The latest LegalTech in Leeds event took place at Addleshaw Goddard’s Leeds offices on 11th October 2022, and was attended by an audience drawn from across the region’s legal and tech sectors, along with representatives from the public and private sector, as well as a number of students with an active interest in LegalTech.

LegalTech in Leeds is an initiative co-ordinated by Whitecap Consulting, and aims to bring together the legal and digital sectors. Addleshaw Goddard is one of the strategic partners of LegalTech in Leeds, and worked closely with us over recent weeks to design this event.

Julian Wells, Director at Whitecap Consulting, opened the event with a brief overview of the initiative and the agenda for the day. This was the 6th event organised by LegalTech in Leeds this year, and nearly 75% of people who had registered for the event were present on the day, representing an excellent turnout.

Pervinder Kaur, Partner & Head of Leeds Office at Addleshaw Goddard, explained that the firm had been in existence since 1775 and over time has had to develop an adapt to the needs of its clients. Pervinder spoke about the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, and the way this can positively impact the performance of the team.

“We don’t want to stand still, because our clients don’t stand still.”

Pervinder Kaur, Partner & Head of Leeds Office

Beyond its core function as a law firm, Addleshaw Goddard has a strong focus on CSR, is operates an apprenticeship programme to provide career opportunities for those who do not want to go to university. The firm also runs the AG Elevate programme which has been operating for a number of years and supports an annual cohort of entrepreneurs operating in regulated markets.

Laura Pilkington and James Whitaker are senior managers in technology and innovation at Addleshaw Goddard. They provided an overview of Addleshaw Goddard’s activity in relation to LegalTech, explaining that the ‘ILT’ team has grow since being established in 2015, and is now made up of nearly 45 people. Addleshaw Goddard is keen to make legal technology a career paths, and is embedding it within the firm’s graduate scheme.

“We hear a lot about how law and tech are colliding. I don’t really see it that way, I see them as complimentary and helping to take the legal sector forward.”

James Whitaker, Senior Manager, Technology & Innovation

James explained that at Addleshaw Goddard, LegalTech involves combing lawyers with technology, process reengineering, project management. He gave an example of a client having nearly 200 property leases to review within 2 weeks, which included many complex considerations. Using document review AI technology, the contracts were able to be reviewed and the key issues identified that required a lawyer to look at them.

The team is also working with universities in relation to topics such as blockchain technology and the use of data by its clients.

Many of the event attendees were from University of Law, and Laura said that the firm would really welcome Leeds-based applications for its graduate scheme over the coming months. – Keith Sutton, Business Development Director

Keith explained that Toca is a technology firm that is operating in the legal sector, rather than being a dedicated LegalTech firm. Toca has just completed some market research, looking at the effectiveness of digital transformation programmes.

The primary drivers for digital transformation programmes are to support business growth opportunities (60% of respondents), and to improve customer journeys. 79% of IT decision makers surveyed said they their organisation now expects digital transformation to take place at approximately twice the speed than it did two years ago.

Interestingly, the key factor that stops programmes succeeding is the lack of available budget, but other key factors include issues with legacy technology, lack of interaction between IT and the business, a shortage of developers, and challenges with integration.

“We’re seeing a clear trend towards shorter more agile tech projects, rather than large scale digital transformation programmes, which have been proven to typically get delayed by 5 months.”

Keith Sutton, Business Development Director

Just Access – Sophie Walker, Founder & CEO

Sophie started off as a legal access lawyer and her motivation to launch Just Access in 2016 came from her frustration in to inefficiency of the volume of transcriptions that needed to be reviewed. The market was highly fragmented. Sophie secured a grant to help fund the development of the business, and could quickly provide that transcripts could be provided at half the price in half the time.

Just Access took part in the AG Elevate programme, which helped it to develop a number of use cases including witness statement transcripts being created from audio recordings. More recent use cases include the conversation of podcast content into SEO content.

Sophie talked about two of her key challenges: raising funding, and being a female CEO. Sophie stated that the average R&D spend across UK companies is 5%, but in the legal sector it is just 1%, which highlights the challenge and opportunity for LegalTech-fuelled  innovation. Furthermore, only 1.3% of investment funding goes to female-led companies.

“Unfortunately we still live in a world when if you are a woman in your 30s you are unlikely to be identified as the CEO, and we need to change this. We can do more to help, and I think as a community in LegalTech we should encourage women to go out and start companies and a key way to do this is to help them get funding.”

Sophie Walker, Founder & CEO

Channel 4 – Madi Robinson, Controller of Corporate Legal & Governance

Madi relocated to her home town of Leeds over the last 18 months, and is based in the Leeds head office. Made gave some insights into the way an in-house legal team at a large corporate works.

The Corporate Legal team’s remit includes corporate investments, distribution contracts with organisations such as Sky, Virgin, YouTube and TikTok, as well as advertising contracts, data protection, and engaging with organisations such as Ofcom.

Historically, Channel 4’s focus has been primarily on content rather than tech, but now the dial has changed and the organisation is looking to innovate with LegalTech. This has involved embracing technology such as Zoom, Docusign, data storage, and redesigning processes. Madi also highlighted key challenges of progressing LegalTech developments in an in-house department as the requirement to develop a business case before being able to progress with a project, and the need to get new projects added to the tech roadmap within the organisation.

“Our legal teams are here to help the organisation achieve its goals, and this involves innovative problem solving. I’m delighted the LegalTech in Leeds initiative has been set up, and we’re keen to continue to be involved and benefit from it.”

Madi Robinson, Controller of Corporate Legal & Governance

Panel discussion

The panel discussion was chaired by Carly Gulliver, Corporate Partner at Addleshaw Goddard. Carly’s team works across a wide range of corporate transactions and over the last 12 months, a third of the deals completed by that team have been in the digital sector.

The previous speakers were joined by Paul Wright, CEO of Quartz Barristers. Paul founded Quartz Barristers to combine the provision of barristers with the utilisation of market leading technology, and is now embarking on the development of a new business called Barrister Link. Paul explained that the traditional barristers chambers model can be complex especially considering that all barristers in chambers are self employed. Quartz was established to work differently, with an advanced tech platform at the heart of the organisation, and Barrister Link will link consumers, barristers and solicitors.

“I see law as the ecosystem, and we need to champion lawyers and technologists and work together to find ways to do things differently and better.”

Paul Wright, Founder & CEO, Quartz Barristers

Topics of discussion included a discussion around the people and training elements of digital transformation, the support available in

“Navigating the landscape in the north is hard but things are improving. The conference that Whitecap organised earlier this year felt really different to the large industry events in London, and it was fantastic to be able to engage so directly with the speakers and the other attendees.”

”Engagement with lawyers in relation to change is really hard. We have used tools such as competitions, gamification and a hackathon to help drive change.”

Laura Pilkington, Senior Manager, Technology & Innovation, Addleshaw Goddard

“It’s critical that the people who will be using new technology are involved from a really early stage.”

Madi Robinson, Controller of Corporate Legal & Governance, Channel 4

We are very grateful to Addleshaw Goddard for hosting the event, including providing a fantastic breakfast for the pre and post-event networking.

The next LegalTech in Leeds event is a drinks and networking evening on 18th October at AvenueHQ, hosted in partnership with Barclays Eagle Labs. Sign up here.

You can view the full upcoming events programme here.