A Take on the Legal Innovation & Tech Fest

Change is a knocking and the legal industry is ready to answer its call. The possibilities and opportunities presented by  legal tech and AI and how it will impact and change legal practice,  is no longer discussed in whispers and hushed tones. No, in fact it is discussed openly and loudly, sending a clear message that the legal industry is ready to disrupt,  rather than be disrupted.  This was clearly evident from the second annual Legal Innovation and Tech Fest, held 10 – 11 June 2019 at the prestigious Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, which can only be described as stumbling through a tech labyrinth of wonder and amazement.

With over 35 different organisations, 40 local and international speakers and 200 delegates, it is clear that legal professionals are living through a digital tech renaissance, so aptly christened by Chrissie Lightfoot, legal futurists and owner / CEO of Robot Lawyer Lisa, referring to today’s rapid, exponential change, development and advancement of AI and technology. This fact was well illustrated by the evolution, growth and increasing tech utilisation by Juta, as discussed by company CEO, Kamal Patel,illustrating how Juta has grown and innovated, using tech and AI software to provide new legal services and possibilities with Juta’s newest product offering – Juta Evolve, which is set to significantly impact how legal professionals conduct legal research and prepare for trial and/or argument.

It is accepted that majority of the work that legal professionals perform, whether in practice or as in house counsel, can be streamlined with legal tech and software ,  with pioneering technology and digital developments coming from new, alternative law service providers and Fintech industries, bringing competition from outside the legal fraternity, from an industry that has an upper hand in making the law and its procedures faster and more efficient,  due to their own layman frustrations and misunderstanding of the law. A fact perfectly personified by Guy Stern,the founder, developer and CEO of Baobab Law, despite having no legal background, having studied computer science, but who having gone through a legal matter himself and experiencing first-hand the frustration and uncertainty experienced by a layperson in regard to a legal matter,  created Baobab Law, a decentralised case management application for lawyers, paralegals and clients to record all communications and interactions relevant to a legal case to ensure all are up to date as to the progress of the legal matter at hand.

The golden thread throughout the conference, as summarised by Knowledge Partner at Bowman’sCathy Truter, expressly acknowledged and noted in every keynote, workshop and panel discussion: “Legal professionals must disrupt or be disrupted”.

Warren Hero, (Chief Technology and Information Officer at Webber Wentzel), emphasised that lawyers need to “see now, see more, see new”  in  the tomorrow of today and the future of the legal industry and the way we understand, interpret and practice the law.

We as legal professionals need to ensure that we stay abreast of legal tech changes and innovation to ensure that we “Reskill; Upskill and Newskill”, as put by Tammy Beira(Talent Partner at Bowman’s) to ultimately allow for the coming into being of the Fourth Industrial lawyer, the so called Augmented lawyer. The Augmented Lawyer, as baptized by Kevin Oliver (Head of Advance Delivery (Tech) at Allen & Overy), will continue to practice law and provide legal services and advice to clients, however will change the means and manner of doing same, by utilising technology, AI and available Legal tech software and tools to increase the efficiency of legal service delivery. Legal Innovation and Technology is, as summed up by Rico Burnett(Director of Client Innovation at Exigent)about Technological enablement and not deployment.

The question however remains how legal tech and innovative AI tools will be utilised by the legal industry? Will it be used to drive more efficiency, to provide for more billable hours and so increase legal fees , costs and profits? Or will it be used to improve access to justice in light of the reality that due to the high costs of legal matters, the national wage, the minimum wage, increasing income disparity and inequality, economically speaking,  only the wealthier 10%  of the South African population can afford access to justice and related legal services.

Want to know more about legal tech and AI and the future of law tomorrow – see www.futureslawfaculty.co.za



Kristi Erasmus

Head of Futures Law Faculty



Books for Future Lawyers

Books For Future Lawyers: 5 Must-Reads to Understand the Future of Law

We love to read; in fact, we’re pretty fanatical about it. The more we read, the wider our understanding of the possibles of tomorrow. If you want to open some windows to the future, we’ve put together our favourite books for future lawyers. These are the books that stand out at the moment, and we simply couldn’t put them down, they’re gripping and shine a light on compelling possible futures. We believe you can’t only read about the future of law; you have to have a broader understanding of the future world, which will help you embed your understanding of how the law evolves within this world.
1. Rebooting Justice: More Technology, Fewer Lawyers, and the Future of Law by Benjamin Barton and Stephanos Bibas


If there is one concise book on future possibles in the world of law, this is it. Although it focuses on the American justice system, the trends and solutions are universal.
Rebooting Justice presents a novel response to longstanding problems. The answer is to use technology and procedural innovation to simplify and change the process itself. In the civil and criminal courts where ordinary Americans appear the most, we should streamline complex procedures and assume that parties will not have a lawyer, rather than the other way around. We need a cheaper, simpler, faster justice system to control costs. We cannot untie the Gordian knot by adding more strands of rope; we need to cut it, to simplify it. Get it here.
2. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee


This book is a brilliantly digestible account of the velocity of change and the implications the digital revolution presents us with. As we’re optimists, we love this book for its focus on the possibility of a better world and bounty for all. 
In The Second Machine Age MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee―two thinkers at the forefront of their field―reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realise immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives. Get it here.
3. The Future is Asian by Parag Khanna


One thing the West tends to do, is think of their system as the world. With Khanna’s book, your mind opens to the reality that 5 billion people live in the new Asian territory. What does this mean for the practice of law?
The “Asian Century” is even bigger than you think. Far greater than just China, the new Asian system taking shape is a multi-civilizational order spanning Saudi Arabia to Japan, Russia to Australia, Turkey to Indonesia—linking five billion people through trade, finance, infrastructure, and diplomatic networks that together represent 40 percent of global GDP. China has taken the lead in building the new Silk Roads across Asia, but it will not lead it alone. Instead, Asia is rapidly returning to the centuries-old patterns of commerce, conflict, and cultural exchange that thrived long before European colonialism and American dominance. Asians will determine their future—and as they collectively assert their interests around the world, they will determine ours as well. Get it here. 
4. Like a Thief in Broad Daylight by Slavoj Žižek


We’re devoted readers of Žižek and his latest book shines a light on big tech and the crumbling systems we’ve built. A fascinating read on our politics and the governments we continually try to protect.
In recent years, techno-scientific progress has started to transform our world – changing it almost beyond recognition. In this extraordinary new book, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek turns to look at the brave new world of Big Tech, revealing how, with each new wave of innovation, we find ourselves moving closer and closer to a bizarrely literal realisation of Marx’s prediction that ‘all that is solid melts into air.’ With the automation of work, the virtualisation of money, the dissipation of class communities and the rise of immaterial, intellectual labour, the global capitalist edifice is beginning to crumble, more quickly than ever before and it is now on the verge of vanishing entirely. Get it here. 
5. Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future by Richard Susskind


This is an older book, we felt we had to include. Published in 2013, it still holds up. It’s a thin concise read that anyone should read if they are interested in the future of practice by one the leaders in the field.
Tomorrow’s Lawyers is a definitive guide to this future–for young and aspiring lawyers, and for all who want to modernise our legal and justice systems. It introduces the new legal landscape and offers practical guidance for those who intend to build careers and businesses in law. Susskind identifies the key drivers of change, such as the economic downturn, and considers how these will shape the legal marketplace. He then sketches out the new legal landscape as he envisions it, highlighting the changing role of law firms-and in-house lawyers-and the coming of virtual hearings and online dispute resolution. He also suggests solutions to major concerns within the legal profession, such as diminishing public funding, and explores alternative roles for future lawyers in a world increasingly dominated by IT. And what are the prospects for aspiring lawyers? Susskind predicts what new jobs and new employers there will be, equipping prospective lawyers with penetrating questions to put to their current and future bosses. Get it here. 

Have you read any of these must-read books for future lawyers? Share your thoughts with us! To learn more about more about the future of law, attend one of our insightful Learning Experiences.

soft skills for lawyers

Developing Soft Skills for Future Lawyers

The future needs a new type of lawyer.

According to the respected legal futurist, Richard Suskind, it’s no longer just enough to teach the old basic skills of lawyering in the new, AI-driven, automated economy. A new type of lawyer is needed who is not only trained in the use of coding and legal technology, but also in skills that AI will not be capable of automating. These include the very “human” capabilities of creativity, empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence. More and more if you want to practise law you need to become a trusted adviser to your client, you need the ability to listen, to communicate and relate to others to help solve their legal problems. No matter how technology transforms the legal market place, these skills will remain highly prized.

Being a good lawyer requires more than the ability to get the facts, apply the applicable law, analyse and advocate for your client’s position. It needs humanity and compassion. When I say compassion, what I mean is the ability to feel with – the ability to empathise, tapping into our innate desire to help, and taking steps to alleviate suffering. This ability is what transforms a good lawyer into a great lawyer.

For those looking to future proof their careers, building competencies in areas that machines will be unlikely to tackle effectively (i.e. compassion, empathy, negotiation and problem solving) is likely the best recipe for success.

Developing soft skills for future lawyers.

I believe it starts from the inside out! Psychometrically measuring your current soft skills will give you the foundation from which to work. Like any other skill, these abilities can be nurtured and improved with practice. It boils down to the ability to inspire confidence in your clients so that they can trust your advice. Cultivating these traits provides the opportunity to understand the issues and offer practical solutions. Be honest and give your clients all the knowledge and help possible. The stronger the relationship, the more work and referrals you’ll receive.

Compassion is the foundation for good people skills. Without empathy, you cannot put yourself in your client’s shoes or fully understand the issues your client faces. Without compassion, you cannot understand your adversary’s position, anticipate what they will do, and take pre-emptive steps to benefit your client. Without it, you cannot provide the best solutions.

The report from McKinsey Global Institute has highlighted how it thinks a range of jobs based on human skills are likely to be affected by AI and automation. It emphasises the top skill sets workers will need to develop between now and 2030 if they do not want to be left behind. These skills include emotional intelligence, compassion and empathy.

In my workshop, I will address the soft skills needed as well as give lawyers an understanding of where they are at with regards to their own soft skill levels in the legal industry, while also providing developmental guidelines.

Taking the time to develop your soft skills will set you apart as top legal talent and assist you in taking your legal career to the next level. Take the first step today for a better tomorrow.

– by Sonica Mouton
Futurist & Industrial Psychologist

Sonica Mouton is a futurist, industrial psychologist with a particular interest in coaching future skills and developing strategic solutions for a brave new world.

Sonica has specialised experience in leadership and executive development, talent management, coaching and developmental feedback and in the assessment and integration of specific solutions based on the results of psychometric tools developed and created by herself.

Don’t miss Sonica’s workshop on developing soft skills for future lawyers.