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Rudi Kesic: My Vision for the Future in Legaltech Innovation

The Dawn of Collaborative Legal Technology

In the rapid currents of the digital age, it's evident that many industries have successfully ridden the wave, embracing transformations that have not only made processes efficient but also shattered the traditional ways of thinking and working. The legal sector, however, seems to be treading water. As the CEO of a Legal Technology Company, I am acutely aware of the stagnation that has loomed over legaltech for far too long. It's time for an overdue shake-up.

Decoding the Past Decade

To truly appreciate the urgency of change, let's roll back a decade and inspect the prevalent legal technology landscape. Law firms were beginning to recognise the value of transitioning from paper-heavy environments to digitised platforms. In fact, in 2013, my law firm stood at the vanguard of technological transformation within the legal industry in the UK. We were among the pioneering few in the world to embrace a cloud-based case management system, Actionstep. This adoption marked a big shift, reflecting our unwavering commitment to innovation and progress. And while these technologies were ground-breaking in their heyday, it's startling how little the broader landscape has progressed from that milestone. This serves as a poignant reminiscence that resting on past laurels isn't our way - there's always a new horizon to chase.

Following in the footsteps of DPS, Actionstep and Clio, we saw an influx of cloud-based case and practice management systems, which were touted as the game-changers for legal professionals. These platforms promised efficiency, reduced manual errors, and the streamlined management of vast client databases. Yet, a decade later, a discerning look reveals a disconcerting truth: not much has evolved. These practice management platforms, with their monolithic architectures and rigid interfaces, are more or less the same. Sure, there have been updates and patches, perhaps even a few new features here and there. Still, the core philosophy remains unchanged.

These systems continue to be more about management and less about meaningful engagement.

Inherent Flaws and Missed Opportunities in Legaltech

A core limitation of the existing practice management systems is their constrained scope. They have been primarily built to serve the law firm, focusing on internal processes and workflows. Clients, arguably the most critical stakeholders, are often side-lined, treated as entries in a database rather than active collaborators in their legal journey.

This system-centric approach has further exacerbated the disconnect between lawyers and clients. The rigid workflows and lack of intuitive, interactive features make these platforms come across as cold CRMs, impersonal machinery rather than tools designed to foster genuine collaboration. The era of a one-size-fits-all approach is waning, but our legal tech solutions seem obstinately stuck in that paradigm.

Furthermore, the siloed nature of these systems means they don't “talk” to each other. A standard billing software (e.g. Xero) doesn't necessarily integrate seamlessly with a case management system, leading to redundancies, missed opportunities for data insights, and an overall clunky experience for both lawyers and clients.

Towards a New Horizon

The challenges of the past and present lay down the gauntlet for a promising future. As we stand on the cusp of this new era, the clarion call is for case and practice management systems that go beyond the mechanical aspects of legal work. These tools need to be agile, customisable, and most importantly, centred around the client.

In this rapidly digitising world, the traditional model of legal practice stands at the brink of an evolutionary leap. Legaltech solutions need to evolve from being just repositories of data to becoming platforms that facilitate meaningful interactions. They need to be conduits that bridge the divide between lawyers and their clients, allowing for co-creation and collaboration.

The future I envision isn't just about new features or better algorithms – it's about a fundamental shift in philosophy. It's about recognising that in the grand tapestry of the legal sector, every thread - be it the lawyer, the client, or the technology - is interwoven.

For this sector to truly thrive in the digital age, these threads need to come together in harmony, creating a cohesive, unified and collaborative platforms.

The Contemporary Landscape

The legal realm, often seen as a bastion of tradition and precedent, has certainly not been immune to the pervasive influence of technology. In the past few decades, there's been an earnest push towards digitisation. On the surface, this journey might appear commendable. Law firms have transitioned from bulging file cabinets and stacks of paper to sophisticated digital platforms.

But when we dive deeper, glaring shortcomings come into focus.

Silos: The Invisible Walls

In the race to digitise, multiple legal technology tools and platforms have emerged, each promising to streamline a specific facet of legal work. There's software for document management, different tools for client communication, others for billing and invoicing, and yet more for case tracking. While specialisation can often lead to expertise, in the realm of lawtech, this hyper-specialisation has given us "silos".

Lawyers, paralegals and other professionals find themselves hopping between platforms, leading to fragmented communication and inefficiencies. But even more disconcertingly, these silos extend to the lawyer-client relationship. Clients might interact with one platform to upload documents, another to view their case status, and yet another to handle client onboarding or billing.

This fractured digital landscape can be disorienting, especially for clients who seek clarity and simplicity in what is often an already stressful legal journey.

The Ethos Disconnect

At its core, the practice of law is about service. It's about understanding, advising, and representing clients in their best interests. This essence of service necessitates seamless communication, trust, and collaboration. Yet, the current digital tools, while aiming for efficiency, often overlook this foundational ethos.

When platforms don't "speak" to each other, or when they are not designed with the end-user (be it the lawyer or the client) in mind, they inadvertently become barriers rather than bridges. Instead of fostering understanding and collaboration, they might lead to miscommunication, frustration, and a palpable sense of detachment.

Collaboration and Connectivity: The Untapped Reservoir

The digital age is synonymous with connectivity. Tools and platforms across sectors are integrating, offering unified experiences and promoting collaboration. In this context, the legal sector lags conspicuously. Despite the availability of cutting-edge technology and advanced software design principles, most legal platforms operate in isolation.

Collaboration, when harnessed, can revolutionise the way lawyers and clients interact.

Imagine a unified platform where a client can upload a document, the lawyer can annotate it, both can simultaneously video conference to discuss it, and decisions can be made in real-time. Such synergies can save time, reduce errors, and significantly enhance the client's experience and trust in the legal process.

The move towards digitisation has inadvertently distanced lawyers from each other and, crucially, from their clients. It's a paradox where increased tech adoption has sometimes led to decreased human connection.

But recognising these gaps is the first step towards building a truly collaborative future in legal tech.

The Collaborative Mandate: A Paradigm Shift in Legal Service Delivery

In a rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, the dynamics between service providers and consumers across industries are undergoing profound transformations.

No longer are consumers passive recipients, they're now becoming active contributors to their own experiences.

Within the legal sector, this shift translates to the emergence of the “Collaborative Mandate”.

Client-led Matter Journey: From Recipients to Collaborators

Traditionally, the legal process is often perceived as one-sided, e.g., lawyers advise, clients listen, lawyers act, clients wait. This approach, while efficient in the past, no longer aligns with modern clients' expectations. Today's clients, informed and empowered by the digital age's vast resources, seek more than just solutions – they want "involvement".

A client-led matter journey marks this shift from a monologue to a dialogue. Here, legal professionals and their clients are on an equal footing. They can discuss, deliberate, and decide together. Every stage, from understanding the legal issue to strategising and implementing solutions, becomes a collaborative effort. We need legaltech platforms where clients aren't mere case numbers, they're partners with unique insights and perspectives, actively shaping their legal destinies.

Self-Service: Bridging Gaps with Technology

The term “self-service” in many sectors denotes consumers independently managing their needs using digital tools. However, in the legal landscape, self-service encompasses a deeper, more nuanced approach.

With modern case management systems, lawyers should be able to set specific tasks or send requests to clients, effectively making them contributors to their legal processes. This could range from uploading necessary documents, filling out initial intake forms, completing AML checks, or even marking critical dates on a shared calendar. Instead of a client waiting for instructions, the onus shifts to them actively participating, feeding essential data back into the system.

This will not only expedite the legal process but also empowers clients, giving them a clearer understanding and control over their matters.

It paves the way for transparency, ensuring that clients are always in the loop, aware of what's happening, and why.

My Vision for the Future: The Power of Proactivity

The true potential of this collaborative mandate is realised when we visualise its long-term implications. Imagine a digital ecosystem where clients, equipped with intuitive and interactive platforms, proactively contribute to their legal journeys.

A client facing a property dispute might use integrated tools to map out the property's history, annotate specific areas of concern, and collaboratively brainstorm with their attorney in real-time. Or consider a start-up founder working with their lawyer on a patent, both seamlessly collaborating on drafts, revisions, and strategies through a unified platform.

Such proactive involvement not only eases the burden on legal professionals but also ensures clients feel valued, heard, and involved. It fosters trust, strengthens the lawyer-client bond, and most importantly, democratises the legal process.

My "Collaborative Mandate" vision is more than just a tech-driven approach. It is a philosophical shift, a recognition that in the complex tapestry of legal matters, every voice counts.

In embracing this mandate, the legal sector stands poised to redefine service delivery, emphasising partnership, empowerment and collective progress.

Data: The Silent Revolution in the Legal Landscape

In the modern world, data is often hailed as the “new oil” — a valuable resource that has the power to drive industries forward, offering unprecedented insights and shaping strategies. In the legal sector, the true potential of data remains largely untapped. But as collaboration takes centre-stage, law firms are poised to witness a silent revolution, one where data doesn't just record but actively informs and transforms.

From Static Records to Dynamic Assets

Historically, data within law firms has often been viewed as mere record-keeping: names, dates, case details, and billing information. However, as technology and collaboration intertwine, this perception is rapidly changing. With clients and legal professionals collaboratively interacting on platforms, every action, feedback, and communication becomes a piece of valuable data. For example, Matrix 365, a new platform that works in harmony with Verify 365’s risk and compliance technology and the firm's case management systems, enabling law practices to elevate their fees and profitability through a blend of AI and data analytics. Rather than just being passive records, legal tech platforms must become "dynamic assets". The platforms need to be able capture not just the “what” but also the “how” and “why” of client interactions, painting a comprehensive picture of the client's journey and their experience with the firm.

Actionable Insights: The Power of AI & Data Analytics

The beauty of modern data lies in its actionable nature. By harnessing advanced analytics, law firms can delve deep into these vast pools of data to extract meaningful insights. For instance, analysing client interactions on a platform can offer immediate feedback on their satisfaction levels. Did they find the document uploading process intuitive? How long did they spend on a specific module, and can that be optimised for better efficiency? Such insights, when acted upon, can dramatically enhance the client experience.

Furthermore, analytics can aid in operational excellence. By tracking fee estimates, case progress, resource allocation, email content, and time spent on tasks, firms can pinpoint bottlenecks, areas of inefficiency, or even potential training needs for their staff. This ensures that processes are not just effective but are continuously evolving and improving.

Forecasting and Strategy Development

One of the most potent applications of data analytics in the legal sector is its ability to forecast. By analysing historical data and current trends, firms will be in a better position to make informed predictions about future revenue streams, fee structures, added-value services, potential growth areas, and even emerging legal needs in the market.

Imagine a firm being able to predict a surge in demand for a specific legal service based on market trends and then proactively training their team to cater to this demand. Or envision a scenario where automated client feedback analytics suggests the potential for a new legal product or service offering, allowing the firm to diversify and innovate.

Lawtech: A Competitive Edge in a Crowded Marketplace

In a market brimming with legal professionals and firms, differentiation becomes key. Data, when harnessed effectively, can offer law firms this very edge. By continuously learning from their data, making data-driven decisions, and innovating based on insights, law firms will be able to position themselves as forward-thinking, client-centric, and agile entities. This not only attracts clients but also positions the firm as a thought leader in the industry.

As the legal sector warms up to the idea of collaboration and technology, data stands as the silent sentinel, ready to revolutionise the way firms operate, interact, and grow.

I am very well aware that it's not just about numbers and figures, it’s about stories, experiences, and the promise of a brighter, more informed future.

An Unparalleled Fusion: AI, Big Data, and Advanced Risk and Compliance Technology – The Next Frontier in Legal Innovation

Amidst the buzzwords of the digital age, three terms stand out for their transformative potential: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, and Advanced Risk and Compliance Technology. Individually, each holds substantial promise. But when fused, they herald an era of legal practice that is efficient, proactive, and fundamentally client centric.

More Than Just Algorithms: AI's Multifaceted Role

While popular culture often relegates AI to the realm of robots and sci-fi, its application in the legal sphere is both nuanced and expansive. AI isn't just about automation, it's about augmentation — enhancing human capabilities and optimising processes.

In the realm of document management, for instance, AI-driven systems can rapidly sift through vast databases, extracting pertinent information, highlighting discrepancies, and even predicting potential areas of contention. Gone are the days when lawyers spent hours reading over documents, with AI, critical insights are just a click away.

Risk and Compliance Technology in Law Firms: Proactivity over Reactivity

Traditionally, matter and client risk assessments and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance have been reactive processes. Legal professionals would review transactions, identify risks and issues, and then devise strategies to address them. But with advanced risk and compliance technology powered by AI, such as the platform offered by Verify 365, this paradigm is shifting towards proactivity.

For example, in the conveyancing landscape — an arena fraught with intricacies and substantial financial implications — AML technology will be a game-changer. By analysing source of funds, verifying client identity, check address records, etc, AI systems can identify patterns, flagging potential risks before they escalate. Think of a property with recurrent legal disputes over decades. While a manual review might miss subtle patterns, AI can swiftly detect them, offering clients insights that can significantly impact their decision-making.

Moreover, AML compliance, particularly in the conveyancing sector with evolving AML regulations, can be a minefield. Here, AI-driven tools can stay abreast of regulatory changes, ensuring that all transactions remain compliant in real-time, thus safeguarding both the client and the firm from potential legal pitfalls.

The Holistic Impact: Streamlined and Informed Communications

The fusion of AI, Big Data, and Advanced Risk and Compliance Technology isn't just an incremental shift, it will be a revolutionary leap for the legal sector. As these technologies mature and integrate deeper into legal processes, law firms will not just offer services but holistic, data-driven experiences, redefining value in the attorney-client relationship.

The Unified Case and Practice Management System of Tomorrow: A New Paradigm in Legal Service Delivery

In a world dominated by interconnected systems and dynamic user interfaces, the siloed operational models of yesteryears no longer suffice.

The future calls for a comprehensive, unified platforms that bridge every facet of the legal journey, making it seamless, intuitive, and profoundly client centric.

Beyond Fragmentation: The Power of Unity

Traditional case and practice management systems often function as isolated entities, catering to specific aspects of legal practice. But in an age where clients seek streamlined experiences, such fragmented systems become bottlenecks.

Enter the unified platform of tomorrow — an integrated ecosystem where every function, from client onboarding and matter management to document management, billing and accounts, operates in harmonious synchrony.

Such a unified system does more than streamline operations. It fosters a more profound connection between the client and the legal professional. With every core function interconnected, clients get a bird's eye view of their legal journey, fostering trust and transparency.

Strategic Weaponry: From Tool to Titan

The "unified platforms" of the future won't merely serve as operational tools. They will be strategic arsenals, empowering law firms with actionable insights derived from advanced data analytics. By penetrating the very core of law firm operations, these systems will be able to pinpoint opportunities for enhancement, from optimising resource allocation to enhancing client communication protocols.

Furthermore, with every interaction, feedback, and transaction being channelled through a single platform, law firms will be able to harness the power of big data, deriving patterns, anticipating client needs, and proactively tailoring their services.

In essence, law firms will transition from reactive service providers to proactive legal partners.

Pushing Boundaries and Imagining a New Era of Legal Practice

Law, in its essence, is an enduring testament to society's evolving ethos, values, and norms. And just as society evolves, so must the institutions and tools that serve it. As we transition to a more connected, data-driven, and collaborative age, the onus is on the legal sector to mirror this evolution.

The Client at the Helm

The future of law is not about grand courtrooms or arcane legal texts. It's about the client. As we envision the next chapter, we see a world where clients aren't mere recipients of legal services but active participants in their legal journeys. It's a world where law firms are oriented, not just around legal expertise, but around client experiences, aspirations, and voices.

A Call for Innovation

In this transformative journey, technology isn't just an enabler, it's a catalyst. The challenge ahead isn't merely one of building sophisticated tools. It's about crafting platforms that make the law more accessible, transparent, and inherently collaborative. It's about rejecting complacency and challenging the status quo every day.

As I look to the horizon, I envision a vibrant tapestry where lawyers, clients, and cutting-edge technology converge, crafting a legal landscape that's efficient, empathetic, and equitable.

The future beckons, ushering in an era where the triad of law, technology, and humanity coalesce in unprecedented symphony.

Let's not just step into this future – let's shape it, together.


By Rudi Kesic

CEO at Lawtech 365 Group

6 October 2023

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