Sabbatical Update + Artificial Lawyer is 7

Hello everybody! Although there’s been some conference news in AL, I thought it was time to give a bit of a sabbatical update on what I’ve been up to. Also, as is now customary at this time of year….it’s Artificial Lawyer’s birthday and the site is now seven years old!

The sabbatical started on January 10th this year and the first thing I did was head to my favourite place in America – Los Angeles. I love the fact that in the morning you can be strolling along the sandy beach of Santa Monica, then you can drive up into the hills for lunch and see the snow-capped mountains (and zip past NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab from where they operate the Mars rovers), and then before heading off for some amazing Mexican food for dinner you can check out the best contemporary art galleries in the world – and that’s just for Day One of your visit. I could go on about the cutting-edge comedy clubs, nature reserves right in the middle of the city, and amazing architecture….but you get the picture (see pic info below).

While I was there I was also lucky enough to hang out with several legal tech stars: Tom Martin, Rick Merrill and Tony Thai – thank you to all three for your incredible hospitality! Tom gets a special shoutout for driving me all the way to Pasadena.

After that it was back to London and getting onto the main goal of the sabbatical: the book. I wish I could tell you more about it at this point, but aside from travel and coming out of my usual AL warp speed, it’s all been research, planning, and more research, as well as plenty of inspirational walks on Hampstead Heath, a little patch of natural glory in the heart of North London.

The book in question is a work of fiction and the challenge is that you really are looking at a blank page at the beginning (at least if you’re trying to be original and genuinely creative – and if you’re not doing that then there doesn’t seem to be much point, as GPT-4 can do it much faster if you just want a bucket of regurgitated story mush). In fact, it’s 300 or more blank pages and there is only one person on the planet that can fill them. There is no ‘phone a friend’, no great factual authorities you can quote to fill up some pages, there’s just you and your imagination. The other side to this of course is that writing creatively is an incredible and rare pleasure. So, as ever, pros and cons, but hopefully worth it in the end.

(P.S. who knows, maybe I will write a non-fiction book about the legal sector one day. Never say never…)

So, what else can I tell you? There was of course Legal Innovators California in San Francisco – which was twice as big as last year and I have to say that being in that room listening to people such as Dan Katz, Richard Robinson, Daniel Lewis, Maya Markovich, Jake Heller, Carla Swansburg, Danielle Benecke, John Scrudato, David Wang, Andrew Moffett, Vedika Mehera, Todd Smithline and Jim Wagner – to name just a few – felt like a very special moment. It felt like the beginning of a new era for legal tech. And there we all were, in San Francisco – not that far from many of the world’s leading tech companies including several generative AI pioneers. Sometimes it all comes together: right time, right place, right people. Really looking forward to next year’s conference already!

It was also great to meet legal tech friends I’d never met before in person, such as the legendary Nick Rishwain, The Honourable Meme Lord Alex Su, and the UK’s Graeme Johnston. I’d also like to thank Nick again, as well as Zach Abramowitz, plus Greg Lambert and Marlene Gebauer, for doing interviews with me to help promote the event, and also for allowing me to share my views on a host of things (and for some reason the billable hour kept coming up).

(Note: on the SF vs Zombies question that everyone asked about…the answer is that much of San Francisco and the communities nearby, such as the stunning Sausalito, are among the most beautiful places in America. Meanwhile, the area known as the Tenderloin district is absolutely horrible. There is no other way to put it. But, that constitutes about 1% of the total city (and let’s face it, many other cities have similar problems, although perhaps not in such a concentrated locale). So for the bigger picture, go and stand at the top of the verdant and ornate Lombard Street, or view the Bay from the Coit Tower, or wander around charming Little Italy, or explore the new and super-cool region now taking shape called The Dogpatch, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a superb city full of energy, life and creativity. We’ll certainly be back in 2024 for another Legal Innovators California, and in a great new venue.

Er, what else? I’ve also spent some time in France, which leads me to my last point. It was while I was sitting by the swimming pool at a house in the hills above Nice in 2016, right around this time of year, when I decided that this little blog thing I’d started might actually be something I should take seriously. Every year since then we (that is my better half and I) have gone back to the same village in the hills looking out over the Mediterranean, and each year I get some new inspiration for the year ahead. Naturally, this year it’s been a bit different, but nevertheless my mind is buzzing with ideas on how to evolve Artificial Lawyer and its related channels once I get back to regular ‘AL Life’, which will be at the beginning of the new financial year in the UK, i.e. April 2024.

I guess at this point I am meant to launch into something about generative AI….but hey…I’m on sabbatical folks! But there is this one piece I did recently in AL that may be of interest (see here) – I’ll also be discussing the subject during a free webinar on July 11th hosted by Daniel Lewis, see here.

As to the next few months. I hope to start actually writing the book in July. Meanwhile, later this year there will be something of a homecoming with the return of Legal Innovators UK, in London, November 8 + 9, which last year was bursting at the seams with people and energy. And there may be some additional announcements as well……watch this space.

Until then, thank you once again for reading Artificial Lawyer – as according to my latest stats the articles and videos on this site are still being viewed many thousands of times in total each month. Yep, that surprised me too. Glad AL remains a useful resource for so many people. It will get topped up again with oodles of fresh news and features and videos and more once I am back.

I hope you all have a great summer! Maybe see you at one of the legal events in London in the coming weeks, and if not, I hope you can make it to Legal Innovators UK in November – see you there!

See you on the flipside!

Richard Tromans, Founder, Artificial Lawyer – June 28th, 2023.

Pic info L to R, by row: arriving in San Francisco; a full house for Legal Innovators California; Santa Monica at sunset looking toward Malibu // snow-capped mountains visible from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles; another beautiful sunset over Santa Monica (never get tired of those…); with the excellent Rick Merrill after an awesome meal (I had some of the best seafood tacos ever that night) // with the dynamic Tom Martin on tour to Pasadena; San Francisco viewed from the beautiful Sausalito; and taking in the scenery in the hills above Nice, France.