Adam Hill, future trainee, on his legal tech work experience with Collaborate cohort member, StructureFlow.
During my legal vacation schemes, I witnessed several supervising solicitors spend countless hours fiddling with grid-lines in Powerpoint, raging at misaligned margins in Word, and struggling to work simultaneously on documents with colleagues. These seemingly minor obstacles prevented my supervisors from engaging with the intricate legal problems that they could otherwise be solving. I realised that I didn’t relish the prospect of working like that in practice.
It became quite clear to me that I needed to understand how lawyers, software developers and legal engineers are using their experience of legal technology and practice to move things forward. I knew that I needed to understand the importance of legal tech in my role as a future lawyer quickly – I only had the two months between graduating from my undergraduate degree and the LPC to get to grips with this.
I sought to gain some hands-on legal tech work experience, and contacted the Graduate Recruitment team at Slaughter and May, who put me in touch with Jane Stewart, the firm’s Head of Innovation. Jane kindly created a post on LinkedIn signaling my interest, from which I received several offers for fascinating legal tech opportunities. Tim Follet, StructureFlow’s CEO, offered me a flexible opportunity to join him as the company’s first intern. We discussed my aims and interests, and although I was obviously interested in the work, my frame of reference meant I wasn’t sure how to articulate exactly what I wanted to learn about. In hindsight, this is unsurprising – the legal technology industry is massively diverse, and the type of role I was taking on is still largely nascent.
I think this is true of many future lawyers – we know the buzzwords, we’re aware of blockchain, we understand that smart contracts exist, but we don’t understand how we can get to the point of actualising those interests into something useful. I certainly didn’t. All I knew was that I didn’t have the time to learn any coding languages. Through my conversation with Tim, however, it became very clear that this wasn’t key. There’s a lot of room in the industry for people with an eye for organisation, problem-solving and a healthy helping of common sense.
After just a few weeks working with StructureFlow, I can’t say that I have a holistic understanding of all the ways technology can apply to legal practice – but the experience has been incredibly useful already. I’ve been able to sit in on meetings with senior figures at StructureFlow’s clients, hearing straight from the horse’s mouth about pain points in practice and therefore understanding what exactly law firms need as businesses. I’m developing familiarity with firms’ security concerns, which are key to any application storing client information, and how companies meet those standards. I’m flexing my drafting muscles by working on company policies and keeping them compliant with ISO27001. I’m getting to have a really tangible impact on the application itself – working next to its inventor means that I get to have real creative discussions, and work with the development team on improving its features. Perhaps most significantly, I am developing my own ideas about how legal processes are designed, and how design thinking can be brought into legal services. I am also getting a head-start on life in London ahead of my LPC, which might turn out to be the most useful thing of all!
I would highly encourage future trainees and aspiring solicitors to search out experience in legal tech ahead of their LPC or training contract, and to seek assistance or advice from their future firm. I cannot emphasise enough the value of developing an informed and critical perspective of legal services before diving into practice. As well as the above, exposing myself to the industry has given me a level of confidence in working professionally which can’t really be substituted.
I would highly encourage future trainees and aspiring solicitors to search out experience in legal tech ahead of their LPC or training contract, and to seek assistance or advice from their future firm.