After networking over breakfast and coffee, we had welcomes from Julian Wells, Director and Chloe Thompson, Consultant at Whitecap Consulting and Anna Heaton, partner at Addleshaw Goddard who welcomed everyone to the event and thanked all speakers and attendees for coming.
Anna set the scene for the event by touching on the growth of the PropTech sector and the increasing importance of tech across real estate for both Addleshaw Goddard and the wider legal sector.
We then heard from Kathryn Law, Business Transformation Manager and Tom Hinton, Senior Manager in Innovation & Legal Technology at Addleshaw Goddard who spoke about how Addleshaw’s is using tech to improve processes and efficiencies across the entire law firm.
Tom took us through the typical project approach which is structured around data rather than tech. The first step involves mapping out the data points, the second step determines what the data is inputted into, and the third step is focused on the output.
Kathryn then spoke about the role that technology plays in the ‘business as usual’ work at Addleshaw Goddard, explaining that it typically involves more marginal gains/improvements that aim to improve the day-to-day lives of lawyers, reducing the time they spend on admin related tasks, allowing more time to be spent on the value-add activities such as deal specifics and commercials.
Kathryn also mentioned the drivers behind adopting technology across the law firm including reduced risk, increased efficiency and improved client and employee experience, but to be able to adopt new technology, a convincing business case must first be built. This starts with identifying the problem/use case and is followed by a review of current internal capabilities to determine whether AG already has a solution to the problem. Once it has been assessed on whether it is a ‘necessity’ or a ‘nice-to-have’, the business need then has to be articulated to the lawyers. Kathryn expressed the importance of bringing everyone along with you, especially when you are asking them to work differently.
Kathryn and Tom finished their talk on the popular topic of AI, by stating that AG has started to experiment with the tools on the market, highlighting some key limitations that need to be considered as sector-wide usage increases. Key limitations included the reliability of the output, bias concerns, confidentiality, poor user prompt skills and ethical concerns.
Our next keynote was delivered by Angela Barnicle, Chief Officer Asset Management & Regeneration at Leeds City Council. Angela reminded us that Leeds is a core city, both in size and population, and that Leeds City Council is committed to the strategic regeneration of the city.
Angela highlighted the need for better data in order to help the council to achieve its growth ambitions for the city, particularly around the plans for the new city station and city square. Leeds has a much higher footfall within the station that the national average (excluding London), however, there is currently limited access to data around the final destination of these passengers. Angela also highlighted the need for innovation in other areas of the council including planning applications, both to speed up the process and allow for fair consultation from the public.
Angela finished her talk by opening it up to the audience and encouraging any attendees that could support the council with any of the challenges mentioned to reach out.
Our next speaker was Edmond Boulle, Co-Founder & CSO at Orbital Witness who continued the theme of AI, more specifically, Generative AI and its associated opportunities and risks. Ed set the scene by sharing some definitions of AI and Generative AI.
“a machine’s ability to perform the cognitive functions we associate with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with an environment, problem solving, and even exercising creativity.”
“a broad class of artificial intelligence systems that generate new and seemingly original content in response to user requests or prompts.”
Ed provided the audience with a stat on the uptake of the popular GenAI tool ChatGPT, stating that it gained 100 million users just 2 months after its launch, which is five times faster than TikTok.
He moved on to talk about opportunities and risks associated with GenAI which include:
· Speed – the average reading speed of a human is 100,000 words in 5 hours, for GenAI it’s less than 1 minute.
· Accuracy – GenAI is not only incredibly accurate with multiple choice questions but also verbal reasoning questions and generating original content.
· Flexibility – GenAI can be scaled according to demand without the need to flex resourcing which can be extremely useful for volatile or seasonal demand.
Speed and accuracy are particularly important in the context of property transactions as huge amounts of information has to be reviewed by lawyers. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has also provided data to show that property accounts for almost 60% of all professional negligence claims against law firms that are paid out by insurance companies.
· Hallucination - GenAI can "hallucinate" (fabricate or provide false information) if used off-the-shelf as a fact database but it can be taught not to hallucinate through prompt engineering, making it effective and reliable for analytical or reasoning tasks.
· Technical Limitations – There are limitations to the amount of data you can input into a prompt and so the data may need chunking up through specialist systems that you only need feed in the relevant necessary information to the GenAI model.
· Confidentiality -If you input client data into prompts, this may currently present an issue from a confidentiality and data privacy perspective. However, GenAI providers are responding to these concerns by updating their systems to offer compliance.
Our next speaker was Paul Davies, Commercial Lead at Pexa UK, who started by giving us some stats around the experience of buying a property in the UK, stating that it was ranked as the second most stressful life event, just behind getting a divorce, with remortgaging coming in fifth.
Paul also revealed:
· 81% of buyers/sellers experienced an issue.
· 31% of transactions fell through.
· 63% of buyers experienced unexpected costs.
· 40% of buyers that faced a delay.
Pexa's aim is to collaborate with the ecosystem to address these stats and deliver low-friction property transactions. Over the past 15 years, Pexa has successfully managed to deliver this in Australia and has now built a proposition for the UK. Paul stressed importance of collaboration in making this a success, stating that Pexa understands that they are part of a wider ecosystem and that all parties need to work together including lenders, brokers, Land Registry, Bank of England, Regulators, the legal sector and more.
Paul finished by speaking about the progress that has been made here in the UK over the past 2 years, including the recent acquisition of Optima Legal and the launch of the Pexa Pay System.
The session concluded with a panel discussion on the future of LegalTech across real estate, chaired by Laura Pilkington, Senior Manager – Innovation and Legal Technology at Addleshaw Goddard, featuring the speakers as well as Jonathan Prescott from Optima Legal.
The panel discussed a range of interesting topics from both a law firm and tech vendor perspective. Paul and Ed gave interesting insights as to how the market needs to buy into systemic change and what lessons were learnt in the Australian market, their views on the Government's levelling up paper which seeks to improve access to the conveyancing process and how they are actively helping professionals overcome increasing obligations and administrative burdens before looking to the future. Kathryn and Jonathan were probed on how they are using innovation for the benefit of clients and what the risk appetite looks like from a generative AI perspective within the law firm environment. Collaboration was a key theme along with the role that insurance could play in the sector. Some key highlights were:
Laura kicked off by asking Paul whether the circumstances in Australia were different to here in the UK, to which Paul stated, “in Australia, it was mandated that something needed to change which isn’t the case in the UK. It’s more of a hearts and minds mission here.”
Edmond joined the conversation by saying, “there are now national trading standards for estate agents, and it will soon be mandatory for them to provide more information upfront and identify key issues that home buyers should know, leading to more informed decisions.”
Laura then asked Kathryn how her team is using innovation to improve the lives of lawyers. Kathryn stated that they have a split approach to adopting tech across AG. They need to work to the demands of the clients which vary greatly and so automation can be challenging because there is not a one size that fits all. But it’s also important to consider the lawyers that will be using the tech and to bring them along with you.
Jonathan agreed with Kathryn by saying, “it’s important to understand that one size doesn’t fit all. We want to create a really clear and transparent process that allows the customer to self-serve. We’ve looked to implement automation over the last 10 years and with the introduction of Pexa Pay, we can really speed up our current process. We’ll next be looking at how we use Generative AI for more complex cases.”
Laura ended the panel with a final question on what the future might look like. Edmond answered first by stating that, “the Generative AI that’s adopted by law firms will need to be legal grade and backed by insurance and so this is the direction that you might see LegalTech firms going in.”
Paul followed with, “I can see cyber security and data privacy becoming more prominent themes going forward as more firms start using Generative AI. From a Pexa point of view, the industry is so diligent that it can’t keep up with consumer expectations.”
Laura opened it up to questions from the audience, with one person asking about the future skillset that will be needed for working in real estate or PropTech in the future. Kathryn answered with, “collaboration, attitude to openness, customer-first mindset, problem solving, legal/regulatory knowledge, adaptability and computer literacy.”
A final question from the audience touched on how SME law firms can access innovation that is being used by global law firms given the restraint on resource.
Ed stated, “it’s an ongoing challenge for us as a tech company as we need to evaluate the cost of customer acquisition and then get the pricing right for small law firms.”
Overall, it was a well-attended and extremely engaging event with lots of interesting speakers and discussion.
We hope you can join us for our next event on 18th July, 13:00 – 14:00 - Learning Lunch in partnership with University of Law, featuring Cyber Security Partners. Sign-up Here
What a great day to share this article...