Delia McArthur

by Delia McArthur, Law for All
from the presentation at Legal Tech Show in Johannesburg

I have been very blessed to work for Law for All for the last nine years. We always try to bring law, legal technology and innovation together.  We have an in-house software development team of fifteen developers.  Since I started working at Law for All we’ve always been working with software developers and we’ve always embraced technology and used it to our advantage.

Lawyerly is our Legal Case Management Suite that we have designed internally, through our project management.  It was launched in 2013 internally and since then we’ve been working with our software development department to change it, prove it, fight over it and then fix it.

Now we’re just launching the modular system of this exact same Legal Case Management suite.  Jackie and I realised recently that there is a huge gap in the market for what we take for granted at Law for All.  What we are going to do is bring Lawyerly to the market, in the new finance year of 2020, so that other firms and other companies can benefit from what we’ve managed to customise internally.

Basically when I was asked to talk to a bunch of lawyers at 4:30 on a Monday afternoon, I didn’t know what to say, so in true “Delia style”, I didn’t sit there and responsibly go and set out exactly what I was going to do and sketch outcomes – I rather decided to go for coffee, okay I am lying, it wasn’t coffee it was wine, lots of wine with my best friend Heather.  Heather and I met quite coincidental in 2015 and we have a remarkable friendship.  She talks about herself all the time and I talk about myself all the time and sometimes we even take turns doing it.

So on this particular evening we were—I was complaining about my procrastination problems and trying to find inspiration on how to talk to lawyers unfamiliar with technology. Heather was quite taken up with her own life, because she married her high school sweetheart and recently went through a horrible divorce after eighteen years, and has just started entering the dating scene.

As I’m going on about procrastination of legal software.  She starts talking about how much easier it was to date Tim in the year 2000 because back then dating was so simple, right.  You met a guy at a bar or at a pub or at a party.  He bought you a drink.  You might exchange words, a first kiss, give him your number and then you wait that requisite three days and you either hear back from him or you don’t.  But either way everyone knows where they stand, right?  That was the 2000s!

Enter almost twenty years later.  Dating is a minefield.  You now have apps like Tinder.  So here I’m literally repeating Heather word for word.  So she’s complaining about that Tinder and says, “Dehlia, there is an app that you go on and it literally has thousands of potential matches and you swipe right or left, simply based on whatever they have uploaded as a picture of themselves, and these gents don’t market themselves well at all.  It also gets more confusing than that, you’ve got to make sure that if you swipe left you don’t swipe right by mistake.  Then on top of that, the guys have a limited time that they can contact you in.  Your response depends on the quality of his opening line and really all that is before you’ve met the guy, had a conversation, realised whether there is an chemistry or not.”  As she was talking I was laughing hysterically and then boom! It hit me. Lawyers using and adapting to legal tech are just like Heather and other divorcees, entering the dating scene after twenty years.

There are lots of similarities I will take you through them:

  • There are lots of new rules that are a little bit overcomplicated and unnecessary.
  • You have to trust something or someone that you’ve never met.
  • There’s no body language you can read, and there is nothing you can compare it to because you have been off the dating scene for such a long time, you’re just used to picking up wet towels.
  • The cost of dating went from buying someone a drink to now having a monthly subscription to Tinder and the partner you met doesn’t even get that monthly subscription which is bad.  Same as legal tech, you went from buying the latest textbook when it came out on liquidation and distribution accounts to buying very expensive annual licences that cost you hundreds and thousands of Rands.
  • There’s no GPS with regard to where the dates are going or where tech is going, you can’t promise anything. On top of that we don’t even have a crystal ball but if we did we would take it out and shake it every now and then but it still wouldn’t work.
  • There’s an overwhelming number of decisions and opportunity for business/men/women out there that we could date but we have not enough information to make really informed decisions about who we end up meeting and what tech we end up buying.
  • This is also coupled with this very vague gut instinct that we don’t really know what we are getting ourselves into.  We know we could end up in a very dangerous situation and we know we are taking a risk and we’re completely naïve about the risk we are taking.

Where do we start in the legal industry?  So in true legal form I went out looking for some case law or case study at least, to help present this idea to you.  I thought Tinder might not make it the whole way through the presentation and I came across the Silver Surfer.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with the concept, a Silver Surfer is anyone over the age of fifty years of age and uses technology and internet consistently, mainly to upgrade their quality of life.  So although Millennials are the most prolific users of technology, it’s interesting to note that the National Stats Office states that the Silver Surfer generation is actually becoming the fastest growing generation to use Legal technology.

The National Stats Office likes to believe it’s because as people get older they start to realise their improved quality of life that tech can have on them: 

  • So online medical appointments.
  • Online banking.
  • Online shopping. 
  • All of a sudden you can plan a holiday.
  • Emails.
  • Telephone calls, and 
  • WhatsApp’s to family members and friends that are overseas.

I am still on the surface of getting to know this and needless to say the digital divide between Millennial and Silver Surfers are shrinking quite rapidly.  So I use the Silver Surfers as a case study mainly because they are using tech, embracing tech, bettering themselves at tech that didn’t even exist thirty years ago.  Things like iPhones and personal computers. Google, Facebook, email, wifi and broadband homes, GPS.  We confidently run businesses and family households on your own phones.

We use these every day now, but back then before tech, it must of brought fear and terror to the hearts of the legal staff and practitioners. when these tech gadgets were launched.  Yet the Silver Surfers are standing tall and they are embracing this technology, even at the age of seventy five they are still using it.

So a follow up to that is also how well are we embracing technology and adapting to technology, that some of us might not know exists yet.  A few very interesting examples for me were:

  • Ironman suits, yes just like the movie.  They exist they just aren’t able to fly at high altitudes like Tony Stark yet. Exoskeletal suits have already been used in the military, industrial and medical space. 
  • We also have drone armies, both ground and air based, which have been used to do nuclear clean-ups and environmental disaster clean-ups. They are already in use by different governments for security and surveillance as well.  
  • The iPhone X can read your eye prints and most of our Smartphones already have facial recognition built into the home screen.  Google has completed their first round of better self-scrutinising Smart Cars that drive themselves.  
  • Agricultural tech, this really blew my mind when I found out there are floating farms that have been developed by companies to take fresh fruit, vegetables, meat to populations around the globe that don’t have access to those.  There are actually still able to make profit out of those crumbling economies, starving children, starving populations because the tech is making it so affordable to create this basic farm and to take it to them.  
  • 3D printing, there is an airline manufacturer that plans to have it in use, completely 3D printed Airbus in use by 2050.  Are you going to fly in it?
  • And then Panasonic would not be left behind, they have a calorie scanner, that within ten seconds it will give you a nutritional breakdown of all the food on your plate, for those of us that calorie count.
  • Then my favourite is an anti-sunscreen balm, that’s based on a ground breaking discovery of how anti-sun compounds protect blossoming coral on the Great Barrier Reef.  So they’ve actually bottled this and you can now eat or swallow your sunscreen.  It’s fascinating.

So what can Legal expect in the future?

I work with a rerouting lawyers workshop daily, where I work with young Millennials who within hours of being asked a question, given some time and paper, come up with very plausible, very possible ideas of how we can use existing tech to improve the accuracy and the efficiency of everything they’ve just been taught in Law School.  So this is already happening.  The only constant in change is technology.  The only constant in technology is change.

Recently at a conference in Amsterdam one of the speakers called attorneys: “Globally Change Averse Overachievers”.  Yeah we laughed but that really struck a chord with me because that’s where we get stuck isn’t it, properly stuck.  

We battle to comprehend as lawyers: How is it possible? 

And I have heard so many of my colleagues say “oh, it’s not possible, they won’t be able to do everything, they might be able to do it faster and but there will still be problems”.  The truth is, in a very short space of time we won’t be doing our own legal research.  I don’t think in South Africa yet, but in America they won’t be doing court work, they won’t be going to court and the whole billing model is going to change.  It’s going to change fast.  Negotiation of contracts will happen online, it won’t happen at a round table setting that we so love and adore and are used to.

So what’s left for us to do?  Okay, for me it’s quite simple, in my opinion.  The only thing that technology is never going to be able to do, ever, is to be human.  Be fundamentally human.  With that I mean is:  Tech will never be hopeful for a client.  It’s never going to be empathetic.  It’s never going to be supportive or compassionate or just kind.  Tech is never going to sincerely hug a grieving widower in your office when her husband passes away.

How can we maintain sincerity and compassion that comes with the job?  How to we charge and build the company in the production of those?  Lastly the Law Society started investigating allegations of unkindness to clients.  That has kept them very busy.

I’m very excited about the future.  Not just about how tech is going to make the Law more affordable and accessible to the public and people who really need it.  But I’m excited how it is going to change us as lawyers, as people.  Will it make us gentler?  Will it make us kinder?  Will it make us more patient, more understanding?  

I don’t know but if I can imagine a world with kinder lawyers in it, that’s definitely a world I would like to live in.


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