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Diamonds Are Forever: a Scientist’s thoughts on the 2018 Legal Geek Conference

Diamonds Are Forever

by Lara Gibson, Legal Operations Paralegal at Wavelength.law

As a science graduate, the atomic structure and the superlative physical qualities of the substance are what first spring to mind when I hear ‘diamond’. Although, of course, there are other meanings associated with the word.

Diamond definition.PNG
 
diamond.png

These precious stones are formed under very specific conditions. The chemical stability, resulting from strong covalent bonds that connect each individual carbon atom with all of its neighbours, enable diamonds to withstand immense heat, pressure and the test of time.

You may ask – but how is all this Chemistry relevant to the Legal Geek Conference we attended on a drizzly Wednesday morning in a brewery in East London?  

To which we say – if you searched through a handful of plastic crystals looking for the real diamond thrown into the crowd by the CEO of Kira Systems, Noah Waisberg, during his talk, you may already know...

Noah was talking about why, as he puts it, “hype kills”. It sets unrealistic expectations, builds hostility towards solutions that will effect real change, and risks destroying the credibility of individual products that become tainted by association with over-hyped solutions in the same category.

However, I’m minded to steer his diamond analogy in another direction.

With over 2,000 attendees, 100 speakers, and 50 start-up alley pitches, the legal tech community is expanding rapidly. With such growth, a degree of solution overlap inevitably develops.

The question arises – how do we maximise the potential within the legal tech industry to enable the greatest possible impact?

Perhaps we can look to the diamond and its brother, graphite, for answers.

Graphite, like diamond, is an allotrope of carbon. Diamond has the accolade of being the “hardest known natural material”, whereas graphite is soft, slippery, and much less dense. Both substances share the same composition (pure carbon) – their difference lies in the structure of their atoms.

 
 Diamond and graphite atomic structure -  credit

Diamond and graphite atomic structure - credit

 

Diamond derives its resilience and durability from the arrangement of its atoms in a framework structure. Every atom is linked into a three-dimensional network by strong covalent bonds with four other carbon atoms. This holds the atoms firmly in place. The atoms in graphite are arranged in sheets, sitting one on top of another with little connection between layers. Therefore, the layers slide over one another and can become easily detached when a small amount of force is applied.

From this we can learn that strength lies not only in the bonds between elements but also how they are arranged. The relationships we build, and our interaction with others in the same space, will have a direct impact on our ability to withstand pressure. If individual elements integrate, collaborate and cooperate with one another in such a way that they act seamlessly and thoughtfully together, for the mutual benefit of the whole community, we can build a network that will withstand the test of time instead of flaking apart.

With all the technology, software and know-how out there, the legal tech community already has the individual elements with which we can forge new relationships and build resilience. Where solutions find themselves unable to make strong enough bonds (so as to become integral to the structure of the legal tech industry as a whole) they may fall away under pressure.

Fundamentally, we need to apply legal design thinking to ensure that all of these great, innovative solutions are applied and arranged in such a way as to solve the challenges faced across categories and throughout the legal profession and justice system.

This thoughtful application of technology will ultimately enable the profound, innovative, and positive impact of the products, minds, and community who gathered for the Legal Geek Conference in 2018 – giving our community’s members the qualities that will allow them to become stronger under the pressure of competition, and the industry as a whole to survive the application of intense heat of scrutiny that will continue to build.

To really push the diamond analogy to its limit, we should also remember that when diamonds are mined they are not found in the form that makes them such a desirable and precious commodity. They all start out as unpolished, unrefined stones with their full potential revealed with each skilful application of cut and polish.

I believe that the rapidly growing legal tech industry is our ‘diamond in the rough’, with all the right foundations to become the brilliant and desirable finished product as we refine it over time.

No matter which definition of a diamond first springs to your mind, the fact remains that we associate the word with value, uniqueness and longevity – qualities we are sure any legal tech start-up will have at the forefront of their brain following the incredibly successful and inspiring Legal Geek Conference 2018.

About the author: Lara Gibson is a Legal Operations Paralegal at Wavelength and a scientist, having graduated from King’s College London with a BSc in Biomedical Science. She is currently completing the Legal Practice Course part time and is also a member of our Legal Services, Engineering and Design teams.  

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Lara Gibson