Lexical Labs co-founder Simon Black takes us through some of the best bits of Legal Geek 2020, including the workshops (Daniel van Binsbergen explained how to create a contract playbook in minutes); a design thinking exercise; and speed networking (algorithmically powered, obvs.)

2020 was my third year at Legal Geek.  I was struck in 2018 and 2019 how quickly the legal tech community is growing as the size of the conference seems to jump exponentially.  This year its a virtual conference and I’m wondering how Jimmy Vestbrick and his team will cope.   I shouldn’t have worried.  The conference was as a showcase in keeping us engaged and connected with sessions normally no longer than 20-30 mins.  Here are my conference highlights walking the virtual rooms.

I normally started each day by tuning into the product discussions by our peer group in the legal tech vendor community.  Vendors like Avvoka, Genie AI, Summize have only been around a few years but are now established players and had some great product or customer developments.  In their two minute slots, some did not draw breath.   

For me the heart of the conference were the workshops.  The Law Tech Delivery Panel’s Jenifer Swallow cajoled us into debating the merits of an approach of law based on the dominance of mostly closed platforms as against an ‘Open law’ approach based on sharing of knowledge, data and experience.  Seamlessly allocated virtual breakout rooms, we introduced ourselves and quickly tore into the issue.  Everyone could see the merit of better collaboration and knowledge sharing for efficiency and access to justice but agreed there was a need for common formats for data and protections for privacy and confidentiality.  

Daniel van Binsbergen and his colleague from Lexoo brilliantly explained how to create a contract playbook in a matter of few hours. 1. get your team together in a meeting 2. vote on a few key issues (based on their experience of the last few months) that take-up 80% of the contract negotiation time (80:20 rule). 3. Create some simple rules and fallback positions on those issues. 4. Review the outcome over a month or so and 5. Re-adjust.  In a quick virtual poll, a majority of participants in the session identified the required time investment upfront as the major barrier to creating playbooks. Put another way, teams often search for perfection when good enough will do.  Their approach solves this problem.

On Day 2, insightful workshop by the Simmons Wavelength Law team on data visualisation and ethics. Great examples by Nicholas Bailey of impactful infographs (the Economist remains a pioneer) and Mary Kyle of The City of London Corporation. Sophia Adams Bhatti captured the importance of ethics in data projects, by asking the question – ‘would you be proud or shamed if your project made the front pages?

Next-up an exercise in design thinking.  All of us can think of incremental improvements to processes but can we reshape them fundamentally?  In order to improve the airport experience, imagine no airport terminal or airport staff and you are offered the ability to make quantum leaps.    Electrified and automated uber style vehicles scanning luggage, performing security checks and delivering passengers direct to the plane – and a welcome drink and pre-set boxed set based on personal preferences.  I guess the invitation was to take-out lawyers from legal processes…  

Hats off to the moderators who kept the conference moving at pace and with energy and enthusiasm – Erika Pagano’s energy and sense of fun on the Wavelength session was a great example. 

To finish off each day – the algorithmically powered speed networking – 8 conversations in an hour.  I learnt about my new friends’ experiences in new and old law, tech, document services, litigation solutions using excel, M&A diligence insights, shattering the glass ceiling in law, blockchain e-signature, client services and consumer legal tech. It was exhausting but great!

The major advantage of a virtual format is the opportunity to meet new people in the virtual break-out discussions which created some great discussions and new relationships.  This was more engaging than some of the staged panel discussions that we’d seen in previous years.  But we all missed real engagements and the cocktail party.

Legal Geek is a diverse and energetic community committed to making legal services simpler, cheaper and more accessible.    It was great to be part of.

Simon Black is a former Allen & Overy partner and in 2019 co-founded AI driven contract analysis engine Lexical Labs – “your virtual in-house contract lawyer”.