The Law Society of NSW recently hosted the inaugural FLIP (Future of Law & Innovation in the Profession) Conference. As might be expected, the conference program delivered a diverse and interesting range of speakers and panels, which covered the spectrum of legal industry players, and the related tech and innovation topics.
From regulators, professors, students, legal tech startups, service providers, commentators, bankers and even lawyers, we were treated to the latest ideas in Australian and global legal tech and innovation.
While still trying to distil all the information and concepts presented, here are a few standouts.
- We can make law better by focussing on operational expertise
Daniel Martin Katz, Professor of Law @ Illinois Tech (Scientist, Technologist, Professor) was the opening keynote speaker, and his presentation alone contained a conference worth of ideas. He admitted, his section on AI was a keynote on its own, and he raced us through a wonderful whirlwind of facts and figures combined with future big picture possibilities for the direction of law.
He opened his keynote by stating that "law is not working for the clients it serves" and not giving the public what it needs. While this may sound obvious, what was interesting was his reasoning as to why this is still the case. He attributes this failing primarily to the continued focus on subject matter expertise, rather than operational excellence. When in fact, it's operational excellence that best delivers subject matter expertise.
- If you want to be a great lawyer, you need to understand the underlying tech
Daniel Martin Katz also believes the study of law is streamed incorrectly with humanities subjects, rather than STEM subjects. Why do we still do Arts/Law and Commerce/Law rather than combining law degrees with tech and engineering? He argued that fintech and legal tech are one and the same and that we need to cross-pollinate innovation across industries rather than stay within the law.
Understanding the underlying landscape of tech (which crosses industries) allows lawyers to conceptualise better and create innovative client-centric solutions.
- Clients want solutions; they don't care what's "under the hood"
It’s always a treat to hear Dr George Beaton contribute his wisdom and this was a gem from him. Such a simple truth. While we all get carried away with tech and innovation, do we lose sight of the question; "what's it like to be a client?". His client research has revealed that clients don't care too much about the underlying tech in the delivery of legal services; they care that firms deliver a solution to a problem. So sometimes it's not the tech that they see as innovative but the people in the firm.
Interestingly, both George Beaton and Daniel Katz espoused inter-firm collaboration as the answer to success in legal innovation.
- We need to better define and understand the difference between legal advice and legal information
This problem is the rather large elephant in the room; what is the difference between legal advice and legal information Where do each begin and end - and who signs off on and has liability for each? Who makes the decisions as to the distinction? For example, does a contract generated via automation from overseas constitute legal advice or legal information in Australia?
The FLIP conference was an opportunity to hear a panel of regulators and legal tech companies trying to navigate the plethora of new legal products and services. As well as discussing what they mean against a traditional legal landscape across multiple jurisdictions. Unfortunately, there are no clear or immediate answers to these questions, and we don't envy the regulators trying to grapple with the inherent issues, but professionals in the legal industry should be aware of them.
In summary, the legal tech and innovation arena continues to evolve at a dizzying pace making it an exciting time to be involved. A final word from Daniel Martin Katz: "to the legal innovators, stay the course." And as Chrissie Lightfoot (creator of Robot Lawyer LISA) says, “you have to imagine”.