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Legal Tech: Different jurisdictions - same problem or same approach?

Browsing my Twitter today, I came across Gabriel Teninbaum's post (@GTeninbaum) on existing taxonomy of legal tech. Few people have reacted to it and posted their sources and links to some maps. @ethellegal and @legalpioneer have done a great job of bringing to one spot different jurisdictional legal tech maps. It is interesting that even in time of technology, there is still a very strong relationship between a legal solution and a jurisdiction, which naturally affects the scalability of the legal tech (about that some other time).

The jurisdictional legal tech maps cover countries as Estonia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Brazil, Nordics and others. It was truly impressive to have a look on such a diverse set of companies - classified by jurisdiction. If you look closely, you will see other similarities as to how these companies are ultimately organised.

  • Contract management / Document automation

  • Legal research

  • Law firm management

  • Online dispute resolutions

  • Privacy /GDPR solutions

  • Compliance tools

  • eDiscovery

  • eSign

  • IP protection

.. and some others

There have been naturally some specific areas as litigation funding (the Netherlands) or LegalTech consultancy (that must be a really niche practice) or data mining (in France), and some others. Indisputably, there are 6-7 at the top of the above list that are however same across all of the countries reviews that have been collected. You could see the Nordic ecosystem here - following the structure of Thomson Reuters from couple of years back:

Now, the question is - why is it so? Is it that the problems with legal practice are in all legal systems the same or because the approach to these problems remains the same? Possibly both. Contract management is a reality for all lawyers, so is the GDPR, compliance, research or evidence. Yet, why is the approach the same? I am saying that the approach is very much similar if not the same because we do not see many unicorns within the legal tech community. What is worse, we do not see legal tech community getting crossing the border too much and reaching out to each other and figuring out the best solution for the problem. We see many of them pitch, but few of them listen.

When I organised our Law, Technology & Trust conference in September 2019 at Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, we had 14 legal tech companies present - from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Estonia as well as Finland. Despite being nice and polite to each other, I did not observe any of them discussing the possibility of any collaboration. Naturally, some are each others competitors, but without engaging in fierce discussion and debate about their product and back-end and elements and logic and data scraping ...etc. - how will they know whether they (by chance) do not have the same approach to the problem or how will they figure out even better approach or solution? Sometimes, I wonder whether some of the legal tech start-ups as we know them today, will ultimately not just substitute some of the law firms and continue with a very insular approach and behaviour. Maybe it is because many of the legal tech companies are ultimately run by lawyers, though not all of them, and therefore they continue the practice that has been implanted in them over years in legal practice, or is it our pre-defined nature as lawyers combined with our education?

If I look back to my studies, we were since day 1 taught that we are competitors to one another. That we are homo homini lupus!! I vividly remember my professor shouting this latin expression at us during the first semester at Law School. However, times have changed, at least in Denmark. My students from day 1, are asked to collaborate, work in groups, prepare things together and gain knowledge from one another. Thus, I would hope that it is not my institution that ultimately breeds them to realise that the collaboration is the form of work in the future and that there will be very few successful lone wolfs. I would just hope that such approach would be soon undertaken by the legal tech companies themselves!

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if 1 large law firm would decide to buy 7 most prominent legal tech firms in contract management and contract drafting, irrespective of the jurisdiction. Alternatively, what would happen if some of the legal tech firms decided to talk, collaborate or even merge either across diverse jurisdictions or across diverse sectors? Could this be an avenue for Legal Tech to start scaling?


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