Reflections from a market in change
At the launch of Legalhackers in Sweden the co-founder of agreement24, professor and lawyer Anders Perméus shared his thoughts on the development of the legal industry.
|"Let me Introduce myself. I'm Anders and I believe I'm a bit of everything of today's topic; i.e. a rather traditional IT-lawyer and litigator with 17 years in different law firms, |
a lecturer in commercial law at Stockholm University since 19 years and a start-up founder of a Legal Tech Company since 10 years back.
After finishing a master in German law at Heidelberg University, I got my first job as a corporate counsel at a large industry company. The year was 1995. One of my tasks was to create more efficient standard agreements for selling and buying companies. Those days law firms were never involved, the legal department handled the deals themselves. The head of legal told me there was an “amazing product", called PACTA, which at that time was just a couple of binders with templates and various clauses. My boss said; “Anders, create a PACTA for us". My office room was connected to the old safe deposit for contracts all the way back to 1888. So, I read through every single contract from the early 70's and forward, discussed legal issues with professors and wrote hundreds of different clauses to be used in negotiations, connected to explanations and references to legal sources. Further, I suggested that we should build an internal contract management system to be placed on servers and used by the lawyers within the company. I thought that was an amazing idea, but the head of legal looked at me surprised and said: “Anders, that's really over kill. All we need are these clauses in papers in a binder, just like PACTA, to be found in the old safe deposit". Ok? It was quite disappointing that he did not share my brilliant idea.
In 1997 I started to work for a law firm specialized in IT and corporate law. Through one of our clients, a global consultancy firm, we were handling IT law matters on the customer side. Large corporations. I remember a firm brochure claiming that our legal work was “backed up with a high-tech office" at the same time as one of the partners were writing his comments with a pen on the contracts in paper, sending them back to the counterparty by fax or letting the secretary transcribing it. Not very efficient, but the clients were paying for it. At that time, 1997, another lawyer created a simple software as a tool for creating commercial contracts. He wanted us to help him develop IT contracts into this tool, but my boss said; “this will never happen!" Clients wants to meet and talk to their lawyers and don't mind paying some extra for the time spent on standard contracts, just to be certain it's correct. I was not sure, that was true.
For eight (8) years, I was representing a large German software supplier, in Sweden and through our Danish offices in all Nordic countries. The SW supplier had found out that the lawyer fees were too high and they asked us to create a contract and negotiation tool for license agreements to be used by the sales and contract departments. We did, launched it in 2009, hold web seminars for the management and all sales persons in the Nordics and what happened? …….. next year legal work provided from our law firm were down with 50 %. Good for the client, bad for us. The second year, the legal and contract department could handle about 80-90 % of all the business and we were more or less only handling the disputes; arbitrations and litigations. We rationalized away ourselves.
There is not a question about if IT and online solutions providing CMS for the end customers or their service providers – like lawyers - will be an obvious part of the future legal market. Lawyers will definitely have to specialize in the fields where they belong; providing legal advice for complicated cases, which cannot fit into an algorithm, and of course disputes. However, these fields can also to some extend be subject to extensive modernizations using online tools etc. We are actually working on that, right now. As many people already have pointed out, the legal landscape is changing and therefore legal education has to adapt. But how does it look at our universities?
At Stockholm University, where I teach, I have seen a couple of trends since 1996, when I started. First of all the students today are pretty lazy. I am sorry to say that, but it's true. They want university studies to be just like in High School, where everything is served, prepared and answered. Academic studies, however, should not be about receiving answers to specific questions. In my course, contract law, which is called CA, we study approximately 200 Supreme Court cases. I believe students should of course study cases, but instead of just understand and referring to them, I think they should, in a more extensive way, focus on applying precedent case law in order to solve actual and current legal problems that relates to questions discussed in the society. In fact, when you have case studies, almost every student loves to solve problems. Also, students today have more general common knowledge and are of course fast and efficient in using all different kinds of sources of information. Therefore all students should at all seminars have access to all kinds of legal sources when solving legal issues. So IT must always be present in the classroom.