Litera’s Legal Content and Research Lead, David Curle, discusses the regional European and North American editions of Litera’s The Changing Lawyer report with Helena Hallgarn. Helena is Co-Founder of Virtual Intelligence VQ, a Swedish legal tech company engaged in digitizing legal services. They discuss trends and findings from the regional reports, and other aspects of the European and global legal tech communities. Read transcript
Insights from the Changing Lawyer Report: A European PerspectiveOn Sat 10 Dec 2022
Meet our Host and Guest
Legal Content and Research Lead, Litera
David Curle provides research, analysis, and thought leadership about the competitive and market environment in the changing legal services industry.
Co-Founder, Virtual Intelligence VQ
Helena Hallgarn is a Co-Founder of Virtual Intelligence VQ, a Stockholm-based legal tech company that provides tools for the digitalization of legal practice. She is also a leader in several multinational legal tech organizations, including the European Legal Tech Association, Changing Legal, and the Legal Standards Monitor.
Welcome to a special edition of LEGALTECH MATTERS devoted to important topics from Litera’s The Changing Lawyers research and report. In a series of special podcasts, we'll speak with industry experts with insights on the key takeaways from the report.
00:00:18:15 - 00:00:45:12
Hello and welcome to the latest Changing Lawyer podcast. Today's conversation is part of a series of podcasts based on some of the key findings in Litera’s The Changing Lawyer Report, which was released in August at the ILTACON conference. I'm David Curle. Legal Content and research lead with Litera, and my guest today will be Helena Hallgarn, who's co-founder of Virtual Intelligence VQ, a Sweden-based company that focuses on digitalization of the legal sector.
Just a little bit of background on the report itself. If you haven't read it, it was based on a survey of lawyers and other allied professionals at law firms in North America, the UK and other European countries. The research consisted of the survey plus some qualitative interviews with experts and some third-party research sources. The reports available for download from Litera.com/tcl.
The topic for today is the two regional reports that we have recently also released. One of them drills down into topic in the European legal markets and one focuses on North America. With Helena's background in Sweden and Europe. We'll be looking through that lens. But I hope where we can spot some contrasts with the North American market, we can point those out.
Helena, you and I first met or spoke on the phone anyway, back in 2011, when I was with the research firm Outsell, I had written an article that focused on the company, which you had just started with your colleague Ann Björk. That's an awful long time in tech years. So congratulations on still being around what a lot of companies have come and gone during that time.
Yeah. In addition to founding that company, I know you were engaged in a number of other level on the European and global legal tech communities. And I think that's kind of why I wanted you to have you on board for this session. You're vice president of the European Legal Technology Association. You're a founding board member of the Changing Legal Think Tank.
You're a founding board member of the Legal Standards Monitor, which is tracking legal standards projects around the world. So, let's start with your company first. What can you tell me about the VQ when what you do?
00:02:20:07 - 00:02:48:21
Thanks, David. It's really nice meeting you again. Time flies. Yes. It feels like I've been in this business forever. And our company is working with the sensation of the legal world. And we are doing some consultancy around the lecture, around devices, about digitalization, through law firms and in-house counsel. And we have our main tech tool that is for producing legal documents.
It's having the content and the process to produce all the legal documents needed in the different areas, and mainly business law. Like, for example, if you on the company registration matter, you can use this online tool. It's a web interface, interactive questionnaire. It takes like 15 minutes for doing an issue shares for a company respect station matters and then the tool produces the 15 documents needed and adapted for this matter.
00:03:32:08 - 00:03:34:08
So, do you have corporate customers as well?
00:03:34:08 - 00:03:51:13
Yes, we have corporate customers as well and auditing firms and other kinds of advisors, too. I see. So, we're covering Sweden with its focused on Sweden as a Swedish law issue and it's legal intelligence in Swedish. So that was what we do on the market.
00:03:52:14 - 00:04:01:10
Well, I wanted to start by touching back to our report. You mentioned you'd read it, and I wondered if you had any first reaction to some of the findings in the report.
00:04:01:18 - 00:04:36:23
Yeah, I really like the quote here that says one of the single biggest barriers to integration is the term non-lawyer. Because when I read that, it's like I mean, that's really, really is the key issue for the problems I think lawyers have here with tech solving tech problems because if you want to do tech projects and solve and build tech solutions and solve tech issues, you have to be able to collaborate with other kinds of professionals.
And when you start looking at other kind of professionals of non-lawyers instead of lawyers, I mean, that shows you have a big problem in the initial discussion. It doesn't really show the respect between different kinds of professional and to be able to work collaborative way with all kinds of different professionals. And you might not even have the big understanding of the needs of other kinds of skills.
And that might reflect the way they are scared of people from other kinds of professions taking their job. Or also, as I read the study or some kind of that a couple of weeks ago, that 77% of tech projects fail when they're being handled by in-house lawyers, all this might be together is worrisome that they don't really know how to collaborate with other kinds of professionals and don't understand.
It is important to have different kinds of skills and you as a lawyer don't have all the skills needed and you won't be able to handle a tech project just by thinking it's interesting with some digitalization of tech and with this further skills needed. So that might be the key for one of the bigger problems about legal saying how.
00:06:00:00 - 00:06:09:15
Do you think from your experience in Sweden, do you think Swedish lawyers are any better or worse at working with other types of professionals on those kind of tech based projects?
00:06:10:14 - 00:06:41:04
Difficult to say. I mean, we are into tech culottes. I think we sometimes overestimate our skills in tech, and that could be a problem sometimes. But in Sweden we're really interested in tech and tech projects and all that kind of stuff. But we also have to have an understanding that we don't ourselves always have the all the skills needed, but it's not enough to write a list of requirements and think someone would just build it for you.
And that's, it's a bit naive way of looking at tech.
00:06:44:24 - 00:06:52:01
Yeah. That it takes a multiple set of skills in it and in order to leverage all those skills, people have to actually work together.
00:06:52:14 - 00:07:05:05
People have to work together much more. You have to have a collaborative view of it and understand that there is really need to talk to and work together with other people with other skills. Yeah.
00:07:05:05 - 00:07:29:02
Well, before we dive into some of the other issues a few months ago was the old token conference in Washington, and there was a lot of talk at that conference about the use of standards in legal and particularly an organization called the Saudi Alliance was there with a couple of presentations that got a lot of interest around standardizing how legal matters are described and classified.
And you're part of this group called Legal Standards Monitor, which is trying to track similar standards programs around the world, as I understand it. So why don't you tell me a little bit about that? What's your goal with the Monitor and what are you trying to accomplish with that, with your colleagues on that project?
00:07:45:12 - 00:08:07:24
Yeah, with the background in legal tech, and we've been building staff through my company, VQ realized the one big obstacle in doing things is there's a lack of standardization. It's lack of standardization, the work is being done, the lack of standardization in content, a lack of sensors, how you measure and compare a matter. So it's also in this changing legal think tank we were discussing.
How do you move away from billable hour? In order to do that, you have to stop looking at legal as everything is so unique and different. You have to standardize and look at matters so you can compare one matter to another and compare prices, compare quality and results and so on. And I was listening to some other podcasts.
You've been talking to some other people and in-house counsel want to have the law firms using tech and then put them on the panels to describe what tech they're using. But it's really difficult to understand and really measure and see how are they using tech in an efficient way? And the best way is if you can start comparing different law firms and different provider as by their outcome, how is this matter compared to the matter being handled by someone else?
And then you can do different kinds of measures. And so on. So, everything comes back to standardization. You have to standardize content processes, how you measure things, how you look at the matter. So we just wanted to collect different kinds of standardization initiatives to be able to pursue this and show the legal world that we have to look at standardization in order to really change something.
00:09:27:20 - 00:09:35:00
What other activities does a group engage in? Have you had any events? I believe a video-based event a while back.
00:09:35:08 - 00:10:02:01
Yeah. We had some online event webinars, so we will try to pursue that and have some further rounds on later on too, because that's one way to have some discussions with people who are initiated in that and know things around this. So and we are looking at how to have webinars in different areas. So one area focused on the sessions content on this process and one is how do you define the matter?
So we are looking at how to arrange different kinds of webinars around that.
00:10:06:12 - 00:10:23:01
So, I'm curious about where you think this is all heading. Like, do you imagine ten years from now and you look back, where will standards have made the most impact? Will it be on, you know, building or will it be on standardizing the legal work itself? Will it be on measurement? Where do you think the big.
00:10:23:11 - 00:10:42:10
I think the big issues measurement and the way you can change the building process, because once you standardize what the matter is, you can set a price on things. Compare, compare work from different kinds of firms. You don't need to look at how they are doing, how they are managing the work, how they are using tech because that's not an interest.
So their only interest, if they want to be efficient and be able to compete with other providers of legal services. So I think that's the big obstacles to try to define legal matters and standardize them.
00:10:57:13 - 00:11:24:21
Okay. Well, let's shift gears a little bit and go back to the to the report and especially the regional report that was focused on Europe. One of the key findings there was that technology seems to be helping lawyers to provide a more client centric experience. Some of the data was that the majority of the respondents in Europe and the UK said that the technology helps them offer a better client experience and some of the countries at the top of that list were Austria, UK, Netherlands, France.
What do you think that actually means? What does using tech to provide a more client centric experience usually mean in practical terms? What are those lawyers using tech for, if that's what the result is?
00:11:38:02 - 00:12:08:23
I think since lawyers use a lot of tools in the normal business life, I mean, you and I are getting used to using tech for online communication using Uber, AirB&B and using all kinds of communication tools and so on. So we get used to all these kinds of tools. And then you are also feeling as a lawyer, you'll be able to use much better tools as a lawyer and as a buyer of service as you like, to have access to information more easily.
So I think it is the in the context of everything being much more digitalized, you need to be able to provide guide legal services in a much more digital way. And your customers expect to get access to information more easily and not just expect you to send an email with information.
00:12:31:20 - 00:12:42:15
You mentioned that your company has been doing this for quite a while. Do you have any examples from your company of how your product has evolved to sort of improve the client experience, the way clients are using the product?
00:12:42:19 - 00:12:44:09
Our clients, you mean? Or like.
00:12:44:17 - 00:12:47:18
Yeah, I guess we could take it one step further. Your customers’ clients.
00:12:47:22 - 00:13:20:19
I believe they can. I mean, since our customers are using our tools to be able to produce documents in a much more efficient and much assured way, they can spend their time on more productive work that is more adapted for the customer and for their end customer. It's making things much more smooth and efficient and quicker. And that's an important part of the exercise and to make it easier and more accessible and don't need to wait that long.
00:13:21:08 - 00:13:49:24
One of the other findings from the report had to do with, you know, everybody talks about the problems of lawyer retention and satisfaction, work, work, life balance, those sorts of things. And that's true among the European respondents as well. 78% of the respondents from the Netherlands said they'd consider leaving their firm for one with better technology. In the UK, 71% said that they spend too much time on non-legal work, which presumably could be helped by technology.
We hear this a lot from our North American customers. Do you see the same thing around Europe that lawyers want technology to help them with some of these work life balance issues?
00:14:02:13 - 00:14:28:00
Absolutely. And I suppose also younger lawyers expect much more from the law firm to support them all the tools they need so they can be efficient and spend the time in a better way and not waste the time and all this inefficient administration stuff. So that is a key component for a law firm to be able to compete really with their with their staff, really.
I mean, with younger lawyers getting more and more used to different kinds of tools. They expect much more from the law firm, too.
00:14:34:13 - 00:14:51:12
Do you think they're coming into the profession with good enough skills? I mean, we talk a lot about the digital generation. You know, they've never known a world without a computer or a mobile phone, but are they good at, you know, using more sophisticated software and technology or do they have to be trained as well?
00:14:51:21 - 00:15:21:14
The short question I would say is no. I mean, they're used to using a mobile, using web and simple accessible solutions, but they're not used to using advanced Word or Excel issues because that needs training. But I also think we need better tools that are better adopted for users because there is a hassle for them to try to learn different kinds of tools.
So they just they have great expectations, but they don't have the knowledge to use more advanced tools and there's a bit lack of connection in between. So that's what we need better develop tools, whether the easier user interface makes them easier accessible.
00:15:41:01 - 00:15:47:11
Do you find any law firms or other legal employers using technology as a recruiting strategy?
00:15:47:19 - 00:16:17:02
Well, in many cases, tech is used in PR for different reasons, different ways. But in reality, I mean, some of the bigger law firms are spending a lot of money and investing time to have better tools. But so far, it might not be that competitive advantage for them. Not yet really. They want to, but I mean, there's still much to do, I would say.
Right. And I don't think the law firms would develop it all by themselves either. Hopefully we get more providers that can provide them with better tools that are better adapted for the market for the users.
00:16:28:20 - 00:16:33:06
We're working on it. And I guess you are too.
00:16:33:15 - 00:16:59:02
Yeah. And it is difficult and it's complex, but it is. But I mean I've been listening into in-house counsel trying to drive tech products and it doesn't really work that well. If those products don't work the way they're supposed to, it cannot expect a lawyer working in-house spend some extra time to drive a tech project and try to adapt it.
It doesn't really work in practice. We need better tools and stuff.
00:17:04:14 - 00:17:24:02
So back to your sort of broader experience. You've been you know, you've been engaged with the European Legal Tech Association for a long time. They recently had an annual conference. Were there any sort of hot topics from that? And anything that you think might be different from what we might hear at a North American level?
00:17:24:02 - 00:18:00:08
It was really interesting from the Israel tech market. We saw some really innovative start-ups looking at the legal market and I believe like we saw the AI company, Darrow, for example, that's what I consider like third generation of legal tech. Well, they're looking at tech from a completely new view without focusing through the lawyer. They're looking at the legal market and looking at here are possibilities for them to drive claims and find interesting claims and give those matters to a lawyer to handle.
But instead of start looking at how to change the way the lawyers work, we'll try to make lawyers more efficient. They try to look at the legal world in a new way, and that is, I think, really interesting.
00:18:14:21 - 00:18:34:11
Interesting. And that was you mentioned it was that event was in Israel that used to see a lot of tech companies out of there. Are there are there any other regions in Europe that you think where there's a hotbed? I know from time to time there have been pockets of development in the legal start-up world around the continent.
00:18:34:16 - 00:18:58:00
I mean, the Nordic region has been quite good, too, at legal tech and tech in general. But this, I believe I see some of the first steps toward a newer view of legal tech with this stuff focusing in on the lawyer. Yeah, so stop that focus and start looking at how do we handle legal issues no matter who is involved in it.
And we need a great technology tools and great technology knowledge to handle it. But how should we do it and solve an issue? Yeah, from the legal word. And that makes it much more interesting.
00:19:10:22 - 00:19:31:19
Well, it kind of goes back to that old saying or that old cliche that Richard Susskind uses about the drill and the hole. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That doesn't necessarily want to he doesn't want to drill. He wants a hole in the wall. And it sounds like this company is addressing the end users problem.
00:19:31:19 - 00:19:51:21
Yes. And hopefully that is where we're aiming towards now. We start looking at the whole we want the end result. How do we get them resolved? We don't focus on how lawyers usually handle the work and how they usually do it or whatever. Just focus on the end results. That makes it really interesting.
00:19:51:21 - 00:20:07:05
Well, going back to this whole issue of client centric, yeah, that's what it's all about, right? I mean, that's what is building is building products and services around the actual needs rather than around the people who are delivering service.
00:20:07:05 - 00:20:23:24
Yeah. And it's people have been talking about client centricity and so for a long time. But it's difficult in reality. I mean and now we can see examples maybe start happening in that direction and that is. Well, be interesting to follow anyway.
00:20:24:05 - 00:20:42:12
Okay. Well, good. Well, listen, I appreciate you joining me for this call. I want to remind everybody that the report is available as well as this series of podcast is available at litera.com/tcl for the Changing Lawyer and Helena, I want to thank you very much for joining me.
00:20:42:20 - 00:20:46:01
Thanks. Thanks for inviting me. Nice speaking to you.
00:20:46:09 - 00:20:46:20
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