By Deborah Jesus and Ridhey Gill.

From September 5th to September 8th members of the Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) attended the Legal Innovation Summit at the Fireside Conference. Far away from cell service and wi-fi, we all had the opportunity to fully engage in different discussions on how to create a world of law that is more accessible on various levels. 

This year marked the fifth Fireside Conference and its first ever Legal Innovation Summit. Led by Mitch Kowalski (Visiting Professor in Legal Operations and Innovation at the University of Calgary) and Sean Berstein (Co-Founder at MinuteBox Inc.), a number of legal innovators joined the conversation on current issues with the legal system, possible solutions, and how to move forward. Among leaders in the industry, the LIZ community also shared some insights about the future of the profession and the current and potential use of technology and innovation to improve legal services. Here are some highlights of the conversations we participated in.

Focus on Consumers

Legal services must focus on consumers’ needs. In a panel titled “Access 2 Justice: Why do We Keep Missing the Mark?”, LIZ Startup Experience Coordinator Nafis Ahmed discussed the importance of creating products and processes that serve the needs of consumers. Long and expensive processes prevent consumers of law from accessing justice in the way they need it: efficiently, easy to use, and affordably.

Technology is one tool available to achieving better legal services. However, technology on its own will not solve access to justice issues. As Nafis stressed, it is important that legal service providers adopt a mindset of innovation while looking for different approaches and ways of doing business that better benefit their clients.

Technology Can Help Make Resources More Efficient

Another point raised by a member of our community is the potential technology has to make more efficient use of resources. SmartBail founder Fahad Diwan shared an example in the court system: empty and under-utilized courtrooms are a huge problem in our system. Many cases take less time than the courtrooms were originally are booked for, which  leaves them unused for large chunks of the day. Alternatively, sometimes cases take more time than the courtrooms are booked for, resulting in case adjournments and long delays.

A big reason for this issue is the process of court bookings are still being performed by a human. Artificial intelligence, for example, is really good at making ‘predictions’. It could be used to better predict how long cases will take and book courtroom time accordingly, thereby making the system more resource efficient. 

It is important, as Fahad and other speakers throughout the Summit highlighted, to understand that rather render certain positions obsolete, technology and automation allows for lawyers to focus their energy on more meaningful tasks. 

The Skills Future Lawyers Should Develop

What makes a good lawyer today, and what will make them a great lawyer tomorrow? Moderated by LIZ member Sean Bernstein, the panel on “Legal Professional of Today, Tomorrow and Beyond: Necessary Skill Sets and Knowledge” addressed the evolving competencies legal professionals must develop in order to stay relevant and excel in the changing legal profession.

As discussed in our blog post about 21st century law, industry leaders recommend focusing on soft skills such as empathy, leadership and interpersonal skills. Technical skills are not mandatory, but being aware of how to use technology to improve your services is a key advantage in the sector. A T-shaped lawyer is able to have depth in an area of law but also use a breadth of other skills and tools, such as technology, to assist in providing the best possible legal services to consumers. 

We certainly had a great time at the Legal Innovation Summit! There’s a big community of leaders changing the way things are done in the legal sector and we’re excited to continue engaging in these conversations and inspiring action.

Watch the conference’s highlights below: