Instead of trend chasing, LegalTech tools offer a continuous improvement process
Today, technologies leave the entrepreneurs no chance to remain unseen, inevitably changing social, professional and business environment. New professions emerge at the crossroads of technical and humanitarian education, random and inefficient jobs become partly automated, and a personal role is given to those who will not depend on digital tools.
In the legal practice this trend became particularly noticeable. In anticipation of the international law conference Skolkovo LegalTech.BlackEdition, which will take place on November 29 in Skolkovo, Ekaterina Tyagai, lawyer, PhD in law, partner and director of Sensitive Matters practice of the Pen & Paper Bar Association, shared views on the full-fledged business partnership and the ways to increase the efficiency of the company, and explained why the endorsement of technologies should not become an end in itself.
– How would you evaluate the role of LegalTech solutions to commercialize and increase the efficiency of the company’s work?
-Such solutions enable companies to cut unnecessary costs for low-skilled employees, whose role can easily be automated (and it is, actually, automated). It enables us to increase the levels of demand to those employees, whose role in the key processes in the company is indispensable.
Thus, the company gets rid of unnecessary workers, and a strong professional community is being formed, which significantly affects the market attractiveness of the brand. Jointly with LegalTech solutions, all of it increases the efficiency of work, reduces the risk of minor mistakes due to human error, and saves time for the team to focus on really important tasks.
– Some people say that LegalTech would enable lawyers to change from someone who juggles with law codes to business partners to take strategic decisions. Do entrepreneurs realize that they need such professionals? Is the community of entrepreneurs ready to rethink the role of a lawyer?
-The legal community is very diverse. It’s hard to say something that will be true for everyone. As a member of a business partnership and – for many years – an academic community, I constantly see two seemingly mutually exclusive tendencies: lawyer overproduction and understaffing. But I have to mention here that the understaffed law firms don’t have enough skilled professionals, both efficient, educated and creative, resourceful, nonlazy, capable of taking risks and willing to take responsibility.
Such professionals can contribute to strategic decision-making and become full-fledged business partners. The demand for such professionals has always existed, and it is still true for today as primitive tasks seize to exist – the tasks, which require practically no human participation, including LegalTech solutions.
– Are LegalTech solutions in demand within b2c sector? Are there any prospects to automate the system which provides access to legal help with automation tools?
– Clients and trustees are still cautious about LegalTech solutions. From their perspective, automation of some specific processes contributes to the risk of anonymity, lack of individual approach, inattention to specific problems or tasks. Addressing a consultant, the client often does not know exactly what he really needs, and expects trustworthy communication to join efforts and formulate both a task and a solution.
LegalTech in consulting is different from LegalTech in public services, where automation tools are eagerly used by those who want to push the button and get the result. However, I’m optimistic about this issue. First of all, customers are very different: from individuals, addressing personal issues, to businesses, seeking to find automation tools for many processes. For this reason, clients turn to consultants, adequately responding to the fast-paced and effective LegalTech solutions.
Secondly, these solutions do not imply any routine work or the absence of customized approach. This is why it is important to convey this idea and show how the automation of processes allows to focus on other processes, which often play a decisive role in assisting the client.
– You’re a special assignment lawyer. Can you tell us how the development of digital technologies and the emergence of new automation tools for legal procedures have affected the specifics of your work?
-The Sensitive Matters Practice, which I established at Pen&Paper, is the only one of its sort in Russia. It was focused on working with the clients who come to an attorney with very delicate tasks in the sphere of family and inheritance law, copyright and related rights, and copyright for visual arts.
We protect honor, dignity and business reputation of athletes, showbiz stars, businessmen and politicians. First of all, it means that we are constantly dealing with confidential information, and our clients should make sure in impeccable confidentiality at all stages of communication and legal proceedings.
– It ensures attorney-client privilege and uses digital tools to collect, systematize and store data and protect it from unauthorized access. In addition, the work of lawyers and consultants is almost always related to billing, so the market is actively developing a variety of LegalTech products, designed to improve transparency and reliability of information, which is used for dispute settlement between the clients. Obviously, automation tools in legal procedures are very important for the legal practice – even electronic access to information on court websites greatly facilitates and accelerates the pace of work of lawyers.
-You work in diverse legal fields. Family law, support of professional activity of athletes, protection of intellectual property and support of transactions in art-business, protection of honor, dignity and business reputation – in which spheres LegalTech is in more demand?
– Digital solutions are in demand in all aspects. It is clear that intellectual property and art law suggest the ongoing work, not only with databases but the active use of digital tools during examinations. The same issues often apply to family and inheritance disputes. Protection of honor, dignity, and reputation, especially if their violations are related to publications in Telecom channels or on websites, require an understanding of both technical and legal aspects in relation to the organization of electronic resources, understanding who owns the rights and who is responsible for publication and dissemination of defamatory information.
– Tell us about LegalTech products that are used or developed by Pen & Paper? How did they transform your practice?
At Pen & Paper we are closely following the development of products in LegalTech market. We have to note that this market still has a chaotic development on the waves of media hype. Undoubtedly, we think about the development and further use of LegalTech products and, in order to do it, professionally analyze the needs of our clients in diverse spheres and practices. It is important for us to make high-end solutions not another lending page with beautiful pages, or smart packaging for well-known tools, but really become the mechanisms of effective and quick assistance for solving complex legal tasks. This is why we don’t hurry to advertise our products before they are finally tested.
For us, the main principle of working with LegalTech is not about digitalization for the sake of digitalization, but about the search for optimal solutions in the interests of our clients, and, for these purposes, availability for technical changes of any complexity.
-Bureaucracy is an eternal problem for Russia. Today, however, bureaucracy is being discussed in relation to transnational corporations. Can you tell, from your perspective, how can the development of new technologies become the first step on the way to solving these issues?
The first step towards elimination of bureaucracy at any level is a real, not hypothetical availability for systematic and consistent decisions, some of which are administrative and economic, some of them concern HR issues, and some of them are purely technical. Without a doubt, the development of technologies plays a huge role in this process as it noticeably reduces the human error, affecting both the speed of processes as well as their purity and transparency. Corruption is a problem that goes hand in hand with bureaucracy and, in many ways, largely stems from it. For this reason, minimizing the number of intermediaries and participants in the processes that can be automated, is a serious step in the fight against both negative phenomena. As we have already said, it enables us to concentrate professional HR resources on really important tasks.
– Which international markets can be compared to the Russian market of law professionals in terms of volume and variety of products? Are there any unique products on the Russian markets?
– Russia in terms of LegalTech is at the level of many European countries – referring to new solutions simultaneously and with known fear, and with readiness to fully adapt individual products in wide circulation. In particular, it is illustrated by an array of events that accompanied the development and legal comprehension of blockchain technology and its possible applications.
-There is another stage which followed the information boom and attempts to endorse blockchain products and their surrogates – the correlation of these tools with the principles of work and the potential of legal system, and further – a much more balanced, not as mad and striking, but a systemic work on harmonisation of law in accordance with the changes that have already occurred in public relations.
The unique products created by the Russian IT specialists or that just appeared in Russia, do not always remain in the Russian market for the reasons that I have outlined above. Many Asian countries, for instance, are much more flexible and quicker respond to emerging new technologies. Beneficial legal regimes are being set for interesting business products, which also attracts tech startups and investors.
– The advance of law technologies contributes to the emergence of new professions such as legal operations manager or a legal automation engineer? From which spheres such professionals come to the business?
– These professionals are born at the crossroads of humanities and technical science, although they often come to the business from the IT sphere. That’s why many law schools started thinking about offering a basic training courses to improve technical literacy and opening Master’s programs to train such professionals.