Finding the humans in legaltech - my story of Legal Hackers
In this post, one of our talented Legal Engineers, Ema-Silvia Dobos, explores the role of humans in legaltech through her experiences with Legal Hackers.
‘I am interested in legaltech’ has become such a widely used phrase that sometimes we can lose sight of our motivation behind saying it. In the last few years I have been exploring my interest in legal tech and have started to appreciate the magic ingredient which draws me to it: humans. The legal market is already trying to cultivate a culture where legal tech is perceived to be about individuals and the power they have to harness technology, rather than technology having control over humans or, even worse, technology replacing humans. Without going into detail about why it’s desirable to employ other mechanisms into the practice and service of law/ legal services, I would like to talk about one way that I’ve chosen to express my interest and personality through legal technology.
Just over a year ago I came across Legal Hackers for the first time. I was initially intrigued by the language they were using; their terminology was attractive because it claimed to be different to other legal groups. Reflecting on the way Legal Hackers defined itself, I was fascinated to see that they aimed to bring together and target a wide variety of people; from my personal experience, diversity is the key to everything and it’s a positive sign in an organisation/community that piques my curiosity.
‘Legal Hackers is a global movement of lawyers, policymakers, designers, technologists, and academics who explore and develop creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the intersection of law and technology. Through local meetups, hackathons, and workshops, Legal Hackers spot issues and opportunities where technology can improve and inform the practice of law and where law, legal practice, and policy can adapt to rapidly changing technology.
We are explorers. We are doers. We are Legal Hackers.‘
Being given the chance to be part of the Sheffield Legal Hackers committee was my first formal step into legal technology and we rightly kept the focus on humans; no matter what interesting solutions can be realised through the use of technology, if people are not present to enthusiastically disseminate their knowledge, share experiences and create relationships, how would we even engage with legaltech?
In the Sheffield group (or ‘chapter’ as the various groups are known) we would organise monthly events, which brought together a great mix of people and where topics ranged from Cyber Security and Client Collaboration to AI, Smart Contracts and Algorithms. By engaging with different people all the time, my learning went beyond theories and concepts, as I was exposed to real experiences at the intersection between law and technology (and data). All these conversations helped build my profile and kept me mindful of the influence and potential of humans in the application of technology in the legal sector.
Joining Wavelength as a legal engineer has been crucial in upholding my belief that humans are the magic in legal tech, but it also meant that I moved down to Cambridge, away from Sheffield Legal Hackers. However, this just opened the door to another opportunity and I have been able to join the newly formed London Legal Hackers. We held a launch event for the London chapter last month, on 27th of February 2019, which was well received on social media. In the words of Emily Macloud, one of the initiators of London Legal Hackers:
‘The launch of London Legal Hackers was a great success! We ran a workshop which focused on generating new ideas and prioritising these so that the Chapter has an understanding about what people want and can design their events over the year around these topics. This setup also allowed us to demonstrate a few techniques that the attendees were able to take away with them and try out in their own organisations!’
The next event will take place on Wednesday 27th of March 2019 and it will focus on ‘The Future of Law – Legal Design’. The two speakers will be Morgane Van Ermengem (one of Wavelength’s Senior Legal Engineers) and Emily Allbon (Senior Lecturer at City Law School, Director - Mooting and Programme Director LLB in Legal Practice). Some of the discussions we will engage in as a group include what legal design means, what new legal jobs we will see more of, what problems could be tackled with legal design and others. This event, as well as future ones, will warmly welcome anyone interested in the topics discussed and who have a curiosity and desire to engage with other like minded individuals – with the purpose of learning and having some fun.
As I touched on earlier, new opportunities bring good things: joining Wavelength couldn’t be more exciting and have come at a better time for me. I invite everyone who wants to feed their knowledge and see the benefits that diversity can bring to the table to join our London Legal Hackers events!
I hope that everyone finds their own story in legal tech and their reason for saying ‘I am interested in legal tech’, but never forget that the key pillar is HUMANS!
About the author: Ema-Silvia Dobos is a Legal Engineer at Wavelength