Daniel talks to us about the digital direction of his legal career, what it takes to be successful in the industry and what role he expects AI to play in its future.
What attracted you to a career in the legal industry?
I always enjoyed debating issues and really thinking about abstract concepts, so the legal industry seemed like a natural fit!
After studying law at Oxford I started my career working at an international law firm. After nearly 6 years I transitioned to become the founder of Lexoo. Lexoo is an online marketplace connecting businesses of all sizes (SMEs up to multinationals) to our curated global network of forward thinking lawyers.
What impact has digital had on shaping the legal industry so far?
The basic benefits of going digital have had a pretty significant impact. Practising law without email or document processing would be a very different game. However, although the legal industry has adopted the ‘basic’ components of going digital, like word processing, cloud storage of documents and utilising the internet, it has so far mostly ignored deeper innovations.
This is one of the key differences between the legal industry and other industries where folks are pushing the boat out a bit more. Obviously that offers huge opportunities for forward thinking firms who are willing to rethink how they practise law. That’s the wave we are riding here at Lexoo.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for legal firms to overcome in the next decade?
I think for mid sized firms in particular the biggest challenge is how to stay relevant. There will always be a place for a handful of global firms for the biggest international deals. However, for most of the other work lean, specialised but independent solicitors will provide increasing competition.
Mid-sized firms often have all kinds of legacy costs like expensive premises, lots of support staff and other costs that aren’t strictly necessary anymore to deliver high quality legal services. It’ll be hard for them to be competitive.
How is the digital evolution impacting the way legal firms operate?
I think firms are slowly adopting new technology, but not nearly as quickly as in other industries. In my view, the main reason for that is that most lawyers still bill by the hour. Additional efficiencies will therefore have an immediate negative impact on their bottom line. So there’s not much of an incentive to become more efficient.
This will only change once clients simply don’t accept this anymore and demand fixed fees for most work, or through platforms like Lexoo where work is tendered out. We’re already noticing that lawyers on Lexoo are investing in technology to become more efficient as most work is charged on a fixed fee basis.
What do you think the legal future will look like?
I believe there will be a handful of big firms, and then a large group of independent lawyers who collaborate with each other for larger bits of work using technology. Ultimately this will lead to happier lawyers who can spend their time practising law instead of focussing on internal politics and billable hour targets.
What does it take to be successful in the legal industry?
I think historically it was enough to just be a brilliant lawyer. Although that’s still the case today, I’d say that in the future lawyers will need to be more open to adapting as the pace of change in the industry is picking up. Lawyers will also need to be open and more commercial about how they offer their services.
What would you like to see more of in the legal industry?
I’d love to see more open mindedness to different ways to solving problems. Too often the legal industry will just assume something will not work or is a threat to the way they make their living. This way of thinking is quite different from other industries.
Having said that, I do love working in the legal industry as I find the very large majority of lawyers to be highly sympathetic, friendly and intelligent people who all have a high degree of integrity. That’s one of the best bits of running Lexoo!
AI… Will it replace or support human processes in the legal industry?
I’m a firm believer that AI will support human processes in the legal industry. There might be some minor exceptions like certain due diligence jobs, as well as discovery proceedings, but virtually all clients using Lexoo make it quite clear they want a human to explain the law to them and to represent them in commercial negotiations.
In my view, practising law is simply not just limited to knowing the law (which AI might be able to do), but it’s often around supporting business processes which are invariably run by humans. The day where two robots iron out a contract between them is, in my view, unlikely to come!
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