City of London To Help Stop Legal Tech ‘Mismatch’

In another example of the upper echelons of the British establishment getting behind ‘UK Legal Tech Plc‘ the City of London Corporation (CLC) – the body that represents the global financial centre – has explained to Artificial Lawyer that they want to help the law firms and legal teams in the Square Mile end what they see as a ‘mismatch’ between what is being produced by tech companies and what lawyers want or are ready to use.

To do this the CLC has formed a ‘LawTech Sounding Board’ to gather views on how to increase adoption of legal technology in the financial and professional services sector.

Mary Kyle, Governance and Standards Adviser at the CLC, told Artificial Lawyer: ‘There are lots of law firms and tech companies here in the Square Mile and we see an opportunity to help.’

‘But, there is a limited level of adoption [of this new legal technology],’ she added.

This was because as the CLC sees things ‘the legal side is not using what is made, so there is a mismatch’.

Now, you may ask what is the CLC getting involved in legal tech for? The answer is the same as for the Ministry of Justice and other major bodies. As Kyle explained: ‘We want to make sure the City and the UK [legal sector] remains competitive.’

And as readers will have noted, apart from Singapore there is no other country on the planet right now putting as much effort at an institutional level into supporting legal market change via leveraging technology than the UK. The US is doing great work too – largely via its law schools and some of the more pioneering State Bars, but we haven’t seen yet the DoJ or the Mayor of New York, for example, go on a full-power legal tech support drive – although that may happen one day.

The ever-growing City of London. Pic: RT, June 2019, view from CityPoint.

One reason for the British push on legal tech is that the UK has much to lose if it doesn’t keep innovating. It’s the world’s second largest legal market and a home to a big slice of international commercial litigation. But, the world is changing, global clients have a range of jurisdictional venues to choose from and many top firms to pick from too, and so legal tech is seen as a means to an end. And that end is staying competitive and ensuring that UK-based law firms, and English law and its commercial courts, remain front of mind for the world’s leading companies.

Do We Have a Mismatch Challenge?

But now, let’s just unpack the mismatch point a moment. Are legal tech companies churning out tools and applications that law firms don’t want or can’t use?

From what Artificial Lawyer has seen there is indeed some of that happening, but generally, much of what is being produced does have a clear use case – it’s the adoption and implementation at scale that is the problem.

For example, let’s take AI doc review. There are a lot of vendors out there – and if feedback from the market is to believed many of these tools work well. The challenge is firms and in-house legal teams building the internal systems, teams and mindset to leverage the tech at scale.

Several law firms are way down that road already and very much on top of the technology, its pros and cons, and its best uses. This is certainly so for the Magic Circle and other global firms based in the UK; but many still are not there yet.

The tricky bit then is perhaps helping the law firms that are at present still uncertain how to really leverage new types of tech – even if they understand now in theory what it can do. Or helping those that have rushed into a pilot, it hasn’t gone well because the process was not well planned, and now they feel a bit lost about what to do next.

And that is a very consultative type of problem to solve. It’s also an educational one. But the CLC can perhaps assist there by bringing people together to help.

(And it’s worth mentioning that they don’t see their efforts as competition for the UK’s LawTech Delivery Panel – which they’ve engaged with on a recent smart contract consultation, for example. Rather they see it as adding extra firepower to an important cause.)

In terms of marrying up needs with those who can create things to meet those demands, there could be more done, for sure.

One example was seen recently in Singapore where those leading the legal tech initiatives in the city state went to the market and collected a long list – perhaps too long a list – of all the problems lawyers wanted to solve that they could not at present with the tech and processes they were using.

That seems like a good place to start. We may find that most of the solutions already do exist to meet those needs, they perhaps have just not been ‘discovered’. But, setting them out for all to see may be useful.

And, as to refining the products to make them fit those needs better? As we have seen with incubators such as MDR LAB, having tech companies work and live inside law firms helps them to adapt and improve their applications to meet specific demands from the lawyers.

So, perhaps the CLC can also get involved in supporting incubators in the UK? Should they even create their own incubator? Hmm….well, there are a lot of them now in London already. Maybe they could help to support financially an incubator that is already running? Or engage with one in another way?

Just some thoughts.

It’s great in any case to see the CLC getting behind legal tech. It bodes well and anything that encourages a change in the means of production of legal services and its products has to be welcomed.

[Main image: Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Christoph Braun.]

1 Comment

  1. May CLC continue to support the use of AI in the sector without switching attention from individual consumers to organisations

    To me the greatest benefit that AI can provide is the transmogrification of leases from barriers to understanding into useful contributors of meaningful guidance to leaseholders

    Residential and commercial leases need addressing jointly

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