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IE hosts Legaltech Start-up Demo Fest to discuss global trends

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On November 25th, IE´s Legaltech Innovation Farm welcomed legal professionals from across the globe for a conference on the landscape of legaltech startups around the world. The event, entitled Legal Tech Start-up Demo Fest, kicked off with talks from global industry experts, followed by a roundtable and startup demos from up-and-coming legaltech companies including Luminance, Legatics, and Avvoka.

On the panel organized by our Legaltech Innovation Farm, Beth Fellner from LegalGeek and Abigail Connor from Thomson Reuters were joined by Dr. Juan Carlos Luna from LATAM and Noemie Alintissar from the Singapore Academy of Law. Attendees, primarily comprised of lawyers, received sharp insights into the legaltech market, alongside predictions on how the role of technology will develop and ultimately transform the industry in the future.

 

Legaltech trends in the UK and Europe

Beth Fullner, Senior Conference Producer at LegalGeek, and Abigail Connor, Strategy Manager at Thomson Reuters, Legal Professionals Europe, opened the talks posing the question: with such a myriad of legaltech companies across Europe, how do we make sense of such a fragmented market?

In response, Beth introduced the Legal Geek startup map: a comprehensive structure which classifies distinct areas of legal work. The first map, created in 2017, provided a view of 70 legaltech startups across Europe, grouping the companies in terms of the task they focused on. The initiative has since grown in scope and detail and the most recent edition, released in 2019, investigated 253 startups and introduced a completely new taxonomy.

Abigail provided further insight into the research behind the map, shedding light on the emerging trends in the sector. She highlighted that the majority of companies are focused on consumer services, most likely due to the inadequate supply of these services in the market. “Individuals and small businesses still find it very hard to access the support that they need, so there is definitely a gap for companies coming into this area.”

Another visible trend is the increasing investment in legaltech. Although relatively small when compared to other industries, such as fintech, funding is on the rise. “In the first eight months of this year, over two billion dollars was invested into fintech in the UK, but if you compare that to between 400 and 450 million euros across all time into legaltech, it’s still fairly small change. However, the trend is still very much upwards—it’s not quite exponential but it’s almost doubling every year.”

Beth and Abigail also noted the importance of labs and incubators to startup success. These give beginners access to lawyers and partners, the end users that they’re trying to aim their solutions at, and most importantly, law firm data. They also allow them to test and pilot their technology, look at new opportunities, and adapt their digital strategy according to real-world demands.

“If a startup can demonstrate that they’ve refined their tech through an incubator, it gives them a really positive differentiator when entering the market.”

 

Who is leading innovation in Latin América

Juan Carlos Luna, Founder at Lawit Group (By Lawgistic) and alumn of the Lawyers Management Program, began his talk with a quote from the CEO of Uber: “We are trying to digitalize the physical world.” He acknowledged that this is the current course of action on the corporate side of things, but questioned whether the legal sector had kept up.

According to Juan, there are two main components of disruption: the impact of technology on society and the implication of implementing technology in the legal field.

“Regarding the impact on society, we have cybersecurity, data privacy, autonomous machines—those types of issues that are really consuming a lot of lawyers’ time.”

“The other thing that law firms need to adjust to is the implication of the use of technologies for legal services… at the end of the day it’s a matter of efficiency, and what tools to use to make work more efficient and effective.”

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The two main markets in Latin America, Juan explained, are Mexico and Brazil. Legaltech has been present in Mexico for the past few years, yet a huge impediment to its expansion is its implementation—80% of lawyers view digital strategy as a must, yet only 23% have taken measures to transform their firms into a digital business.

As Juan puts it, “The conclusion of this is that we are just too afraid of moving out of our comfort zone.” He therefore recommends looking to Brazil for guidance, where the legaltech market already occupies a huge space. “For every legal problem there, a legal tech solution already exists.”

 

Singapore, a legaltech innovation hub 

Noemie Alintissir, leader of the Future Law Innovation Program (FLIP)—designed to help navigate innovation and changes within the legal sector—concluded the talks by reflecting on the very recent transformation in the Asian legaltech sector.

A 2016 report on the state of legaltech, curated by the Singapore Academy of Law, revealed legaltech efforts in Asia were very grassroots-based. Lawyers felt ready to drive innovation, change the way legal services operated and were delivered, and implement new and future-forward solutions. However, Singapore lacked a platform for professionals to learn about these new solutions, collaborate, and meet like-minded people.

Since FLIP’s inauguration, interest and investment in legaltech has skyrocketed and trends have changed—the approach has become much more top-down. Within Singapore, efforts are now primarily driven by government agencies, such as the Ministry of Law, and the market merely follows. “The challenge here is that the market trends can seem very jurisdictional. The culture in Singapore is very different from that of the UK and the Americas, and a lot more difficult to navigate.”

Nonetheless, further technical disruption in the legal sector is likely to occur as more conversations about legal innovation are being facilitated by FLIP, which has expanded to include international law firms such as Linklaters Singapore and PwC Legal International.

 

Moving forward

Digital transformation continues to effect seismic change across all industries, and law is no exception. Its waves of change are hitting different regions at different times, but one guarantee remains: legaltech is adding immeasurable value to the industry.

While legaltech is swiftly expanding its scope across Europe, we need a significant change in the way law firms are operating, especially regarding data, to see a real impact. In contrast, a much more quiet revolution is occurring in the Americas, as new digital tools are slowly being integrated into traditional law practice. Likewise, in Singapore, legal innovation is increasing, albeit driven by a top-down approach.

However, across the globe, legaltech startups are unsurprisingly gaining momentum, and will become a force to be reckoned with as less traditional practices are replaced with quicker, more cost-effective, and more efficient digital solutions.

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