In no time at all, Artificial Lawyer has become an essential source for legal tech news and analysis. We caught up with its founder ahead of next month's Legal Innovators conference.
Hi! 👋 Who are you?
I'm Richard Tromans, the founder of Artificial Lawyer.
Great to meet you! Can you give us a potted history of Artificial Lawyer - what were you doing before?
In the summer of 2016, I'd been working (and still work) as a strategy consultant and advising law firms for quite a few years and had recently launched my own consulting business. I always had a passion for writing as well as technology and wanted to write more, and it was clear to me that there was something happening in the legal industry that was new. I could feel it.
Initially, it seemed to be centred around AI document review, which was the technology getting everyone excited at the time. That got my attention and I went into RAVN, had a demo, and was blown away. I came out and wrote a blog that began with: 'I have seen the future in a warehouse in Shoreditch.'
That generated lots of interest, and so I went and did more research and realised there was so much more going on than I’d realised.
So I started Artificial Lawyer to cover these technologies that were changing the business of law. It began as a blog, but the more I looked, the more I found, and it coincided with three years of incredible activity and change. Now Artificial Lawyer is a full-scale news site and we have thousands of readers all around the world, broadening out into this amazing ecosystem.
How has the landscape changed in the three years since you started covering legal tech?
For those firms and companies that have been on the ball, it’s changed incredibly quickly. In 2016 the number of firms even piloting AI document review was still small. There were lots of misconceptions, preconceptions. We’ve got over that hurdle and now people know what the technology actually is, the discussion has become much more practical: How will we use it? What will we use and how will we improve our processes? We’ve come a long way in terms of education.
The second thing that’s changed is the debate amongst lawyers - initially, “I’ll be replaced” was a real concern for lawyers, but now that’s gone away.
"As an industry, arguably we’re still at the early adoption phase - but those earlier adopters are exiting the pilot phase and really getting value from new ways of working"
Have law firms and in-house teams progressed at different speeds?
Yes. Some corporates - particularly big banks, tech and telecoms companies - were on board early on. But for the most part, corporate teams were behind large law firms in adoption terms. Sometimes a GC might send an RFP out to a law firm asking for examples of technology being deployed, but once the firm explained, the GC might not be able to do a whole lot with that information. Empty rhetoric was something of a problem.
Things have changed now. The new technology is bedding down. It's becoming 'normal' and making a real difference to legal businesses.
Artificial Lawyer’s role now is to act as a bridge between the tech creators, the new suppliers like ALSPs, and the lawyers. This started with presenting a lot of this new tech to the market, but now the role is a lot deeper and broader. It’s about really getting down to the working realities of using this technology.
We never set out to be a technical website for IT people. It’s not about the code behind a product, nor is it about black letter law. It’s about helping people who the tech is designed for to understand it, and we hope that’s what we’re achieving.
Realism has increased, which is welcome. Once you’ve tried a particular solution, that air of mystery goes away, and you’re reassured by the fact that it didn’t cost any jobs. As an industry, arguably we’re still at the early adoption phase - but those earlier adopters are exiting the pilot phase and really getting value from new ways of working.
What are the big trends you’ve seen in legal tech over the past year?
The year is flying by - it’ll be over before we start to understand what’s really going on. There are four key themes that I called out in a recent feature:
Consolidation and platformization: there’s been a flurry of M&A in this space, and some moves toward shared platforms for legal tech.
Continued proliferation of legal tech companies: even though it might feel like the market is saturated, there are still new entrepreneurs and companies coming to market.
Incubator/accelerator growth: lots of these are springing up inside and outside of law firms, giving entrepreneurs access to guidance and pilot customers.
What I’d call ‘More than law’ - this is law firms creating departments to build and deliver tech solutions themselves, either by selling directly or as part of their offering.
Tell us about Legal Innovators - what’s the new event all about?
The purpose of the event is to get into the practical aspects of using legal tech at scale. We’re looking at how to practically put this technology to work, with people who have done it at scale, are relying on it and getting benefits from it.
We want to help people learn and share their experiences with the reality of using legal tech - sharing war stories, talking through challenges of making this stuff integral to the way they perform their jobs. The actual nitty gritty generates less heat - that’s why you need conferences like this, to help people dig into the specifics. Getting people to talk about the pros and cons of what they’ve done is hard but that’s where the real value is - that’s what I want people to come away with.
Is there any session you’re particularly excited about?
I’m most excited about the interesting comments that will come from the floor. Any live event has a degree of unpredictability on the day, and it’ll be interesting to see what performs the best, what’s most interesting to the audience, and what insights come out spontaneously.
More than anything I hope someone in the audience comes away and feels inspired. If there’s one attendee who’s inspired and leaves with some new insight into legal innovation, then it’s all been worth it.
There are a lot of legal tech events these days - did you have to work hard to make this different?
There’s no perfect or preset way to run a conference. Some are heavy on workshop elements, some are big on entertainment, some are really niche and aimed at a really specific role. Those with the broadest appeal are the ones where you’re trying to help people learn. I used to be an English teacher, and that passion for education is always there. I’m really serious about the potential of innovative legal technology and service delivery to drive real change and make things better for everyone.
You can’t do that by just dumping technology on people’s desks. There has to be a change process - it can’t be from the top down, nor from the bottom up. It needs to be a broad change throughout the ecosystem.
What should sponsors and attendees do to get the most out of the event?
Come to share. Legal Innovators wants attendees to ask questions and share their experiences as much as possible because they’re the ground zero of legal innovation. As real users, their questions reflect the experiences people actually have with this technology, so it’s critical that they share them. I’ll be asking every panel to make time for questions.