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Susskind: Legal IT innovation now thriving, and “may even be booming”

The legal technology sector has now reached a watershed moment, in terms of the scale and diversity of innovation now taking place. That was the upbeat message offered by Professor Richard Susskind as he kicked off the British Legal Technology Forum 2017 (#BLTF2017), held earlier this month in London. “There’s a level of engagement, a level activity that we’ve never seen before,” he said, addressing a standing-room only audience at the Netlaw Media-organised event. The legal IT sector was now thriving “and may even be booming,” he added.

The growing international interest in legal technology innovation was also evident at the sold-out event. Among the 1,412 attendees, more than 24 countries were represented, drawn from more than 700 law firms, chambers and in-house legal departments. Representatives from 87 exhibitors were also present.

Among the 55 expert speakers presenting at the event, the AI community was out in force, illustrating the rapidly growing importance of this technology to the legal profession. Real-world solutions were being demonstrated and discussed covering everything from due diligence and contract reviews to compliance testing – even tools which evaluated the success of law firms’ previous advice and suggested strategies.

In a different segment of the UK legal market, a trio of speakers from @LawBot_UK explained to a packed session how their offering would evolve in the future – once they had completed their exams at Cambridge University. Since its launch in November 2016, @LawBot_UK has attracted around 10,000 users, who were able to interact with the service to discover whether or not numerous criminal laws might have been breached. Now, the development team is working on an updated service, which first evaluates each user’s likelihood of being successful in bringing a claim, and then refers them to an appropriate lawyer to take the matter further.

Elsewhere in the conference hall, several senior law firm personnel gave presentations where they explained how their firms were embracing legal technology. Kicking off the day’s main proceedings, DWF CEO and managing partner Andrew Leaitherland discussed how his firm had adopted various efficiency-improving technologies, including the use of document process automation, digital case management and virtual assistants. Later in the day, Eversheds Sutherland Consulting formally launched its new matter lifecycle management solution at #BLTF2017. As the practice’s head, Graham Richardson, explained at the launch event, the decision to develop the solutions in conjunction with technology vendor Repstor was a direct consequence of the two parties meeting at the 2016 BLTF. Going forward, the jointly-developed tool, known as ES / Unity – Powered by Repstor, will be used both internally within Eversheds Sutherland and also offered to the firm’s clients.

After a packed day of presentations across the five stages, #BLTF2017 concluded with a keynote speech delivered by world-famous gamification expert, Yu-Kai Chou. Chou, president of the Octalysis Group, gave a lively and informative presentation, explaining how gamification can encourage user engagement – even if the tasks the user is performing are not intrinsically interesting. By adopting a “human focused design” instead of a “function focused design”, it was possible to encourage far greater user engagement, he said. This enhanced engagement would take place, he explained, if the gamified process tapped into key motivational drivers of human behaviour – such as delivering a sense of accomplishment or empowerment.

One obvious usage of gamification was in relation to education and compliance training, Chou then explained. Games required users to make use of the information they are provided with – and not simply recall it, he said. Acquiring knowledge via gamification meant that users were far more likely to recall the information at a later date.

When rolling out a gamification initiative in the corporate sector, Chou suggested obvious stakeholders to target for achieving top-level buy-in: those individuals whose jobs were “most tied to the company’s key performance indicators.” In a law firm setting, he suggested, this would probably be those who responsible for inter-department cross-selling.

Reflecting on #BLTF2017, Netlaw Media’s Managing Director Frances Armstrong said: “Anyone who attended this year’s #BLTF2017 will undoubtedly agree with Professor Susskind’s analysis that the legal IT sector is thriving, even booming. The sheer range of technology-led, performance-enhancing, solutions now available seems to increase year-on-year.”

“Indeed, at this year’s BLTF, even though we increased the amount of exhibition floor space and number of presentation stages available, the event quickly reached its capacity. Many presentations delivered were also standing room only.”