Artificial Lawyer is five years old and what an incredible journey it has been so far. Because a five-year anniversary is a special kind of landmark, I’ve decided to take a different approach this time to the usual annual retrospective.
A Five-Year Journey
Looking back over the last five years to 2016 when Artificial Lawyer started, it’s hard to believe so much has happened. Perhaps this is because time travels a lot more slowly when you are learning every day, just like how it was when we were back in school?
Learning is the key word here. When I started this site I was well aware that I knew very little about the subject of legal tech, but I did understand how I was going to explore it and what ideas I was going to try to bring to bear in order to make something meaningful for Artificial Lawyer’s readers.
That still meant a huge learning curve about the field itself. But, I was in good company, as many people who had never really considered legal tech before also flocked into the sector, fascinated as I was – and still am – by the power of technology to change the business of law.
Plus, as they say, if you want to learn about something, write about it.
The hunger for knowledge, to explore, to adventure into the world of legal tech and all that it means to the legal and wider world, is what has inspired me and driven me forwards. The truth is: I love learning. And that is what Artificial Lawyer is built upon.
I’ve never been put off by the unknown. In fact, I relish an adventure into areas I’ve never been before. Even if I know that I will occasionally get things wrong along the way, that only provides an opportunity to learn. I’ve found that if you take the attitude that you can always get the hang of things and always improve, then the challenge of adventuring and learning isn’t an obstacle, it’s to be embraced. It also just makes you human. After all, isn’t the desire to learn one of humanity’s most essential qualities?
So, what is Artificial Lawyer now? It’s no longer the blog it was in 2016. Today it’s a globally known brand in the legal and legal tech markets. It’s a site with tech and education directories, an AL TV channel showing product walk throughs and interviews with industry experts, and it’s the foundation for the Legal Innovators conferences in the US and UK.
It is read in numbers I could have only dreamt of back then, with total views in the millions now over these last five years, with a core group of regular readers who come back everyday, day-in and day-out. Its largest readership remains the US, although that is probably a function of just how big the American legal market is. Next it’s the UK, which also makes sense as it’s a vibrant centre for legal innovation and the world’s second largest legal market. It’s also where I am based.
After that the list of nations with notable audiences that read Artificial Lawyer on a regular basis are, in order of the number of readers: Canada, Australia, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Brazil, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, Mainland China, Israel, Belgium, South Africa, Austria, Ireland, Ukraine and Japan.
The site has also racked up over 11,100 followers on Twitter, again from all over the world. And there was me back in late June/early July 2016 thinking this site would be read only by a handful of managing partners, almost all of whom would be in the UK. And that’s another thing I underestimated: who would read this site.
Although some managing partners do read Artificial Lawyer, the reality is that its core audience is: CTOs, CIOs, KM heads, CSOs, Innovation Directors, Legal Ops Directors, as well as Partners, Associates and General Counsel on the law firm and inhouse side, as well as the directors, contract experts, and consultants at ALSPs, process groups, and law companies; and it’s also legal tech company founders, coders and developers, marketing and PR teams among the vendors; as well as investors, regulators, government ministers and staff, judges, academics and law students.
In these last five years Artificial Lawyer has published over 2,100 articles, with on average between one and three pieces appearing each work day, Monday to Friday.
And at this point I could go into a long review of all the key things that have happened in the last few years, big stories this site has broken and such, but I won’t.
One thing I will do however, is share some of my favourite think pieces, especially in recent years. These articles penned by myself (aside from the last one) help to frame what Artificial Lawyer is all about, its world view one might say.
They also help to show what are the defining characteristics of this site: looking at the legal and legal tech sectors through an economic lens, placing everything in relation to the business of law, and taking a strategic view of market change.
I don’t claim to be a legal expert or a coder, but I do understand a few things about how markets work and the way that technology – and new business models – can change things.
Here’s a few pieces that are noteworthy and that you may find of interest, or would like to re-read, (especially as Artificial Lawyer is going to be on holiday now for the next two weeks.)
- The Economics of Legal Tech
- Killing Time – How To End The Billable Hour + Liberate Legal Tech
- An Evolutionary Approach to Legal Technology
- The Deal Force + The Library Force of Legal Tech
- Culture Eats Legal Tech For Breakfast
- Lawyers, Tech + the Means of Legal Production
- How Far Has Technology Really Disrupted the Legal World?
- Incremental Innovation is Great…Until it Harms Your Business
- Legal Tech Comes of Age: IPOs, Unicorns + M&A
- How Do You Calculate the ROI of Legal Tech? – (This was a market view piece and quotes several industry experts)
Sometimes Artificial Lawyer feels like it has a life of its own. It is its own thing, one might say. I feel a duty to this site that overrides any previous working patterns such as the yearning to change jobs every five years. In the past I worked at a place, would give it my all, then move on. But Artificial Lawyer feels different.
Paradoxically, although it’s obviously created by me each workday (and with the help of some excellent thought leadership article writers once or twice a week), it really feels like it has a path now all of its own. ‘AL’ is more than a bunch of news pieces, it’s shaped by an overall philosophy, an approach to the legal and legal tech worlds.
You might say there is a blueprint here, a set of ideas that are constantly at work.
That gives me hope that AL is more than just a news site, it’s a platform with a (hopefully) coherent world view, that doesn’t belong to just me, but is there for anyone who wants to share in it and explore those ideas, and take them further.
So, what will happen in the future? For certain, Artificial Lawyer is looking forward to celebrating its tenth anniversary, and even its twentieth. Imagine what the legal tech world will look like in 2036! Maybe by then this site’s title won’t seem like an ironic gesture, but will perhaps be a real thing? Or maybe we’ll never get to that point, and wise heads will make sure that even if tech can make big legal decisions for us, it’s never allowed to do so? We will find out all in good time.
But, the short version is this: the last five years have been way too much fun, and way too interesting to pause for more than the occasional holiday. Plus, it feels like the legal tech market is now entering a new era of maturity, with consolidation, IPOs and masses of funding, just as the buyers are becoming seriously good at getting value out of what is there and tying it all back to generating real ROI.
In fact, one could argue, and AL will, that much of what this site has been talking about over the last five years, i.e. the economics of legal tech, is now finally coming into full focus and really becoming an important factor in the legal world.
Legal tech feels like it’s only just coming of age. There is so much more to do, to write about, to think about, and to explore.
Over the last few years I have made many friends in the legal tech world. In fact my contacts book of legal tech folk is far larger than the one I had previously when I just covered the legal market in general. Maybe that tells me something.
I have always been inspired by anyone who starts their own business from scratch, or who pioneers a group or department in a law firm or inhouse function. They’re taking a risk. They are leading. It all might fail. But, they throw themselves into it, they live the change, and in most cases they succeed. Maybe that’s why I like the world of legal tech and innovation so much? It’s full of explorers. To the innovators, to the leaders and risk takers, I salute you!
I’ve also been lucky enough to meet a huge number of people who really are just, well…great people. Some quietly read AL and once in a while send me an email with encouraging words, others have supported me vocally since I started, and others I’m still just getting to know. To those who have supported me throughout this journey: I thank you!
Getting up each morning at 6AM to write the first piece for AL can be hard sometimes, especially in the middle of Winter, but knowing there are people dotted all over the planet waiting for the happy little ping of the day’s first AL news alert makes it all worthwhile. Thank you for reading Artificial Lawyer!
Thank you enormously also to all the sponsors and advertisers and those who have made AL’s events so successful. Your regular support of this platform is truly valued!
I’d also like to say a big thank you to a number of people who have been especially supportive, (some of which I have not even met in person, but one day I hope to), and who have never stopped backing this site over the years:
- Fred Svärd, Nick Rishwain, Simon Ahammer, Colin Levy, Nick Watson, Ron Friedmann, Shilpa Bhandarkar, TJ Johnson, Dennis Kennedy, Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad, Nick West, Catherine Ostheimer, Gabriel Teninbaum, Helena Hallgarn and Ann Björk, Jonathan Maas, Tony Law, Peter Lee, Rick Merrill, Richard Mabey, Michael Grupp, Maurice Raab, Stevie Ghiassi, Peter Richards, Alex Ritter, Ryan McClead, Tom Cahn, and Tom Martin, to name a few.
I’d also like to specially thank several others who I have only got to know more recently, but who also have been great supporters of AL, (and in some cases its other projects), Sacha Kirk, Kelly Harbour, Graeme Johnston, Joe Borstein, Patrick Fuller, Alex Su, Roisin Noonan, and Jenifer Swallow.
And finally I’d like to thank Timo at Cosmonauts for asking me back in 2018 why I didn’t create my own events, and especially George Yankov for his constant professionalism and hard work in helping to make Legal Innovators a reality.
I’d also like to give my heartfelt thanks to my better half. I don’t think I could have made Artificial Lawyer into what it is today without your steadfast support.
Thank you to all those who read Artificial Lawyer, watch AL TV, and come to its events. I look forward to providing you all with something that hopefully delivers value and adds something special to the analysis of our great legal tech sector for many years to come.
Richard Tromans, Founder, Artificial Lawyer, July 2021.
NOTE: Publishing holiday – as is now a custom at AL, the anniversary article marks the beginning of a holiday for this site. Artificial Lawyer will be back to normal publication on Monday, July 26.
And, P.S. Legal Innovators is back! The in-person conference created by Artificial Lawyer and organised by Cosmonauts will be held in October in London, and in San Francisco in November. We can’t wait to see you there!