Why legal tech conferences have become a global phenomenon
Ari Kaplan speaks with Soon Yi Loo, co-founder and CEO of CanLaw Asia, a legal tech consultancy for law firms and corporate legal departments in Malaysia, and the creator of LexTech Conference; and Andrew King, the founder and strategic advisor of E-Discovery Consulting, which provides litigation support guidance to law firms and corporate legal departments throughout New Zealand, and the creator of the LawFest New Zealand conference.
These are from separate Q&As and have been condensed.
Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background and the genesis of your legal technology conference.
Soon Yi Loo: Prior to starting CanLaw Asia, I was working in the telecommunications sector on a corporate development team supporting investment into and joint ventures with technology companies in Asia. I became more interested in this area and signed up for a pre-accelerator program called Project Brainchild. I ended up quitting my job to focus full-time on creating a legal technology startup because I believed that the legal industry was very much in need of innovation.
The LexTech Conference started out as an idea in 2017, where we wanted to offer a simple workshop to help educate lawyers on different legal technology trends and the array of legal technology products and services that might be of interest to them. We produced it in collaboration with Brickfields Asia College, which is the largest law school in Malaysia. This small workshop eventually grew into a full-blown legal technology conference, with over 200 delegates. LexTech 2018 is going to be held in Kuala Lumpur and we expect 500 delegates.
Andrew King: I spent 10 years working in law firms in London as litigation support manager and then took on a role with a leading law firm in New Zealand before launching E-Discovery Consulting in 2011. LawFest began in 2013 primarily as an e-discovery event and has evolved considerably to appeal to a wider audience focused on the awareness and adoption of innovative technology in the New Zealand legal market.
The LawFest Conference is all about providing a platform for legal professionals to learn more about innovation and leveraging technology to help deliver legal services today and in the future. We are looking to evolve the event even further by bringing in expertise from overseas.
Ari Kaplan: Andrew, why have legal conferences become so popular worldwide?
Andrew King: I think lawyers are looking for ways to leverage technology to deliver legal services that are more efficient and profitable, whilst providing greater value and better outcomes for their clients. These conferences offer great ways to learn about how to practice today and in the future. In this age of disruption, you cannot stand still as it is important to remain curious and open to change. The law firms of tomorrow will innovate through technology to deliver more efficient legal services so it is important to keep learning how to do so.
Ari Kaplan: Soon Yi, are lawyers in Malaysia receptive to the application of technology to their practices?
Soon Yi Loo: It really depends on who you are talking to. I would say that one encouraging trend is that we are seeing more small law firms with younger partners who are very tech-savvy. When they want to set up their law firms, they are looking to implement the right technology that gives them a strong foundation on which to grow.
Ari Kaplan: Why do you think there is so much enthusiasm from students and the professional community for the LexTech Conference?
Soon Yi Loo: I think the topic of legal technology has been one that the rest of the world has been focusing on quite a bit. In Malaysia, it is really picking up because of cost pressure. As clients increasingly want their law firms to produce better work faster and at a lower price, legal technologies are emerging to augment the practice of law. As a result, Malaysian lawyers are starting to sit up and take notice of the tools that could help them compete on an even footing with large and regional firms.
Ari Kaplan: Andrew, how would you describe the legal tech climate in New Zealand?
Andrew King: There is a lot of energy in this space at the moment. There is a growing realization by law firms and corporate organizations that they need to work smarter and innovate by leveraging technology. At the same time, we’ve been very lucky to see some great legal technology emerge globally, as well as here in New Zealand.
Ari Kaplan: Is there a particular sector on which new legal technology companies are focusing?
Soon Yi Loo: I think the use of artificial intelligence as a technology to help law firms is really heating up in Malaysia. We are seeing legal tech companies using AI for things like document assembly, due diligence, and translation.
Andrew King: In New Zealand, we have seen the impact of tools largely automating administrative and routine tasks that no one really wants to do. Much of this has been used for generating legal documents, as well as for conveyancing, research, wills, and mergers and acquisitions. The approach to e-discovery has also changed dramatically thanks to great tools like predictive coding.
Ari Kaplan: Andrew, you recently created a legal technology index. What are the benefits of centralizing that information?
Andrew King: It is the first index of legal technology products and services available in New Zealand for professionals to find solutions. It contains the contact details of various businesses along with a description of with what they do.
Ari Kaplan: Soon Yi, where do you see the legal technology sector headed?
Soon Yi Loo: Lawyers in Malaysia are very focused on how they can migrate their firms onto the cloud. Once this phase is done, they are going to start looking at more sophisticated legal technologies to help them manage their practices.
Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology at his blog and on iTunes.