The Bucerius Center for the Legal Profession hosted the 9th Bucerius Herbsttagung between 13-14 November in Hamburg. The conference was all about addressing pressing challenges in the delivery of legal services, digitization, automation, and Legal Tech applications.
For a number of years the Bucerius Center on the Legal Profession’s ‘Herbsttagung’ has been one of the best and most insightful conferences in the German-speaking legal market. It consistently brings together some of the most important stakeholders of the legal market in a stunning environment and hits the nail on the head with topics at the forefront of innovation. One of the key elements introduced in 2015 was legal innovation and technology. Although the Herbsttagung is not a tech event, it is one of the most important events to learn about what really matters to the market, what is hot and what is highly anticipated.
In its 9th edition, the conference again provided insights into the latest developments in the legal market; titled ‘The End of Cosyness’, the conference was all about managing legal services, legal operations, Legal Tech applications, and consequences of digitization for the industry.
Partners, legal managers, innovation leads from big law firms, and corporate lawyers met for the exchange of ideas and experiences. During the conference, we had live BRYTER demos, our CEO Michael Grupp moderated an automation workshop “Bringing the Robots to Work” and we spoke with the attendees, who gave us interesting insights.
About the workshop: “Bringing the Robots to Work”
During the workshop, eight experts from law firms and companies shared their experiences with Legal Tech. The presentations showed that the processes of digitization and automation, long present in other industries, are now underway in the legal field. The initial hype around Legal Tech and exaggerated expectations has subsided. In commercial law firms and corporate law departments, a new phase has begun. Concrete projects have been implemented delivering tangible results. The speakers highlighted how the use of automation software and implementing digital workflows is real and is increasingly becoming a strategically relevant factor beyond the discussion about digitized legal services for consumers in the business environment.
The speakers started with Dr. Matthias Schwenke from PwC Legal, who gave a general presentation on the necessity and prerequisites for automation and management of legal services. Afterward, Dr. Konrad Wartenberg, General Counsel at Axel Springer, described the development of managed processes and partial automation on the firm’s legal team.
Further insight into the digital transformation process within legal departments was shared by Andreas Seip, Senior Legal Counsel at ING. He explained the specific challenges facing the transaction business and how ING implemented a cross-departmental AI platform to analyze and process documents.
Felix Schulte-Strathaus, Senior Legal Engineer at Simmons Wavelength, described his job using the example of technology-driven due diligence in the real estate sector. Prof. Dr. Marco Rogert, attorney and partner at the law firm Rogert & Ulbrich, explained the potential that exists in the mass legal business. Dr. Markus Janko, attorney and partner at KLIEMT.Arbeitsrecht, illustrated how an entire innovation process within a law firm can take place, starting with an inventory of the firm’s existing software, then a review of offers on the market, to the concrete implementation of the resulting concepts. Lastly, Dr. Silvio Kupsch, lawyer and Head of Litigation of the legal department of PwC GmbH, concluded the workshop by sharing eight practical lessons towards the automation of processes in legal departments.
Catching up with attendees
Conversations with attendees covered topics around expectations for 2020 in the Legal Tech space, as well as digital strategies and drivers behind implementing technology and innovation.
These were our main take ways:
1. “We need mature Legal Tech vendors”
For the coming year, lawyers are expecting to see more mature Legal Tech vendors. Lawyers will innovate and implement technology, but they need advanced solutions, with deployable products. There is a general impression: there are many Legal Tech vendors out there, but few meet the quality and needs that lawyers are looking for. Lawyers in law firms have the sensation that sometimes tech feels like a “patchwork” as solutions do not, necessarily, interact together. Innovation leads want to make sure that any implemented technology is part of a wider ecosystem. “So, everything talks to everything else, it can overlay everything you buy on something else to give you higher levels of sophistication,” affirmed one attendee. In-house departments need standardized services to address a growing demand for solutions to their increasingly complex issues that can be integrated with client systems and processes.
2. The challenge of alternative legal service providers
With technology, stakeholders expect to see the creation of more legal services centers in Germany and abroad. But there are new players. The Big Four (EY, PwC, KPMG and Deloitte) and non-lawyer service providers are giving law firms massive competition. Consulting firms are expanding their business models and topics such as project management, process design and data visualization, while other “legal core” services are being developed. This is an important driver for law firms to improve their strategies. Regulatory issues regarding the practice of law and the delivery of legal services are still a big question.
3. Clients’ requirements have changed
Efficiency and productivity in responding to client pressure on fees, and the need for lawyers to show how they are innovating in their clients’ interests, have become key drivers for law firms to explore different ways of doing things. One interviewee highlighted:
Nowadays, it is not enough to have a significant level of expertise and a decent turnaround time. Clients’ requirements are changing, and because of budget constraints, they are demanding more transparency in the way we deliver services.
4. Holistic digital strategies
Innovation leads and legal project managers pointed out the importance of having holistic digital strategies. For instance, they agreed that during the last two years, there has been more room to design good innovation strategies. However, they acknowledge, there are still challenges within workflows and processes. They emphasized that having a holistic approach to digitization requires alignment with the overall business strategy.
“It is a complex and multifaceted process that has a potentially significant impact on the ways we work and operate the business.”
Having a holistic strategy means fostering an innovative culture by showing decision-makers what new achievements and directions will best benefit the firm in its future and how innovation will create value for clients and for the firm.
“When lawyers are immersed in an innovation-friendly environment, they are more interested in spending some of their own time coming up with ideas, which they can then float with clients.”
5. People, process and technology
This seems to be the magic formula. The days when lawyers relied purely on their knowledge and expertise are over. “There is no future in this approach,” a legal engineer pointed out. The ability to go in with a combination of people, knowledge, process, technology and a consulting mindset to solve a problem for a client is the way to go.
6. The redefinition of the legal profession
Even though legal expertise is vital for practicing law, in the coming years lawyers will be valued for having additional skills. Legal training frameworks are very traditional, but lawyers need to be equipped for the challenges of the future. Analyzing and visualizing data or training in using Legal Tech will be crucial in boosting lawyers’ professional careers and their firm’s market position.
We have an exciting year ahead! Thanks to those who came across to BRYTER’s stand to catch up with us during the conference. We are looking forward to our next meet up.