Legal Geek 2023 reminded me that real progress is not just limited to technology, but is about finding ways to put all that technical potential into practice.
Our experience at Legal Geek 2023
16 October 2023 - MarkHoogewerf
My most recent work trip took me to London, where I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of Legal Tech at Legal Geek. As Europe's largest Legal Tech conference, this event proved to be an enlightening experience full of interesting speakers, discussions and meetings.
The AI craze
As I walked around the crowded conference room, I couldn't help but notice that one predominant theme, as expected, took center stage: artificial intelligence (AI) and its increasing role in the legal field. I had fascinating discussions and listened to many interesting 10-minute speeches on this topic. The endless possibilities and limitations of AI are explored, with the goal of discovering the most effective applications of this transformative technology within the legal field.
Countless possible applications are discussed, such as having agreements reviewed, contract management in the form of a chatbot, E-discovery, knowledge management and optimization, translation, document formatting/compilation and AI as a huge legal knowledge base. The possibilities seem endless, but there is still much uncertainty about the concrete application of AI's enormous potential.
Some argue that AI should be used for all the simple, repetitive tasks that lawyers and attorneys did not choose the profession for, leaving more time for real "human work." Others argue instead for using AI in complex cases because AI can process all the information and provide insight in a fraction of the time.
While there is no single definition of what AI should do, there is agreement on the hierarchy in the future legal industry: AI will not replace lawyers/lawyers, but support and enhance them. It seems only a matter of time before lawyers/lawyers who do not embrace AI will be sidelined.
Document automation and CLM: Silent Heroes
In the midst of the AI hype, there was another topic that stood out clearly; Document Automation or CLM. Tools and ways to make the document process better, faster and more efficient. Interestingly, many of these tools also implement an AI element. Whether it actually adds something or is more of a marketing strategy remains a question in some cases. After all, the tendency seems to be that document creation or automation already has an "old" character. Certainly not the hip and sexy edge that AI does offer. A wide range of working tools that have proven themselves in practice, but why doesn't every law firm or corporate legal department use a tool for document processes?
What became clear to me was the fact that technology itself is not what's holding us back. Instead, the real challenge is to successfully put these tools into practice and get people and organisations on board.
After speaking with several vendors and industry experts, it became clear that having access to advanced technology is only one piece of the puzzle. The real obstacle is getting individuals, teams and organizations excited and empowered to take full advantage of these innovative and powerful tools. While numerous promises are made about the transformative potential of these technologies, a concrete roadmap to turn these promises into reality has seemed absent.
By creating awareness and providing the right training, we can help individuals understand the immense potential and benefits of these tools. In essence, it's not just about acquiring advanced technology; it's about knowing how to use it effectively to bring about real change in the legal profession.
The conference was proof that, in the ever-changing landscape of legal tech, the "how" is just as important as the "what.
While we may get caught up in the excitement around AI and its potential, it is crucial not to forget what is already proven and works practically: document creation and automation. These tools have proven themselves valuable to businesses and organizations around the world. They have streamlined processes, increased efficiency and reduced costs.
Understandably, the spotlight is now on AI, with all its promise and potential. But let's not forget that implementing new technologies like AI can be challenging. In practice, implementing already existing tooling is already proving to be a huge challenge. We need to consider not only "what" we can do with AI, but also "how" we can implement and leverage it in a way that actually adds value.
Instead of continuing to stare at the latest shiny objects, we need to strike a balance between exploring new technologies like AI and optimizing what we already have. Document creation and automation can still offer much more than we currently exploit. It's time to bring these quiet heroes of the technological world back into the spotlight and invest in the training and awareness necessary to use them effectively.