You are an inhouse lawyer becoming an entrepreneur. What made you take that jump?
Having spent 10 years as an in-house lawyer in various large organisations, I became frustrated with how in-house Legal and the rest of the business worked together. Legal felt very much like it worked in silo against its own objectives whereas the rest of the business often saw us as a bottleneck that didn’t truly grasp the business priorities and direction. Working in the legal team felt isolating at times and it was clear to me that there were a few reasons for this:
1) risk appetite: there is a natural tension between Legal and the business due to the nature of the role and our responsibility to protect the business from undue risk. However, it was often the case that lawyers did not fully grasp the fact that the business has its own risk appetite and that Legal’s responsibility was to reflect that. The lack of standardisation across each lawyer’s approach was not only frustrating but also created an inconsistent risk-threshold for the business which in effect was working against our own goal of protecting the business.
2) ways of working: the other significant reason Legal wasn’t fully able to support the business’s needs was the way it worked, practically. Legal has unfortunately fallen behind other teams with archaic, manual ways of working and a lack of tech enabled processes. Add to the mix the often unfriendly language that lawyers tend to use in their contracts, policies and even communications and it’s not a surprise why the chasm is there. The other impact of this issue is that Legal is chronically overloaded with low value work, leaving little time for important strategic work. This is a really significant issue and creates a vicious cycle of lawyers who want to do better but haven’t got the time to kick-start a process to make that happen.
3) personal brand: Legal’s out-of-sync risk appetite coupled with friction-filled ways of working and a general lack of time to do much more than ’urgent’ BAU work, has an impact on the way Legal is perceived within a business. Often seen as a bottleneck, Legal is often not influential enough to have a true strategic impact on the business. The reality however is that lawyers really should have a place at the top table: our position within an organisation gives us a unique eagle-eye view of the whole business landscape and our ability to see and understand complexity where others may miss it is incredibly valuable for fast-moving organisations that are trying to navigate increasingly more complex regulatory changes, environmental issues and other nuances that have huge business impact. Through the way we are trained to think, behave and assess different scenarios, we are naturally equipped to really help propel a business forward and fundamentally impact major strategic decisions at the highest levels thereby adding enormous value to the business and creating more satisfying jobs for the lawyers themselves. Yet somehow, the very attributes that make us so valuable can also hold us back – which is why I started TLB – to help bridge the gap and empower lawyers to claim their seat at the table whilst at the same time creating richer, more fulfilling roles for themselves.
Tell us about TLB? In what way is it different from a law firm?
There will always be a place for law firms where for example you’re looking for advice on complex or new territory that will enable you to confidently make business decisions without fear of unwanted repercussions. In those instances, law firms are worth their weight in gold because they remove a major roadblock for you and allow you to press ahead and deliver. TLB is not a law firm. We are a legal optimisation consultancy that works with in-house lawyers to help them streamline their legal functions so they can get their time back and focus on the strategic work that matters. We do that through a unique blend of services including legal expertise, design thinking, process optimisation and tech. On the one hand, we take on legal teams’ heavy lifting by offering a smart contract review service where we act as an extension to their team to take on the high volume contracts whilst in parallel helping them streamline their contract function end to end. We also help in-house teams redesign their contracts so they’re easier to review and negotiate, build playbooks so they have standardised approaches to their agreements and internal processes, map out their processes and streamline them and finally, we help them choose, prepare and deploy technology to digitise their operations and unlock valuable data. We are also the team behind oneNDA, the global NDA standard that has been adopted by over 1000 companies worldwide.
There is a lot of talk about generative AI. Do you see it as a new cool tool or a potential threat?
Generative AI will be a complete game-changer for Legal and I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon – it’s here to stay. Whereas most of the legal world has been focused on CLM over the last 3-5 years, my view is that over the next 3-5 years the focus will change to incorporating GAI into their operations. Although it’s fairly new technology, it has the power to make certain tasks Legal is burdened with completely obsolete and will in fact be a threat to those lawyers that have found their comfort zone in performing manual, low value tasks that are more akin to admin than legal work.
Innovations or changes you would like to see in the legal market the coming years – dream big!
I would like to see lawyers really appreciate the value they can bring to their business and move the needle in terms of the way they work to reflect that value and allow their businesses to capitalise on it. In terms of what that means in practice, taking a design thinking, user-centric approach to the way they work with a view to engage their ’customers’ and truly deliver on their needs is fundamental in making a difference. I would also like to see lawyers embrace technology and use it as a tool to alleviate their workload so they can make space for the work that matters.
You will be in Stockholm on October 12 as the key note speaker at NLTD. Is this the first time Stockholm and anything you look forward to? Meeting the Nordic legal tech community, a Swedish fika or the ABBA museum?
I have only been to Stockholm once before when I worked for a space company and it was -10 degrees but sunny and beautiful! I have very fond memories of Stockholm and the fika (!) and I can’t wait to be there again this Autumn. But what I’m most excited about is getting to know the Nordic legal tech community and really getting a feel for what the landscape is like – I think the Nordics are a very fertile ground for legal innovation and we’re seeing some really great initiatives coming out of this region like Contractbook, Pocket Law and Privasee.
Thank you so much for your time Electra. See you in October!
// NLTD crew
- CEO and Founder at TLB,
- Co-Founder at oneNDA
- The Hot 100 Lawyer Award 2022
- FT Collaboration in Legal Innovation Award 2022
- European Women in Legal Tech 2020 Award