More than 1,000 delegates attended the Legal Geek conference in London on 17 October. The conference brought together law firms and legal tech start-ups with software products designed for the legal world. Sponsors of the conference included The Law Society and Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Founder Jimmy Vestbirk described Legal Geek as ‘a start-up community with over 5,000 members’. In his opening remarks, he described how the event had doubled in size since the inaugural conference last year as ‘lawtech is growing at a crazy speed’.
Vestbirk said he had banned the use of robot slides at the event as they give a misleading impression about lawtech. A number of speakers took up this theme, including Emily Foges, CEO at Luminance. She explained that the Luminance software can read and understand documents in any language and can find ‘significant information and anomalies in documentation without the need to train it’. She added that ‘artificial intelligence [AI] is not going to replace you, but supercharge you’ by allowing lawyers to deal with information and free them up for higher- level tasks.
Tom Charman, co-founder and CEO of Kompas, told the conference that he believes the strength of AI is that it ‘can do simple tasks and carry them out over and over again’. He was sceptical that machines could soon take over lawyers’ more complex tasks. ‘Some say this could happen by 2028,’ Charman said, but he remains unconvinced, though he does believe software solutions can reduce research times, leading to ‘savings of 30 per cent’.
The conference also heard from Crispin Passmore, executive director of policy and education at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Passmore said research by the SRA showed ‘only one in ten people with a legal problem go to a regulated lawyer for advice’ and that the SRA ‘wants to enable law firms and business to grow’ so that the public and small businesses can access legal advice.
Pointing out that the UK legal market is worth £30bn a year, Passmore told delegates that this can grow by ‘changing how we regulate’ to encourage innovation. Referring to the regulations governing solicitors, Passmore said that in the 3½ years he’d been with the SRA it had managed to reduce these from ‘650 to 100 pages’.
While it was clear from the conference that Vestbirk was right – lawtech is growing quickly – there was little discussion about widening access to justice. One delegate remarked to Legal Action that ‘this all seems to be about selling products to the large law firms so they can reduce their costs base. They cannot make money out of firms serving poor people’.