creation of the SME Law Firm Forum. Emma highlighted the distinct challenges faced by SME law firms, acknowledging the difficulty in getting the community together due to the time pressures placed on those running an SME law firm. For example, in her role as a Managing Director of Ridley Hall Solicitors, she is often responsible for tasks that go beyond legal activities including the overall management, running and maintenance of the office, something that would be almost unheard of from a senior partner at a large law firm.

The resource constraint was also emphasised with Emma highlighting the absence of IT, tech or LegalTech specialists in most SME law firms, suggesting that collaboration and the need to pool resources may be the only plausible solution.

Emma gave another example of how SME law firms particularly struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic, discussing how she had to deliver laptops to employees and implement shift working so that the server could cope with remote working. The discussion touched upon the delicate balance SME law firms must maintain between investing in technology and the potential disruption it may cause, underscoring the importance of tech solutions that align with the specific needs of smaller firms.

Ison Harrison's Perspective

A representative from Ison Harrison Solicitors, a firm which employees approximately 280 employees, shed light on the financial challenges inherent in the delivery of legal aid, making the point that the profit margin on legal aid is so minimal that it doesn't make commercial sense for any law firm to play in that market. However, the societal need for legal aid is too strong to withdraw the service. A challenge that Emma could resonate with.

The critical importance of cybersecurity was also mentioned as a key concern for the legal sector more generally as the potential damage associated with a cyber attack is so significant. It is not enough to just put the right protection in place, you need to train and educate employees on how to recognise a potential threat -"People are still the weakest part of the chain."

Sam Crich, Associate Director, Berwins

Sam reported that just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Berwins had started the transition to cloud-based remote working and it soon became apparent that the firm could operate just as effectively with everyone working from home.

Sam reflected on one of his early experiences at Berwins where he recognised the importance of cross-functional collaboration, seeing the value in sharing knowledge and expertise across departments which resulted in significant efficiencies on an asset management project - "Collaboration is the answer. If we all have to stumble around in the dark, we’re going to bump into each other eventually, you may as well turn the lights on."

Graham Moore, Founder and Managing Director, Katchr

With over 30 years of experience in the sector, Graham provided his perspective on the evolution of technology in the legal sector. Traditionally, SME law firms would buy an 'off the shelf' product that would meet some of their needs but not all of their needs and they would have to accept it. Now, tech has moved on and thanks to cloud-based software, SMEs have the flexibility to choose and adopt solutions tailored to their specific needs - "In the not so distant future, we will get to a point where SMEs have the choice from a supplier ecosystem which allows them to seamlessly integrate as many solutions as they require."

We heard from the room recurring theme of collaboration. The legal sector, traditionally slow to adopt tech, was encouraged to embrace collaboration as the key to unlocking the true potential of technology.

Nkolika Oraka, Legal Director - Head of Legal Advisory Services, rradar

Nkolika gave her view from the pioneering law firm rradar. Nkolika highlighted the visionary approach of their CEO, emphasising the company's commitment to leveraging technology to enhance legal services. The forum touched upon the challenges and successes of rradar's complete digital transformation, illustrating the significance of having in-house tech resources to drive innovation.

Emma then made an excellent point about making sure the forum is inclusive of all SME law firms, particularly those with a long-standing history that may be daunted by the prospect of adopting technology.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, LegalTech in Leeds & Bruntwood SciTech were delighted to have a full room where the SME law community could have candid discussions on the challenges they face with regards to technology adoption. The event highlighted the need for shared learning and fostering a community where legal professionals can openly discuss their experiences, both successes and failures.

As the legal sector continues to adapt to the digital age, collaboration emerges as the beacon guiding SME law firms toward a future where technology serves as a catalyst for innovation and efficiency.

✍️ If you are still yet to secure your place at the 2024 LegalTech in Leeds Conference: Inclusion, Innovation & Inspiration, register here now

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