How the Blooming LegalTech Landscape is Locking Itself Into New Silos and Why That is Bad
By Tom Braegelmann, Lawyer at German law firm, BBL, previously GC of legal AI company Leverton and a well-known legaltech commentator.
It’s a given that it is not good to have silos in business and that you should avoid a silo mentality, right?
A silo mentality wreaks havoc when people, departments or organisations do not want to share knowledge with others.
Silos in this sense mean real borders (physical, or via technological means) that keep knowledge separated and exclusive – and all of that is bad because it is inefficient, prevents the free flow of ideas and may thus lead to failure. Nobody wants that.
Unfortunately, the currently blooming landscape of LegalTech/LawTech startups; increasing tide of LegalTech financing rounds; growth of the use of legal processing technology and rapid adoption of modern software (AI, blockchain, you name it) in legal transactions; is largely uncoordinated and thus is prone to create new silos by accident.
Many powerful software solutions are cropping up that are however not as easily aligned or synched as the marketing exuberance would like to admit.
We are facing a LegalTech landscape scattered and peppered with high tech silos, but there is no overarching LegalTech dashboard along the lines of Office 365 or Google Docs even remotely in sight.
But only with some kind of democratic dashboard that would bundle most of the new and up and coming tools (like Kira Systems, Leverton, Ross, Lawlift, etc…) up, together with the powerful traditional legal software solutions like legal databases, e-discovery and data rooms, into one perfect whole, would heads of legal departments and law firms be able to drop yet another round of software tools on their partners and employees. They are already chafing under the yoke of constant digitisation of the workplace – let’s cut them some LegalTech-slack!.
If these companies unwittingly created LegalTech silos that grow into mighty solutions, but continue to find it harder and harder to align, sync, and cooperate (due to SaaS-solutions that cannot communicate, non-standardised data formats, fragmented and contradictory big data, different UX), this may prevent the adoption of LegalTech on a large scale.
That is bad because arguably LegalTech can improve access to justice for all, such as for the poor and excluded, and it can lower legal costs and speed up justice without running roughshod over the rule of law (at least that is the hope).
Of course, silos are all a result of free market competition – (i.e. ‘may the best LegalTech solution for each use case win, good riddance to the rest!’) – but the resulting LegalTech silo mentality may slow down and counter the overall adoption of LegalTech.
Law firms and legal departments will be reluctant to buy multiple kinds of software licenses for LegalTech tools if each is ensconced in its own silo of excellence, unable to properly communicate with the rest of the LegalTech ecosystem, and if people are unsure whether you can later transfer your data from one tool to the other. That way, the LegalTech transformation will soon stall.
Add to this the additional stress that new software tools exert on the people in any organisation, as they have to be trained, and then need to spend time dealing with new user experiences and the like.
Imagine that you have to do this 10 to 20 times at the same time to your colleagues just because you want to have a whole range of sparkling LegalTech power at the disposal of your organisation. Then this roll-out of LegalTech is unlikely to happen.
On a side note: I wonder what the poor silos did to lend their name to such bad habits?
A silo (paraphrasing Merriam Webster) is a tall cylinder (e.g. wood or concrete) usually sealed to exclude air and used for making and storing silage (i.e. fodder – such as hay or corn – which is converted into succulent feed for livestock through processes of anaerobic bacterial fermentation.)
So, when you are in agriculture and food production, silos are actually good and useful. It’s hard to understand why silo became a bad name in business when real silos are in fact actually working as intended.
A second side note: A silo can also be an underground structure for housing a guided missile. Let that sink in for a while.
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