FutureLaw 2024 Feedback

Tallinn’s Port of Tallinn Cruise Terminal, a beacon of Estonia’s dynamic spirit, recently served as the venue for the prestigious FutureLaw 2024 conference. This event, a hub for legal innovation, attracted a discerning audience of 400 from across the globe from around 40 countries, all eager to unravel the complex interplay between law and technology. The conference was a testament to collaboration, uniting legal experts, technology pioneers, and policymakers to shape the future of the legal sector in our increasingly digital society.

While GenAI was a prevalent topic, it was not the central theme of the event. Instead, the spotlight was on “data.” Data has become the lifeblood of every organization, akin to oil in its value and sovereignty as king. Engaging with various GenAI tools can be intriguing, yet their full potential is unlocked only with well-curated, processed, and managed data. It’s imperative for law firms to acknowledge this reality sooner rather than later for the benefit of their clients, their legal and support teams, and ultimately, their business prosperity.

Valentin Feklistov: A New Dawn for Legal Tech

Opening the event, Valentin Feklistov, the organizer of the event, addressed the audience with a powerful message: technology is not the adversary we once feared. Reflecting on the lessons learned in 2023, Feklistov highlighted how legal tech has become a beacon of efficiency, enabling lawyers to achieve a harmonious work-life balance while enhancing their service delivery. His words set the tone for a conference that was all about embracing change.

For the past year we understood that technology is not an eternal evil, it can actually help us achieve our goals, save our precious time. Isn’t it the main reason that people gather for such events love technology? Because it helps us find work-life balance!” – Valentin Feklistov

Data and Knowledge Management: The New Legal Bedrock

The conference highlighted data and knowledge management in insightful sessions led by Alan Ragueneau and Aku Sorainen. They emphasized the critical importance of these components as the new foundation of legal practice, illustrating the need to effectively utilize data to establish new benchmarks in the accessibility of legal knowledge.

Everybody knows the notion that data is the oil of the 21st century. But the impact of data and data analytics is arguably much stronger than the impact of the oil industry in the 20th century. The legal industry is traditionally a laggard when it comes to using data for operational management and strategic development.

“If you want to find solutions, you first need to put the problem on the table.” – Alan Ragueneau

Nobody denies that the knowledge accumulated in the heads of lawyers is the most valuable asset of every law firm and legal department. But this asset leaves every day and might not show up the next morning. Knowledge management – the process of transferring knowledge from people’s brains into an accessible repository – is crucial to stay competitive in the 21st century.

Aku Sorainen remarked, “The future of law firms hinges on striking a balance between client-focused and data-driven cultures.”

Adapting to Change: The Legal Sector’s Evolution

Olga V. Mack’s session was a standout as she coined the term “nervocited,” capturing the legal sector’s mixed feelings towards AI. Her talk stressed the urgency for legal professionals to embrace technological progress to stay competitive. Adapting one’s mindset and culture is crucial for transformation to navigate the digital landscape and thrive in a digital-first economy.

You need to team up and create a partnership with the machine [AI]. We, as human lawyers, need to show up and bring value to that partnership.” – Olga V. Mack

Investment Trends: Reflecting Legal Tech’s Rise

Pekka Puolakka’s analysis of investment trends in legal tech ventures highlighted the growing demand for innovative solutions. “Is this the last human lawyer conference?” he began. His compelling talk inspired professionals to think about investment into promising areas of innovation, indicating a strong growth path for legal technology.

The biggest problem in proper investments in the legal sector is TIME. In law firms, everything is measured in time. You need a lot of time from the most senior people in the organization to properly invest in and develop your AI use cases, but everyone is too busy spending time on client work.” – Pekka Puolakka

He concluded his speech with an inspiring message that the greatest opportunity in legal tech lies within the lawyers themselves, where they should innovate and create solutions that will benefit their own practice of law!

Hybrid Legal Teams: Pioneers of Progressive Change

Align, Harmonize, & Integrate: where business, legal and technical sides come together.

Dazza Greenwood’s discussion on hybrid legal teams shed light on their essential role in driving progressive change. He illustrated how the combination of legal acumen and technological proficiency is preparing teams to tackle complex issues and drive the legal industry forward.

Hybrid work is a core design pattern for GenAI,” he stated, sparking a conversation on how AI can be integrated with human efforts to achieve this objective.

Cultivating Talent: The Legal Industry’s Lifeline

The conference also featured insightful panel discussions on talent management, with input from law students, experienced professionals, law schools from around the globe, and bar association representatives from multiple countries.

One of the reasons LegalTech adoptions is moving slower than necessary is the absence of technology-focused courses in legal education. If we continue to produce law students that never experienced the impact of technology on legal work, the pace of adoption will continue to be slow. 

These conversations delved into effective strategies for nurturing the legal industry’s vital resource—its talent—highlighting the significance of continuous learning and adaptability. Students with a basic knowledge about process optimization and automation, and familiarity with tools that are available today, can become agents of change the moment they enter the industry.

Legal Standards: The Universal Legal Lexicon by Damien Riehl

Damien Riehl’s session on legal standards at FutureLaw 2024 was particularly impactful. He explored the essential task of developing a universal legal lexicon to improve transparency and efficiency within the field. Riehl’s concept of legal standards allowing practitioners to converse in a shared legal data language is advantageous for multinational organizations and research groups, easing the journey through intricate legal landscapes globally.

Damien’s words: “Imagine if everyone designed their own screws or sockets — or electrical plugs. Life would be an impossible challenge, with no interoperability. With so many law firms, vendors, and clients, wouldn’t it be great if everyone aligned on a single Legal Data Standard? One that includes things like Areas of Law, Industries, Documents, legal workflows, and 17,000 other tags? And wouldn’t it be great if it were international — covering the EU, India, Latin America, and other common-law and civil-law countries?”

Conclusion

FutureLaw 2024 was more than just a conference; it was a beacon for the legal industry, signaling a new era marked by innovation, unity, and transformation.

It provided predictions that indicate a future where legal functions are more integrated with technology, aiming for greater efficiency and adaptability in a rapidly changing environment.

As attendees departed from the Estonian capital, they carried with them not only insights but also the inspiration to pursue the exciting journey that awaits the legal profession.

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