Robot Hand
18 October 2017

Undeniable disruption: Driving the future of law through legaltech

Published on 18 October 2017

Disruption is here, and contrary to what many may believe, it is not to be feared. This is the clear message delivered by leaders of three tech ventures looking to add value to the legal profession – helping lawyers do legal work faster and more accurately, and improving access to the law for a relatively underserviced consumer market. To explore all legaltech has to offer, Insights spoke to three of its leaders – Nick Whitehouse, acting CEO of New Zealand start-up McCarthyFinch, Conrad Karageorge, managing director of Jurimetrics, and Julian Uebergang, managing director of Neota Logic.

Understanding disruption - and its discontents – is essential to harnessing the promise of technology for the legal profession. Having worked in television, telecommunications, IT and law, Nick Whitehouse has seen firsthand the fallout of ignoring change. In his experience, delaying and denying disruption can lead to painful consequences.

“Controlling your destiny may result in some short term pain – and it may not – but rest assured you will feel a massive amount of pain when you’re at the mercy of a disrupted market. You simply cannot prepare soon enough.”

Nick leads McCarthyFinch, the result of a $2m joint venture between New Zealand firm, MinterEllisonRuddWatts and Goat Ventures. In its first few months, McCarthyFinch has seen 45 lawyers working in “startup” mode with artificial intelligence (AI). 

“Far from being at the mercy of disruption, MinterEllisonRuddWatts is in a position to capitalise on the opportunities disruption brings,” said Nick. 

Much of the venture’s early work has focused on exploring better ways to provide legal advice to the under-serviced consumer market.

“An estimated 600,000 Australians and New Zealanders are unable to protect their legal rights every year, either through a lack of financial means or understanding,” observed Nick. 

“The under-served consumer market will be increasingly monetised through automated general legal advice, adding tens of billions of dollars of new legal spend each year.”

Conrad Karageorge, managing director of Australian startup Jurimetrics, is tackling how technology can help lawyers better analyse regulatory patterns and provide accurate risk assessment. Jurimetrics is a data analytics platform which allows law firms, financial institutions and corporations to accurately understand and cost legal risks associated with regulatory changes. This replaces the work currently undertaken by junior lawyers and paralegals collecting court and tribunal data to assess decision making patterns and litigation success rates. To date, the platform has assisted McDonalds’ in-house team and explored applications in assessing unfair dismissal cases before the Fair Work Commission.

“Data analytics in the law has not recently been practised by lawyers,” said Conrad. “The sudden interest and passion for legal information demonstrated by law firms and other legal professionals has made start-ups like ours possible. The idea of legal innovation is why we exist.

“I think innovation in law provides us with the opportunity to actually take a step back and consider the role of the lawyer as a whole. What services or values are intrinsic to the profession? What tasks do we do because they are required to achieve some main goal? Endless contract reviews and discovery were never any of our dreams whilst in law school.”

Managing Director of Neota Logic, Julian Uebergang, is similarly looking to AI to improve the lives of lawyers.

“We are creating a better way to deliver legal services with AI-powered applications that intelligently automate expertise, workflow and documents,” said Julian. “In simple terms, this means we enable experts to create digital service offerings without the need to engage technology or programming resources. These offerings enable experts – lawyers – to gather facts, reason on those facts and produce custom output specific to the circumstances of the inquiry. Our offering is suitable for law firms, corporate legal and risk teams and not-for-profit legal service providers.”

Heading up three considerably different startups, all three leaders are looking to technology to enable lawyers to undertake their work more efficiently, accurately and effectively. As the technology evolves in response to live matters and law firm feedback, it is likely to gather significant momentum, with disruption likely to significantly – or even completely - change the legal services are offered in future.

For more information about the changes impacting the practice of law, visit the Centre for Legal Innovation website. The Centre provides thought leadership, practical research and opportunities for collaboration to support legal professionals as they navigate the disruption and new technologies transforming the industry.