Legal Geek’s First London Meet-Up – 3 Years On!

It’s been three years since our first ever London meet-up. THREE whole years. We couldn’t believe it. So we decided to check with guests from that night to see if time really had passed that quickly.

Whilst cross-referencing our memory banks (it turns out the calendar doesn’t lie) we also discussed the state of LegalTech then and now as well as some of the professional and personal changes to our guests’ lives in the intervening 36 months.

Here’s how recent history turned out for these four law-gends.

Mary Bonsor – F-LEX

Mary BonsorMary is the CEO and co-founder of F-LEX, an online platform to connect pre-vetted law students with law firms and general counsel for a flexible, on demand service.

Where were you professionally in 2015? “I was a risk averse lawyer, 2 years PQE, thinking about how I could transform legal services but terrified about taking the jump!”

Where are you literally right now? “I am sitting on a train from Manchester, after having travelled from Swansea to Bristol to Birmingham to Leeds to Manchester, all in the name of meeting and on-boarding law students.”

And the bigger picture? “I’m the founder of F-LEX which has it’s two-year anniversary in August, I’m less risk averse and have grown the company to 9 employees and we are about to embark on a second round of fund raising.”

What twists and turns have happened in the middle? “A change in our business model, tears and sweat here and there, but endless amounts of fun!”

What is your abiding memory of that Legal Geek London meet-up? “Sitting around a table, eating pizza and wondering whether such a risk adverse profession would embrace change.”

How has the LegalTech scene changed between that meet-up and now? “It has grown massively, with hundreds of legal start-ups, activists and followers. The tech is becoming more developed with AI solutions and the word “innovation” is now expected by clients in law firms’ business development plans.”

The first London meet-up was held in co-working space “The Hatch” where Legal Geek is still head-quartered today.

Tim Shutler – Same Contract

Tim ShutlerTim is the CEO of Same Contract, an online tool to plan, run and oversee contracts from anywhere at anytime. Based in Brighton, Same Contract are about to open offices in London.

Where were you professionally in 2015? “I was still working full time as head of legal at a construction company, with a very young family.”

Where are you literally right now? “I am sat, on a sunny, Sunday afternoon, with my feet cooling in the kid’s paddling pool at home in Brighton.”

And the bigger picture? “I am now the CEO of our SaaS business, Same Contract, helping small businesses run their contracts more efficiently. It is a very different challenge to my days of being a lawyer and I’m loving it. It is still early days for us and we are on-boarding more and more users, which is really exciting and rewarding. I still have a young family, who help me elongate my days by getting me up at 5am and more importantly keep me hungry and grounded. We have started as a Brighton based business and are soon to take office in London, fittingly in the old Lambeth County Court.”

The twists and turns in the meantime? “The main twist has been learning the mechanics of building software, from understanding and being able to write our codebase, through to agile working and UX flows.

“Fortunately, the turns have been finding some world class co-founders who can take forward our shared vision, enabling me to focus on the parts of business where my skills are better used.”

What is your abiding memory of that Legal Geek London meet-up? “The mixture and range of people, who either knew loads about law, or loads about tech, with a few people with a foot in both camps. Like a real life Venn diagram! I remember the pizza being very good too!”

How has the LegalTech scene changed between that meet-up and now? “I remember Jimmy Vestbirk saying that LegalTech was 10 years behind FinTech and I think that has played out, with LegalTech maturing at a similar rate. I still think the FinTech players are the people to emulate and I was lucky enough to speak with Xero co-founder Gary Turner at an event earlier this year and was enthused by their story of going from obscurity to success.”

What about the pizzas?

Tom Gummer – Kennedys

Tom GummerTom is the Innovation Manager at global law firm, Kennedys. He is a commercial lawyer with contentious and non-contentious experience and a former founder of technology start-up Neatsplit.

Where were you professionally in 2015? “I was running a tech startup with a friend – which focused, in part, on the automation of legal contracts. To supplement income, I was also working part-time at a law firm as a commercial lawyer. Through mutual friends of ours, I heard what Jimmy was building after coming back from San Fran. Given what I was doing at the time, I jumped straight in. It was great to find and meet like-minded Legal Geeks.”

Where are you literally right now? “I’ve just finished a coffee/break-out with our data scientist to talk about how we road map data science capabilities and features into the new prototype products Kennedys are building. After tackling my email pile, I’m then running (literally – because I’m a bit late) to a legal design thinking event.”

And the bigger horizons? “I’m now Innovation Manager at Kennedys. As part of the R&D team, I help manage innovation globally at the firm. That includes lots of things, but in a nutshell: I manage our internal incubator & accelerator programme (which I co-founded with our Head of R&D and Innovation Partner); I help shape the design of current and future tech products & features; I help drive the growth & success of our new innovations and existing technology portfolio; and, I act as legal counsel behind the licensing and development of our technology products.

The twists and turns of the interim? The starting twist was finding a law firm (Kennedys) that has an R&D team, a portfolio of legal tech products that were changing legal services for the better, and a culture that welcomed innovative ideas and action with open arms. Lots of firms say they are innovative on the tin, but in reality it’s hard to find the real ‘doers’ making a difference – of which Kennedys is one. Another twist would be Legal Geek’s explosion onto the global stage. Which is absolutely amazing when you think it started as a handful of people, some beers and pizza. Albeit, completely deserved!

Your main memory from that first London meet-up? “What really sticks out is that a lot of the ideas that were floated around, are now fully functioning, successful businesses or products. I remember discussing crowdfunding platforms for public interest litigation (CrowdJustice now has that one sorted) and a contract automation platform for businesses (Juro making great headway there). It was nice to find a diverse mix of like-minded/forward thinking individuals, all frustrated somehow, and each in their own way, about how elements of legal services could, and should, be vastly improved through modern technological advancements and methods.”

How has the LegalTech scene changed between that meet-up and now? “Massively. There are now tons of start-ups seeking to improve legal service delivery via technology. That has created this big waterfall effect. Clients see what these companies are doing, and ask of their traditional legal service providers – ‘how are you going to deliver the legal services I require faster and for less?’ As a result firms have had to react, hence the emergence of innovation departments or dedicated innovation functions, things that were scarce back in 2015. The entire legal industry has shifted. I won’t say as a result of Legal Geek, but certainly thanks to what it stands for.”

David Bushby – Lexoo

David BushbyDavid is the Managing Director at Lexoo Australia having previously acted as Lexoo’s Chief Operating Officer for almost two years. Lexoo is an online marketplace for legal services.

Where were you professionally in 2015? “Fresh off the plane having travelled through Europe for four months with my wife. I was excited to be in London and the perfect job had just come along as the Chief Operating Officer at Lexoo.”

And right now what are you doing? “It’s 8.30pm in Sydney and I’m sitting at my kitchen table in my pajamas, actually wearing the same flannel shirt I wore to that Legal Geek meet up in London!

Professionally speaking, how have things changed? “I am the MD of Lexoo Australia and I’m also running Law Hackers, although I was doing that back then as well.”

What big changes have occurred in the meantime? “The big change is having my first child in London, and therefore moving back to Australia to be closer to family. Whilst, as the MD of Lexoo Australia, it’s also back to sitting in a co-working space and high-giving myself when enquiries for work come in.”

What sticks most in your mind when thinking back to that first Legal Geek meet-up? “I remember Jimmy buying beers and pizza for everyone and at the end of the event Jimmy had a jar and said that although it’s a free event if anyone wants to chip in some money for the beer and pizza then here is a jar. I put in a fiver and also some coppers that I had in my pocket. I didn’t realise that in England it’s not OK to offload coppers. At the end of the event I was helping Jimmy pack up he said ‘who was the cheapskate that put in the coppers!?’ I was too embarrassed to say it was me but now three years on I am going to admit it was!”

What’s changed in LegalTech between that meet-up and now? “There’s two big themes for me. It seems that every technology that comes out now has components of AI. Sometimes its necessary and sometimes it’s not but everything has AI in it whether it’s justified or not. Secondly crypto has landed in a big way.”