John Flood chairs a debate on the impact of the Cloud on law and legal education #LawTechCampLondon 2012

[This blogpost gives accounts as if the own words of the speakers involved. The author does not take responsibility for the accuracy of information contained therein.]

Track One:  Law + Tech: Advances Online, in the Cloud and with the Crowd (Methven Room) 
Moderator: Prof. John Flood, University of Westminster

Extra talk

Computers will cut down the head count by 15%. The legal market may require new services from distress goods to consumer goods, from only when they need lawyers when things are bad, to providing law services otherwise.  We ideally want to change from a Martini glass to a beaker glass.

First step: connect with law firms.

You then have to provide new services which are not currently been offered. For example, lawyers can provide services for them to plan their lives. You can also brand ‘family legal check-ups’, i.e. seeing a lawyer even if you’re not sick. One of the services could be, for example, a credit check. A way forward would be to pay into untapped markets, and perhaps create a Google or Apple system where lawyers can continually think about new products and services, and to deliver them in a new way. Not all clients are currently online, but future clients will be online. You need an accessible website.

Tom McGinn, Director of Business Development, VirtualCourthouse

Virtual Courthouse is a startup in Washington. Low income individuals are being priced out of the law. Online dispute resolution and self-litigation are important new areas. There is no right to civil legal aid in the US. How is the  Legal Services Corporation faring? Currently, the ratio of legal aid lawyers to low income individuals is 1:6,415. More people are entitled to legal aid, but also the legal aid services budget is being cut. More and more people are going thirsty, and there is less water available. In 2011, 72,900 represented themselves in the federal courts (20% of all cases filed). 1:5 in Americans therefore represent themselves in court, as they cannot afford one. Litigants put themselves at a huge disadvantage, as they do not understand the nature of the legal system; it is analogous to an emergency room, and the emergency room cannot cope. What is the solution to this? Alternative dispute resolution is far from a new idea, for example Plato ‘The Laws’ and Abraham Lincoln has provided a description thus: “discourage litigation: the nominal winner is often the loser in fees, expense and cost of time”. Technology can help us drive the most efficient way of doing something: disputes settled with live litigators but with the help of technology, and disputes settled entirely through technology. This was touched upon in Prof. Susskind’s keynote speech. ’Cybersettle’ (online dispute resolution) has saved $11.3mn ‪#LawTechCamp‬

Josh Blackman, Asst. Professor, South Texas Law, Creator of, Harlan Institute

Disruptive technology is changing how we do law. ‘Law’s Information Revolution’ involves disruptive technology. People can make predictions – this crowd-sources the prediction market, based on ‘The wisdom of the crowds’ by James Surowiecki. Most people involved with the judicial system interact with the lower courts. There are inherent problems therefore in crowd-sourcing, therefore. Assisted decision-making can instead help make decisions, with the help of ‘Super Crunchers’ (Ian Ayres). Individuals have capabilities which are limited. In the US, we use ‘PACER‘ which is not free, and close sourced. It’s a very good money-maker, but the information is there. Law is like data, and there are facts and trends lying there, like “The Matrix”. Another example is Harland which has used the PACER data which can track the timeline which we have developed, and events can be linked easily. For example, one could ask what cases are Google currently involved in? It would be very difficult to track this without such a platform. Take another example: imagine if you have an app where you could ask to ask, “I want to draft to draft a contract which…” or “My landlord won’t fix my problem” – regarding the latter, the app could produce various options.

Dr. Adam Wyner, University of Liverpool

“We want to lead law students astray, because we’re bad” Lots of open, unstructured legal data, so how do you find the information you need? Law students highlight information by highlighting different text, however this is time-consuming. We wish to create an open-source resource which can allow information-extraction, used by law students interested in case analysis, but it would be a nice tool to incorporate into law school classes. We are targeting the same type of annotations which law schools already use – there will be a tool to analyse conflicts. A blog explaining this is here. There is additional semantic meaning which is mapped onto the annotation, for example information about the appellant, jurisdiction or defendant. The legal case factors are also interesting, and very important for legal case-based reasoning. Research from intellectual property can find the textual basis in deducing the legal basis of intellectual property cases, in working out whether cases are sufficiently similar. A gold-standard can be found on the basis of inter-annotator agreement; they then curate the disagreements to create a Gold Standard corpus. You can also search the annotations using a tool such as ANNIC. We’re academics, and we’re making these data helpful to the public.

Richard Cohen, Executive Chairman & Group Counsel, Epoq

This topic is on online automatic automation. Epoq is the largest provider of online legal services which provided 390,000 drafting services. We have 300 different legal document/form drafting services. We use an online automation platform, and currently the ‘brand behind the brand’ allowing others to ‘dig for the gold’. We provide the platform for about 350 banks and a relatively small number of law firms (“early adopter firms”). The client’s journey begins with a phone call – there may then be an online interview, the client buy service, lawyer review, and the document is prepared. The phone call is an example of ‘quick registration’ – e.g. a client needs a will, e-mail goes to the client, the client gets sent an e-mail to request specific information. The client has access to helpful notes in the Q&A process, and these are the same questions which a real lawyer would ask. In most cases, the lawyer is in fact more interested in the answers than the actual document itself, but the document is nonetheless reviewed in detail. At the end of the process, the document can be exported into Word or as a pdf – the system will notify the client that the document is ready for execution, or it is necessary for the client to come into the office. How does this compare to traditional delivery of documents today? The current system is very inefficient: a will with power-of-attorney would normally cost £750, and take about 3 hours (private client work). 969 were wills and lasting powers-of-attorney for husband and wives – it is uncertain how many people will engage with the business as these legal services will normally be bundled with other services like life insurance. Lawyers are changing – it is cultural, like working with pens. Law firms in England and Wales are managed by partnership, just a collection of sole practitioners working in a big building, and even if there is management it is very poor on change.

Raj Abhyanker, CEO @

This is a search engine for logos, trademarks and brands. They can find Apple’s latest product, or J-Lo’s latest perfume. We attract 1.7 million unique people/month allowing us to monetise, such that we are now the largest trademark in the firm. I created ‘Google Offers’, which is the Google alternative to Groupon. How can law firms move forward? Quality Lawyers, Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer are the competitors. The real market is international, the power of the internet, and a global structure. Lawyers and law firms will adapt to a new reality, and attorneys will be accessible to people in a new way (no amount of automation can replace face-to-face law). The belief is to create ‘retail spaces’, which are not law firms, but are the bookstores or coffee shops of law. You can access your law through an #ipad – this is a ‘coal hub and spoke’ opening at University Avenue, Legal Force Trademarks. The key to creating legal space – and we are measuring ROI for everything we do. If I have an online presence in London, I can be at an advantage, and producing a pool of lawyers through collaboration is much stronger. The ROIs have to be shown to the actual law firms. The distance between one solicitor and another, in one of the competitors, is quite large, and we are trying to create a hub and specific ‘brand experience’.  My tips are:

1. When you dream, dream big

2. Plant trees today, harvest in 500 years (Oxford trees)

3. Best lawyers and web entrepreneurs are psychiatrists.

4.Appreciate lawyers who like law, but find the rare breed who challenge it.

Related posts:

  1. #LawTechCampLondon 2012 : where law confronted innovation
  2. My Master of Law dissertation on the legal enforceability of Gartner’s rights for a cloud computing customer
  3. Cloud Computing – an introduction to the “Cloud Industry Forum” and the “end user perspective”; meeting 12th June 2011, Microsoft (London)
  4. LegalAware meeting: How the law of Cloud Computing might relate to English SME Directors
  5. A plethora of opportunities for the cloud computing provider to stand out, argues Frank Jennings
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