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Yekaterina Tyagay’s interview to Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Modern technology leaves business no chance to stay in the shadow, inevitably changing the social, the professional and the business environment. Brand new professions emerge at the crossroads of technical and humanitarian education, the stratum of random and ineffective employees is easily automated and personal involvement is allotted to those whose functions will never be substituted by technology. An especially distinctive trend is shaping up in the legal sphere. In the lead-up to Skolkovo LegalTech Black Edition International Conference, which is to take place on November 29 at Skolkovo, lawyer, PhD in Law, Partner and Head of Sensitive Matters Practice of Pen & Paper Attorneys at Law Yekaterina Tyagay told us how a lawyer may become a fully-fledged business partner, which LegalTech solutions may help legal specialists increase efficiency of a company and why introduction of technology should not be an end in itself.

— How would you assess the role of LegalTech solutions in capitalization and improvement of a company’s efficiency?

— First of all, such solutions allow companies to cut extra expenses on low-qualified employees, whose functions may be (and now often are) easily automated. That also allows to raise the requirements to those employees, whose involvement in key processes in indispensable. Thus the company eliminates the stratum of random people and shapes a strong professional community, which notably affects brand appeal. All that combined with LegalTech solutions boosts efficiency, decreases the risk of small human-factor errors, and saves up time you can use to focus the team’s potential on really important tasks.

— There is an opinion that LegalTech will allow lawyers to transform from those who know every article of every code by heart and skilfully juggle them into real business partners and co-authors of strategic decisions. Do businesses feel the need for such specialists today? Is the business community ready to redefine the role of a lawyer?

— The legal community is very heterogeneous; it’s difficult to answer for everyone. As both a partner in legal business and a person who has for many years been involved in the academic environment I am constantly witnessing two seemingly conflicting issues: “overproduction of lawyers” and scarcity of legal talent. You have to understand here that the deficit concerns qualified specialists who are not only diligent and well trained, but creative, resourceful, hard-working, ready to take a certain amount of risk and be fully responsible. Such people can become co-authors of strategic decisions and grow into real partners. The need for them has always been there and continues to increase as primitive tasks which are now carried out practically without human involvement, including thanks to LegalTech, are becoming a thing of the past.

— Are LegalTech solutions in high demand in the b2c sector? Is there potential for automation of the system of legal services rendered to the population?

— Clients and principals are still suspicious when it comes to LegalTech. As they see it, automation of certain processes is fraught with de-personification, lack of individual approach, no attention to a specific issue or task. When addressing a consultant the client often does not know what exactly they need, and expects personal confidential communication allowing to figure out both the task and the solution by joining forces. That is the difference between LegalTech in consulting and LegalTech in public services, where automation is on the contrary gladly and happily accepted by those who just want to push a button and get the result. I am, however, optimistic about the matter. Firstly, the clients are all very different: from individuals with very private matters to businesses eager to automate many processes and who therefore gladly address consultants for help, readily accepting quick and effective LegalTech solutions. Secondly, these solutions per se do not imply streamlined service or lack of individual approach. Which is why in b2c sector it’s important to deliver this message and demonstrate how automation of some processes allows to focus on others, the latter often playing the key role in helping the client.

— You are a Sensitive Matters lawyer. Tell us how development of digital technologies and new tools of automation of legal procedure have affected your job?

— The Sensitive Matters Practice I’ve created at Pen & Paper Attorneys at Law is one of a kind in Russia. It focuses on work with clients who come to the lawyer with very delicate tasks in the sphere of family and inheritance law, copyright and adjacent rights, as well as rights to works of art. We deal with defence of honour, dignity and reputation, professional and personal interests of athletes, celebrities, businessmen and politicians. That means, above all, that we constantly have to work with very personal information, and our clients have to be certain of impeccable confidentiality at all stages of communication and attorney’s work. That is guaranteed by the attorney-client privilege supplemented with digital tools for collection, systematization and storage of data, as well as their protection from unauthorized access. Besides, the work of lawyers and consultants is almost constantly connected with billing, which is why various LegalTech products aimed at increasing transparency and credibility of information used in settlement with clients are being actively developed on the market. Naturally, in our practice automation in the area of legal proceedings is very important as well; even electronic access to information on courts’ websites considerably facilitates and speeds up the work of attorneys.

— You work with a very wide range of areas. Family law, support of athletes, intellectual property protection and support of transactions in art business, defence of honour, dignity and business reputation. In which of these areas is demand for LegalTech the highest?

— Digital solutions in general are in demand in all of these areas. It’s clear that IP and art law imply constant work not only with data bases, but also active use of digital tools for expert analysis. That, by the way, often concerns family and inheritance disputes. Defence of honour, dignity and reputation, especially if they are impinged upon by publications on Telegram channels or websites, require both technical and legal understanding of how legal resources work, who holds the rights to them and also who is responsible for publishing and spreading of defamatory information. I do not rule out that with time fully-fledged LegalTech tools offering comprehensive solutions to these tasks will become available on the market.

— Tell us about LegalTech products used or independently developed by Pen & Paper. How have they transformed your practice?

— At Pen & Paper we closely monitor development of products on the LegalTech market and cannot help but notice that this market is still evolving chaotically and following certain hype waves. On our part we certainly think of development and further application of LegalTech products and to that end we professionally analyse the demand of our principals in different sectors and areas of practice. It’s important for us that all high-tech solutions are not just another lending page with pretty pictures or appealing packaging for well-known tools, but actually become mechanisms of effective and quick aid in solution of complex legal tasks. This is why we are not in any rush to introduce our products until they are finally tested and endorsed.

The main principle we are guided by when working with LegalTech is not digitalization as an end in itself, but finding the best possible solution in the interest of the principal and with that aim the readiness to technical changes of any complexity.

Bureaucracy is Russia’s immemorial problem. Then again, bureaucracy is often mentioned when speaking about multinational corporations. In your opinion, may the development of new technologies become the first step to the solution of these problems?

The first step to elimination of bureaucracy at any level is real and not hypothetical readiness to accept consistent systematic changes, part of which are administrative and economic ones, part are staff-related and part are purely technical. Development of technology undoubtedly plays an immense role in this, since it significantly decreases the human factor, which affects the speed of processes as well as their cleanness and transparency. The problem often associated with bureaucracy and in many ways stemming from it is corruption. That is why minimization of intermediaries and participants in processes, which may well be automated is a serious step on the way of fighting both negative phenomena. The same measure, as we have already said, allows to focus professional potential on really important tasks.

— Which of the foreign markets can the Russian market of LegalTech compare with, by amount and diversity of products? Are there any unique products on the Russian market?

— In terms of LegalTech Russia is at the level of many European countries. We treat the new solutions both with curiosity and a certain amount of suspicion, but also with readiness to fully adapt certain individual products for mass turnover. That, in particular, is illustrated by a wave of events accompanying the development and legal comprehension of blockchain technology and possible forms of its application. The information boom and the attempt to introduce blockchain products and their surrogates everywhere were followed by a new stage, namely alignment of these tools with the principles and potential of the legal system, and that by much calmer, less crazy and flamboyant, but still continuous work to harmonize legal norms in accordance with the changes which have already occurred in the public relations.

Unique products created by Russian specialists or which simply appeared in Russia, sadly, do not always stay on the Russian market due to reasons mentioned by me earlier. Many Asian countries, for example, are much more flexible and more promptly react to new technologies. Foreign jurisdictions create favourable tax regimes for interesting business products, which also attracts technological start-ups and investors.

— Due to the development of legal technologies new professions, such as legal transactions manager or legal automation engineer, appear. Where do such specialists come to business from?

— Such specialists are born at the intersection of humanitarian and technical education, but most frequently they come to business from IT. That is exactly why legal universities are now starting to think about introducing basic disciplines aimed at increasing technical literacy, as well as launching special master programmes to train specialists of this sort.