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European Legal Technology Association announces new Board Members

The board of the European Legal Technology Association (ELTA), founded just over a year ago, is expanding. Its four board members will now be joined by María J. González- Espejo García (Spain) and Jeroen Zweers (The Netherlands). This expansion is the next step for the ELTA in achieving its goal to become the European platform for the technological future of the legal market.

María studied law at the Complutense University of Madrid, as well as European Law at Amsterdam University. She is an expert in corporate and professional #branding and is passionate about #innovation and #legaltech, as well as being a founding member of Madrid #LegalHackers and President of the Latin American Legal Professionals Women’s Association (AMJI). María has successfully built up and positioned many brands, such as Isofoton (renewable energy); Pérez-Llorca (law firm) as well as helping establish the Madrid region as an investment hub. She is a founding partner of the Instituto de Innovación Legal and a managing partner at Emprendelaw, which advises many professional service companies, law firms, and consultancies in areas such as strategy, marketing, communication, and people and knowledge management.

Jeroen is Innovation Director for Kennedy Van der Laan, a law firm based in Amsterdam and Eindhoven. He is responsible for a team of legal tech consultants and developers who help in-house counsels to use legal tech to overcome challenges. Jeroen is also co-founder of Dutch Legal Tech which is one of the oldest legal tech communities in Europe, with more than 900 members. Last year Jeroen was nominated as European Legal Innovator of the Year by the Financial Times.

Hariolf Wenzler, co-founder and president of the ELTA: “We are really delighted that with María and Jeroen we have found two new board members, who are equally excited and motivated as the rest of the board. The changes and developments, and new tasks that we face in the legal market are humungous and we try to keep up with all of it, worldwide, in order to enable our members to get the best insights and information. The board extension was the perfect next step to gain new perspectives and input from other European countries.”

María, who has been a member of the ELTA since it was founded in 2016, says: “A European platform was exactly what was needed to bring together all of these smart ideas and innovations that make the legal market so exciting and bursting with opportunities. I am looking forward to working with the board and with all the legal tech users and developers who are already connected via ELTA.”

“The Dutch legal tech scene is pretty agile and busy, but as in every country, the focus today rests mainly on national contacts, with the exception of the usual glance to the US. With ELTA Connect, we bring together European legal tech players, it is fantastic to be able to connect with peers in a mouse click”, says the new board member, Jeroen Zweers.

The “European” aspect of the ELTA is one of the issues that has been a main priority for the association right from its conception. Accordingly, after the success of its first conference in Berlin last July, the ELTA established the ELTA Ambassador Program, a group of handpicked well-connected legal tech pioneers from all over Europe and beyond, who volunteered to act as “swinging doors” between their particular country or region and the international level of the ELTA.

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4 Steps to make a Law Firm Machine Learning Ready

By Micha Bues

The term „Machine Learning“ was unheard of in most law firms years, or even months ago. Now it seems almost every discussion around the „digital law firm“ or legal tech revolves around this topic. Simply throwing the term “Machine Learning ” into a discussion guarantees attention and excitement. The media continuously reports that Machine Learning will either destroy the legal profession or lift it up to new heights. Comparatively, there has been very little discussion on what this developments actually means for law firms and, perhaps most importantly, how they could get Machine Learning ready.

The term „Machine Learning“ is also often used interchangeably with Artificial Intelligence. Thus before we dive into the question of how law firms could get Machine Learning ready I want to briefly highlight the differences between Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

In short,

  • Artificial Intelligence is the broader concept of machines being able to carry out tasks in a “smart” or „intelligent“ way.
  • Machine Learning is a current application of AI that „gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed“ (Arthur Samuel, 1959). Machine learning is closely related to (and often overlaps with) computational statistics, which also focuses in prediction-making through the use of computers.

The use of Machine Learning is already changing business in virtually every industry. Even though the likelihood of self-directed, quasi-intelligent computational robots emerging in the foreseeable future is extremely low, Machine Learning can provide huge benefits in the day-to-day business. Over the next 5 to 10 years, the biggest business gains will stem from the gathering and sourcing of data and providing this data in new products and/or business models to the customers/client. Machine Learning will accelerate and facilitate finding patterns and automate value extraction in many areas.

So how can a law firm start to use Machine Learning?

# 1  Step: Analyze business processes

Machine Learning is perfectly suitable for repetitive processes. Therefore, the first step is to analyze processes in a law firm in order to detect tasks, procedures and decisions that are repeated frequently and consistently. This could be, for instance, various tasks in a Due Diligence (DD) process. A DD process comprises of every task, procedure or decision that is done, followed or made from the initial contact with the client and the delivery of the DD report. After having identified these processes it is vital to gather as much data as feasible around them. This is the kind of data that can be used to fuel Machine Learning in the future.

# 2 Step: Understand Machine Learning

Machine Learning won’t be suitable for all processes. It is not a solution for every type of problem. There are a lot of problems and areas where robust solutions may be developed without using Machine Learning techniques. Machine Learning is, for instance, not required if you can determine a target value by using simple rules, computations, or predetermined steps that can be programmed without needing any data-driven learning. Often these robust solution suffice to gain transparency and reliability.

Machine Learning is useful if the set of rules is unclear or follows complex, non-linear patterns. In particular, Machine Learning is helpful where

  • Rule-based solution are inadequate: If a large and overlapping number of factors influences the answer it is impossible to use a simple (deterministic), rule-based solution. It is just too complex to accurately code the rules and to fine tune them. Machine Learning, however, effectively solve this problem; or
  • Large-scale problems arise: ML solutions are effective at handling large-scale problems. A smaller set of data (documents etc.) might be handled manually or with rule-based solution. This however becomes impossible for millions of documents.

# 3 Step: Focus on quick wins

Focus on the low hanging fruit. Automation based on Machine Learning will work best on well defined and understood processes which are not overly complex. In a legal context, focus on tasks, decisions and problems that do not require a lot of in-depth „legal thinking“. Concentrate on tasks that are repetitive and could be performed by literally „everyone“. Surprisingly, there are lot of tasks in a law firm that qualify for Machine Learning testing ground, i.e …

#4 Step: Action

Start testing.

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Study “Digital Economy & Law” – Key Findings

The joint study on “Digital Economy & Law” prepared by the German Association of General Counsel (Bundesverband der Unternehmensjuristen) and commercial law firm CMS in Germany published in late 2016 addresses the legal challenges presented by digital transformation and the effects on corporate legal departments. For the survey 1,050 companies were contacted, 305 answered the questionnaire, resulting in a return of 29.0 %. Findings are based on the opinions of German corporate legal departments from 25 branches. The study thus represents a broad spectrum of the German economy.

The majority of in-house legal departments (roughly 69.9%) agrees that digital transformation is having a considerable influence on their company. Nonetheless, tendency shows: The larger the company, the stronger the sense of impact. Companies and groups with an annual turnover of EUR 10 billion and more consider that the consequences of digital technology are particularly far-reaching. When asked whether the digital transformation offers more opportunities than risks, there also is a clear picture: Most of those asked expect a positive impact. On a scale of 1 (high risks) to 10 (large opportunities) two-thirds assess the situation at 7 or higher. Conversely, the group which considers that the development conceals risks, is very small at 6.3%.

In-house lawyers still see a long way to go, both with regards to their own abilities and skills, as well as competences relating to digitalisation. For example, only roughly a quarter of in-house legal departments considers that they are “very well” (4.5%) or “well” (23.3%) prepared for the challenges brought about by digital transformation. Nearly half (48.5%) award themselves a 3 (on a German school scale of 1 to 6, 1 being the top mark). The most frequently named reasons given by the in-house legal departments for not being best prepared for digitalisation are as fol-lows: The existing budget is too low and urgently required resources are not available. In addi-tion, the topic of digitalisation has frequently not percolated through sufficiently, so that the measures required are not undertaken. Some other critical issues are: not enough willingness to change, colleagues are too old for the topic, lack of in-service training, slow adaptability.

Today, on average nearly every third member of in-house legal departments (31.4%) is involved with digital topics. They use 1/5 to 2/5 of their available time for aspects and issues relating to digitalisation. Barely 1/5 of those asked (17.1%) have a digital work focus, defined as more than 60% of their time spent on digital aspects. It is agreed that the digital economy requires, among other things, additional competencies, new focuses and more resources. However, not even eve-ry 10th company (9%), is setting aside a higher budget for this aspect. But the few companies which do allocate additional funds for digital transformation in their legal departments are aim-ing to increase their legal budget by quite significant 18.9%.

The answer to the demand for more resources does not have to be an increase in personnel. Thus, 39.9% of those taking part in the study hope to compensate for the extra work caused by digitalisation with improved processes and organisation, including the use of Legal Tech. Thanks to digital technology, it is possible to carry out high-calibre tasks in many areas with the assis-tance of specific software. Hence, legal departments want to make more use of the opportunities offered by Legal Tech. The suggestions often made include: processes which can be standard-ised and which do not required any express legal competence should be outsourced increasingly to shared services platforms. Those responding to the survey consider the greatest potential for the use of shared services platforms to be in the area of reviewing and drafting simple contracts. Recommendations are often given to make available on digital service platforms the work of the legal department and to bundle it on these platforms, provided no specialist know-how is re-quired. Those responding to the survey expect that the use of digital tools and programs will speed up their work and processes. In this way the degree of optimised legal advice will increase and the range of digital services will be extended.

For obtaining the full study (available only in German), please visit the following link.

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What AI in Law Can and Can’t Do

By Micha Bues

There is a lot of buzz around the word „AI“ in Legal Tech at the moment. AI is portrayed as the number one trend in the legal industry and beyond, with a particular focus on its potentially disruptive nature. Consequently, many lawyers want to understand how AI might change or disrupt their profession. Some are already a step ahead posing the question how they could use it to reinvent their own law firms.

The hype (and sometimes hysteria) around AI at times seems to be based on an unrealistic picture of the capabilities of the current AI technology. AI seems to be almost magical. A technology we do not really understand that has the potential to heal all our problems and inherent human limitations. “But”, as Andrew Ng put it in a very interesting Harvard Business Review article, ‘it’s not magic„, Today’s AI is far away from being magical, or even a „strong AI“ (or „full“ AI). Strong AI describes a hypothetical machine that exhibits behavior at least as skillful and flexible as humans do. Instead, what we have today is „weak or narrow AI“. Weak AI is non-sentient AI that is focused on one narrow task. Weak AI can only be used in a limited context. Think a „chess AI“ cannot be used for translation.

Let’s have a closer look and let’s see what AI is able to „do“ today:


At first glance, these types of AI seem to be relatively simple and somewhat limited. These examples of weak AI use some input data (A) to quickly generate some response (B). The technical term for this „input – output machine“ is „supervised learning“. Supervised learning is the Machine Learning task of inferring a function from labeled training data (Wikipedia). Supervised learning has been improving rapidly in the last couple of years (In 2015 alone, technology companies spent $8.5 billion on deals and investments in artificial intelligence) and the most advanced are built on deep neural networks. But these systems still fall far short of strong AI.

There is a great challenge for companies developing AI based on supervised learning: It requires a huge amount of data. In order to train an AI-algorithm it needs to be fed with a lot of input – output training data. The training requires carefully choosing the input and output data. Otherwise the algorithm is not able to figure out the relationship between input and output in an accurate, non-biased way.

This training process is the real challenge that sets different AI providers apart. As AI algorithm might be reproducible with sufficiently deep pockets, it is extremely difficult to replicate training results as the training data is usually scarce. The competitive advantage comes with the best (in terms of size and variety) training data sets and the amount of time put into training. Again in the words of Andrew Ng, “data, rather than software, is the defensible barrier for many businesses.“

This means early adopters and „producers“ of AI may have a competitive edge as they have sufficient time to allocate enough training data and thus to properly train the AI. Therefore, it can be dangerous to jump on the AI-bandwagon too late. Put differently, it may be a great chance for lawyers, law firms and legal departments to develop a weak AI in a lucrative niche. It will then be very difficult for copycats to reproduce the results in a short timeframe due to the lack the sufficient data.


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ELTA Meetup in Vienna was a Great Success

On Nov. 7, 2016, Hariolf Wenzler opened the first Legal Tech Meetup in Vienna, Austria with some 50 lawyers, inhouse counsel and entrepreneurs. Clemens Wass of gave a talk about better legal research and data retrieving. Andreas Sernetz of spoke about EU citizens’ difficulty to claim rights against airlines and the facilitation by technology. Lukas Feiler of Baker & McKenzie’s IT law practice concluded with tech products the firm developed and successfully deploys, before all attendees were invited to adjourn with drinks and snacks.

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David Curle on The New Legal Tech – a Global Phenomenon

Legal Tech seems to be a global phenomenon. Legal Tech companies and communities are popping up around the world and share some common characteristics and challenges. In our ELTA meetup in Berlin on October 19 David Curle (Director, Market Intelligence at Thomson Reuters Legal) gave a presentation on why and what may and should be learnt from it.

Click here to download Davids presentation.

The meetup was kindly hosted by Dentons.

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Press Realease: ELTA Wants to Strengthen Legal Technology in Europe

Berlin, September 19, 2016 – The European Legal Technology Association (ELTA) was founded today. ELTA is an association of law firms, companies, legal tech providers, start-ups, and individuals with an interest in legal business and legal technology from all over Europe. Its objective is to strengthen legal technology (legal tech) at a European level. The ELTA is based in Berlin.

In addition to the general representation of the members’ common economic, legal, commercial, technical, and scientific interests, the specific goals of the ELTA are:
To raise awareness of technology and software supported solutions and processes in the European legal market as well promoting companies, law firms, start-ups, and initiatives that are active in this area;
To create a transparent platform to facilitate and support networking among the various European protagonists and stakeholders in the fields of legal tech;
To regularly inform its members about important current topics, trends and developments as well as arranging legal tech events;
To promote academic surveys and studies, as well as research in the fields of legal tech and its neighboring disciplines; and
To make a contribution to vocational training and to ongoing and further education in the fields of legal tech

The ELTA’s management board consists of the chairman Dr. Hariolf Wenzler (Baker & McKenzie) and his two representatives Dr. Micha-Manuel Bues (Leverton) and Tobias Heining (CMS). The ELTA is open to all legal entities or associations of individuals established under private or public law that are based and/or have commercial premises in Europe and who are interested in, develop, or use legal tech. This includes, in particular, legal departments of companies, law firms, and providers of legal tech solutions. In addition, individuals with an interest in the subject can become members if they are involved in the legal tech sphere occupationally or personally and want to promote the goals of the ELTA.

ELTA chairman Hariolf Wenzler came up with the idea of founding the ELTA during a conference in the USA: “I am very pleased indeed that we have been able to establish the ELTA, a goal that I have been working on for some considerable time. Legal technology is going to change the legal market, presenting both opportunities and risks for existing business models. We want to highlight developments, bring the relevant players together, and take a pioneering role in Europe.”

“In matters of legal tech, Europe is still years behind the US. With this in mind, by providing a platform for bringing everyone with an interest in legal tech together at a European level, the ELTA will play an active part in the race to catch-up,” adds board member and legal tech blogger Micha-Manuel Bues.

ELTA board member Tobias Heining sees more opportunities than risks in the legal market’s digital transformation: “The intelligent combination of technological, efficiency-creating solutions and specialized legal expertise holds a great deal of potential for the future. Legal tech offers lawyers the opportunity to concentrate more intensively on the particularly sophisticated, fascinating, and challenging advisory assignments.”

European Legal Technology Association
Tobias Heining
Tel. +49 (0)30 – 20 360 1252

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Digitalization Could Soon Make Almost Half of Junior Lawyers Superfluous

Legal technology is forcing law firms to adopt new business models – IT competencies are becoming increasingly important for lawyers

The data volume in legal services is increasing steadily. The ability to depict, analyze and interpret legal data will therefore be absolutely crucial for the success of law firms in the future: computer programs will be able to take on 30 to 50 percent of the tasks currently performed by junior lawyers – which means that more and more lawyers’ jobs will be under threat. What we refer to as “legal technology” uses software to facilitate the digitalization and automatization of work processes – such as the automated evaluation of major agreements, the management of cases, and back-office assignments. Law firms in Germany still hardly use legal technology – and on top of that, only a few start-ups in Germany are offering specific software solutions in this area.

This was the joint conclusion drawn by the Bucerius Center on the Legal Profession (Bucerius CLP) and the Boston Consulting Group in the study “How Legal Technology Will Change the Business of Law.” Fifty interviews were conducted with partners in large-scale law firms, including the nine financially strongest offices in Germany, which account for around 13 percent of the aggregate financial volume generated in the sector in that country. In addition, owners and representatives of legal-tech companies were asked about the effects of legal technology on law firms’ business models.

“Large and small law firms can no longer afford to ignore legal technology if they want to remain competitive,” says Dr. Christian Veith, BCG Senior Partner and one of the survey’s authors. Markus Hartung, Director of Bucerius CLP, is likewise convinced that law firms are being forced to rethink their existing business models. “In the future, the legal profession will increasingly require project managers and specialists who can work with legal technology,” explains Mr. Hartung.

To read the legal-tech report “How Legal Technology Will Change the Business of Law,” please click here.

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