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So this week is a little different. It’s perhaps more in the style of a travel log than a thought piece, which is not to say that it’s not very thought-ful. In fact, it compiles the ideas of numerous thought leaders in one convenient spot. You see, I was invited to moderate a panel of experts at FutureLaw’24 about what our relationship with AI looks like one year later. The conference was hosted in the port city of Tallinn, Estonia and the combination of the beautiful city and heady discussions was exhilarating.

If this sounds interesting to you, please read on…

The Venue

The venue was the Tallinn cruise terminal, an industrial, modern meeting space with a lovely view of the ocean. Cruise ships and ferries to Helsinki leave from here.

✨ Day 1 Highlights! ✨

Day one offered a feast of thought-provoking insights on AI and its impact on the legal field. Here’s a highlight reel:

Chief Justice Villu Kove

⭐️Opening Speech by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court⭐️

Villu Kõve compared AI to the introduction of electricity. While many focus on the risks and advocate for a ban, AI represents a potential leap forward for the legal profession.
– Discussed the evolving characteristics of future lawyers and the importance of adapting educational methods. It’s becoming easier for more people to master complex subjects, which is a positive trend!
– It was heartening to hear a judge speak progressively about the changes AI is bringing to the justice system.

Dazza Greenwood

⭐️Session: The Future of Hybrid Legal Teams⭐️

Dazza Greenwood introduced the BLT method: Business, Legal, Technical. This approach encourages collaboration among professionals from different fields then harmonizing and integrating their diverse viewpoints.
– Emphasized the value of use case descriptions and diagrams in bridging communication gaps between different parties.
– I’m friends with Dazza, so I am a little biased, but his point of view is from a refreshingly different angle and much appreciated. He helps you to see the overview and understand how we sometimes communicate in different conceptual bubbles.

Olga Mack

⭐️Session: Mindset to Embrace Digitalization via the Prism of AI⭐️

Olga V. Mack addressed the mixed emotions surrounding AI: excitement from investors and fear from lawyers, coining the term “nervocited” to describe this blend of nervousness and excitement.
– Olga also emphasized the importance of mindset in using AI. If our expectations are not in line with what AI is capable of, it will lead to disappointment and frustration. Worse case scenario, lawyers disengage from use of AI and get left behind.
– I’m friends with Olga as well. And, by the way, it was fantastic to catch up with so many colleagues in one place at one time. Olga is very good at communicating complicated concepts in a way that is easy to understand.

⭐️Session: How Do We Future-Proof Law Firms?⭐️

– Stressed the need to rethink the structure of law firms and develop a framework that rewards change and innovation.

⭐️Session: Turning Students into Agents of Change⭐️

Brittany L. Hernandez highlighted the need for cross-disciplinary training in law degrees. Labs and workshops help students apply their theoretical knowledge; how this is good for both students and employers.
Mia Ihamuotila compared traditional legal education to computer programming, noting that law schools have focused on creating legal experts (back end lawyers) but need to train lawyers who can handle clients (front end lawyers) or combine both strengths (full stack lawyers).
Brian W Tang shared his experience as executive director of Law, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Lab at the The University of Hong Kong‘s Faculty of Law and how its interdisciplinary, experiential learning approach is expanding students’ opportunities.
– I knew Brian and Brittany before this conference, but it was cool to see them IRL. I also met Mia for the first time. She is a recently minted Finnish lawyer who will be leading legal tech innovation at a law firm.

Alex Hamilton

⭐️Session: Alternatives to Traditional Law Firms⭐️

Alex Hamilton of Radiant Law expressed skepticism about AI, emphasizing that human lawyers are here to stay and the focus should be on delivering value.
– Pointed out that while there is innovation in law firms, there are currently no incentives to promote it.

Pekka Puolakka

⭐️Session: Emerging Legal Tech Trends⭐️
Pekka Puolakka of Big Bets VC posed a provocative question: Is this the last human-lawyer conference? He noted that last year was already the last human-lawyer conference.
– Interestingly, this photo and comment was the one I got the biggest reaction to when I posted it on Twitter. It seems some were triggered by the message. But, in the context of the conference, Pekka meant to highlight the rapid evolution in the field.

✨ Day 2 Highlights! ✨

Day two was packed with insightful sessions on cybersecurity, standardization, AI regulation, client-focused approaches, and the data-driven law firm.
Here are my key takeaways:

My Panel

⭐️ Session: AI – One Year Later ⭐️

– I had the pleasure of moderating this panel featuring experts Nicola Shaver, Uwais Iqbal, and Heikki Ilvessalo.
– We explored the benefits and challenges of generative AI over the past year and a half, and discussed its future implementation and regulation. We concluded that we have moved beyond the magic of AI and are now focused on practical applications.
– Lawyers and law firms leveraging AI will outcompete those who don’t, providing strong incentive for evolution.

Alex tells some jokes

😂 Lawyer Jokes 😂

– So this wasn’t a session, but conference co-founder and master of ceremonies Alexander Bitskov kept things light and flowing with a stream of lawyer jokes: some were corny, some groaners, but some were cute and well appreciated.
– “Two lawyers had a girl, what did they name her? Sue” “Why was the estate lawyer so determined? Because where there’s a will, there’s a way.” You get the picture. But it was a nice break from the more serious stuff.

Marek Laskowski

⭐️ Session: Lawyer and Cybersecurity ⭐️

Marek Laskowski from DZP Law Firm highlighted the increasing threat of cyberattacks on law firms, noting a 135% rise in attack sophistication. With AI lowering the cost and increasing the speed of attacks, email remains the primary threat vector. Stay vigilant!

Damien Riehl

⭐️ Session: Standardization – The Path to a General Ontology for Legal ⭐️

Damien Riehl discussed the importance of using the SALI Alliance™ to standardize legal language, facilitating interoperability and data sharing.
– With 17k entities covered and growing, SALI’s programmatic mapping using large language models is a game-changer.
– Damien is a true polymath and just a great guy. If you ever have the chance to hear him talk in person, I highly recommend it. Highly informative, and if you listen to a recording of him, you probably want to slow him down to 3/4 speed to catch everything!

Tiphanie Bent

⭐️ Session: EU AI Act – The Consequences ⭐️

Tiphanie Bent from SIX delved into the AI Act’s impact, emphasizing the need for ethical, responsible AI use. She urged the use of SWOT analysis for legal tech opportunities, warning that the worst penalty of violating the EU AI Act is reputational damage.

Nikki Shaver

⭐️ Session: Legal Tech in a Client-Focused Approach ⭐️

Nicola Shaver from LegalTechnology Hub stressed the importance of understanding and prioritizing client needs.
– As lawyers, we think less about how we’re delivering our services. With generative AI, power is shifting to our clients. Speak with your clients to understand their challenges and only then can you satisfy their needs.
– By practicing “unreasonable hospitality” and leveraging generative AI, lawyers can shift the power dynamic in favor of clients, ensuring lasting satisfaction.
– Nikki is a friend and real genius. She’s literally written the book on legal innovation. She’s also one not to miss!

Alan Ragueneau

⭐️ Session: The Data-Driven Law Firm ⭐️

Alan Ragueneau of Dentons highlighted the benefits of data-driven insights for efficiency, productivity, and lawyer wellbeing.
– He emphasized the need for operational data, organized by task taxonomy, to distinguish between low and high-value work, to automate the low value stuff and help address the 20% lawyer burnout rate.

I should note that I didn’t cover everything. There were additional sessions and workshops that I didn’t even get to in the interests of time. But, suffice it to say that I have been to a lot of conferences and this one was definitely worth the trip!

A Taste of Tallinn

By the way, for anyone who hasn’t visited Tallinn, Estonia 🇪🇪 , I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful port city that reminded me a lot of my hometown, Vancouver.

Here are some pics:

Many thanks to my esteemed co-panelists for the enlightening sessions. Kudos to Valentin Feklistov, Alexander Bitskov, and the entire FutureLaw Conference team for pulling of an amazing conference!

Thank you for everything FutureLaw’24! Hope to see you next year. 👋

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