Legal Geek 2018 – The in-house view
Huge congratulations to Jimmy Vestbirk for pulling off the biggest yet Legal Geek conference, with around 2,000 people networking in the new and enlarged Brick Lane venue. Here are some of the highlights of the in-house stage in the morning.
Kicking off the morning was Riverview Law founder Karl Chapman, who interviewed KBC group GC Saskia Mermans and BT’s GC for technology and transformation, Chris Fowler.
Mermans told the audience: “The expectation to do more for less continues. You need to embark on a change of mindset and become digital: at KBC you must go through a digital drivers license.”
Fowler said: “We are seeing exponential growth in data – every month there is a new milestone.” BT’s fourth largest source of traffic is Snapchat and Fowler said: “How do we devise services that resonate with a generation that uses Snapchat to communicate,” adding, “Our biggest driver in legal right now is bringing our data together.”
Chapman asked the audience: “How many here think that legal should be the best forecaster of revenue?” Almost no-one put their hand up, to which Chapman said: “It should be – legal has all of the contracts and all of the data.”
Fowler replied: “That’s the next logical stage of evolution.”
Asked what advice she would give someone who has just been appointed as GC, Mermans said: “One, don’t jump immediately to one tech provider, go through a process that matches your business needs. And two, get some non-legal, IT or business capability in your team.”
Richard Mabey, founder of contract management platform Juro interviewed Zoopla’s GC Ned Staple – who is an investor in Juro – with the pair discussing how to enable your in-house team with technology.
Mabey asked: “What problems are you looking to solve?” Staple replied: “You need to identify the right technology and at some point that will be technology that is replacing us so you need to reconfigure the team and identify the best way for us to add value.”
Zoopla uses legal spend management tool Apperio and Staple said: “It’s hugely valuable in terms of helping us to interact with internal stakeholders, especially the accounting team. You are able to make a convincing case of what you’ve done, what you want to do next year; it’s a game changer.”
He added that the biggest lesson learned is that it’s all about the user experience. “It a team can’t engage with a tool, no matter how much you want them to it’s not going to work.”
Marie Potel-Saville from Dot.Legal Design came to the Legal Geek conference last year as a GC of Esthee Lauder, looking for a solution to streamline her and her team’s workload. After engaging in tech she came across legal design and said: “It can make complex legal issues more simple and engaging.”
“Legal design bridges the gap between the user and the law.”
Creating contracts that are available on the website (not in a lengthy Word document) and are far more intuitive changes the experience of the signee, and Potel-Saville says: “We saw a drastic reduction in the negotiation time and an increase in trust.”
From Houthoff, Sarah van Hecke also advocated legal design, commenting: “Legal design is a powerful tool to get your message across. It’s not about making it look pretty but getting your message across memorably.”
In a case where the client needed to retract melted candy that had not been kept at the right temperature, instead of using lots of words to argue the point they used the diagram below, which tracked the temperature that the candy ought to have been kept at, and the temperature variations that occurred in reality.
Sally Robertson, CEO of Stirling Blue (the camera person must have gone temporarily on strike) has just this month moved from LegalZoom to found her own company where she is “hoping to enable law firms and in-house teams to glue it all together.”
“Three quarters of work for large companies is performed in-house or by alternative legal service providers,” she said. “Technology is key for scaleable growth.”
And Alistair Maiden of SYKE and Katie Power, GC of Crabtree & Evelyn discussed tactics for becoming tech enabled. Power said: “It’s not worth going to legal tech vendors and saying tell me about your product. Instead go to the person in the business who most hates your legal team and ask: “What will bring you to the table?”
Maiden said: “At Asda we were trying to build a solution to replace some of the work we were doing and there wasn’t much buy in. What I should have asked is ‘do you like being asked the same question again, and again’ – in hindsight I could have got everyone on board at the outset.”