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Partner leaves law firm to lead own software company

Curtis: AI a massive threat and opportunity

A partner who set up both a commercial law firm and a HR software company has sold his stake in the legal practice to take charge of the software business.

John Curtis set up what was to become Myhrtoolkit [1] with Trevor Ironmonger in Sheffield in 2005, at the same time as they set up law firm Ironmonger Curtis.

Both the software company, a web-based subscription service designed to streamline HR tasks, and the law firm aim to meet the needs of SMEs.

Mr Curtis said: “Myhrtoolkit grew in tandem with the law firm. Both businesses had grown to the point where they needed someone to focus entirely on them.

“We have a clear space in the HR software market, which is quite segmented, to provide the best software for firms with up to 200 employees.”

Mr Curtis said he took control of Myhrtoolkit after a management buy-out with operations manager Bob Teasdale and technical director Kit Barker, leaving Mr Curtis, the managing director, with overall control.

He said Myhrtoolkit employed 15 staff, had just taken on a head of innovation, and had been growing its revenue by 25% year on year to around £1m. It serves 50,000 employees at 1,000 SMEs.

Mr Curtis said the company worked with a number of employment lawyers, who used the software as part of their offering to businesses, as well as HR consultants.

Speaking more broadly, he believed artificial intelligence (AI) represented “a massive threat to the legal industry and a massive opportunity for the select few who are quick and clever enough to take advantage”.

He explained: “A significant part of what most commercial lawyers do is read documents and amend them. In some circumstances AI can already do that better than humans. Within a very short time, there will be a total transformation of legal services as AI tools filter down.

“Lawyers will have to change the way they work. The legal sector will look totally different in 10 years’ time. There will be far fewer lawyers.”

While Mr Curtis said he had no immediate plans to integrate AI into his software systems, he said it would become “very important” in HR software over the next five years.

“Everyone has to grapple with the tension between the opportunities AI brings and the threats it poses. Anyone in professional services or legal tech is in danger of being overtaken by disruptive technology.”

Mr Curtis explained that, when they founded the law firm, he and Mr Ironmonger realised how important the internet would be for the law and for HR, and began building an online toolkit for clients to use. This became Myhrtoolkit and grew in parallel with the law.

Mr Ironmonger remains a partner at Ironmonger Curtis, a full-service commercial law firm targeted at SMEs.