Thirty minutes into the part-conference part-unconference known as #LegalLean, which was held at MaRS on Saturday, I took the microphone and told the sold-out auditorium: “You’ll remember this like it was Woodstock, but for law, and without the music. Or mud.”
Let’s step back for a moment and trace #LegalLean’s history as a startup. Fundamentally, #LegalLean is a notion. However, because we don’t just think about things, but actually do things, it’s also a startup. We chose to hashtag the name because it was born from Twitter.
Less than a year ago, I met my now close friend and colleague Jason Moyse, a Six Sigma black belt and currently the director of innovation and execution at Cognition LLP. From there, we had several intense talks over strong coffee and decided to write a piece for Techvibes together.
Soon after, we were asked to write another piece and then a short series of articles, which we agreed to do because it was a way to put our thoughts about topics such as social media and online defamation and the legal considerations of building a startup at a hackathon down on (electronic) paper.
Then Jason began introducing me to entrepreneurs and founders in the legal technology space to add to those who I was already advising here at MaRS and, before that, in Silicon Valley. In turn, I introduced people who needed his expertise and sharp legal perspective to Jason. Soon our writing was more in demand and we started to get invitations to run workshops on the topics we were writing about. So we went to the amazing Reinvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State University College of Law, where we ran our first full-day #LegalLean. The event was very well received, so we started to plan another one here at MaRS with the same thesis: that the bar for innovation in law has been painfully low, but a shift is occurring.
Early adopters are experimenting with cognitive computing, design thinking, artificial intelligence, process improvement, offshoring key aspects of service delivery and applying technology to drive efficiency or, perhaps, new business models. Questions are arising, such as: What is “legal work”? And is a law degree or a law firm essential to solve legal problems?
It’s our—and #LegalLean’s—thesis that it is time for an entrepreneurial class to drive economic disruption to the legal vertical, and it’s not just lawyers who get entry into the sandbox. Technologists, designers, developers, engineers and savvy business people (without legal backgrounds) who like to push boundaries—as well as lawyers—are all necessary players in driving change. The mashup of startup and Six Sigma concepts is part of the #NewLaw revolution and, therefore, an appreciation of both the theoretical and practical aspects of lean models is a must. That’s what our #LegalLean event was all about.
#LegalLean’s participants and attendees seemed to think the event was a success. With keynote and breakout speakers including Ken Grady, Joshua Lenon, Ronan Levy, Mitch Kowalski and Dera Nevin, content was king. Fortunately, the wonderful MaRS audiovisual team captured it all on video, and much of that content will reside here at MaRS.
Back to Woodstock. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to make a bit of a name for myself as an educator (I like it when my European friends use the word “educationist”), entrepreneur and mentor in the education and edtech worlds. My Woodstock comment relates to the fact that the world of legal technology—and all of the movements surrounding it—is exactly where the world of education technology was a decade ago. These are still early days and the soil for innovation is so rich that you can smell it from Toronto to London.
Speaking of which, we’re planning to do our next #LegalLean in London (unless we make a detour before then). We have a location and a ton of interest, and now we’re just looking for sponsors and patrons to make it happen. The beauty of this space right now is that these types of conversations aren’t really happening in many other places and certainly not with the frequency required to go deep and make change.
Following London, we’re planning to see how we can meet the ongoing demand from our users and are hoping to bring #LegalLean “out of the clouds” a bit more, turning it into a two-day event that can see BigLaw, NewLaw and FutureLaw all play together in a common sandbox, creating startup-type things that can really create disruption.
Many thanks from me, Jason and all of our speakers to MaRS, our sponsors and everyone who attended on Saturday.