Legal Geek of the Week: Jason Housden, Matrix Chambers

Matrix Chambers Practice Director Jason Housden is a confessed ‘tech champion’ – the sort who promotes and advocates the use of technology, not the sort with world-beating programming skills; “I’m no Steve Jobs” Jason is keen to point out – but he’s also a natural tech historian and by the time Legal Geek’s interview with Jason is over our LegalTech-focused brain cells have been stretched to their outer reaches.

In time-honoured biographical fashion, our interview with Jason starts at the beginning:

Born in 1969, Jason’s parents bought him his first computer in 1983, a Commodore 64.

He had to decide between getting a computer or going on a ski trip; and the Commodore 64 won by a distance.

With a computer at his fingertips, he became part of an ‘IT crowd’ of friends who “played a lot of games, the type where you had a goblin and the aim was to pick up rings, that sort of thing. We also hacked into these games with a paper clip and learned to programme a bit as well. Although it was not quite Silicon Valley.”

At 17, as the computer age let itself in to offices across England, he learned to touch type as he wisely saw the future of office-based work being performed on these brave new machines.

Yet his first job came as a clerk in a barristers’ chambers in Lincoln’s Inn in 1986 – where there were no computers.

“But slowly things started to computerise and, when it did, I had a head start.”

Being ahead of the game has been a characteristic of Jason’s career in the legal industry ever since.

In 1999, his first chambers installed a touch screen system for barristers to sign-in / sign-out of their chambers, rather than having to record their arrivals and departures by hand. Then in 2002, having moved from Hardwicke to Tooks chambers, he introduced a centralised SMS-messaging system to keep barristers up-to-date with important chambers information.

Both these systems were so ahead of their time that the computer programmes which delivered them couldn’t be bought, they had to be created from scratch by programmers commissioned to do the work.

“I can’t programme for toffee,” Jason states. “But I can see possibilities and have developed a good network of programmers who I can work with to deliver solutions.”

Being able to understand the front-line operational needs of an organisation and the technological possibility of the day is what makes Jason a ‘tech champion’.

It’s a role – or at least a way of thinking – which he would encourage legal professionals to adopt as a way of advancing their careers, regardless of what their actual job title might be.

“No company will ever advertise for a ‘tech champion’ but it’s a role which exists nonetheless. People knew I understood about technology, so they would start coming to me with tech queries. I wouldn’t know what the answer was the whole time but I would be able to advise on what they needed to find out next.”

Since 2007 Jason, now 48, has been Practice Director at Matrix Chambers where he has been given a wide remit to explore new technologies. It couldn’t be a better fit for him with investment in innovation being enshrined in the chambers’ core values.

Talking about Matrix brings us back to the present day meaning Legal Geek’s tech history lesson is sadly over.

There’s time for one final question though: What does Jason think is the most important LegalTech development on the horizon?

“Blockchain and any application underpinned by Blockchain” is his immediate answer.