Legal Growth Geek, a new conference for mid-market law firms, descended on London’s Shoreditch on 7 June. Jennifer Budd, a marketing apprentice at Consortium More Than Marketing was there.
“At this year’s Legal Growth Geek we were being urged to look forward to the future of tech in law firms. Of course, there are a lot of new and improved software, and hardware options to scope out but the discussion isn’t just about what you can spend your money on. The speakers are businesspeople themselves; they want your implementation of technology in your firm to be cost and time efficient, whilst making you as future-proof as possible.
For the uninitiated, Legal Growth Geek is a smaller conference for the legal sector that looks at technology for SME law firms. What’s new, what’s improved and all the hows – in particular, how best to implement that technology for the betterment of your firm, whether that’s improving recruitment and talent retention or speeding up casework and increasing profit margins.
Speakers have about 10 minutes to deliver their message to a mixed audience of lawyers, and legal sector suppliers, but as Aku Sorainen pointed out in his Q&A, only a handful of decision-makers. The time limit means we don’t get much depth on any subject though, and the main themes of the day were repeated quite often.
Some of our favourites
The upside of the ten-minute time limit is that we get to hear from a wide variety of speakers. Here’s a look at some of our favourites:
The Rise of the Augmented Lawyer, Siska Lannoo, Henchman
Siska showed us how technology was going to shape the legal sector, whether we’re ready for it or not, with some great examples of automated agents being used to write contracts and the difference between generic AI and AI trained on a firm’s existing body of work.
How to Become a Truly Antifragile Law Firm, Sarah Murphy, Clio
Building on a concept coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Sarah discussed how there are always going to be challenges and stressors and how technology plays a key role in positioning your firm to thrive in the face of uncertainty.
20-Minute Conveyancing – 5 Key Technology Trends, Sally Holdway, Teal Legal
Taking a talk that’s usually 20 minutes and making it 10, Sally maximised her time limit to point out three key areas in conveyancing and how technology is both changing and being changed in those areas.
Almost Legal – People Hacking and Security, Jenny Radcliffe
A chain is only as good as its weakest link and when it comes to security that’s often the human element. Jenny Radcliffe shared how educating the people in your business is at the heart of successful security, whether that’s physical or digital.
Of course, AI remains a huge topic of conversation. Virtually every speaker mentioned ChatGPT, but there haven’t been any ringing endorsements or wholehearted recommendations for the use of automated agents in firms. The audience is lawyers, after all, and although we’re all here seeking the new, there’s still a healthy dose of conservatism. Everyone agrees that you shouldn’t be taking ChatGPT’s answers verbatim.
The idea (the hope) is that AI will free us from the drudgery of daily life, but what that looks like in practice remains a complicated subject for the legal sector. Artificial Intelligence like ChatGPT is only as good as the content you train it on, after all.
If we take contract drafting as an example, the majority of lawyers will start their process by looking for precedents within the firm’s previous work, very, very few people start entirely from scratch. Ideally, the lawyer in question would be able to ask the firm’s AI for those precedents. A database that you can have a conversation with will return what you’re looking for faster and with greater accuracy than using the find function in documents that may or may not be relevant to your needs.
At Consortium we’re pretty confident that AI isn’t going to replace the lawyer, and what we saw at Legal Growth Geek backs that assertion. One speaker said they would be worried if they were a secretary, and there might be something in that, though I think it will be quite a while before secretaries and other support staff inside law firms are made redundant by AI.
Nobody joins the profession because they love paperwork, but it’s a large part of the job. If we can reduce the amount of time lawyers spend doing it (or eliminate it altogether!), what does that mean for the way that law firms are structured?
The Modern Law Firm
The first thing that jumps to mind when we talk about reducing the time a lawyer spends working on something is the billable hour. If you invest in technology that reduces your hours, are you spending money to make less money in the long run? Why should a firm that makes the effort to streamline its processes be punished for being faster?
Increasingly the billable hour is becoming problematic. At the conference, we learnt that an astronomical £40 billion is lost through the public’s hesitance to engage legal services. The billable hour contributes directly to the stereotype that lawyers are expensive – prohibitively so for most people. It might be time that the industry rethinks the model, or at least leverage the social internet to become more transparent on pricing.
Most lawyers will be aware of a growing trend of people leaving the profession. Not just quitting as per ‘the great resignation’ but changing careers entirely. You’ve likely heard the reasons before: ‘no pay is worth this stress’ and ‘There’s no work-life balance’. A quarter of lawyers wanting to quit is bad for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a lot of tech already available on the market like case management software that can streamline processes and take some the burden off human beings, not to mention what’s in the works.
The Bottom Line
Both technology and the legal landscape are changing quickly, and Legal Growth Geek was a perfect slice of everything that’s going on. The Consortium team had a great time. The friendly crowd and the relaxed, collaborative vibe make for a great learning environment.”
Jennifer Budd is a Marketing Apprentice at Consortium More Than Marketing.