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European LegalTech Congress 2019: From Thought to Finish

If you're reading this article it's because you're one of many legal professionals who are eager to innovate, aren’t you?

More than 300 legal professionals like you attended to the European LegalTech Congress 2019 promoted by the European LegalTech Association (ELTA) which took place in Madrid on November 20th to 22nd. I’m afraid it is not possible, to sum up all the valuable “Food for Thought” shared in the Congress. As it always occurs with education, you cannot delegate but, at least, we invite you to stay tuned to attend next year’s Conference in Tel Aviv.

About ELTA, it is an association focused on innovation, digital transformation of the legal sector and LegalTech. It is made up of lawyers, academics, businessmen, and students from all over Europe. And, it is growing. Check it yourself.

Building community and collaborative relationships in an eminently technological world remains essential. If you want to run fast, grow in a sustainable way and keep competitive, you may better start by acquiring a deep knowledge of the legal ecosystem and broader context and joining efforts for the benefit of all its stakeholders and, subsequently, for your own one.

Some “Food for Thought”:

Have a look at the whole legal ecosystem and to its broader context, which, despite its rapid evolution, it is basically built by:

  • legal professionals, of course, such as, law students, lawyers, solicitors, paralegals, notaries, judges, academia, law firms, solo lawyers or in-house lawyers

  • professionals of other disciplines, such as, Customer Insight, Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, Procurement, Project Management, Supply Chain, Finance, Strategy, Information and System Technology professionals rendering services for the legal profession and, by

  • other professional service or product organizations, such as, Management tools vendors, Legaltech solutions providers, Business Schools, Innovation labs, Start-ups, Entrepreneurs, Associations, traditional and emerging Industries, Consultancy, Alternative Legal Services Providers, etc.

The constant talk of the digital transformation of society, the impact of technological advances on the economy, the emergence of new business models and the entry into the new era of the post-digital environment, do not exclude the legal sector at all.

It is said that Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Blockchain, among others, are the disruptive technologies that are going to change everything and it poses not only legal but also ethical concerns.

It seems that we are already in 4.0. Revolution where algorithms can already solve everything, are capable of learning on their own and are able to understand reality and predict the future in order to always make the right decisions which worries also to lawyers that may potentially be replaced by robots.

In this innovative, digital and technological environment, the legal sector is already taking care of itself.

Proof of this is that Big Four and large firms are already involved in the research, development and implementation of initiatives and technological solutions that are going to give a total turn to the way they work, relate to their clients and manage their affairs.

And, some small and medium sized law firms and freelance lawyers are specializing and partnering with technology partners and consultancies to create new multidisciplinary office models or LegalTech start-ups that allow them to remain competitive.

This all was showed in the European LegalTech Congress 2019 by first hand testimonies and best practices from big and small organizations representing the whole legal ecosystem.

Probably, you were already aware of all this “Food for Thought”, weren´t you?

If yes, what are you doing to be and keep being a key player in this evolving environment?

Please, share with us.

If you are still willing to read the rest of the article, it is maybe because you are curious about how to go “from Thought to Finish”.

Before going further, find herein below one obvious recommendation and one encouraging fact for you to take into account:

  • Never stop learning: the speed with which everything changes no longer allows you to rely solely on the solidity of the technical knowledge or experience acquired through your career performance and so, you need to keep educating yourself and/or your teams and innovating every day.

  • Same opportunities for all: on the other hand, the same changing speed has the advantage that puts all of us in the same starting point, regardless of age or position and, thanks to internet, regardless of the place or country where you render professional services.

Now, let me sum up in 4 tips what was said in the European LegalTech Congress 2019 about how to design your own route to be today the lawyer of the future or to start running your legal service firm of the future:

1. Focus on the “Finish”:

To overcome the tendency to differ the decision taking momentum or to postpone action, don’t think on the “Beginning” any longer. What do you really want, to start or to finish with?

If you already had enough “Food for Thought” you are ready for setting your goals.

If not, please search for it. There is already plenty of information and training opportunities, as well as, new learning by doing proposals available.

Goals setting is, mainly, a human centric activity by which you need to meet your expectations and solution proposals with your customers’ needs.

Focus on how to provide solutions in a better and more efficient (and cheaper way) to your clients for their satisfaction and for your business success. As mentioned by Sebastian Hartmann from KPMG in the European LegalTech Congress 2019, “Get ready to throw your old management playbook out of the window and start talking about new solution management”.

2. Plan your own “Strategy”:

Identify what it is needed to achieve your goals and prepare the right resources for the journey.

I am enclosing some quotes coming from panelists of the European LegalTech Congress 2019 that may be useful for illustration purposes.

To start with, Sebastian Bos, from HighQ, recommended to "follow the correct order, 1st people, 2nd processes and 3rd technology". I would add a 4th step: budget.

1st People:

Select and recruit the right people, among different disciplines, and invest during their career path in facilitating them with the right:

Knowledge: new digital and technological business models, with their particularities by sectors, require particular and, ideally, deep understanding of innovations to be able to identify the full legal impact of their use or implementation. Likewise, horizontal learning to acquire transversal knowledge in diverse disciplines of law regarding the demands of these new businesses would also be extremely useful.

Business Skills: no doubt that "the first thing is to equip the lawyer with business skills and foster an innovative culture" by Jorge J. Vega-Iracelay, former Microsoft LA Chief Counsel, currently professor and researcher.

Soft skills: A well-prepared and trained lawyer, as any other professional, can greatly enhance his value proposition if he knows himself and has identified his areas for improvement, develops his emotional intelligence, acquires Design Thinking and Project Management techniques, communicates effectively and learns to work in teams and lead people.

Creativity and collaborative approach: ensure diversity, facilitate co-creation and creativity development and, as remarked by Juan Pujol from Group Lefebvre Sarrut, engage "commitment to collaborative intelligence".

People will be truly engaged if they feel they can better meet their ambition to grow, improve and get better prepared with you than with anyone else.

2nd Processes: "map processes and reimagine the way of working" said Jim Leason, from Thomson Reuters,

And, not only processes but also law firms’ management way may be reshaped to embrace new business models, new ways of attracting talent, of setting Key Performance Indicators, of compensation schemes and of clients’ attention, among others.

Maybe, it is not that easy to change or think differently without the assistance of an outsourced service provider or a fresh mindset. Do not hesitate to ask for a consultant advice who can help you to connect the dots in a creative new way.

3rd Technology: As Chantal Vermeire, from Wolters Kluwer, highlighted, "technology is a key enabler for legal professionals to be future ready".

But, it is not easy at all to have clarity about what technology can do for you or your law firm. Probably one of the most difficult decisions is to invest in knowing which LegalTech is really helpful for your value proposition and which will ultimately generate greater satisfaction in your customers.

LegalTech's panorama is already very rich and diverse, and so, it requires a particular investment and attention. Once you bet for looking for LegalTech solutions, you need to decide which technology, among all, it is worth to be tested.

Probably, you are not yet ready to buy LegalTech. Nor do most of the emerging consultancy firms available for outsourcing. Frankly, there is a big gap here. Or, you may look at it as a big opportunity for developing a new business role in the legal ecosystem. What I miss is an independent and trustful “LegalTech shopper” who can assist legal professionals and LegalTech vendors to match needs and solutions by real testing, change management methodology and a full LegalTech implementation proposition. Meanwhile, institutions like ELTA are facilitating the bridge role for communication and collaboration among affected players.

4th Budget: Do not underestimate the need to invest money in pushing innovation, digital transformation and LegalTech solutions acquisition and implementation. It is a pity not to be able to reach the “Finish” due to a short allocation of economic resources. Assume also that, the payback may not come out straight forward despite of the fact that, the impact can and must be measured.

3. “Manage” your Plan:

It is almost impossible to successfully drive a project “from Thought to Finish” and “on top of all”, with the same resources available for the day to day activity.

Appoint an efficient “Project Manager”, assign roles and responsibilities and empower a dedicated team with budget and real time for the transformation project.

Set ABCD “Priorities”: never start a task categorized as “B” if “A” priorities have not yet been achieved. Distinguish what is urgent from what it is really important for the strategic plan execution.

Identify and fight against “Stoppers”: you need to anticipate what may stop or deviate you from achieving your goals, either internal or external, from fear to failure to simply lack of interest in digital or technical aspects.

In particular, anticipate how to overcome issues coming from organizational resistance or LegalTech solutions procurement or implementation. Assume worst case scenarios and do not ignore that potential kind of failure can occur. Convert your goals on Objective Key Results and put them under examination in short periodically basis to be agile, flexible and resilient enough.

Split tasks and timelines: start with small and timely achievable tasks, with pilot testing and agile methodologies. Try not to bother, too much, the business as usual activity. Try to minimize business continuity risks as much as possible.

4. Feed the “Attitude”:

As Bahar Ansari from, 2nd Law & Case One, concluded in the European LegalTech Congress 2019: "stop talking and apologizing. It's time to take action."

Any transformation process will require effort, flexibility and agility to overcome obstacles. A good dose of enthusiasm and passion is required. Engage optimistic team members, who can keep positive and smiling despite of pressure and frustration.

Appoint your best leader to the project if you really believe in the “Finish”.

And, finally, celebrate milestones and achievements.

For sure, before you “Finish”, you will already have much more “Food for Thought” for a new innovative initiative to keep in the loop of the evolving environment we live in where improvement opportunities never stop.


About the Author

Paloma Aparicio is member of the Spanish Chapter of the European LegalTech Association (ELTA), representing the interests of Corporate Lawyers.

Corporate lawyer expert in personal data protection, certified as Data Protection Officer as per the Spanish Data Protection Authority (AEPD) scheme and, exploring on new technologies impact in the legal sector (LegalTech) and about the legal impact of new technologies (Blockchain).

Paloma is founder of lawingit for the legal services rendering and of the 1st illustrated legal forum,

Previously, Paloma was the legal coordinator of the GDPR implementation project in 26 European countries of Mondelēz International (former Kraft Foods), a US multinational firm which sells Snacking products within the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market and, formerly, over 16 years, she was its in-house counsel for the Iberian business.

Before that, she was member of the EY's Human Capital team. Mastered in Data Protection (IE, ICAM), in Legal Research (ICADE) and in Law and Corporate Advice (E-1, ICADE).

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