Taking a Problem-First Approach to Tech Adoption - Event Summary

LegalTech in Leeds







On Thursday 9th November, LegalTech in Leeds and DAC Beachcroft (DACB) co-hosted an event focused on taking a problem first approach to tech adoption in the legal sector.

The event aimed to shed light on the way tech firms can look to engage with law firms when seeking to work with them to help solve problems and challenges that the firms and their clients face.

This was the 34th LegalTech in Leeds event and, as is common at our events, a show of hands indicated that the audience was made up of an equal split of people working in legal services providers and people working in tech firms serving the sector.

Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting, introduced the event and the agenda for the day, highlighting the way the initiative seeks to bring together the legal and digital sectors and has been doing since launching in January last year. We then moved on to our first panel discussion of the day.

Problem solving at the heart of an innovation strategy

Charlotte Burnett, Partner in the health team at DACB, chaired the first panel, which focused on problem solving at the heart of innovation strategy. Charlotte highlighted the challenge for tech firms in selling their products and services to a highly regulated sector, noting that how tech sells into the legal sector has similarities with how tech sells into the NHS. 

Tayyab Majeed is Head of Legal, Commercial at Bupa. He explained that tech is not always their starting point when looking at problem solving, and the initial challenge is to find a non-tech solution. Tayyab reflected that the people closest to a service or process are often best placed to identify any problems. He used the example of customer listening, which is an internal initiative across a range of data and insights including things like NPS. Although there are big ideas that could make a big difference, many smaller incremental improvements can also be effective.

Steph Bagshaw is a Real Estate Knowledge Lawyer at DACB. Steph explained that the real estate team uses tech on a daily basis for things like searches, but there is now an increasing availability of tools such as document automation which is opening up new ways of working. Steph is part of a national group for knowledge lawyers in real estate, and this group has discussions about technology-driven opportunities, including resources involved in applying them.

David Williams, Partner in the Claims Solution part of DACB, explained that the firm works for insurers ranging from small firms to large composites. Innovation focused engagements with clients use specific problems / challenges are the starting point for collaborative problem solving exercises. DACB has internal ideation platforms and an Innovations Lab, which is a virtual initiative manned by ‘innovation agents’. David made the point that innovation isn’t just about technology, it is about seeking to do things differently, to get better results, highlighting that the firm has introduced numerous initiatives to help enhance the ‘customer journey’ for witnesses and the insurance firms that DACB works with. 

Charlotte summarised the discussion, highlighting the importance of culture in the process of positive change. She also noted how important it is for initiatives to have overall sponsors within an organisation, to drive them through to action. On the subject of AI, she reflected on the Microsoft "co-pilot" not being a replacement but a support for the user. This sparked a discussion in the room about the role of AI and the issue of human error.

David explained that DACB is using AI to deliver better products and outcomes to its clients, and that this is the key to successful AI implementation. He used liability assessment tools as an example of an area that has been enhanced by the adoption of tech and AI.

The panel discussed the biggest challenges to problem solving and improvement within firms. Topics covered included fear of change, getting cultural buy-in, not being scared of failure, fear of the unknown with new tech solutions, investment in training, pressure on lawyers’ time, and challenges around confidentiality of issues within law firms. Getting people to buy-in to change, whether it is tech driven or in another form, is critical to success.

The closing discussion focused on how tech firms can successfully sell to law firms, and how challenging this can be. Signposting with a large firm is not straightforward as there are so many stakeholders. The group discussed problem-solving formats that can involve tech firms, such as internal and external initiatives, innovation challenges, and hackathons. The importance of creating tech solutions that address real problems was one of the closing points made from the audience.

You’ve got a great idea – what next? 

The second panel focused on the implementation of tech solutions within law firms. This session was chaired by Susan Ford, Head of Knowledge at DACB.

David Merchant is a Senior Associate at DACB. He agreed that having a really clear description is vital, not least because the buyers of tech within a law firm might not fully understand the products and services involved. He also made the point that smaller suppliers need to be very clear in their messaging about points that might be difficult for them, such as disproportionately high levels of insurance cover.

Matthew McGee is Partner at DACB, with responsibility for practice governance and risk, as well as being the firm’s Data Protection Officer. He explained that the initial engagement with a law firm will flow from the initial first contact through to a NDA and due diligence questionnaire. As things progress, the testing and proof of concept stage usually raises the issue of whether a tech firm will be able to use real or artificial data. DACB’s preference is for artificial data at this point. Other legal issues to navigate include confidentiality, intellectual property, data protection and information security, and commercials.

Richard Crabb is COO at challenger legal enterprise rradar, and also drew on previous experience as Head of Commercial, Tech & Innovation at HSBC Global Legal. He felt that the process outlined by Matt is a common one. Richard said that for a firm like rradar, which is in “growth mode”, the process can be more flexible (from and operational challenge point of view, rather than regulatory) than is possible within some larger, more complex firms. Reflecting on his time at HSBC, Richard highlighted the complexity of being a large international corporate operating across multiple legal jurisdictions. He used the bank’s shift towards a cloud-first strategy as a case study to illustrate some common challenges for the audience.

Aneeqa Kisil is a Senior Associate in the Commercial & Technology team at DACB. Her advice was that putting a contract in place was critical for both parties, and that a clear and concise description of the products and services, who the users would be, how the tech was intended to be used, and how payment will be made and when needed to be included. Law firms are very excited by new tech, but are also very risk averse. The more that could go wrong, the more detailed a contract needs to be, with more assurances provided, which can also add to the challenge of introducing something new. Aneeqa highlighted the importance of a successful proof of concept, which can play a key role in managing the expectations of the parties and clarifying the parameters and terms of a contract.

Richard suggested that tech firms should not seek to charge for a proof of concept (noting that there should be some commercial flexibility particularly where vendors are smaller and IP protection can be critical), and also said that law firm buyers need to be honest with tech firms that they will not necessarily be able to articulate their requirements clearly from the outset, and are likely to need their help through the early stages of engagement and ensuring that the right SMEs are present in the initial meetings so that that decision-makers can give sign-off knowing that the right stakeholders have been an established part of the contracting journey.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to David Williams and Susan Ford at DACB for their help designing and delivering the event. 

To discuss getting involved in future events and initiatives please contact us on leedslegaltech@whitecapconsulting.co.uk