Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Reinvent Law London – make a date for 2014

If, in June 2014, you get a chance to attend a half-day conference organised by Michigan State and Westminster Universities, I suggest you go. Known as Law Tech Camp London in 2012, and ReInvent Law London in 2013, this event has quickly become the highlight of my legal year. In just over half a day, you’ll see updates from legal market innovators, Dragons’ Den-style concept pitches and mind-bending blue-sky thinking.

In 2012, arguably the most left-field presentation came from Miami Law School’s Michael Bossone who delivered his eulogy to legal service innovation via YouTube. This year, the award for the most “out there” presentation was probably a toss-up between Olivia Zarcate and Lah Leutrim Ahmeti’s. Olivia Zarcate wanted us to understand the law with metaphors, and spread the law with images. Have you ever seen legal practice areas mapped onto the human body? Well, Reinvent Law audience members have.

Lah Leutrim Ahmeti, meanwhile, had a neat idea for a consumer law mobile phone app. The app would allow users to fight their corner with stroppy shop assistants when trying to return goods, by using location-based software to download the shops’ returns polices directly onto the phone. What made Lah’s presentation so different? It was delivered through the medium of interpretive dance. I’ve never seen that method of delivery at an IBA event.

In fact, Lah’s presentation went to the core of what Reinvent Law is all about – using technology to replicate, assist or replace much of what lawyers do in a more efficient way. For example, in 2012 Daniel Katz from Mitchgen State University had introduced the concept of quantitative legal predictionanalysing data contained in past court rulings to advise potential litigants about whether or not they had a case worth fighting.

This year, Don Philbin from Picture It Settled® showed how historical data from thousands of real-life litigated cases could statistically predict how the other side was likely to react to ongoing settlement proposals with up to 80% accuracy. Martin Langan demonstrated Road Traffic Representation, a website that allowed clients to self-diagnose - for free - their likelihood of success when accused of breaching England and Wales’ road traffic laws. RTR’s software could also automatically generate a detailed briefing note for a court advocate, should the client decide to proceed with their case.

Another strong theme of ReInvent Law London was the use of technology to crowd-source justice-related solutions. Westminster University’s Lisa Webley revealed plans to draw on the university’s pool of law and IT students to develop a computer aided diagnostic and legal advice system for members of the public who no longer had access to legal aid. Alice de Sturler, meanwhile, revealed how she used social media to try to generate new lines of police enquiry in “cold cases” – unsolved crimes that took place in the pre-internet era.

Although ReInvent Law was resolutely cutting edge in its outlook, it concluded in a way that reconfirmed the value of old-fashioned human interactions. Following onsite drinks, sponsored by LexisNexis, several of the participants decamped to a nearby pub to continue to debate. But of course, being techies, we’d organised the post-event drinks in advance, using socialmedia. Well, we would, wouldn’t we?

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