After the opportunity to network over breakfast and coffee, Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting and LegalTech in Leeds, kicked off the event by welcoming all speakers and thanking attendees for coming to the session.
Julian started by giving a brief background on the LegalTech in Leeds initiative, including the key aims and objectives, and thanked our sponsor and partner group for their continued commitment and support to LegalTech in Leeds (Addleshaw Goddard, Bruntwood SciTech, Barclays Eagle Labs, Barrister Link, Calls9, Cyber Security Partners (CSP), DAC Beachcroft, FinTech North, Founders Law, Jungle IT, Katchr, Leeds City Council, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, Leeds Law Society, LawtechUK, Leeds Trinity University, rradar, Page White Farrer, SYKE, The University of Law, Toca, University of Leeds, Walker Morris, Whitecap Consulting, Yorkshire Legal).
We then had our host Paul Anderson, Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, welcome everyone to the office and give a short overview of the firm including its size, spanning 42 offices in 20 countries, and the cross-boarder requirement for LegalTech.
Paul stated that the law firm is heavily reliant and interested in new technology however, there is an important consideration with regards to making sure lawyers are not too reliant on using technology to solve problems, "technology can often offer the easy solution to a problem which isn't necessarily always the right solution." Paul talked about how the firm has adopted automation to streamline some of their processes but highlighted the importance of lawyers still needing to be trained on those processes so they understand why they have been automated.
Paul painted a really positive picture around tech adoption within Squire Patton Boggs whilst also highlighting some of the key challenges that are familiar to the sector including the expectations from clients to reduce the cost of legal services as well as the severe inflation in wages.
To conclude the opening remarks, we had Emma Pearmaine, Managing Director at Ridley & Hall Solicitors and Director at Leeds Law Society, who spoke about the role that Leeds Law Society plays in bringing together the diverse legal community across Leeds City Region, particularly the SME law firms who often serve the health and wellbeing needs of society and who are equally as important to driving the local economy as some of the larger firms across the city.
Emma shared her passion towards ensuring that Leeds remains "one of the strongest providers of legal aid in the country", raising the question around how technology and collaboration can play a part in the continued resourcing of legal aid, a topic that sparked both interest and engagement from the audience.
Emma finished by talking briefly about her experience of technology adoption at Ridley & Hall Solicitors, a law firm of c.120 people which specialises in divorce, financial relief, children, grandparents’ issues and kinship care. Emma stated, "after acquiring the solicitors 5-years ago, the focus has been on just trying to get everything up-to-date including making sure everyone has access to a laptop and Microsoft 365."
We then went into a progress update from LegalTech in Leeds which was delivered by Chloe Thompson, Consultant at Whitecap Consulting/ LegalTech in Leeds. Chloe started with the following stats:
· 10 events held so far in 2023, attracting 890 sign-ups, featuring 91 speakers.
· LegalTech in Leeds now has 652 LinkedIn followers, 195 Eventbrite followers and 842 email subscribers.
Chloe then spoke about some of the recent activity that has taken place since the 2023 LegalTech in Leeds Conference including the opportunity to sit on a panel discussion at the UK REiiF Innovation Breakfast that took place last week. On the panel, LegalTech in Leeds discussed how the initiative has helped to accelerate the development of a cluster across the city, taking learnings from FinTech North.
Also last week, Lawtech UK hosted its hybrid launch event which LegalTech in Leeds was delighted to attend. At the event, Lawtech UK announced that it will be run by Codebase and Legal Geek over the next two-years, with the aim to "engage, inspire and educate a scaled and interconnected lawtech ecosystem, including all parts of the UK." As part of this consortium, Lawtech UK has planned deliverables which focus on around community, education, innovation and thought leadership.
Chloe concluded by reminding the audience of some upcoming LegalTech in Leeds events including Legal Innovation Talks, LegalTech in Leeds Networking Drinks and two Learning Lunches, all scheduled to take place in June.
Our next speaker was Simon Best, University Teacher in Law at Leeds Trinity University, who first made reference to the significant growth of the university and the law school from originally a cohort of 10 students to now a cohort of around 150 students.
Simon spoke about the range of law courses that are on offer at the university and the bold ambitions to integrate LegalTech into these courses so that students gain the necessary understanding of how technology is shaping the future of legal services, so they can successfully navigate the rapidly evolving profession.
Simon stated, "as a university, we are mindful of what skills are important to make an effective lawyer and it's more than just legal knowledge. Students need the opportunity to gain a well-rounded skillset to prepare them for a competitive and ever changing legal landscape."
The next part of Simon's talk focused on the opening of the new city centre location which will house the law school from 2024. The city centre campus will have modern technology and state-of-the-art teaching facilities, designed to enhance the student learning experience. LTU is also hoping that having a presence in Leeds city centre will strengthen relationships with the local business community, leading to more student placements - a valuable USP for the university as it produces graduates that are equipped with industry experience as well as academic knowledge.
Simon finished his talk by reflecting on the recent Professional Challenge which LegalTech in Leeds was delighted to be involved with. The challenge saw LegalTech in Leeds ask students to find a technology-based solution that helps to address the inequality that exists around access to legal services and legal advice for BAME backgrounds and ethnic minorities.
In multidisciplinary teams, students then took the time to work together to find a solution to the challenge which they presented back at the end of the Professional Challenge.
Julian Wells from LegalTech in Leeds said, "it was a really valuable experience to be involved with this years professional challenge. Students were really engaged with the project and came up with some really innovative solutions that all met the brief such as applications that support BAME communities with language and translation and issues around housing and employment law."
Martin Page, Data Specialist & Samantha Holden, Head of Customer Success at Katchr were up next to share the perspective from a longstanding LegalTech and to discuss the value and importance of data and information. Martin started with an overview of the company stating that they have been supplying to law firms for 12-years, with over 100 clients and 7000 lawyers using their solution. As a result, Katchr has an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the dynamics, needs and challenges that are unique to the legal sector.
Samantha then spoke about the importance of 'Customer Success' for Katchr, explaining that it is about making sure their clients are able to achieve their goals through the platform and making adjustments to the platform accordingly.
Samantha stated, "As part of our Customer Success Programme, we conduct regular business reviews, asking the law firms what they want to achieve and if it’s not in the product right now, then we’ll build it in. We want to know if the product is still fresh and meeting our clients needs, because if it isn't, we'll adjust the platform accordingly."
Katchr finished by highlighting a number of job vacancies that are currently open. If you are interested in finding out more about these positions, please visit: https://katchr.teamtailor.com/
The final session of the day saw Stephen Allen, Matter Management Transformation Lead and Gregory Husbands, Project Manager at Clyde & Co LLP discuss the key challenges they have experienced through the firms ongoing migration to LexisNexus. Key challenges have included the redepositing of data from 9 different case management systems which are hard-coded and have been operating in silo as well as getting the people within the organisation to start using the new system.
As an experienced project manager that has worked in multiple other sectors, Gregory shared his thoughts on his experience of the legal sector, "traditional project management doesn’t necessarily lend itself to working in law but the challenges are the same across all sectors and making sure people understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is the most important thing. Something I have found to be unique to working with law firms is that lawyers are professional arguers and so that can be challenging to navigate but it's important to really take the time to understand the value of what they do."
If anyone is interested in connecting with Leeds Trinity University about anything mentioned within their talk, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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