Many legal tech companies form links with academics, but no-code automation system Bryter has gone one step further and created its own educational body in partnership with the European Business School (EBS) in Germany. It will be called ‘The Centre for Digitalization & Law’.
The new academic unit will be dedicated to ‘the issues of digitalisation of law, in education, teaching, and the legal market’. The centre is led by Professor Emmanuel Towfigh, and supported by co-directors Michael Grupp and Micha-Manuel Bues – the CEO and COO of Bryter.
The no-code company, which started in Germany, but is now global and has clients across the legal sector, added that: ‘[The new academic body] is dedicated to the digitisation of legal working environments … and will, among other things, implement expert conferences and workshops with students. It will also be actively involved in teaching in order to provide students with more training in this area and prepare them for the challenges of professional practise.’
But why do this? Well, the obvious reason is that this is a form of sophisticated marketing that helps to spread the word about Bryter’s no-code approach. It also helps to build a new generation of users of its software. It doesn’t hurt to have a university give your product added credibility either. This also helps the academics and students to have a real, hands-on understanding of the tech involved, rather than studying it from a distance.
Bryter said: ‘Digitalisation has reached the legal market and legal activities. Software is increasingly taking over standard tasks and becoming a normal part of the legal working world. This presents legal educators with the challenge of picking up on technologies and reflecting them in theoretical and practical content.’
Grupp also commented: ‘Just as computer science is an application science, legal tech requires the combination of theory and application, and we are happy to contribute the practical part for a holistic educational concept in this still new cross-sectional field.’
All in all, this is a high-level marketing strategy, and one that requires plenty of input…and some spare cash. But, if you have a long-term strategy that aims to see your tech embedding itself within the wider ecosystem, which Bryter seems to, then this kind of move makes a lot of sense.
I.e. you can sell directly all you want to, but if you can get people to think about your product as something that is now essential to legal services, then you may have a much longer-lasting impact.
Moreover, and beyond the marketing side of things, having people who actually make this tech directly involved in the teaching and thinking about the subject is a welcome move. If for example, some of the NLP-driven doc review and analysis companies had formed their own academic units with leading universities we may have perhaps avoided the UK Government wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on taxpayer-funded academic research projects into ‘AI and the law’ that have yielded very little of substantive value for the legal market.
As we have seen in other areas where tech and academia interlink, the thought leadership needs to be embedded with the actual tech and with the people who make and use that software, otherwise you end up with thinking and surveys that are separated from ‘the reality on the ground’. Of course, in these scenarios there is always a balance to be struck between the tech companies and the educators, but getting closer together seems to be the right way forward.
Any road, it will be interesting to see what comes from this and also whether other legal tech companies will form their own mini academic bodies. Good luck to them.