Lawyers told to invest in ‘great ideas, not spreadsheets’

Legal News | 3 July 2012


Firms should truly embrace innovation and provide ‘disruptive’ services focused on clients’ needs

Law firms are failing to listen to clients’ needs and truly embrace innovation, Freeserve founder Ajaz Ahmed told participants at Michigan State University’s LawTech Camp 2012 in central London on Friday (29 June).

Ahmed, who has teamed up with law firm Last Cawthra Feathers to create LEGAL365, said what we have seen so far is re-branding but no innovation.

“Until we learn to invest in great ideas instead of spreadsheets, we won’t see start-ups like we see in the US,” he said, referring to American entrepreneurs in the room such as James Peters, vice president of Legal Zoom, and Raj Abhyanker, founder of

Repeating comments he made earlier this year at the Law Without Walls kick-off session in St Gallen, Switzerland, he expressed concern at the denial among lawyers about what customers wanted, emphasising that they were ‘customers’ rather than clients.

Customers are loyal only up until someone offers them a better service", he added.

Ahmed was also sceptical about the role of private equity, saying that venture capitalists seemed mostly interested in the personal injury market and hadn’t shown any particular interest in new ideas either. The winner in all of this, by his reckoning, would be the firm that delivered a disruptive model that made legal services cheaper and more accessible to the masses.

It was a sentiment echoed by many of the speakers that followed him. Renee Newman Knake, an associate professor at MSU College of Law and co-founder of its law laboratory, which the event sought to promote, stressed that technological innovation could enhance delivery of legal services.

Law worked well for big companies but not for real people, Newman Knacke explained, stating that there was still a real unmet need for legal service provision or a ‘latent market’ that was ripe for tapping into.

Later, Richard Susskind argued that by “decomposing litigation”, or breaking down legal processes, it would be possible not only to reduce costs and deliver legal services to a greater proportion of the population but also to broaden the legal job market and supply a greater spectrum of skills and professionals delivering those services.

Those currently going through the legal education system, Susskind suggested, were little prepared for the realities of legal work today, let alone in the future. Teaching new skills such as legal technology, legal process analysis and online dispute resolution would be what transforms the future of legal service provision he explained.

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Elsewhere on the web #LawTechCampLondon

The enthusiasm of LawTechCamp's participants was reflected in the subsequent coverage of the event.

First up on the 'must check it out' list was Michael Bossone's Pecha Kucha style 'Push' poem, delivered by video link:


Other reports include:

Chris Dale's e-Disclosure Information Project: County Council sets modernisation example to the rest of us at LawTech Camp London

Joanna Goodman's Unconference! Beat poetry and quantitative analysis – we are all futurists now!

Jon Busby's Legal 2.0: So Random (Inspired by Michael Bossone)

Neil Rose's Legal Futures: The next big thing

Brian Inkster's TimeBlawg: Time to push and LawTechCamp in Tweets

LawSynch' Pete Smith: Law Tech Camp London 2012

Alistair Moyes' blog for the Law Society Gazette: Challenging the speed of change


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