The message from the legal community at this year's TECHxpo conference was pretty clear: harness that ingenuity that you apply to your legal work, and apply it to tech now. For those who follow this route, your future is bright!
As our OBA President Colin Stevenson so eloquently said, "Innovative processes and technologies provide greater efficiencies, cost effectiveness, quality of service and hopefully more professional satisfaction." Those who lack tech savviness might survive current changes over the next two years, but eventually (over the next 10 years), we'll see substantial restructuring. They will be left behind in an increasingly crowded field of sophisticated players.
Okay. Moving on from the warning portion of this article and onto the overwhelmingly positive developments and possibilities: 1) leadership from our community, and 2) small steps you can easily take.
Let's first talk leadership:
Chris Bentley, managing director of Ryerson's Legal Innovation Zone, described his legal tech incubator, which houses 15-20 legal tech start-ups at a time. It's the first of its kind worldwide as he works to ensure that Canadian lawyers remain leaders in this space.
Eighty percent of legal work is not served by lawyers, Chris said. He wants to change that. We're not just talking about the marginalized in society, who will hopefully be helped more by tech implementation. We're also talking about corporations, who want services at a price that they can sell to their board of directors. We're talking about courts that, as Colin said, are a mess and too complicated to properly serve many people.
Coming from this incubator, we were visited by Stephanie Curcio, of Legalicity, who is using AI to read and understand patents, changing the patent search process (dare I use the term "disruption" … it's overused but I think it might apply here). Sean Bernstein, co-founder of MinuteBox, presented his technology, which creates, maintains, and manages corporate minute books using document assembly and the cloud, with the aim of saving time to help us focus on our more complex tasks. These interviews will be turned into podcasts so look for those in the new year.
So you want to start implementing. Here are some quick takeaways:
- Process Mapping: It's tempting to just buy a piece of technology to use within the processes you have, but it's not always effective. Natalie Worsfold (Counter Tax) and Karen Skinner (Gimbal Canada) described how we have to map out our processes before implementing technology.
- Making those processes visible with matter management boards helps.
- Start with finding something small and safe because you're never going to fix everything at once. Ex: who should generate a particular document, how to save it, who should sign it, who should pdf it, who follows up regarding your electronic signatures. These tiny little processes are likely the building blocks of so much of your work.
- Always think about adding more value and mitigating waste. Is your work moving the matter forward, is it something the client wants to pay for, and is the work done right the first time? These priorities add value from the client's perspective. Everything else is what Karen calls "waste".
- Process Automation: Once you know your process, automate as much as possible. That might include checking out systems such as Microsoft Planner, Asana, Trello, or Lexicata. Rohit Parekh (Conduit Law) and Megan Cornell (Momentum Law) walked us through some of these systems' attributes in this crucial seminar.
- Outsourcing: Tech can't solve everything, and sometimes you need to find the right people while using tech with them. Outsourcing helps to address spikes in work, and competence (don't dabble). It allows you to focus on the areas where you're of greatest value. If well set up, you can turn it on and off when needed.
Peter Carayiannis (Conduit Law and Clerks On Demand), Amy Grubb (Grubb Law) and Melissa LaFlair (WSIB) spoke at this inspiring session. I look forward to using their top considerations list, provided on the OBA's website for attendees. Peter also spoke about tools he uses in conjunction with outsourcing. I'll be checking out Hubdocs for expenses, for example.
There are so many highlights of this show that I can't fit into this little article: AI, money laundering, MPP Roman Baber's talk, for example. I want to thank all participants and the OBA for their continued support for this conference. That's a wrap for now, but we're going to get even bigger next year, so keep us in mind for your CPDs. We value your input and participation.