A faster horse

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The JC pontificates about technology

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How many keen reg tech[1] startups and management strategies are dedicated to automating, digitising, and triaging an existing legal process.

The solutions we see, be they document assembly, chat-bots, right-shoring, outsourcing — take an existing legal process (say contract negotiation) and try to enhance it by substituting cheaper, faster, components (be it hardware, software or meatware) but never once looking at waste.

We have a horse; our customers want it faster — and cheaper.

In either case you sacrifice (expensive) expertise and institutional knowledge for a notional cost reduction and gain in speed.

But you also sacrifice organisational simplicity:

  • For the new software, you must buy kit and integrate software into a existing, creaking tech architecture.
  • Your procurement and technology estate maintenance costs go up.
  • For the meatware you acquire service provider contracts, SLAs, overseas offices in Romania, Belfast and Bangalore and yet more demands on your tech architecture.

But make no mistake, folks: you still have a horse. In fact, a donkey.

The fastest donkey in the world still won’t go fast. Your donkey will be slow, because donkeys are slow. Your donkey will expensive, because donkeys are expensive. Painting go-faster stripes on it and sticking it in a brownfield paddock behind an an industrial estate in the outskirts of Bratislava won’t change that. You could have the finest ostlers, stable-hands, jockeys and breeders, and you could pay them a pittance, but you would still have a donkey.

In fact, since your standard forms were not designed so much as they accreted over the years, settled on by committee, reflecting the manifold fears, hobby-horses, bonnet-bees, misconceptions and fleeting fripperies of a succession of mediocre risk managers, all of whom are now lost to posterity, even while their proclivities litter the fossil record, not even a donkey but a camel. A pantomime camel.

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  1. As opposed to legtech, right?