In recent years, tech talent and investment have poured massive amounts of money into the legal sector, and the pandemic has accelerated digitization and innovation. The focus must now be on interoperability – creating dynamic connections between different legal processes and resources.
At a virtual event by Thomson Reuters SYNERGY, legal technologist and futurologist Joseph Raczynski presented a session on “Legal platforms, APIs and the (r) evolution of Whizzbang Legaltech”. An API or application programming interface is the software that enables applications to connect to each other and exchange information. As Raczynski noted, the number of legal tech start-ups has increased tenfold over the past five years, most of which operate in the cloud and solve specific questions. But without common standards for the developers of these point solutions, the interoperability between new and existing legal tech solutions is a major challenge.
Playgrounds for innovation
Interoperability underpins the growing phenomenon of curated legal tech platforms, which are essentially app stores for legal tech products. Developers who want to make their app available on these platforms must code according to certain standards so that all apps on the platform are scalable and can work with third-party applications such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. Raczynski explained that a platform creates an environment for collaboration and innovation by setting standards for governance, coding, and security, and by enabling interactions between products on the platform. This creates a framework that subscribers and third parties can use to develop innovative new products.
Some links are part of the supply chain, like the OIC portal, but others, like photo ID verification, are optional add-ons. It is important to decide what you will be famous for when deciding whether to build your own tools and systems
Jon Grainger, Slater and Gordon
While Reynen Court is the pioneer in legal tech, backed by some of the world’s largest law firms, Thomson Reuters’ acquisition of HighQ enabled it to build its own plug-and-play platform. Other companies and suppliers are following this example and building what Raczynski called a âplayground for innovationâ.
Raczynski went on to describe how this approach helps lawyers collaborate, automate and manage their work: “You can pull third-party applications on demand as they are all coded in the same language, standards, and everything else works together.”
Legal tech investor Mike Suchsland, a venture partner at Bridge Investments, whose portfolio includes successful legal tech scale-ups, explained how these developments are changing the competitive environment for legal tech providers. They also help reduce the playing field between a vendor who wants to put together an all-in-one solution that takes advantage of the brand and channel scale and the vendor who develops a stand-alone solution but then passes APIs to another Punkt writes about the same solutions for easy interoperability in order to compete with the scaled player. The legal space is evolving into a scalable solution and we see this in areas like eDiscovery, workflow management and contract management. ‘
On the right way?
A central challenge is that state legal service portals are generally designed in two ways – the citizens ‘journey and the lawyers’ journey. This is surprising given the government’s continued support for Lawtech startups and innovations. Lawtech Scale-up- Jointly, not a law firm but a divorce services firm that works with couples breaking up without formally representing them, does not fall into either category and therefore cannot access the government’s online divorce portal. Co-founder Kate Daly explains that amicable is currently working with the Department of Justice to address this. âWe think it’s important that new models have the same access [government] IT systems as classic law firms and [should not be] disadvantaged if they offer consumers choice and access to justice. âThe company uses technology to speed up negotiations. ‘We develop our services to combine technology and human support. Big data enables us to develop algorithms to limit negotiating leeway and predict payroll results, âshe adds.
Self service support
In the vicinity, new self-service government portals are catalysts for legal tech innovations based on a combination of self-service, expert support and interoperability.
The MoJ Official Injury Claims (OIC) portal was developed to enable road accident victims to file personal injury claims without consulting a lawyer. However, due to the nature of these claims, most claimants do not represent themselves. The whiplash reforms that went into effect on May 31 (tinyurl.com/2ack3uhz) provide guidance on both compensation and reimbursable expenses.
NewLaw Solicitors, who specialize in personal injury claims processing for insurers, accident management companies and affiliates, had to transform its operations to claim compensation for clients and remain profitable under the new regime. It turned to an outside developer to come up with a software solution to handle claims differently.
The result is the personal injury portal Pilot, which combines a semi-automatic workflow with professional legal advice. “Our legal experts work together with our customer-oriented portal, which is integrated into the OIC portal,” explains Managing Director Tim Lock.
While Pilot allows customers to manage their own claims through the OIC portal, âthey can still access legal expertise when needed, but at a lower costâ. Although the firm has been innovated by outside developments, Pilot has changed the way it interacts with clients who have 24/7 access to their cases and has reduced the administrative burden for claims handlers as it does with the case of the Law firm is connected to management system. Lock intends to apply a similar approach to other products.
The reason for these self-service offerings is that while government portals are designed for consumers to have legal proceedings without a lawyer, most users need professional advice. As Jon Grainger, CIO of Slater and Gordon notes, this is because most people only hire an attorney (for anything) every seven years and therefore don’t necessarily understand their legal rights and obligations.
Like NewLaw’s pilot, Slater and Gordon’s Micase Road Traffic Accident (RTA) is an end-to-end online self-service tool that connects to the OIC portal and allows applicants to manage their own cases and an attorney for Contact for advice and advice if you need it. However, instead of charging a fee, it provides âno profit, no feeâ legal representation. Micase RTA is available on any device through the Slater and Gordon website.
Micase RTA, which is also integrated with partners and insurers, is the first self-service tool that goes live from a central digital legal platform, which reflects the firm’s “creative automation” strategy or, as Grainger explains, decides exactly where you need a human on the loop. This includes “micro-AI to make small decisions and leave big decisions to our customers and fee recipients,” he says. âMiplatform is a collection of components that serve a common purpose. We build all of our APIs in multiplat so we can reuse them every time we create a new digital legal service, and all of our products benefit from these connections. ‘
Both Lock and Grainger had to work around issues with the OIC portal, including developing a system that was connected to a portal that had not yet started. “Developing Pilot at the same time as the OIC portal was being built presented a number of challenges as the goalposts were moved regularly,” says Lock. âWe’ve compared it to equipping a house and dangling some cables from the ceiling in the hopes that at some point we could put a light on it. It’s fair to say there are a few feet of wasted cable! ‘
Grainger points out considerations when creating APIs that interface with external organizations. ‘We built contingencies so we can handle OIC service disruptions that require a queue without disrupting our business flow. Security is critical when connecting to an external system, âhe adds, explaining that miplatform includes integrations with identity verification and compliance services.
Grainger recommends developing an API strategy. âSome connections are part of the supply chain, like the OIC portal, but others, like photo ID verification, are optional add-ons. It is important to decide what you will be famous for when deciding whether to build your own tools and systems or link to outside resources. ‘
Law tech start-up Legal Utopia connects individuals and small businesses with legal information and resources. Its Self-Help Legal Checker â¢ identifies over 400,000 common legal issues and instantly links to updated guidelines, forms and templates, while Find A Lawyer is the first location-based map of any SRA-regulated law firm. It offers in-app access to company information, practice reports and contact details.
Book A Lawyer includes in-app video calls. Founder and problem solver Fraser Matcham works with AI researchers to apply quality indicators to companies and develop an in-app company comparison tool. Legal Utopia is considered to be the first app that can be integrated directly into state legal portals. Users can file money claims, start a business, dispute a performance decision, or file for divorce right from the app.
The interoperability between systems and services increases the efficiency of corporate and commercial law and inspires new innovative ways to provide affordable legal advice and support. There are still operational challenges, but these new connections are sure to transform the legal services ecosystem.