"Is the legal services industry facing the Uber effect?". This was the question Hariolf Wenzler asked the approximately 50 participants who attended the first Meetup event on "legal tech" in Vienna. Baker McKenzie's Chief Strategy Officer for Germany and Austria, Hariolf Wenzler, is also chairman of the "European Legal Tech Association" (ELTA).
"The technical support of legal work started with simple support processes, but now it is evident that legal tech will not stop here," said Wenzler, drawing on numerous case examples. He went on to say that an increasing number of solutions is directly targeting the end customer. "However, it seems that people overestimate the short-term effects and underestimate the long-term effects of any technology."
The reason for this was given by Clemens Wass, managing director of the legal information system openlaws: "The legal services industry generates a global annual turnover of 800 billion US dollars – a relatively small figure as compared to other industries." Moreover, the industry was fragmented along jurisdictions and languages. Nevertheless, Austria had to be careful not to fall behind in terms of legal tech, he said. "While the Anglo-Americans, too, are only human, they sell themselves extremely well."
Legal tech is what attorneys have been lacking
Andreas Sernetz elaborated on the opportunities for the legal services industry: "Legal tech is what attorneys have been lacking." Legal financing companies which ensure efficient settlement of mass claims created a market segment for attorneys that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. "Seeking legal advice to assert a EUR 250 claim against an airline on a private basis would be completely uneconomic," the managing director of FairPlane Austria said. "It is only the combination of online convenience and the absence of any cost risk at all that creates a completely new market." In his opinion, there will be online platforms for all mass claims in 10 years.
The event was rounded off by Lukas Feiler. The head of Baker McKenzie's Vienna IT team came up with a clear outlook: "The digital wave has come. It is up to each and everyone of us to either ride it or go down." He spoke about legal tech solutions successfully implemented by the Firm: The "Global IP Manager" allowed clients to manage their worldwide trademark rights. The interactive "Maps" tool made it possible to track all cases of product piracy across the globe. The information governance platform "iG360" made it easier for clients to communicate with the Firm and retrieve documents already prepared at any time. As the first Austrian law firm to specialize in digital transformation, "we opened a whole new communication channel with our clients just a few weeks ago: the online magazine 'Digital Wave'," Feiler stated.
The event was organized via the online platform Meetup. Some 50 lawyers from law firms and legal departments as well as numerous Austrian providers of legal tech solutions participated in the discussion. To be continued.