Law technology developments, including the fast-growing artificial intelligence initiatives are rapidly changing how law services are delivered – and how lawyers operate.
LawFuel looked at some of the kiwi law firms who are either actively deploying some of the latest technology, or who have implemented new platforms to deliver legal services, or are actively involved in the tech sector assisting start-ups and others in the tech space.
We looked at seven firms making a difference currently.
1. Simmonds Stewart –
The Tech Deal-Makers
Simmonds Stewart bills itself as a tech law firm not so much for its own tech tools but because its offices in Wellington, Auckland and Singapore assist tech companies to gain venture capital and to work with them in capital raising, M&A and other corporate activity.
This year the firm launched its very own technology law internship program with the help of the University of Auckland Law School to help law students land paid positions in the technology sector. The firm said that the program will provide law students interested in technology and entrepreneurship with real-world experience in the high-growth sector.
2. Minter Ellison Rudd Watts
Big Law AI Move
Minters made the bold move in 2017 to invest $2 million in a joint venture to explore ways to use artificial intelligence for law market disruption. The firm adopted to opt for a ‘blank sheet of paper’ as CEO Mike Schubert said.
Director Shaveer Mirpuri said that the aim of the venture was to create a credible and global AI business “that you would be hard pressed to find in Silicon Valley.”
With a Technology Innovation Team, Minters has also this year in August launched a fully customisable and configurable client portal designed to create efficiencies for in-house legal operations.
3. Evolution Lawyers
– Legal Innovators
One of the initial ‘virtual’ law firms without a central office, but offering a range of commercial and litigation services, Evolution Lawyers was co-founded by Tamina Cunningham-Adams and Thomas Bloy (pictured above and below).
The two legal entrepreneurs have also taken their skills into the companies arena through their company CataLex.
The couple hired developers to create Good Companies ensuring compliance with company record keeping.
The program processes shareholding and director changes, produces resolutions, gives reminders of statutory deadlines, and securely stores the share register and other key company records.
The software is primarily targeted at accountants because, Bloy said, it would enable them to make their records legally compliant while avoiding costly consultations with lawyers.
4. Juno Legal –
The In-House Support Firm
Juno Legal provides legal support to in-house teams for occasions when the legal demands require support.
Built on an ‘agile thinking’ to upset the traditional binary model of legal support, frequently extending beyond pure legal support into a more complex, multifaceted role, Juno has worked to get legal teams out of ‘firefighting mode’ and to create greater value from in-house legal teams.
Co-founder Helen Mackay (pictured) sees the outsourcing of legal processes as a fast-growing trend with automation tools changing the game.
“The legal profession is one of the few that hasn’t yet been substantially disrupted and the longer the status quo remains the bigger the potential impact will be,” says Mackay.
5. Consensus –
The Virtual Firm
Consensus is described as an ‘online legal marketplace’ and as such is more designed as an agile, law-assist organisation designed to provide ad hoc legal assistance as and when required for those submitting legal jobs to the platform.
Co-founded by Anton Smith (above) it has used technology to provide lawyers with the ability to access new work and expand their client base, while conforming to fixed price and other Consensus critera.
The Aussie InHouse Law Helper
Australian-based Lexvoco was set up in 2015 before moving across the Tasman the following year under the leadership here of Australian lawyer Stephen Mullins (above) who had worked in the Australian office before being asked to set up in New Zealand.
The business model here is to provide on-call legal services that better suit the requirements of some businesses.
It has expanded with offices across six offices. Backed by Australian firm McInnes Wilson Lawyers, it uses more experienced lawyers (five years) who have worked in-house. The firm provides specialist assistance for in-house legal teams not only in New Zealand, but in several jurisdictions including in Japan where the company has recently expanded.
Last year, lexvoco was third on Australasian Lawyer’s Fast Firms list, after posting 750% in revenue growth and 500% in partnership growth.
7. Avid Legal
Watching IT Brief
Bruno Bordignon and Murray Whyte, the co-founders of Avid Legal, have taken a highly proactive approach to the use of technology in their Wellington-based commercial law practice.
Apart from taking a flexible approach to fee structures, including taking equity in some start-ups, the firm has developed an ‘Avid Bench’ application providing outsourced lawyers with project work as and when required in the same way as virtual law firms.
And early adopter of law tech tools Avid Legal remains ‘technology agnostic’ so far as aligining itself to any specific AI or tech programme in order to maintain maximum flexibility, Bruno Bordignon told LawFuel.
Rushing into AI could be a fatal mistake, particularly given its rapid and ongoing development, but Avid is one firm that is shaping the way law firms can operate using flexible work practices and the best that technology can offer, while keeping options open for the way legal services will be delivered in future.