For the past couple of weeks Clocktimizer has been running our ‘Problems not Solutions’ campaign. We’ve also enjoyed some of the debate our campaign has inspired. So much so, that we decided to round off our campaign with a Twitter chat. We selected the three most hotly debated topics our poll generated. What followed was a lively debate with lots of ideas, sharing and some differences of opinion. For all those who were unable to join, we have put together this wrap-up. We’ve gathered our favourite quotes to come out of the chat, and the best insights that were shared. We’d also like to offer a big thank you to all who joined and made it such a success!
Does solving lawyers’ problems bring us faster horses or cars?
It’s a timeless question. Are the developments legal tech makes possible just streamlining existing ways of working? Or will they be able to radically change them by introducing entirely new ways of practicing law?
“This really comes down on how you define the problem. If you just ask: “What do you want”, that is not enough. You really need to engage in a conversation and ask for the “Why”.” @_pieterh
Most of those joining in the debate agreed that currently, we are seeing fast horses and not cars. However, many also pointed out that the only way to get cars, is by understanding the problem both faster horses and cars are trying to address. To this end, Noemie Alantissar (@NAlintissar) shared some of the fascinating research she and FLIP have produced. The Future Law Innovation Programme at the University of Singapore interviewed lawyers, in-house council and users of legal services to identify 101 of the most pressing justice problems. The full report can be found here, and we would recommend all legal tech innovators give it a read.
Because we’re all about practical advice here, the debate also offered some insights for those looking to build the next ‘car’ of legal tech. Alex Smith, Innovation Manager at Reed Smith, highlighted how important it is to drive innovation at firms from within.
“Have an innovation portfolio and be flexible. Tie it to your strategy whatever that is.” @alexgsmith
On the product development side, there was a huge emphasis on good communication between lawyers and developers. Many lawyers shared their struggles with technology that didn’t address a problem they had, or did so poorly. Many developers highlighted how difficult it can be to have an open conversation with legal professionals about the challenges they face. Both sides shared some great tips for getting to the root of the problem.
Is legal tech better placed to help lawyers, or the general public?
Many of us working in legal tech do so within the private sector. However, with the rising cost of law and an increasingly overburdened legal system, legal tech also looks primed to bridge the justice gap in the public sector. @BramFokke summed up much of the debate, stating:
“Innovation is like water, it follows the path of least resistance. If lawyers fail to innovate, the public might bypass them altogether” @BramFokke
Many agreed that where lawyers are acting as middlemen, legal tech is working to replace them. Bots like Appjection and Flight Claim allow users to fight parking tickets or get refunds from airlines. Sites like Rocket Lawyer also help users to either complete their own legal documents, or work on a fixed fee basis with lawyers if needed.
Twitter users also pointed out a changing attitude to legal tech in public bodies. HM Courts & Tribunals service in the UK is using service design to improve a citizens justice experience. ‘Low tech’ solutions, like comic contracts, are also seeing a rise in popularity.
One of the main takeaways in this debate was the lack of actionable data. Until governments look to research and test the effects of legal tech on the industry, much of this is speculation. In small cases, legal tech has been shown to make the law more accessible. However, we have yet to see the data which proves that definitively on a wider scale.
Why is there a disconnect between problems and solutions?
Unsurprisingly, this caused the biggest debate of the hour. Often, answers to this question dissolve into a blame game. Thankfully, our chat was considerably more civilised. However, we still saw a number of differing answers to this question.
“The biggest problem with legaltech. Goes back to Q1 not talking to clients before doing the hard research and then you have 40% of startups that go under because there’s no need for what they are developing”@NirrGolan
A consistent theme we heard was the proliferation of poorly thought-out solutions. Legal tech companies which fail to properly identify the problem they are solving, produce bad products. As a result, firms become wary of new technology. Lawyers are fed up with products that don’t work as promised. So take notes, fellow legal tech vendors. If you haven’t properly research your market or their problems, you’re going to be the one with the problem.
However, we also heard that firm structure and remuneration can hold back innovation. Ron Friedmann pointed out that “compensation systems remain one of the biggest barriers to adopting anything new”. Where employees are not incentivised to use new technology, it is likely to be ignored. Additionally, we heard that the pace of firms can be a barrier for some vendors. Even good solutions can take time to convince all the necessary stakeholders in a firm. Time which startups without big capital backing can ill afford.
It was really fantastic hearing such a lively debate on Twitter. We noticed a strong theme emerging over the course of the hour. Namely, the importance of good communication. Many of the difficulties experienced within legal tech could be improved by more in depth communication between legal professionals and legal tech vendors. Vendors must do more to truly understand the problems which need to be solved. Without this, they cannot hope to provide great solutions which bring value. On the flip side, legal professionals need to be more open in taking time to answer these questions. Or even to really assess what their greatest problems actually are. After all, it’s difficult to bemoan bad solutions if no one knows what the problem is. In the words of our campaign; more problems, less solutions!