by Laura Spalding, The Legal Forecast
As we saw in 2017, law firms, courts and practitioners are at last accepting the concept of technology transforming law for the better, as consumers are beginning to demand more cost efficient legal services. These are exciting times, but the question now is one of practicality: how can we really harness the technology to benefit our practice today? Enter: the legal technology entrepreneur herein coined the ‘Legalpreneur’.
It’s not surprising that the world’s most successful Legalpreneurs were previously lawyers. This trend can be attributed to two factors: the need to fix problems and deep inefficiencies encountered in their own legal careers and secondly a realisation that lawyers no longer have a monopoly on the provision of legal services and either need to evolve their craft or risk getting left behind.
Legalpreneurs are using their experiences to tackle problems associated with time keeping, transaction management, due diligence and contract review.
Before you stop reading and start working on your next big legal tech company, consider that most lawyers aren’t programmed to make great entrepreneurs. Apart from being problem solvers, the mindset of a legal practitioner is not typically conducive to entrepreneurship. A huge mental shift is required to view legal services in an innovative light. Lawyers are inherently perfectionists, highly risk adverse, precedent focused, confidential and in need of control. These are essential lawyer traits possessed by even our newest generation of practitioners. However, these can also serve as the biggest barriers to collaboration, diversity and value-add: the essential traits of the Legalpreneur, and perhaps the keystones of a new era of legal practitioners.
Dipping a toe in the world of technology
Legalpreneurship has inspired a change in the future of legal education as lawyers begin to upskill themselves in technology and universities diversify course offerings accordingly. The University of Melbourne offers an elective where students design, build and release an app providing a myriad of legal services to its users. As technology begins to better facilitate access to justice, skills such as these are invaluable for lawyers. The Australian National University and University of South Australia follow suit in acknowledging the intersection between law and technology with their Information Technology Law and Cyber Law electives.
This change in skill-set is not limited to millennials, Jane Hogan, a senior practitioner with over 20 years’ experience in the legal industry has recently learnt to code, a skill she says not only improved her digital literacy but has born an understanding of the “programmatic logic” which enables her to view the law and legal practice in a new light.
Technology is integral to Legalpreneurship and those with the know-how in this area are pursuing this unique opportunity to capitalise on the legal tech market.
Collaboration in the legal marketplace
As legal services become more value driven, Legalpreneurs contribute a new supply chain to the market place whereby many tasks once performed solely by the lawyer, are now more efficiently delivered by a myriad of resources both human and machine. Thus, collaboration is essential to Legalpreneurship. An entrepreneurial mindset and an understanding of technology compliment lawyers’ ability to collaborate with professionals outside of the legal realm to create and develop new solutions in the provision of legal services.
Laura Spalding is the Queensland President of The Legal Forecast and is currently a lawyer at Piper Alderman. Special thanks to Michael Bidwell and Benjamin Teng of The Legal Forecast for technical advice and editing. The Legal Forecast (TLF) (thelegalforecast.com) aims to advance legal practice through technology and innovation. TLF is a not-for-profit run by early career professionals passionate about disruptive thinking and access to justice.
 Jane Hogan, ‘Lawyers Learning to Code? To Do or Not to Do, That is the Question’. Centre for Legal Innovation, https://www.cli.collaw.com/latest-on-legal-innovation/2017/08/16/should-lawyers-learn-to-code, 16 August 2017.
 Mark A. Cohen ‘Why the Legal Industry Must Embrace Diversity, Technology and Collaboration’. Legal Mosaic, https://legalmosaic.com/2017/08/24/why-the-legal-industry-must-embrace-diversity-technology-and-collaboration/, 24 August 2017.