Karl Chapman is a legal innovator and a thought leader in the legal technology space. He joined Riverview Law, a legal services business, as Chief Executive in the summer of 2011 following its creation by AdviserPlus a company he set up in 2001. Riverview Law was acquired by EY in August 2018 and he is now a Strategic Adviser to the company. EY Riverview Law aims to be the trusted advisor, the safe disruptor, to Corporate Legal Departments globally – “via a combination of people, processes, technology and data we help large organisations evolve their operating model.” Karl also serves as a Non-Executive Director of Kim Technologies. Kim is a leading no-code, configurable Automation-as-a-Service platform that helps organisations automate their workflows, processes, case management and documents.
What inspired the development of Riverview Law?
Throughout 2010/11 many of the customers of our then business, AdviserPlus Business Solutions, asked us to do their employment law work. This was a surprise because AdviserPlus was not a law firm. AdviserPlus was and still is (it was sold to a PE firm in 2016) an HR managed services business focused on Employee Relations (ER) issues. Blue chip customers outsource all their ER work to AdviserPlus on multi-year contracts. When we asked why they wanted us to do their employment law work, even though we were not a law firm, they consistently said ‘…everything you do is fixed price, so we have certainty, you dedicate teams to our account and thus understand our culture and risk appetite, you have monthly review and planning meetings and help pre-empt issues, you have real-time and trend dashboards …’ And so the list went on.
To cut a two-year long story short, we originally planned to put an Employment Law practice on top of AdviserPlus to provide an end-to-end solution. However, when we analysed the legal market and saw its fragmentation, law firm margins, the complete lack of data, the absence of technology platforms, the difficulty law firms have responding to change (culture, partnership model … ), plus customers being so frustrated that they were increasing the size of their internal teams (what supply chain creates a situation where it is cheaper for customers to do it themselves?), we decided that it was worth setting up a legal business. Riverview Law was launched on my wife’s birthday in February 2012 and was acquired by EY in September 2018.
How do you see technology changing the practice of law?
In some areas I suspect hardly at all (e.g. the lawyer providing ‘bet-the-business’ advice to the board of a corporation). In large swathes of the market, however, we will see (actually we are now seeing given the rise of what Mark Cohen has called the ‘Enterprise Legal Service’ providers) a total re-organization of the supply and value chains (e.g. the automation and self-service of advice and documents, forms and records, the use of legal operations platforms (such as Kim – www.ask.kim), the utilisation of managed services …).
Words are very important here and there is a necessary distinction between the ‘practice of law’ and the ‘business of law’. As headline statement it is hard to disagree with the proposition that technology will significantly change the practice of law. For example, lawyers in organizations will increasingly be part of company-wide digitization programmes. This will help them deliver better, quicker support and advice because they will have better tools at their disposal. It will also help them ‘play’ in the right part of the end-to-end process and at the right level (all legal departments/lawyers are busy but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily smart in prioritising what should be done, in what order). Technology is fundamentally changing the business of law. All roads lead to the user experience, the data and platforms (see Can the Corporate Legal Department become a business enabler? https://rv-l.com/2GdKXQM). By the way, this should not be a surprise, this has happened in virtually every other function over the last thirty years (finance, sales, HR …). The direction of travel is pretty clear.
How have the UK laws regarding non-attorney management and ownership of law service providers impacted Riverview Law?
Riverview Law would not exist if the Alternative Business Structure (ABS) model had not been introduced in England and Wales. Our legislators and regulators must take great credit for opening the legal market in this way. It has sparked innovation and real competition. It has brought new players into the market. It is providing more choice to customers. Customers are the winners and this is as it should be. But, while the ABS ‘moment’ provided the key to the legal market door, it is customers who have actually opened it. It is customers who are the real change agents when they engage ABS’s and embrace technology. As they embrace data, and turn legal data into business insights, customers will drive real change and competition, and innovation will accelerate.
What is the biggest misconception you see there being when it comes to legal technology?
There are so many. Talking about legal technology not business technology; legal is not an island, it is part of an end-to-end process. The lawyer belief that MVP stands for Maximum (not Minimum) Viable Product. The focus on ‘shiny toys’ and ‘point solutions’ rather than on practical, executable technology platforms that make a difference. The focus on AI when most organisations haven’t even got a handle on the foundational basics such as instruction management and allocation; after all, how can you evolve your operating model if you do not know what work you have, where it has come from, who you allocated it to, where it is in the process and why you closed it? Organizations that seek technology first without starting with ‘… what problem are we trying to solve? Technology vendors who sell visions rather than existing deliverables. I’ll stop now!
What lessons do you think legal services providers in the UK could offer to law service providers in the US?
None. I am quite happy if US providers ignore developments in the UK and around the world. As they ignore them (and, of course, not all US law providers ignore them!) customers increasingly vote with their wallets.