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The Legal Eagle Podcast: Law & Technology Series

The Legal Eagle Podcast: Law & Technology Series

May 4, 2021

Transcript

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

An eagle flies high way up in the sky. It sees above the human eye a different perspective, a broader directive. In doing so, it becomes more effective. Welcome to The Legal Eagle, a podcast where I examine aspects of the law that I'm passionate about. I'm your host, Sarah-Mae Thomas, and my aim is to have conversations that will empower both professionals to the everyday person on the street.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Hello everyone, and welcome back to our final episode of the law and technology series. I'm so excited to have our guest on, Eimear, today. Now, Eimear is a former lawyer who's currently Head of Strategy at Summize. Summize is basically a contract automation platform, and Eimear is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Law. She's a strategic and creative leader who brings together the passion of law together with new and innovative ways of working. So, Eimear, welcome to the podcast.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, brilliant to be here. Thanks very much.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

So, Eimear, how have you been in the UK? How has it been with COVID?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I mean, I think it's like everyone, it's just being such an unusual time and I think we've all said that it feels as though time's gone really quickly, even though we've been kind of paused in all essence last year, but I think we are starting to see a bit more normality in the UK kind of seeping back, and the schools are open, and we have a bit of a roadmap as to where are we going in the next couple of months. So, hopefully, a bit more positive.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Oh, wonderful. And does this roadmap include travel to other parts of Europe?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. Well, that's the interesting point, I think. Will that mean we all need to have a vaccination and proof of that? I don't know. And I think from a legal perspective, I think there's an interesting argument to challenge that. But yeah, I don't know. I don't know how that will pan out, but I do miss travelling, like a lot of people, I imagine.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah. Okay. So, well, yes, I certainly miss travelling too. I think I was hoping to be in London last year, but just didn't happen because of COVID, but I'm hoping that everyone can be travelling, and we can go and see our friends and our family. So, yeah, praying that it will happen sooner rather than later.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I hope so.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah. So Eimear, can you tell listeners a little bit about the work that you do? You're a visiting lecturer. I'm interested to hear what you teach at the University of Law.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I mean, it does change every kind of semester, but at the moment I'm teaching EU law and I'm also teaching immigration law. So, obviously, the former is an interesting one because obviously, the UK has now left the EU. So, I suppose that it's kind of interesting encouraging students that EU law's still going to be very relevant and not just the kind of historical context, but because of obviously so many UK companies that have headquarters or have shifted headquarters up to different UE countries and obviously from loads of different perspectives. So, yeah, very interesting time to be teaching that subject actually.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah, I can imagine. And you also, I mean, when we first connected, you mentioned that you started off your career as a lawyer, and then now you work in the tech space. So, can you share with listeners your legal journey and then your journey into the tech space?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. It's only now that I've kind of I suppose have been asked it a few times, and I think I was a bit of an accidental lawyer in the sense that I did law at uni because I was kind of told that that's what we should do, and I suppose the career advice maybe wasn't brilliant. It was just kind of get a vocational career, dentistry, medicine, law because it's safe. I think that's what we were really told. And so, I did law, and I didn't overly enjoy my undergrad. I did law with Hispanic studies because that was kind of my love. My love was literature and languages. So, I did it essentially for two reasons. One because I wasn't really sure what I should be doing, and everyone assured me that law was a brilliant career. And also the Spanish side of it meant that I... It's called like an Erasmus year. So, I had an Erasmus Year at Santa Monica University in Spain which was very appealing obviously for an 18-year-old with your first taste of freedom.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

That's amazing.

Eimear McCann:

So, that was kind of my motivation. And I'd love to say just because I had a passion for law. Although I think underlying it growing up in Northern Ireland, you had a sense of inequity, and I suppose that probably did propel me more towards the area of law that I enjoyed most because I started out in litigation, but then I ended up moving into the human rights and immigration sector, and I worked for a law centre back in Belfast, and it was just a really interesting place to work. And I think because it was in Belfast, and obviously, you had that backdrop as well that I suppose that kind of also made it... There was a kind of a different dynamic if that makes sense. But yeah, so I did my undergrad, and then I actually worked as a writer for a while. I worked for a magazine, and then I worked freelance before I returned to do the legal practice course in the UK which I found much more enjoyable because it was practical and kind of hands-on, I suppose.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

And I'm actually interested to know, I mean, well, for listeners who are not familiar with the history of Northern Ireland, what was that inequity that you witnessed?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I suppose it was just, for example, well, I grew up on a farm, but the town that I was from, you could have drawn a line in the middle where you had people who labelled themselves as Catholic and those who labelled themselves as Protestants. And interestingly, we were the only Catholic family in the Protestant end of town. I know that sounds crazy, but that was kind of our lives. And you were aware that by saying my name, I automatically would be labelled as a Catholic or as having a certain political affiliation. And so, obviously, there's been a lot of conflict in Northern Ireland for many years, and obviously, the Good Friday Agreement and a lot of the work that's been done has made massive changes. But whenever I was growing up, well, there was an awful lot of things happening and a lot of conflict, really. So, it was very different, I suppose, and a very unusual place to grow up.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah, I can imagine. I mean, if everyone knew that you were different and you were treated differently. Did you experience discrimination because of that?

Eimear McCann:

Well, I think we all kind of did, really. I think that there's a lot of things that have happened and did happen that you didn't question. You just accepted it and it was all you'd ever really known. So, I'm sure there was lots and lot I could kind of talk about, but yeah. And I mean, that's the thing. It's like people always say that the Irish are like hummingbirds that no matter how long you live somewhere else, you always refer to Ireland as home. I know that I did that. Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, and I was still thinking, "I'd love to be back on Irish soil." Even though it was a very unusual place to grow up, obviously, it's your roots and it's your home, isn't it?

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yes, yes, absolutely. So, you went on to become a lawyer after doing a bit of writing and freelancing. Tell us about your journey there.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. So, I think I had thought I was still kind of intrigued to know would I enjoy the practice of law because I was still drawn very much to the problem-solving side of it. So, after I did a bit of freelancing, it was actually a chance encounter with an old uni friend who said, "Honestly, why don't you think about coming back? I'm living in Newcastle, come and do the LPC." In complete honesty, that was really when I thought, "Yeah, why not? I will."

Eimear McCann:

And I also, I suppose, as well, you realize that law does offer security and it is a very challenging and interesting career. And I think I just have always been up for a challenge and I did. I still love writing and I still write, but I was still curious to know, curious to kind of explore it further. I practised for about 11 years, I was starting to get that feel again if I need to do something a bit more creative, really. Legal tech was gaining momentum, and then that was when I thought, "This could be a really interesting intersection, I suppose, between law and creativity," and something that really appealed to me. I suppose we've been in the middle of this digital revolution for a few years now and I thought, "This is definitely where the future is going," and I really wanted to kind of be part of that, really.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Lawyers generally are not known to be that creative. We have rule books, we have the law, and we kind of stick to our lanes. But I think it's pretty cool that you talk about creativity and technology. But what was that? Was there a specific type of technology or a specific incident that caused that pivot for you to go into the legal tech space?

Eimear McCann:

I wish I could say there was, but it was more that whenever I started to read about what legal tech startups were doing, particularly in London because at the time it was very London-centric, I just thought, "There is so much passion. There's so much energy." And I thought, "No, that's what really appeals to me and what is missing in law." I think that's what I thought. And I've learned an awful lot in working in two legal tech companies, and I think there's an awful lot that law firms and legal businesses, I suppose, and legal teams could learn from what's happening in the legal tech space.

Eimear McCann:

And I do appreciate, and I've said this before, I do appreciate that legal tech companies are more agile and nimble and they tend to be smaller. And this whole notion of fail fast is there, but it's small things. For example, at Summize, we have a continuous improvement channel on our Teams application and it's just about the small things that what can we do. It doesn't have to be massive. What small thing can we do better? Whether that relates to marketing, or sales, or development, or working holistically as a team, I think that's really important, and I think that that's missing in legal. Not in all law firms. That's unfair. But I think from my experience it was kind of missing quite a lot.

Eimear McCann:

And I think there's a temptation always for us as humans, not just in law, to gravitate towards extremes. So, initially, when we talked about legal tech, it was this big transformation. We know there were these tools that were going to completely change the way that lawyers worked and that's not really the case. These just didn't really ever transpire. And what we're seeing is more of a push towards breaking it down into what is this specific pain point or a problem or a use case, and what are the tools that we can apply to solve that problem, and I think moving away from either the box generic tools into those ones that are actually meeting lawyers where they are.

Eimear McCann:

So, for example, at Summize, all of the different strands of Summize have been developed with the lawyer in mind or with non-legal parts of a business from a self-serve perspective. So, for example, if you have sales or procurement that want to really quickly know are there risks in this contract, do I even need to pass this over. If it's a low-value, a low-risk contract, do I need to even pass this to legal? And I think that's it. It's meeting people where they are. If they work in Microsoft Word, if they use Teams that you can have that kind of integration, and I think that that is where we're going towards.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

And so, you've spoken a little bit about Summize, but can you tell us a little bit more about what Summize actually provides, the services? I know it's a contract automation platform, but tell us more about Summize. When was it started and I'm interested to hear more?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I should know the exact date of it, shouldn't I, but it was 2018. I'm blaming lockdown. So, 2018, really, that Tom and Dave set it up, and Tom and Dave are the two founders. So, Tom was an in-house lawyer. He's worked as a legal director for a tech company himself, and it kind of was on the back of a very painful contract review process that he did himself, and he kept looking for tools that could alleviate that kind of distress, and I suppose the time that it took. And he just really couldn't find anything that he wanted that was kind of lightweight, that it was low cost, that it was really easy to use. So, Summize is very much built around that. It's kind of to solve the low-value manual tasks around contract review, and I suppose really just to remove all of the frustrations around it.

Eimear McCann:

So, I think another thing is that we recognize that it is brilliant at extracting what you want to see from a document or from a contract. But what we've seen is that it's more important to clients is actually once you've got that data, it's the ability to ask questions across the contracts. To summarize is really important, but to understand the fundamentals, whether you are in legal or non-legal, to be able to kind of ask, "Well, how did I terminate this contract or what are the risks?"

Eimear McCann:

And I think it's turning that data into actionable insights which is the feedback that we got from our clients. And as I said before, I think we're kind of very much focused on solving kind of the day-to-day contract review problems. It isn't a platform that's designed for a big due diligence or massive projects, and it does have that functionality, but I think it's kind of got that kind of the sentiment and the kind of passion and the drive behind it is very much, as I said, about meeting people where they are at the moment, and yeah, and quite modular, really, like kind of building blocks. You can kind of select which bits of it that are most appropriate for whatever-

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

To use.

Eimear McCann:

... your use case would be, yeah. Completely, yeah.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah. I mean, I guess, I suppose this is available for anyone around the world?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it is, yeah. So, we've got clients obviously in the UK, but in Australia and US, so I mean it can be utilized by any legal team, really

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Wonderful. Okay. So, what does legal tech mean to you?

Eimear McCann:

I think that's a really interesting question because it does mean different things to different people, doesn't it? I mean, when I think of legal tech, I think of design and innovation first. They just kind of pop into my head. And I think it's very much if we think about technology ourselves, I think of technology as something that removes frictions from processes that makes your everyday life easier. And I think that we manage everything from our phones from communication to banking [inaudible 00:15:05]. And life without tech for us, I think would feel very empty and it's a bit of a sad but a simple truth. Legal tech isn't there yet. We are not at the point where people would say, "Well, I don't know what I do without Summize." We're not there yet, but I believe that we will be. And I think that a tech should be about making life easier, about removing frictions by automating those kinds of mundane tasks. You know the ones that you used to... I just always remember in practice standing doing these kind of repetitive tasks, thinking, "My god, there really should be an easier way to do this."

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Oh yes. Surely there's another way. Surely I don't need to spend half a day doing this task. Yes.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. 

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

All the pain points of legal practice, I think that's what technology helps with.

Eimear McCann:

Completely. And I think as well, I actually do believe that it will help to humanize and standardize legal and it will. Lawyers are intelligent people who enjoy a challenge and if we can get those kind of the repetitive stuff-

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Out of the way.

Eimear McCann:

... automated that frees up time to deal with the relationship building. Law is based on relationships. And I think that that's really important, I think to all of us, really.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Absolutely. Well, in Singapore, my perspective has been because of COVID and the pandemic, legal technology has developed very quickly, and I think law firms have had to develop... Well, to adopt technology overnight because of this new working from home. How would you think that businesses should consider tech innovation? How should they adopt tech into their everyday life?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I think that it has to be unique to their business needs and avoiding the scenario of tech for tech's sake, and I'm sure you've seen this before where law firms have brought in a new tech tool because it sounded great, and they probably went through a lengthy procurement process maybe to bring it on board. And then when it's in, they're finding that nobody's really using it and they don't like it or there hasn't been internal marketing as such. So, I think that's really important. Just actually stripping it down and identifying what do we have already? What resources do we have? What applications do we have? What are we trying to solve? And I think that's where the design thinking element is really important. I think that has to be the starting point. Every firm is individual and they should be individual.

Eimear McCann:

And I think at the moment, those firms who are able to kind of shut out the noise, and there's so much noise out there, and actually go, "Look, what are we trying to achieve? What are our kind of themes here?"

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Goals.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, what is the culture? And all of those things feed into the tech that they should bring on board. And I also think that it's such an interesting time because, in the past, technology was really the domain of the larger firms. But we've seen a real upsurge and I don't know what it's like for you guys, but I've seen a real upsurge in kind of the alternative models and they have now got the more kind of cost-effective, more accessible tools. Like Summize is a really good example, I would say, but other tools as well. They can actually integrate and can help them to kind of streamline their processes and actually also using the technology to make the communication between the lawyer and the client easier. Because at the end of the day, you can have the best tech in the world, but whether your client needs to know that or how important that will be for your client is obviously a completely different question, yeah.

Eimear McCann:

I feel like we're hearing a lot about hybrid models in every sense, I think from working models, et cetera. And I think that we're going to start to see that, within legal, that will become more normal, that they'll kind of get used to the fact that actually, yes, this bit's automated, this bit isn't. As the legal tech industry kind of matures, I suppose, then there'll probably be a bit of consolidation, but there will also be more education which will then kind of allow people to tailor the technology to their business needs.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

So, is that how you see the legal landscape in the UK advancing in the next like five, six years?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I could be wrong, but I think the bigger law firms will struggle perhaps because of the changes that we have seen in the sense that agile working has actually been properly recognized. We've heard about flexible working for ages, but I don't think it was properly really understood. So, that kind of agility and the fact that the gap, I think, between the client and the lawyer is narrowing, you've got... Just something I was looking at yesterday is a really interesting business called Farewill, which you can draft a will on their website. Everything's kind of packaged up.

Eimear McCann:

And we hear a lot about prototization of legal, and I'm not even sure if that's the right term, but I just think the fact that it makes it very accessible, and that is obviously down to the technology, and also the fact that it's very hard for anyone to look beyond the fact that we do everything from devices. And we've seen in the past year that actually from communication outwards, we're able to do so many things with wifi and a laptop and our phones. And I was thinking of this on a personal level. If I wanted to engage legal services, I want do it really quickly on my phone. I still want to be able to speak to somebody at the end of the day, but I want transparency, and I would like to see even like a subscription package, for example, I think is going to be of a lot more interest to clients than it would have been. And I think the expectations have changed.

Eimear McCann:

And then you look as well, I suppose, at GCs who are becoming... Well, I suppose that they will be increasingly focused on what kind of value they're going to get from their external counsel. And I think that we've seen different shifts in social and behavioural patterns. I think that businesses are really tuned into that. We'll see proper change on it. I keep saying this, but I feel like the change has... They have to want the change and it has to kind of come from within. And I think the firms that set that culture and that kind of changed open mindset really will be the ones that will really kind of push ahead.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah, and succeed. Oh, wonderful. Eimear, that's amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. How can listeners reach out to you if they want to find out more about the work that you do at Summize and the programs that you can offer?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. I mean, LinkedIn's always a brilliant platform, isn't it? And obviously, we've got our website which is summize.com. You can contact us on there. So, yeah, we'd be always happy to connect with people from all over the globe, really.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Wonderful. So, I might just put it in the website and your LinkedIn URL into our show notes, but yeah. Any parting words of wisdom to listeners who might be considering maybe a career in legal tech?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. I don't know if this is wisdom or not, but I think it's a really exciting time to be in law generally. And I think that the energy and the sense of community in legal tech across the world is massively appealing.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Wonderful. Okay, Eimear. Thank you so much. It was lovely having a chat with you. I hope to actually physically maybe meet you for a coffee when the borders all open up one day.

Eimear McCann:

I would love that. That would be fantastic, but thanks so much. It's been lovely chatting to you.

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The Legal Eagle Podcast: Law & Technology Series

By
May 4, 2021

Transcript

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

An eagle flies high way up in the sky. It sees above the human eye a different perspective, a broader directive. In doing so, it becomes more effective. Welcome to The Legal Eagle, a podcast where I examine aspects of the law that I'm passionate about. I'm your host, Sarah-Mae Thomas, and my aim is to have conversations that will empower both professionals to the everyday person on the street.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Hello everyone, and welcome back to our final episode of the law and technology series. I'm so excited to have our guest on, Eimear, today. Now, Eimear is a former lawyer who's currently Head of Strategy at Summize. Summize is basically a contract automation platform, and Eimear is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Law. She's a strategic and creative leader who brings together the passion of law together with new and innovative ways of working. So, Eimear, welcome to the podcast.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, brilliant to be here. Thanks very much.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

So, Eimear, how have you been in the UK? How has it been with COVID?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I mean, I think it's like everyone, it's just being such an unusual time and I think we've all said that it feels as though time's gone really quickly, even though we've been kind of paused in all essence last year, but I think we are starting to see a bit more normality in the UK kind of seeping back, and the schools are open, and we have a bit of a roadmap as to where are we going in the next couple of months. So, hopefully, a bit more positive.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Oh, wonderful. And does this roadmap include travel to other parts of Europe?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. Well, that's the interesting point, I think. Will that mean we all need to have a vaccination and proof of that? I don't know. And I think from a legal perspective, I think there's an interesting argument to challenge that. But yeah, I don't know. I don't know how that will pan out, but I do miss travelling, like a lot of people, I imagine.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah. Okay. So, well, yes, I certainly miss travelling too. I think I was hoping to be in London last year, but just didn't happen because of COVID, but I'm hoping that everyone can be travelling, and we can go and see our friends and our family. So, yeah, praying that it will happen sooner rather than later.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I hope so.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah. So Eimear, can you tell listeners a little bit about the work that you do? You're a visiting lecturer. I'm interested to hear what you teach at the University of Law.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I mean, it does change every kind of semester, but at the moment I'm teaching EU law and I'm also teaching immigration law. So, obviously, the former is an interesting one because obviously, the UK has now left the EU. So, I suppose that it's kind of interesting encouraging students that EU law's still going to be very relevant and not just the kind of historical context, but because of obviously so many UK companies that have headquarters or have shifted headquarters up to different UE countries and obviously from loads of different perspectives. So, yeah, very interesting time to be teaching that subject actually.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah, I can imagine. And you also, I mean, when we first connected, you mentioned that you started off your career as a lawyer, and then now you work in the tech space. So, can you share with listeners your legal journey and then your journey into the tech space?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. It's only now that I've kind of I suppose have been asked it a few times, and I think I was a bit of an accidental lawyer in the sense that I did law at uni because I was kind of told that that's what we should do, and I suppose the career advice maybe wasn't brilliant. It was just kind of get a vocational career, dentistry, medicine, law because it's safe. I think that's what we were really told. And so, I did law, and I didn't overly enjoy my undergrad. I did law with Hispanic studies because that was kind of my love. My love was literature and languages. So, I did it essentially for two reasons. One because I wasn't really sure what I should be doing, and everyone assured me that law was a brilliant career. And also the Spanish side of it meant that I... It's called like an Erasmus year. So, I had an Erasmus Year at Santa Monica University in Spain which was very appealing obviously for an 18-year-old with your first taste of freedom.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

That's amazing.

Eimear McCann:

So, that was kind of my motivation. And I'd love to say just because I had a passion for law. Although I think underlying it growing up in Northern Ireland, you had a sense of inequity, and I suppose that probably did propel me more towards the area of law that I enjoyed most because I started out in litigation, but then I ended up moving into the human rights and immigration sector, and I worked for a law centre back in Belfast, and it was just a really interesting place to work. And I think because it was in Belfast, and obviously, you had that backdrop as well that I suppose that kind of also made it... There was a kind of a different dynamic if that makes sense. But yeah, so I did my undergrad, and then I actually worked as a writer for a while. I worked for a magazine, and then I worked freelance before I returned to do the legal practice course in the UK which I found much more enjoyable because it was practical and kind of hands-on, I suppose.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

And I'm actually interested to know, I mean, well, for listeners who are not familiar with the history of Northern Ireland, what was that inequity that you witnessed?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I suppose it was just, for example, well, I grew up on a farm, but the town that I was from, you could have drawn a line in the middle where you had people who labelled themselves as Catholic and those who labelled themselves as Protestants. And interestingly, we were the only Catholic family in the Protestant end of town. I know that sounds crazy, but that was kind of our lives. And you were aware that by saying my name, I automatically would be labelled as a Catholic or as having a certain political affiliation. And so, obviously, there's been a lot of conflict in Northern Ireland for many years, and obviously, the Good Friday Agreement and a lot of the work that's been done has made massive changes. But whenever I was growing up, well, there was an awful lot of things happening and a lot of conflict, really. So, it was very different, I suppose, and a very unusual place to grow up.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah, I can imagine. I mean, if everyone knew that you were different and you were treated differently. Did you experience discrimination because of that?

Eimear McCann:

Well, I think we all kind of did, really. I think that there's a lot of things that have happened and did happen that you didn't question. You just accepted it and it was all you'd ever really known. So, I'm sure there was lots and lot I could kind of talk about, but yeah. And I mean, that's the thing. It's like people always say that the Irish are like hummingbirds that no matter how long you live somewhere else, you always refer to Ireland as home. I know that I did that. Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, and I was still thinking, "I'd love to be back on Irish soil." Even though it was a very unusual place to grow up, obviously, it's your roots and it's your home, isn't it?

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yes, yes, absolutely. So, you went on to become a lawyer after doing a bit of writing and freelancing. Tell us about your journey there.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. So, I think I had thought I was still kind of intrigued to know would I enjoy the practice of law because I was still drawn very much to the problem-solving side of it. So, after I did a bit of freelancing, it was actually a chance encounter with an old uni friend who said, "Honestly, why don't you think about coming back? I'm living in Newcastle, come and do the LPC." In complete honesty, that was really when I thought, "Yeah, why not? I will."

Eimear McCann:

And I also, I suppose, as well, you realize that law does offer security and it is a very challenging and interesting career. And I think I just have always been up for a challenge and I did. I still love writing and I still write, but I was still curious to know, curious to kind of explore it further. I practised for about 11 years, I was starting to get that feel again if I need to do something a bit more creative, really. Legal tech was gaining momentum, and then that was when I thought, "This could be a really interesting intersection, I suppose, between law and creativity," and something that really appealed to me. I suppose we've been in the middle of this digital revolution for a few years now and I thought, "This is definitely where the future is going," and I really wanted to kind of be part of that, really.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Lawyers generally are not known to be that creative. We have rule books, we have the law, and we kind of stick to our lanes. But I think it's pretty cool that you talk about creativity and technology. But what was that? Was there a specific type of technology or a specific incident that caused that pivot for you to go into the legal tech space?

Eimear McCann:

I wish I could say there was, but it was more that whenever I started to read about what legal tech startups were doing, particularly in London because at the time it was very London-centric, I just thought, "There is so much passion. There's so much energy." And I thought, "No, that's what really appeals to me and what is missing in law." I think that's what I thought. And I've learned an awful lot in working in two legal tech companies, and I think there's an awful lot that law firms and legal businesses, I suppose, and legal teams could learn from what's happening in the legal tech space.

Eimear McCann:

And I do appreciate, and I've said this before, I do appreciate that legal tech companies are more agile and nimble and they tend to be smaller. And this whole notion of fail fast is there, but it's small things. For example, at Summize, we have a continuous improvement channel on our Teams application and it's just about the small things that what can we do. It doesn't have to be massive. What small thing can we do better? Whether that relates to marketing, or sales, or development, or working holistically as a team, I think that's really important, and I think that that's missing in legal. Not in all law firms. That's unfair. But I think from my experience it was kind of missing quite a lot.

Eimear McCann:

And I think there's a temptation always for us as humans, not just in law, to gravitate towards extremes. So, initially, when we talked about legal tech, it was this big transformation. We know there were these tools that were going to completely change the way that lawyers worked and that's not really the case. These just didn't really ever transpire. And what we're seeing is more of a push towards breaking it down into what is this specific pain point or a problem or a use case, and what are the tools that we can apply to solve that problem, and I think moving away from either the box generic tools into those ones that are actually meeting lawyers where they are.

Eimear McCann:

So, for example, at Summize, all of the different strands of Summize have been developed with the lawyer in mind or with non-legal parts of a business from a self-serve perspective. So, for example, if you have sales or procurement that want to really quickly know are there risks in this contract, do I even need to pass this over. If it's a low-value, a low-risk contract, do I need to even pass this to legal? And I think that's it. It's meeting people where they are. If they work in Microsoft Word, if they use Teams that you can have that kind of integration, and I think that that is where we're going towards.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

And so, you've spoken a little bit about Summize, but can you tell us a little bit more about what Summize actually provides, the services? I know it's a contract automation platform, but tell us more about Summize. When was it started and I'm interested to hear more?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I should know the exact date of it, shouldn't I, but it was 2018. I'm blaming lockdown. So, 2018, really, that Tom and Dave set it up, and Tom and Dave are the two founders. So, Tom was an in-house lawyer. He's worked as a legal director for a tech company himself, and it kind of was on the back of a very painful contract review process that he did himself, and he kept looking for tools that could alleviate that kind of distress, and I suppose the time that it took. And he just really couldn't find anything that he wanted that was kind of lightweight, that it was low cost, that it was really easy to use. So, Summize is very much built around that. It's kind of to solve the low-value manual tasks around contract review, and I suppose really just to remove all of the frustrations around it.

Eimear McCann:

So, I think another thing is that we recognize that it is brilliant at extracting what you want to see from a document or from a contract. But what we've seen is that it's more important to clients is actually once you've got that data, it's the ability to ask questions across the contracts. To summarize is really important, but to understand the fundamentals, whether you are in legal or non-legal, to be able to kind of ask, "Well, how did I terminate this contract or what are the risks?"

Eimear McCann:

And I think it's turning that data into actionable insights which is the feedback that we got from our clients. And as I said before, I think we're kind of very much focused on solving kind of the day-to-day contract review problems. It isn't a platform that's designed for a big due diligence or massive projects, and it does have that functionality, but I think it's kind of got that kind of the sentiment and the kind of passion and the drive behind it is very much, as I said, about meeting people where they are at the moment, and yeah, and quite modular, really, like kind of building blocks. You can kind of select which bits of it that are most appropriate for whatever-

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

To use.

Eimear McCann:

... your use case would be, yeah. Completely, yeah.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah. I mean, I guess, I suppose this is available for anyone around the world?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it is, yeah. So, we've got clients obviously in the UK, but in Australia and US, so I mean it can be utilized by any legal team, really

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Wonderful. Okay. So, what does legal tech mean to you?

Eimear McCann:

I think that's a really interesting question because it does mean different things to different people, doesn't it? I mean, when I think of legal tech, I think of design and innovation first. They just kind of pop into my head. And I think it's very much if we think about technology ourselves, I think of technology as something that removes frictions from processes that makes your everyday life easier. And I think that we manage everything from our phones from communication to banking [inaudible 00:15:05]. And life without tech for us, I think would feel very empty and it's a bit of a sad but a simple truth. Legal tech isn't there yet. We are not at the point where people would say, "Well, I don't know what I do without Summize." We're not there yet, but I believe that we will be. And I think that a tech should be about making life easier, about removing frictions by automating those kinds of mundane tasks. You know the ones that you used to... I just always remember in practice standing doing these kind of repetitive tasks, thinking, "My god, there really should be an easier way to do this."

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Oh yes. Surely there's another way. Surely I don't need to spend half a day doing this task. Yes.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. 

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

All the pain points of legal practice, I think that's what technology helps with.

Eimear McCann:

Completely. And I think as well, I actually do believe that it will help to humanize and standardize legal and it will. Lawyers are intelligent people who enjoy a challenge and if we can get those kind of the repetitive stuff-

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Out of the way.

Eimear McCann:

... automated that frees up time to deal with the relationship building. Law is based on relationships. And I think that that's really important, I think to all of us, really.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Absolutely. Well, in Singapore, my perspective has been because of COVID and the pandemic, legal technology has developed very quickly, and I think law firms have had to develop... Well, to adopt technology overnight because of this new working from home. How would you think that businesses should consider tech innovation? How should they adopt tech into their everyday life?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I think that it has to be unique to their business needs and avoiding the scenario of tech for tech's sake, and I'm sure you've seen this before where law firms have brought in a new tech tool because it sounded great, and they probably went through a lengthy procurement process maybe to bring it on board. And then when it's in, they're finding that nobody's really using it and they don't like it or there hasn't been internal marketing as such. So, I think that's really important. Just actually stripping it down and identifying what do we have already? What resources do we have? What applications do we have? What are we trying to solve? And I think that's where the design thinking element is really important. I think that has to be the starting point. Every firm is individual and they should be individual.

Eimear McCann:

And I think at the moment, those firms who are able to kind of shut out the noise, and there's so much noise out there, and actually go, "Look, what are we trying to achieve? What are our kind of themes here?"

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Goals.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, what is the culture? And all of those things feed into the tech that they should bring on board. And I also think that it's such an interesting time because, in the past, technology was really the domain of the larger firms. But we've seen a real upsurge and I don't know what it's like for you guys, but I've seen a real upsurge in kind of the alternative models and they have now got the more kind of cost-effective, more accessible tools. Like Summize is a really good example, I would say, but other tools as well. They can actually integrate and can help them to kind of streamline their processes and actually also using the technology to make the communication between the lawyer and the client easier. Because at the end of the day, you can have the best tech in the world, but whether your client needs to know that or how important that will be for your client is obviously a completely different question, yeah.

Eimear McCann:

I feel like we're hearing a lot about hybrid models in every sense, I think from working models, et cetera. And I think that we're going to start to see that, within legal, that will become more normal, that they'll kind of get used to the fact that actually, yes, this bit's automated, this bit isn't. As the legal tech industry kind of matures, I suppose, then there'll probably be a bit of consolidation, but there will also be more education which will then kind of allow people to tailor the technology to their business needs.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

So, is that how you see the legal landscape in the UK advancing in the next like five, six years?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, I could be wrong, but I think the bigger law firms will struggle perhaps because of the changes that we have seen in the sense that agile working has actually been properly recognized. We've heard about flexible working for ages, but I don't think it was properly really understood. So, that kind of agility and the fact that the gap, I think, between the client and the lawyer is narrowing, you've got... Just something I was looking at yesterday is a really interesting business called Farewill, which you can draft a will on their website. Everything's kind of packaged up.

Eimear McCann:

And we hear a lot about prototization of legal, and I'm not even sure if that's the right term, but I just think the fact that it makes it very accessible, and that is obviously down to the technology, and also the fact that it's very hard for anyone to look beyond the fact that we do everything from devices. And we've seen in the past year that actually from communication outwards, we're able to do so many things with wifi and a laptop and our phones. And I was thinking of this on a personal level. If I wanted to engage legal services, I want do it really quickly on my phone. I still want to be able to speak to somebody at the end of the day, but I want transparency, and I would like to see even like a subscription package, for example, I think is going to be of a lot more interest to clients than it would have been. And I think the expectations have changed.

Eimear McCann:

And then you look as well, I suppose, at GCs who are becoming... Well, I suppose that they will be increasingly focused on what kind of value they're going to get from their external counsel. And I think that we've seen different shifts in social and behavioural patterns. I think that businesses are really tuned into that. We'll see proper change on it. I keep saying this, but I feel like the change has... They have to want the change and it has to kind of come from within. And I think the firms that set that culture and that kind of changed open mindset really will be the ones that will really kind of push ahead.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Yeah, and succeed. Oh, wonderful. Eimear, that's amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. How can listeners reach out to you if they want to find out more about the work that you do at Summize and the programs that you can offer?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. I mean, LinkedIn's always a brilliant platform, isn't it? And obviously, we've got our website which is summize.com. You can contact us on there. So, yeah, we'd be always happy to connect with people from all over the globe, really.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Wonderful. So, I might just put it in the website and your LinkedIn URL into our show notes, but yeah. Any parting words of wisdom to listeners who might be considering maybe a career in legal tech?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. I don't know if this is wisdom or not, but I think it's a really exciting time to be in law generally. And I think that the energy and the sense of community in legal tech across the world is massively appealing.

Sarah-Mae Thomas:

Wonderful. Okay, Eimear. Thank you so much. It was lovely having a chat with you. I hope to actually physically maybe meet you for a coffee when the borders all open up one day.

Eimear McCann:

I would love that. That would be fantastic, but thanks so much. It's been lovely chatting to you.

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