Law Society unveils tech crowdfunding deal as Legal Geek hears about conservative clients


Blacklaws: Crowdfunding hook-up will benefit solicitors

The Law Society has agreed a deal with a crowdfunding platform to connect solicitors with lawtech start-ups looking for investment.

The deal with Seedrs, which has raised more than £270m for 530 deals over the past five years, was announced at yesterday’s second Legal Geek conference which drew more than 1,000 people to London’s East End to learn about the lawtech revolution.

The Law Society deal will give solicitors priority access to selected lawtech deals before they go live on the platform, and discounts for certain Seedrs partnership services.

It also means that start-ups will have the support of the society when they pitch for capital on the equity-crowdfunding platform, while solicitors will be encouraged to adopt innovative lawtech solutions.

Seedrs is the first platform of its kind to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and claims to be “the most active investor into private companies in the UK in 2016/17”.

Karen Kerrigan, chief legal officer at Seedrs, said: “As a Law Society member myself, I’m excited by the enormous value that this partnership can deliver to the legal sector. The Law Society has recognised the unrealised potential of greater digitisation and automation for the legal industry.

“We are excited to invite innovative lawtech start-ups to pitch for capital from a new and savvy audience of legal professionals on the Seedrs platform, and in turn give those investors the chance to play a role in the future success of the thriving lawtech scene by using an efficient and trusted investment platform.”

Law Society vice-president Christina Blacklaws added: “Harnessing technology effectively can have a significant impact on how solicitors operate and engage with their clients.

“This partnership will help us bring solicitors and entrepreneurs together to support innovations which will benefit our members and their clients.”

Meanwhile, Maziar Jamnejad, a senior associate in dispute resolution at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, suggested to delegates that his firm’s embrace of technology was hampered by conservative clients.

He added that while people at the top of the firm thought about the business strategically, those with the skills “to integrate tech into processes” tended to be lower in the hierarchy, who themselves had “no incentive to think about the profitability of the law firm”.

Clients were not convinced of the efficacy of technology, although they liked to hear about it “in the abstract”.

Mr Jamnejad said: “Clients can be reticent to experiment [with tech] in really bet-the-house situations… when the regulator is banging at their door they just want to do it the way they know works”.

However, the conference also heard that the top 100 firms were either employing artificial intelligence (AI) software, piloting it, or considering piloting it.

Law firm consultant Richard Tromans said the spread of legal AI in the past year was “incredible”. As well as leading law firms, “Big Four accountancy firms, [legal process outsourcers and]… alternative legal service providers like Axiom are now really getting interested in AI too.”

He observed that at least four AI companies had emerged in India, including one that aimed to undercut established AI providers. “Who would have thought in 12 months… people would already be creating Ryanair versions of legal AI?,” he asked.

However, a report earlier this week from Big Four firm PwC suggested that many of the top 100 firms were behind in adopting cutting-edge technology.

Elsewhere at the conference, in a panel session on women in lawtech, Ms Blacklaws, who is director of innovation at corporate law firm Cripps, urged people to examine their “unconscious bias” in order to encourage diversity.

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