21 Jan 2020

Robots take a back seat as London CLOC forum debates legal tech's disruptive forces

Global Legal Post reports on day one of the CLOC 2020 London Institute

Varun Mehta, CEO, Factor

The image of the ‘robot lawyer’ is often conjured up during discussions about legal technology. There was recognition at this week’s 2020 CLOC London Institute conference that the reference can be counter-productive and misleading.

Keynote speaker Daniel Katz, professor of law and director of The Law Lab at Illinois Tech, kicked off proceedings in his keynote by joking that he had never met a robot lawyer. 

And Varun Mehta (pictured), who was named today (21 January) as CEO of rebranded Axiom spin off Factor, is in good company when he bemoans the hype surrounding the term, although he points to a level of maturity in the market. 

“What’s good now is that people are not just talking about what’s new, but instead how to measure, quantify and execute,” he said.

“There has been a lot of hype, and talk of robot lawyers, but we are getting to a point where corporates are working with technology companies like us to upscale and do more complex work.”

Katz told the conference: “There is no single source of disruption, it has come about through many changes.”

He said companies of all sizes were disrupting the legal ecosystem by providing process development and productised solutions that scale, thereby reducing the focus on subject matter experts.

“Law - the legal department - has to be more accessible to the business,” he noted, adding that there was a particular focus on contracts, although this principle extended to other aspects of the legal department’s work. 

Digital future

One member of the delegation who concurred was Olga V. Mack, CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has focused on online negotiations technology.

“Dan’s observation about the digital future are spot on, contracts have to be computable,” she said.

 “Contracts are increasingly becoming collectively created, actionable, and intelligent digital assets. In the process they are transforming the legal practice from risk mitigation to asset management. This will transform legal practice and the impact of your legal department in the foreseeable future.” 

Paula Davis-Laack, founder and CEO of the Stress & Resilience Institute, and Mary O'Carroll, Google director of legal operations and president of CLOC, focused on the teamwork needed for legal operations departments to meet the challenges they faced.

Davis-Laack discussed what she called “team resilience”, which is the capacity for a team to bounce back from change, handle stress and diversity, and to prepare for future challenges proactively.

She outlined the key building blocks of team resilience: building psychological safety, capitalising on the positive, thinking flexibly, prioritising well-being and engagement, building strong relationships and having a common purpose. 


Closing out the day’s agenda, Jacqui Harper MBE, author and executive presentation trainer, gave an interactive mini-training session on leadership presence, based on her book on executive presentations. 

Harper said leadership presence could be learned, and it helped to have the ability to speak with confidence and skill in order to activate change and transformation in the boardroom, the meeting room, online and on stage. 

She explained how to do a ‘presence audit’ and underlined the need for vocal exercises in order to create a leadership presence.