Artificial Lawyer caught up with Peter Wallqvist, the co-founder of one of the earliest and most pioneering legal AI companies, RAVN*, and who is now embarking on a new career as a process engineering consultant.
First: why did he leave? Was this because a lock-in after the RAVN takeover had come to an end? Wallqvist explains that it was because of a family-based decision that has allowed him to relocate to Portugal.
That move has left him free to follow his own path, and this is a path that has initially led to a Non-Executive Director (NED) role at the publicly listed insolvency company, Begbies Traynor. However, this is not your average ‘turn up for a meeting once a quarter and collect a five figure sum’ type of NED role.
‘They are buying into the message of digital transformation and so they made the decision to make a board seat for a person with skills in that area,’ he tells Artificial Lawyer.
‘All boards should have someone with IT and digital transformation skills, not just a little department that keeps the lights on. There needs to be talk about digital transformation at C-level,’ he adds. ‘I am excited to join a company that wants to take this journey and to have someone guide them on it.’
Sounds like an exciting role. And it’s one that could expand into something larger, Wallqvist notes. He adds that the PLC has multiple areas of interest now, including property work and conveyancing – both of which could also see a lot of digital transformation.
‘It’s a target rich environment for change,’ he says.
We then move onto law firms.
‘They need to invest in the long term,’ he notes – amen to that.
‘The problem with professional service firms,’ he stresses, ‘is that they don’t in many cases even understand their own processes‘. And, you cannot have any kind of positive change, digital or otherwise, until you can see how things are made. Again – amen to that, and a regular mantra here at Artificial Lawyer.
He gives the example of the hugely successful Japanese car makers.
‘Why did they succeed? It was not because of new technology. It was because they understood their processes and then made them better,’ he explains.
And so, this is what he will be doing as a consultant with corporates, and not necessarily just with their legal teams.
‘You need to break down what people do and then process map it,’ he emphasises. Then you can start looking at how tech can help. Sometimes this tech may be very simple, other times it may be highly advanced. But, get the process map clear first, is the message.
Then Wallqvist makes an observation that also wins a round of applause.
‘[When I was helping to run RAVN] as a consumer of legal services, as an owner of a business, I never saw the benefit of beautiful, bespoke contracts. I wanted them to be as close to standard as possible. As a consumer I wanted standardisation.’
‘I feel that is the future,’ he concludes.
Artificial Lawyer has to say it’s great to have Wallqvist back to what he and his old team at RAVN did best: helping to drive change.
Will the rest of the original RAVN team also set out on a new path, in search of new challenges and more pioneering work like that which the company was so well-known for before it was bought? We will see…
(* In May 2017 the founders of RAVN decided to sell the company to a US-based document management company, iManage, marking the end of an incredible period of creative work as an independent business.)