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Professor Peter Lederer got the event started with an inspiring introduction on the questions arising with respect to the future of legal services and the future of the community of those are passionate about the evolution in the legal market. This was followed with our first focus topic, covering new ways of collaboration between law firms and their corporate clients. Somewhat unsurprisingly for a research conference, all participants had submitted a research paper ahead of the event. In TED style, the authors presented their papers.
The first topic focused on “new ways of collaboration between firms and corporate clients”. The first participant pitched his enthralling paper about the resistance to change in law firms. Even though this participant did not attend the inaugural conference, he picked up the same topics we discussed in one of last year’s workshops. This led me to understand that resistance is still omnipresent. Many other exciting research proposals were discussed in the early afternoon, such as co-opting the establishment to accelerate change, rethinking relationships, roles & resources, understanding the price of collaboration between law firms and corporate legal departments, buying legal services, decision makers in 21st century litigation, as well as the change of service delivery models at law firms. The participant closing the first group’s focus area presented his research on the status of lawyers as trusted advisors. Since legal departments know their most important customer much better than external lawyers do, the external lawyers therefore get ever more specialised and cannot really function as generalists anymore. Further, they feel the heavy pressure of increasing competition in the legal market. As a special task, at the end of the presentations two participants were tasked to challenge the presented papers from a business client’s perspective. The discussions were lively, and the topics were already pointing towards our second focus area.
After a small refreshment, the second theme – “design principles for law school curricula in the light of future developments in the market for legal services” – ensued. The speakers in this segment covered topics on how to teach law; on today’s curricula principles especially with respect to practice-oriented courses; on the transformation of how we service clients with a different mind and skill set; on design thinking; and on the new roles of lawyers that no-one appears to be trained for. Two participants representing the regulator’s viewpoint on whether these intended changes were future-proof then challenged this focus area. Several very interesting questions came up. ‘Who are the stakeholders and how many parties have to be involved to support change?; ‘does the market need students to be trained in compliance?’ or ’which aspects must be present in the curriculum of each law school?’ One of the underlying assumptions included the need to collaborate with real regulators, which might be very interested in these changes and not disinclined to support many. In addition, the participants agreed that each law student must be equipped to act correctly in as ambiguous situations and apply more than simply ‘black letter’ legal knowledge. It is therefore essential to have a basic knowledge of economics, business administration and technology, and to acquire these skills during studies.
We took these many exciting impressions with us to the joint dinner and continued our lively conversations. When we met again the next morning, everybody was curious about the papers that were assigned to the last topic, called “reality check on LegalTech – what works and what doesn’t?”.
In connection with LegalTech, we have laid down a number of ‘first principles’. Basically, LegalTech must be very easy to use, reliable and robust, and it really should be. We have realised that LegalTech should not only be implemented at the front end of the legal service, but also in the back office and throughout the entire legal service delivery process.
It is always an exercise, moving from a traditional to a new law software. One must ask oneself: what does this change mean for me and how do I get there? However, these two questions cannot be addressed separately or stand-alone – both are always highly relevant. In fact, the traditional way of providing legal services will continue to be important. However, we need to change the DNA and leadership style at law firms – even though most law firms don’t even have a leader in a corporate sense.
For new lawyers to be able to learn at least the key principles of technology, universities need to come to terms with the topic. Here, topic two and three coalesced again. Apparently, it is a common problem at universities to deal with the question of how to teach technology. Therefore, we suggest collaborating and exchanging ideas and find common sense solutions. The main questions arising at universities are the following: what kind of technology and especially LegalTech should be introduced in the curriculum? Do the students need to program or do they only need to know how to use actual business technology like Excel?
Discussing these questions, we identified that new technology often emerge from some kind of crisis. Therefore, professions must question themselves over and over again and think about how to cope with new technologies. With regard to education, one can then conclude that universities mainly need to teach a new, more optimistic culture regarding the use of new technologies.
In summary, three questions can be used to assess the future of LegalTech in the legal market: How can we deliver more and better legal services? How can we train new lawyers and legal skills? And how can we build and maintain a sustainable and profitable law firm business?
Another successful conference ended with concluding remarks by Leo Staub and, of course, we may remain curious how answers to these questions will evolve in the near and more distant future. After lunch and a well-deserved drink under the Miami sun, some ideas were explored more fully. As soon as the next conference is scheduled, we will certainly inform you, and in the meantime, we’ll keep you up to date on any breath-taking breakthroughs.