Legal in-house technology

Legal in-house technology will challenge existing legal service models

by Simon Drane

Strategist, innovator and advisor in LegalTech. 

Last week I attended the Alternative In-House technology summit, an excellent event for the legal in-house community, and it struck me that the combined buying power of those in the room (many from very large corporations such as Vodafone, BT, Accenture, Sky, Societie Generale, Barclays, Standard Chartered, Experian, Novartis, Prudential, National Grid, to name a few), combined with how technology is being considered, has the potential to dramatically transform legal service provision. It was interesting though to contrast this with the stage that many are at in the innovation journey which is quite embryonic, combined with their core challenge which is overwhelmingly to show value to their wider corporate business with limited resources. Interestingly, many are arguably not yet pushing their panel firms enough to support these challenges, perhaps to provide more “productised” legal services.

Some of the legaltech emerging on pricing and service analysis for in-house will perhaps in future drive a far greater economic dimension to the legal services model.

There was much to unpack from two days of excellent discussions and I can’t do it justice in one article, so will instead follow up with some more detail in what in my mind were the three main categories of focus around current in-house tech innovation (I’ll also try and reference some of the excellent speakers in follow-up pieces). In my view there is a form of supply chain review operating here which more effectively connects the real consumer to the providers. In order to get to the challenges for the legal in-house teams and then the knock-on challenges to law firms you need to go to the start of the chain first.

1 – Business consumption of in-house legal services is evolving – the core challenge arguably starts here and the clear theme was around the way in which core corporate business functions do, or perhaps do not, effectively interface into legal. There is clearly a shift towards things such as a single “front door” to the legal team, ensuring more accurate and efficient engagement; self-serve document automation of areas like NDAs; and better linkage to tools like SalesForce, combined with the use of electronic integrated signatures, resulting in more effective contracting. This feels the most embryonic stage and also key to really unlocking customer pain points, and identifying solutions. Technology has a key role to play here but so does really understanding the people dynamics and how to deliver change (which was also a key theme at the summit). At the heart of this all was a lot of excellent examples where in-house legal teams are engaging more with their business customers to reengineer how they best meet business needs. More on this to follow…

2 – Legal operations in running an in-house function is evolving – the volume of work undertaken by the legal team has grown significantly while in many cases costs have often reduced. There was discussion around the use of a range of technologies that both improve the business of law (matter management, document management etc) and the practice of law (document automation, process automation etc). There was much debate around the growth of the legal operations function, with increased focus on management information, analytics and clear KPIs for the teams. Another key area of focus that was discussed in depth was contract management and the whole contacting lifecycle – I will explore this further as it is a topic in its own right – suffice to say that there is currently a void in any form of consistency in what people are doing here, or even of being able to allocate the various vendors to the different stage of the lifecycle. This feels like the most evolved stage of the supply chain but also perhaps the one with the biggest prizes yet to come around areas like proper end-to-end contract management. More on this to follow…

3 – Buying in and managing of external services from law firms is evolving – there was discussion around panel management as you would expect, and a real focus around what people are doing with e-billing and spend management software. The idea of having a central instruction portal seemed to emerge as a common theme. Some of the technology shown from the vendors has yet to really be widely adopted and talked about, but real time tracking of legal spend from law firms, for example, is not just of interest to the GC, but is pretty interesting to the CFO I would think, helping to better understand and predict costs in an area where they would have struggled in the past. More on this to follow…

In each of these areas technology is being deployed to different degrees depending on where the most pressure is coming from for in-house teams. There are a number of high level challenges in addressing these areas:

  • There are varying degrees of connectivity of in-house teams to the wider corporate business. There were some great examples of where this has changed and the legal team better understood the business needs, while the business better understood how it could help itself. The common theme was the need for more dialogue with its own internal customers;
  • Pretty consistent was the challenge of getting focus from corporate IT teams to help with legaltech (even when the core business was a tech business). Most have adopted an approach of going direct to legaltech vendors away from their own tech teams. Imagine the combined spend with core vendors like Microsoft these corporate businesses have and the impact they could have if they leveraged their corporate CIO relationships effectively to fix their legal challenges (no small task I agree…);
  • Even if they can get the budget for legaltech the challenge can be who to spend it with and there was a lot of debate on the proliferation of vendors. Even the vendors I spoke to often said they found it hard to keep track of who did what now. For law firms with dedicated legal IT teams this is far easier to navigate than for in-house teams (although arguably even they are starting to struggle now with the legaltech startup mania!);
  • There was a consistent theme of reducing budgets but increasing expectations on legal teams, which drives a very real need to automate. Interesting the difference in the drive for automation here is that it is to cope with overwhelming demand whereas in law firms it is to drive efficiency and therefore margin. Arguably in-house could overtake law firms on core automation given the stronger pressure and that would create an interesting dynamic. There was already an example of an in-house team asking a panel firm for automation help, but the panel firm not having the skills to assist. For now though overall in-house teams are at a far earlier stage than law firms and this felt like an area most were exploring to some degree;
  • There was a clear feeling of needing to show the value of the legal team but often lacking the resources needed. Even the largest organisations have small teams compared to law firms. Interestingly though, there was very little talked about on how they could ask law firms to help more.

I will build out on this in some future articles around the three supply chain stages, sharing some of the discussions from the excellent sessions, and welcome any comments in the meantime.

What was really clear is that when you combine the possibilities of legaltech across the supply chain stages with the economic buying power that the in-house group has, it can only lead to a real shift in the legal services space.

If the ultimate customer of all this is mostly a business person in a corporate and they are after quicker, more predictable, better outcomes, then arguably whoever helps them get to this will be the ultimate winner. You can also start to see why there is an emerging conversation around shifts to outcome pricing in this light.

As an aside, I hear a lot of law firms talking about AI whereas I hardly heard AI as a term at all at this conference (which was quite nice!). Rather, it was about their customers’ needs and the need for real efficiency through optimising the workflow. The best comment of the two days was: “Are we seriously expecting widespread adoption of AI tools right now when many lawyers can’t even use Skype?”

From listening to the debate I wonder how many law firms are engaging enough with their customers on their real needs (which are driven in turn by their business customers), or perhaps they are but it becomes challenging given their current partnership-structured, services-based business models. It appears their in-house customers may be moving faster to more productised, self-serve, data-driven, outcome-based models. Discuss…

This article was originally published on February 18, 2019.

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Meet the Lawyer who Created the World’s First Impartial Robot Lawyer

The founder of the world’s first impartial robot lawyer, Robot Lawyer LISA, Chrissie Lightfoot is heading to Cape Town to help South African legal professionals prepare for the legal tech age.

Lightfoot, a successful UK-based entrepreneur, prominent legal futurist and non-practising solicitor, has been a strong advocate for incorporating burgeoning technology in the legal industry. However, she doesn’t back the repeated prediction that human lawyers will become extinct as legal robots take over law firms. She maintains that there will always be a need for human lawyers who possess skills, such as empathy, intuition, and emotional intelligence, to address the more emotive and sensitive aspects of legal problems.

She believes that there is no need for legal professionals to be intimidated by legal tech; instead, the industry should welcome the service offering enhancements, as well as efficiencies and savings technological advancements bring about.

Lightfoot is confident that increased adoption of technology will boost job satisfaction, productivity levels, bottom line results, and ultimately loyalty from clients due to better quality service. Not only does artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to perform routine legal tasks, such as contract drafting, legal research or scanning of legal documents, but it also allows human lawyers to focus on tasks they enjoy and spend time on the legal aspects of a case that require human intellect and instinct.

After working with various law firms and LegalTech companies, Lightfoot spotted a gap to use technology in new and innovative ways in the legal market. She developed LISA to serve the almost 90% neglected legal buyer market that cannot access the legal services and attend to their legal problems without legal representation or advice.

Today, Robot Lawyer LISA is an easily accessible, online self-help service that allows clients to create personalised, legally binding contracts from anywhere in the world. This ground-breaking AI technology acts as the middle man and advises contracting parties on how to build their contract on mutually agreed terms while saving time and legal costs. Individuals and businesses can address their legal problems, only needing to consult with a human lawyer in very complex legal matters.

Join the number of legal professionals from around the country who seek a competitive edge or to future-proof their careers. Secure a spot at Chrissie Lightfoot ‘s special Master Session hosted by the Futures Law Faculty on the 14th of March 2019 in Cape Town.

The session will delve into future legal ecosystems, current and future trends to watch out for and how the legal industry can use it to its advantage. Chrissie Lightfoot will unpack various topics. To learn more about this event and to meet the lawyer who created the world’s first impartial robot lawyer, book your tickets:  CLICK HERE.






myths about legal tech debunked

3 Legal Tech Myths Debunked

Friday’s Future Note 

The pace of innovative disruption in the legal industry is accelerating, and we’re on the cusp of a transformation that will see artificial intelligence change the way legal work is executed. For now, it is easy to ignore technology, but that won’t be the case for much longer. The future will arrive faster than we think.

There has been a lot of speculation around automation in the legal industry, and while predicting future trends and developments doesn’t mean staring into a crystal ball, it’s all about making informed decisions based on the information available. To help shed light on the topic, we caught up with two experts in the field to give some insight and debunk some of the most common legal tech myths.


3 Legal Tech Myths Debunked



Myth: Lawyers will become obsolete in the age of automation.
Fact:  Roles will change, and fewer will lawyer in the “traditional” sense.

Renowned international legal futurist and CEO of the world’s first impartial robot lawyer, Chrissie Lightfoot warns that “bots” are coming, but believes that, while machines will progressively take over specific legal tasks and roles in the next 5 years, and more dramatically in the next decade, we don’t need to be afraid.

“There will always be a need for human lawyers. Machines are great at delivering answers, but poor at asking the right questions and taking context into consideration. The lawyers of the future will increasingly rely on their “soft skills” such as emotional intelligence, empathy, instinct, intuition, negotiation and persuasion skills, commercial nuance, and the ability to strategise,” says Lightfoot.

So, technology alone won’t transform the legal industry, lawyers will have to collaborate with other professionals and machines to drive transformation that improves legal access and service delivery. A recent Forbes article, which mentions Lightfoot’s Robot Lawyer, LISA, concludes that the line between law and other segments are becoming blurred. The article states: “Legal delivery is no longer about high-priced firm lawyers billing countless hours to solve legal challenges. It’s about integrating necessary expertise and leveraging it with appropriate resources—technological and “right-sourced” human ones—to solve personal and business challenges efficiently, cost-effectively, holistically, and measurably.”


Myth: If you’re a law student, you should probably quit now.
Fact: This is the most exciting time to study law!


British author and legal tech advisor, Richard Susskind’s popular quote, “If you’re studying law now, stop!” has many running scared, but his statement needs to be contextualised. Lightfoot has taken a different view as she believes that legal markets are likely to grow due to burgeoning technology that will facilitate alternative and DIY legal services. New customers who have never had access to legal services before might have to make use of machines but also look to human lawyers for additional help related to those self-service automated systems. “I would even go so far as to say that this is a tremendously exciting time to be a student of law as there are, and will continue to be, a variety of opportunities for tech-savvy, ambitious and entrepreneurial school leavers”.

Additionally, as local legal futurist and head of the Futures Law Faculty, Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal points out, a growing world population means there is more scope for lawyers and opportunity for future lawyers to enhance current and new systems. However, Nagtegaal also asserts that current law teachings in South Africa are not necessarily geared for the new world: “Law students have to read up, equip and upskill themselves for an exciting new world of opportunities”.


Myth: The digital revolution is still years away in South Africa.
Fact: Most firms are already using some form of tech. 


The tech revolution is speeding up globally, but South Africa is still behind. According to the renowned consulting firm, McKinsey, Africa lags behind other emerging markets on iGDP. But, Nagtegaal doesn’t see this as a negative: “The benefit of this is that we can see and learn and improve on international trends”.

Leading law firms and legal departments have already embraced a range of technologies to enhance their services or product offerings. For example, some have adopted e-discovery, chatbots, robot process automation, AI, cognitive computing, expert systems, machine learning, blockchain, smart contracts, etc. “Lawyers and businesses should identify the relevant “tech matrix” to assist in making their business more efficient, profitable and future proof,” agrees Lightfoot.

Adopting the right mix of technology will lead to more job satisfaction for South African lawyers, increase productivity levels within law firms or legal departments, bottom-line results from the lawyers, and ultimately more loyalty thanks to better service and improved quality of ‘augmented advice’ and legal products.


Keen to meet and hear from the experts themselves? Chrissie Lightfoot will deliver a masters session on Emotionally Intelligent Lawyers & Artificially Intelligent Machines on 14 March in Cape Town and Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal will share Lessons from LawBot on September 12 in the Mother City.






The Time is Now for Lawyers to Embrace Technology

We started the Futures Law Faculty with the idea of bringing in inspiring speakers to stimulate conversations and thoughts about radical innovation in the legal sector.

The legal fraternity’s penchant for tradition is notorious: wigs and robes, ostentatious bookcases, our vanity and elitism, the list goes on. But as we’re thrust into the digital revolution, what will happen to all of this fanfare we’ve protected for hundreds of years?

I have encountered many lawyers who clench onto tradition like they do their gavels and use their black togas as invisibility cloaks to hide from the looming future. To them, the future can be reduced merely to an event that will never occur if they dispel it through their denial. Of course, it’s not an event, it’s not some unknown destination we will arrive at one day: we’re in it, shaping it as it, in turn, moulds us.

Last night, during a lecture by Prof. David Venter, I was reminded of the story of the Swiss and their immaculate timepieces. They were regarded as the best, no one could touch them when it came to the accuracy of keeping time and executing classic style. Enter the development of quartz technology, and suddenly the likes of  Seiko and Casio entered the market, along with the digital watch. Pop culture embraced it, and before you could say 007, James Bond was wearing one, too. The Swiss were stuck in a ‘quartz crisis’. By the 70s, they were nearly rendered obsolete for not embracing technology, and more than half of their thousands of employees were laid off. This eventually led to the funky Swatch branch,  a resurgence of sorts for the Swiss.

But there was a next step in the timepiece evolution: enter the smartwatch. Again, not an innovation spearheaded by the masters of time machines, but rather by tech companies, like Apple and Google. The Swiss missed the opportunity to lead the change in watches, again. It’s estimated that the production of smartwatches will double in the next four years. What will happen to Swiss watches? They will probably stay in business, as there is still something breathtakingly beautiful about a traditionally crafted Swiss watch. But they have lost enormous chunks of the market again. How much time do they have left?

Are we the new Swiss watchmakers? Will the big tech giants usurp the law due to their openness to embrace technology? Our attitude towards and willingness to use the technology of today could influence our road to success or failure. So, the question is: Will we make this shift as lawyers?

The current envelope does not contain the new paradigm, so let’s find a new way of doing it. And by that I don’t mean we have to change what we do, we merely have to change how we do it.

In the 60s, high jumping was forever changed by the Fosbury flop, when Richard Douglas Fosbury altered merely the way he executed a high jump. A diagonal, backward flop. He, quite literally, reached new heights by not conforming to what everyone else was doing. When last did you see someone at the Olympics not do a Fosbury flop? This revolution didn’t destroy high jumps, it’s still a thing. There was simply a change to the method in which it is done.

The law is not going anywhere, but how are we going to ensure its evolution? How do we revolutionise it without alienating the people it’s meant to serve and protect?

The future is within us. Let’s drive the change ourselves and not fall out while the tech giants do it without us.

Jackie Nagtegaal is a futurist, with a keen interest in the legal ecosystem. As an admitted advocate who landed in the world of NewLaw, by heading up an alternative legal service and legal tech company, she has a full-circle understanding of the landscape, current trends and future developments.