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Law, Dragons, and AI with BBC Dragons’ Den – Piers Linney – S7E13

Are you a lawyer contemplating a transition into entrepreneurship?

This week we’re super excited to be chatting with Piers Linney, renowned entrepreneur and former Dragon on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. Piers Linney is recognized for his successful ventures and dynamic approach to innovation. He’s a sought-after speaker, advisor, and mentor, sharing his wisdom and expertise with those eager to make their mark in the business world.

Before taking the business world by storm, Piers made waves in the legal realm, honing his skills at top law firms. But he soon realised that his ambitions were too big to be confined to a courtroom. So, he fearlessly jumped into the world of entrepreneurship, seeking new challenges and endless opportunities.

Don’t miss out on this enlightening conversation with Piers Linney, packed with valuable advice and empowering insights.

𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧?

You can catch Rob and Piers Linney talking about:

  • Piers delves into his early life, paying homage to the influential figures who sparked his ambition and moulded his path.
  • He unveils the pivotal role played by mentors in his journey.
  • Discover the catalyst behind Piers’ decision to break free from the confines of the legal industry and embark on his entrepreneurial odyssey.
  • Engage with his candid advice for lawyers yearning for a career change.
  • Piers eloquently debunks the myth of AI as a job or business killer.

Transcript

00:08 Rob Hanna:

Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. You are now listening to season 7 of the show. I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by Piers Linney. Piers studied Law and Accounting at the University of Manchester. He secured his training contract and qualified as a Solicitor, with city law firm SJ Berwin at the time. Piers then worked in investment banking, at the likes of Barclays and Credit Suisse. After transitioning from banking, Piers focused on entrepreneurship, including ventures in corporate finance, technology, communication and media. In 2013, Piers joined BBC Dragon’s Den as an investor, with his most successful investment on the show being Wonderbly. Piers has a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur, advisor, trustee, executive, non-executive board member and more. In 2013, Piers was recognised as 1 of the top 100 Most Influential Black Britons, listed in the JP Morgan sponsored Power List, and in 2014, he was also awarded Entrepreneur of the Year at the Black British Business Awards sponsored by EY. In 2018, he was named 1 of the UK’s top 20 Ethnic Minority Executives. And in 2021, he founded Moblox, a content and community platform. And earlier this year in 2023, Piers co-founded Implement AI, a next generation consultancy tailored for small and medium-sized businesses. So, a very warm welcome, Piers.

01:35 Piers Linney:

Thank you for having me.

01:37 Rob Hanna:

It’s good to have you on the show. Before we dive into all your amazing projects, experiences to date, we do have a customary icebreaker question here, on the Legally Speaking Podcast, which is, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real, what would you rate the hit TV series Suits in terms of its reality? If you’ve seen it, of the law?

01:57 Piers Linney:

I’ve seen it. It’s probably, probably more realistic compared to US law. I think it’s probably a 4 in terms of the UK. I think you know, you’ll have too many HR issues.

02:09 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, I think 4 is very justified. And with that, we’ll move swiftly on to talk all about you. So, would you mind telling us Piers a bit about your background and career journey?

02:19 Piers Linney:

So I’m, so my mum’s from Barbados, Windrush generation, dad was a Mancunian lad, grew up in Manchester in Cheetham Hill. And, I was born in Stoke-on-Trent. I only know myself, John Caldwell and Robbie Williams from Stoke-on-Trent. And, and then I moved up to Lancashire I was kinda 9, my dad got a job in Manchester. And I, I grew up in a mill town in Lancashire, quite small 1 called Baker Bossington and down it’s kind of nestled between kind of, Oxtail, Burnley, Bolton, very like that kind of area, if you know it. And I grew up in a very small town. And, I wanted to go out as all the lads on the side like paper round and, what I mean like where I actually disintermediated the local newsagent, by buying papers wholesale. And having them myself, rather than having a paper round, and then I, I sort of wanted to go into business, but no one really knew what the hell I was talking about. Everyone said, oh you should become an accountant, which is, not the best advice. But I loved history. So I kind of, fascinated by the Industrial Revolution, because I was kind of surrounded with this landscape that was kind of scarred by it. And that fascinated me, and they’re kind of the industrialists of the age and, and then through that, I got quite interested in history. And then through that, I did a history A-Level and I thought, what do I, what do I do, and I was doing maths A-Level and I thought, I hate maths. I hate A-Level maths, not for me. And I kind of, I kind of, I’ve got a history, I did my A-Levels twice. I did some of my A-Levels twice. And I kind of dropped maths essentially. And then I had to take, I did, I forgot I had to do the A-Levels at nights and had 2, I wanted to get into Manchester University, they gave me a place. So I did a law A-Level, which was quite new then I think. When I did this sort of law A-Level, and I was fascinated by the law. It was kind of like the history, you know, the jurisprudence, they just fascinated me so, and then I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. So I ended up at Manchester University, doing an accounting and law degree. So I hadn’t quite given up the accounting. I did and that was 4-year degree, which is a good thing, because all my friends left in the third year, and I did some work in the fourth year. But then I, I wanted I wanted to be a lawyer and it was very difficult in law. Law was different then, it’s a bit more democratised now. All the big firms and it was quite Oxbridge. And I was sort of, I was just like a mixed-race kid from a mill town, you know, done my A-Levels twice, I had to my A-Levels twice. I got a quite a good degree in Manchester University and I got a 2:1. And I, I did a placement as part of my degree in Manchester law firm called Davies Arnold Cooper which is like a shipping, some insurance kind of firm, general commercial. And that was in Manchester in Fountain Street, I remember this. They actually gave me a place, so they gave me a training contract offer, that was like amazing. But it was in Manchester and I went to law school in Store Street in London off of Tottenham Court Road. And, when I got to London, I thought no. I want to be a lawyer in London and that kind of, I didn’t really know about the city, you know. I mean, I meet young people now and I say what do you want to do, and they’ve got their life planned out and they understand, you know, all of these, sort of social capital, and I just didn’t have. I didn’t understand the city, I didn’t know, I did a course in corporate finance, but didn’t really I understood it. And at the time, I applied, I think to 68 law firms, some admittedly twice, but 68 law firms. It’s quite funny now, because they’ve all merged together now, that’s something probably like 20 now, and SJ Berwin was the only firm that gave me an offer. That was kind of because in the meeting, I kind of said, look, give me a chance, if I’m rubbish, you know, you can get rid of me. And I think they quite liked the fact that I was quite cocky. And in Berwin’s was a, at the time, there’s, there’s Berwin Leighton obviously, then there’s SJ Berwin. And it was very entrepreneurial firm, it was focused on venture capital. The guy that negotiated the LP GP, you know, tax structure with HMRC. And I ended up at this firm, which was, very me. But in that firm, I was doing deals, I remember the 1 particularly, I think it was, guys that bought Tottenham Hotspur, kind of offshore billionaire. And there’s a guy, Daniel Levy, I think that’s his name, and they were doing this deal. I remember sitting there thinking, I want to be the person doing the deal. There was always, this was an NBO age. This was pre-tech. Those people like his funding management buyouts and the management team. I thought I want to be the management or the investor. I don’t want to be the person, I don’t want to be the lawyer. And I was quite good at it. But I always knew, that I was never going to be the person that could dot every I and cross every T. And my natural, like a natural state is kind of shoot from the hip. But law, and, and then I went into banking, which you can talk about if you want to. And I went into banking after that, but law and banking gave me that training where if I need to, I can drill down into detail. And it’s a skill, a skill I’ve, I’ve, you know, I use to this day, but you know. But I left law when I qualified because I, realised it wasn’t long term, and I wanted to do. Investment banking was far more interesting. And a friend of mine said to me, you should go into investment banking, that sounds more like you. And again, I said to him, what’s investment banking. I didn’t have a clue. That’s kind of the story of my life. And then, I mean, for another, for another whole story, another whole process to get into banking, ended up being at Barclays de Zoete, which is kind of like Barclays Capital now. They sold it to Credit Suisse. So I ended up at Credit Suisse when it was solvent, doing M&A. So I’d gone from this, comprehensive school in Lancashire, where everyone was saying, you know, what are you talking about you want to go into business, all the way to ended up, you know, earning more money than I could spend. I bought my first sports car on a debit card, in, in Canary Wharf, at Credit Suisse, as an investment banker. And everyone and I, I advise Sky on diversity and inclusion so I’ve learned a lot about it over the years, and I was what they call, I covered a lot where, I changed my accent. So what I have is a northern accent, it gets more northern after a few cocktails, but I got a northern accent. And I pretended, or I didn’t let on that was my background. And in 2011, I did The Secret Millionaire program. When it went out, I was driving around this little mill town in my Porsche Cayenne, and my phone lit up, when it was there, saying, I never knew you went to school like that. I never knew you grew up in a place like that. That’s kinda like you never asked. And that’s something that you know you shouldn’t have to do, actually, because it just, just soaks up energy. That’s kind of my journey into the city, and then after that I went into business.

08:25 Rob Hanna:

Yeah. And I mean, what, what a fascinating journey as well. I think there’s lots of lessons there. And I think 1 of them is obviously, you know, persistence, you mentioned 68 law firms, you know, it’s so competitive, in particular a lot of our listeners are trying to break in, you know, actually just making sure you, there always is going to be that 1, all you need is that 1, and you get that great example, because then you’ve got that 1 with SJ Berwin and then you say you transitioned into investment banking, picked up all these skills. So, I want to kind of pick up from, from there then because once you’d been to sort of Credit Suisse, you then moved into sort of entrepreneurial ambitions. Talk us through some of your ventures, because you’ve done stuff in finance, you’ve done stuff in technology, media, telco. You know, tell us about some of these different businesses, you know, and what lessons you’ve had from establishing various companies.

09:09 Piers Linney:

So I was always kind of in business, so as a, when I was on set, when I was sort of 30, I can’t remember how old I was, I had a paper round. In Lancashire in those days when it snowed it covered your car, so it was like, it was hard work. And I realised that on Sunday, they didn’t deliver the news agents, you could go and buy them, but nobody wanted to get out of bed and go to the news agents on a Sunday morning. So I literally bought papers wholesale, delivered them and, and through that I was earning 5 pounds a week and it went up to like 15 quid on a Sunday morning. A little bit more hard work, a bit of prep and stuff, and I kind of realised that if you find, a kind of a, we can add value to someone’s life, on my paper round around customers, and you work hard you can make some money. And I wanted to buy a BMX, was kind of like micro wealth creation, but I learned a lot through that process. And after that I was doing you know, door to door sales, a better way, probably wouldn’t, you probably won’t remember that back in the day, selling pots and pans quite literally from door to door. And then I learned about you know, dealing with people, and then the university we’re doing various things like, you know, parties and stuff like that. And then at law school I was doing company formations. And also when I was a trainee solicitor, we were doing film finance with a friend of mine, EAS film structures were a friend of mine and he, he, he led it but he went on to run them Lionsgate film, big, still is, big in the film industry. So I was always doing something on the side. And then after, when I was, when I was a banker, I was kind of, at some sort of, they call them side hustles now don’t they, which they were for me, they weren’t really ever intended to be to step into them. I was always helping people, because I had this sort of, I had this skill set, you know, the law is quite entrepreneurial, I had the numbers now, I understood, accounting, I could write a nice presentations. Mostly in banking, you just do PowerPoints to be quite frank, it’s Excel. And then it’s putting all into PowerPoint with some nice slides. And often the, the repro department couldn’t do it on time. So you ended up being there at 4 in the morning fiddling around with PowerPoint. But I had this kind of skill set, if you wanted to build a business or raise money, I had all the tools. So, and then I left banking in 2000, took my bonus, off I went. And, then we set up a dot com. That was my first little entre. In those days, I think as I left the building, we raised like 700, oh, how the world has changed. And I kind of went into the dot com so involved in quite a few years, just before the crash. So then I saw a whole economic cycle, you know, raising money, hiring people, building a business, creating a product, going to market, firing people, cutting your product line, a down round, convertible round, and then I could have left. And luckily, my business partner, we had quite a difficult time doing that together. But I kind of left and his family could fund it, they were reasonably wealthy. I actually met him again in Miami about, about 2 months ago, after about freeze it. And then I, and then after that I was kind of like, well, what do I do now? So my plan was always, right, I can go into, you look at the first light internet today 1.0. Most of the founders then were professionals, management consultants, or people who had money. They had no risk really. And I kind of thought, well, I’ve got enough money now to take 2 years out, it doesn’t, it doesn’t, doesn’t work out, all goes wrong, I can always go back to the city. Of course, after the dot com crash, my bridge back was just incinerated because they fired everyone. Then it’s kind of like oh, right. So then the only way to go was going forwards. And I ended up, someone who was in banking, asked me to get involved in a media music business. So ended up doing like DJ management and record labels and digital rights, it’s quite interesting, but didn’t stay there for very long. And then I, well what do I do? So I had the skill set. So I built a website, looked like Goldman Sachs, went off to the US. And I learned about hedge funds and private placements. And, I was doing Spax in 2002. People think Spax is a new thing they’re not. And, I kind of built a corporate finance business. And 1 of the partners who trained me at SJ Berwin, he’s actually got his own big law firm now. He, he had a 2000 venture capital fund, and around that, we built the sort of private placement business bringing hedge fund money to the UK, raised finance for companies and became like an estate agent for hedge fund cash. And they made a bit, a bit of money there. And it kind of, but over time, I was still investing in businesses, helping people start businesses that began to grow, began to scale up. So that became quite big. I, you know, 50 million in revenue sort of thing, you know, 5 million quid a year. And then there was those times where I’m selling board meetings, asking questions, the management team saying, what about this? What about that? What about that? Why have we done this? And then there came a day where, with a very good friend of mine, we had 1 company particular as a mobile, b2b mobile phone provider. And we thought, we can’t do a worse job than this team, what are we paying them for? Then we became operators, so we kind of stepped into the business and to run them. And I’ve learned over the years as I get a bit older that not my forte. The best thing to do is to have people running businesses. I’m quite good at setting up a business, like if it was a ship I could design it, and it looks like and all the furnishings, furnishings should be in the cabin, I can, I can hire the team that devoted loyal and take it out the harbour to the, to the kinda, the harbour wall or to take it across the Atlantic. That’s not me. So, and I’ve been involved in mostly technology, some media, and telecommunications and more recently, space, a company called Send founded by a sort of visionary friend of mine called Charles. We’re putting, this is quite interesting this is, little few legal interesting issues. We’re putting a constellation of satellites in space, provide 8k real time video of all of Earth, down to a cars about 2 pixels. Now imagine that it’s quite interesting. So yeah, that’s an interesting 1. And then also I co-founded Atherton bikes. That’s a additive manufactured mountain bike business. That we, the techies will kill me for saying this but, you got like a drain pipe system where you have the kind of the joint, that bit is 3D printed into Tanium tubing that slots into it essentially, it’s carbon fibre. That’s kind of F1 aircraft technology but in mountain bikes, so what that means is, having the geometry for individual riders, and we can print the bikes to order rather than having some enormous shipment coming from Taiwan of carbon frames. We have very little stock. So that’s become over the years, probably the most innovative mountain bike business in the world, that’s doing quite well. So I’ve got a range of interests, it’s always been, you know, I’ve been a champion of small businesses, kind of focus on that, entrepreneurship. I started a new business called Implement AI because I think AI is gonna change everything we do, especially in law actually, as well.

15:49 Rob Hanna:

And I’m excited to talk about that, we’re going to talk a bit more about Implement AI, because I, I agree. But of course, it’d be remiss for us not to talk about your time on Dragon’s Den, you know, in 2013, I believe. What was your experience like of, of being a dragon? I mean, you’ve shared some of your entrepreneurial own ventures, but obviously putting your investor hat on in the den. What was that like?

16:09 Piers Linney:

It’s quite surreal I’d say when I think about it, that again, there’s a story there as well. So I am, I was approached, so I did The Secret Millionaire first. Right. So I was, I was in prison for most of it. I think 1 of the research went, went to the BBC, they called me and said, do you want to be a dragon on Dragon’s Den. I thought, I literally thought this a good friend of mine that has a habit of ringing you up and, kinda trick me into stuff, I thought it was him, literally. And, anyway it didn’t happen that year. And a year later, they were chasing me again and saying do you want to do it. And I was like, I don’t know, do I want to do it, have I got the time, do I want to be a celeb, I had a taste of The Secret Millionaire. It wasn’t really, really me to be honest with you. So they were kind of chasing me and I, as you are, I was at Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s private game reserve in the Kruger National Park in South Africa with him and, I donated some money to his charity, you know, and I was sitting there thinking, who do I talk to about you know, media and business, the combination of the 2, and the pros and the cons, you know where this is going. So I had a chat to Richard, and to cut a very long story short, it’s more of my keynote story this. It’s kind of like, he said, we had this conversation and he goes you know, screw it, just do it as you expect, in that book, and he and I kind of walked off and he said no, no, no, no, no, he said ring the producer back now, and I did, and tell him you’re in. That’s how I ended up on Dragon’s Den. So, well then, then it was surreal. See, now you’re talking about me this sort of mill town, comprehensive school kid ends up in the city and is now sitting with Sir Richard Branson discussing whether I should go and be a dragon on Dragon’s Den. It’s bonkers. Oh, it was an interesting 1. After that, really, there’s no real prep. It’s just kind of like, you need to be, you done like 1 screen test to make sure you’re not terrified in front of a camera, and then turn up and you got Peter on 1 side, Deborah on the other, and off you go, that was it. So it was very interesting. So it’s kind of, 2 sides to that coin. So 1 was, I was still a reluctant celebrity, I still am to some extent, although a minor celebrity. And over the years, it kind of died out, people don’t recognise, they kind of recognise your face. So like, do you work in Barclays in Camden? It’s like that. I’m like, oh yeah. And then, but during covid because they couldn’t film it, they put it back on and they re-ran quite a lot. So suddenly, it’s like being back on TV. So you got kind of recognised again. Now the upside is, you get to do things you wouldn’t necessarily would otherwise be able to do, get to meet people you probably wouldn’t never have met, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you actually when clearly, I hadn’t been on Dragon’s Den. I advise Sky, I advise the public, a very large UK based automotive, global automotive manufacturer in future strategy. I was on the Board of British Business Bank during covid where we’re, 90 billion imitated finance into the market. I was on the board of Nesta the UK’s largest innovation foundation. So, I get to do these things and in each 1 of them I get to network and learn something new. So that was the upside to it. The downside is still people think they, they sort of know you. BBC creates this caricature of you, not necessarily you, but people think that, that it is you. But overall, great experience and, and what’s quite interesting about Dragon’s Den is money can’t buy it. So, I’m often in places where there’s kind of, you know, billionaires and egos and, well how big your yacht is, and, you can’t be a dragon. So it’s kind of a nice thing to sort of have really. And I’ve been able to leverage it to do good as well because you can attract attention, started charities, again very focused on diversity and inclusion, so you’ve been able to sort of leverage it to you know, do a bit of good in the world as well.

19:33 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and you do a lot of good and again I want to talk about some of your diversity and inclusion work, I think it’s, it’s wonderful but maybe sort of you know, standout moments or best investment from the, from the den what, what stands out to, to you?

19:47 Piers Linney:

I think I did the best investment in the Den ever but, people don’t really know about it. And you get these things in the press all the time saying, the top investments of Dragon’s Den, it’s all completely wrong. So I am, I was the first to do tech as far as I am concerned, people doing. I was there as the apps were just appearing on their, apps and people with big, big, big mobile phones standing there, and showing how an app works. And these chaps came on, most of them were Israeli, PhDs, and had a term sheet of venture capital fund. And what was not to like, and a beautiful product, it was a labour, a young child, a children’s book. So personalised children’s books, it was called Lost My Name at the time, they changed the name to Wonderbly, so anyone that’s got children, you know, young children, probably had 1 of these as a gift at some point. And it’s now a global success. You know, still with you know, Harry Potter books, publishers. And, they, went public, but they exited about 2 years ago, for a, you know, very serious amount of money. When I did the deal, I got sort of 5% of 100 grand, and the other dragons were like what are you doing, you know, that’s not what it’s about, you shouldn’t do deals like that, you know, and I’m gonna try get an option out, I got 4 percent out, I was trying to get an option out, they were like, can’t half do a deal in the den, I was like okay. But I think in terms of a, a tech deal, or any deal actually, that was done in the den, and is exited for cash, I can’t think of another 1. There’s ones that are still going and you know, they’re quite well known. But in terms of like a real sort of, you know, if you’re an investor, that’s what you want, want to put some money in, you want a 10 and it wasn’t all straight. You know, it wasn’t all easy for them, everything wasn’t a straight line, they had some difficulty, they had to restructure the business and they, they got through and they exited. They’ve made, the wealthy people and they’ve gone again, and the back. And as an investor that’s what you want but it’s really not that public. And then, yeah.

21:40 Rob Hanna:

I love that isn’t it, because sort of, you know, entrepreneur, go again, go again. And that’s what ,what you’ve done. And that’s why I want to talk about Implement AI, which you kind of touched on because you are passionate, you know, about small and medium sized businesses. Time for a short break from the show. Calling all lawyers who want to work smarter, not harder. Are you tired of following old processes just because, or do you feel like your current setup is letting you down? Then I recommend you try Clio, the legal software that streamlines your workflow and keeps your entire firm organised. With Clio’s cloud based legal software, you can quickly and easily manage your cases, billing, documents and calendar all from 1 place. They’ve even got an easy-to-use mobile app, so you can stay on top of your cases, wherever you go. Join the 10s of 1000s of legal professionals worldwide who trust Clio for all of their legal needs. It’s the legal software that works for the modern law firm. Dive in and start using it right away with their 7-day free trial. Sign up now at Clio dot com forward slash Legally Speaking. That’s C L I O dot com forward slash Legally Speaking. Now back to the show. Can you tell us a bit more about Implement AI in, in detail, because I think it’s a super interesting business and I think the legal people need to pay attention to it?

23:11 Piers Linney:

Yes. If you, if you sort of start doing macro? Yeah, so there’s a lot of noise about artificial intelligence. Yeah. And, and what’s happened is you’ve had sort of like a 50 years, maybe more, research into this, you know, going back to sort of Turing and then you’ve had probably a decade of big companies trying to productise it, you know, machine learning, computer vision. You had these different streams like computer vision, there was people doing you know, translation, there’s machine learning models. And then this transformer, you know, a generative pre-trained transformer GPT, this transform model was designed and these large language models, which means that you can now almost communicate, it tends to be text, but clearly now they’ve got text to speech, speech to text, multimodal to image to text, you can do text to video now. This multimodal communication way of communicating. And that’s completely changed the game, and that in the last 6 months, that’s changed the game. So you’ve now seen, you know, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Video, all these very large tech companies change their strategy, because they know this is going to change the world. And this is not the internet, probably a 10%, productivity gain. Electricity was about 35%. It’s hard to measure this stuff, but this is the research I’ve read, and they think that AI is going to be 50%. Now, there were threats of existential threats for lots of people, and a huge opportunity. But if you imagine now where we’ve had this sort of linear growth, you know, for, since civilisation started really, as the industrial revolution, you know, you had industrial revolution, steam power, physical labour, you had the electrification, consumer revolution, 2nd industrial, 2nd revolution, you had you know, Web 1 to 3, probably the 3rd industrial revolution, this is the 4th. This is going to be, we don’t quite know when, this is why it can be quite confusing, but we are now approaching exponential growth. This is where, imagine the software, you know, so humans, our DNA is our code, isn’t it? So, we evolve over, over millennia. But we have to, you know, if you’re a lawyer, you have to go to university, go to law school and become a lawyer, it takes years. These, these things don’t have that. So they, they absorb the internet, you know, literally, and, and then eventually they begin to write, it can write code, so you can think about it, they’ll start to write their own code and improve their own code, and that becomes exponential eventually. Code begins to write code. So, you end up in a world where you know, something has been solved before you wake up, the world has changed. And then before lunch its changed again, and you hear about artificial general intelligence, and I’m not worried about something being sentient now to something which is, we’re probably there already really, it’s more capable, more intelligent than a human, you know, we can’t absorb data and assimilate it in the way that these, these machines can. What will eventually happen is, is the software, we may even get super intelligence, start to design robotics in ways that we don’t understand. So, that’s when, you got a longer burn for robotic. What was interesting is, is that people thought that, you know, artificial intelligence and robots were going to take jobs of Uber drivers, you know, people were driving fork-lift trucks, admin assistants, telemarketers, they were the standard ones. When I was at Nesta, we did a lot of research on AI, and issues, if you imagine the Northeast say, where there’s lots of call centres, that when AI disrupt those jobs, there were whole areas of the country we might need retraining. What’s happened though with generative AI, is that generates, you know, content, generate text, this is why it’s important for law firms, generate images and movies, that it’s already disrupted the creatives. And they were supposed to be the ones that are most protected. So these large language models are essentially the, what’s called generative, very, very good, simulate a lot of information, and that they’re kind of trained and fine-tuned to generate different types of content, be it written, or be it video, be it speech. And then you got this multimodal impact where texts can become speech, speech can become text, video can become text, and vice versa. And our world will change and you are going to see more and more roles. And I will say is like a value pyramid, you have to move up it because essentially, it’s been filled with technology. And you, as a service provider, whatever you do, no matter what you do, surgeons, doctors, lawyers, accountants, you name it, not deceiver drivers, you’ve got to move up to the top of that, and then add more value, because the mundane will be automated. There’s absolutely no doubt about it.

27:38 Rob Hanna:

And that was going to be my next question, which you just answered beautifully there because I know you talk about the, the sort of value pyramid because there is this existential threat with AI, particularly admins and even lawyers, that if you’re not going to move up the value pyramid, I think you use the words your lunch eaten by AI, I can see that so you know, what tips or strategies would you give to maybe a legal professional, someone thinking about a career in law or, whatever it might be in and around the industry? What would you say to them, like some, some things to think about, so they can make sure they’re moving up, and they’re not going to be moving down?

28:10 Piers Linney:

You have to understand and embrace these technologies. There’s absolutely no point, trying to be a King Canute, you know, sitting there, saying that this tide is not coming in, or whatever he said, it might be the other way, I think is his case. But whatever he said, that’s not gonna work. This tide is coming in. And the issue with exponential growth is, is that we humans can’t understand it, we just don’t get it. You know, we’ve, most of our evolution, you know, we live within a day’s walk. And then nothing ever changed. It was, you know, millennia, nothing ever changed. If anything, the industrial evolution, things started to move more quickly. But even then, as, as a banker, we did financial models all the time. And it’s always oh, is it gonna grow by 2%, or 5%, or 10% next year. Now, we’ve been on a train, we’re about to get into an elevator. So you know, when someone’s got a cough in Wuhan, and suddenly your kids can’t go to school, that’s x, that’s a geometric progression, that’s kind of exponential change. So you have to embrace this technology, you have to understand how it can empower you, or superpower you, or whatever you do. But you better what you do. And understand how you leverage it to do it, whatever it is you do, better, because somebody will eat your lunch if you don’t. And this is like, I always imagine, like a ship leaving the harbour, but it can accelerate away, sort of, you know, almost exponential speed. It’s quite slow now, moving away from the harbour. We are all standing on the key side, you might be on it. You might be, you know, the Founder of Open AI sitting there on it, having, enjoying his martini, and we’re all on the key side. So I think hang on a minute, and you can still make the leap. You know, you can learn, you can jump, or come a point where that gap, you can’t make the leap, as it begins to accelerate away, that’s an exponential speed. You can never make the leap. And the point about this technology is, once you’re left on the key side, you are staying there, and that might be the vast majority of society. So, if you’re going into the profession, this is quite interesting, I was talking to a senior partner in a very big law firm in central London, and I’m gonna say it as it is, you know, if you’re coming into the profession, it’s going to change massively the next 5 to 10 years. I was on a call with Microsoft this morning, they you know, this technology now in terms of the enterprise grade stuff, it’s quite expensive. It’s quite techie. But the law firms are the ones running at this the hardest. Their output is text, documents. And this is what these large language models are the best at. And if they’re trained to understand prose, the way things are structured, the way documents are structured, and to understand them, they can create anything. In my, my, so my company Implement AI, we looked at this and thought right, companies need to get on that boat basically. And they need to understand this and it moves so quickly, that, I was looking at should I invest in technology? Should we start an AI company? And I kind of thought, you know, there’s a thing called you know, you’ve heard of ChatGPT. Well the things called AutoGPT, these are like agents you can create on the fly. All kind of command line stuff. I had 2 of these things going in, in the next room, they’re chatting to each other, their given voices, one’s a male, one’s a female, one’s going, I’m gonna go off and do some research. Okay, when you get back, I’m gonna go off and look at this, let’s put it together and we’ll create a follow-up policy document, just as a test. And they went off and did that, and came back and then they started saying, let’s send a tweet. And I was like, hang on a minute, and then I’m thinking, well, this is all very high, quite techie, quite clunky. 2 weeks later, ChatGPT, has launched plug-ins, which is the same thing. Now you can say, if it’s, if the average temperature in Lisbon, where my co-founders based, it’s 20 degrees, book me a flight, goes into WolframAlpha, or database that would, a real time database in weather, checks the, checks the average temperature, yeah, that’s fine, logs into Expedia, books you a flight, and then can then email a draft, set up a draft email, sent to me to use as information. You can see now that even, you know, PAs, script it as well. So, and this isn’t, I’m old enough to remember, you’re probably not, Pong, the tennis game, ting, ting, ting. If you’re a bit younger it’s Nokia snake, they, this is what we’re taught, this is what we’re playing with today, you know, and it’s not going to take my lifetime to go from Pong to Call of Duty or, you know, Forza Horizon or, or Fortnite, it’s going to take 2 or 3 years.

32:21 Rob Hanna:

And that’s the, the thing, which is what I want to kind of stress, you’re very important word embrace, because the speed of acceleration with technology now and that, that tation of it is not going to be like we’ve seen years before, like from Web1 to Web3, and all these other things that, you know, I love all of this stuff, it’s really important that you embrace. So, you know, I got super excited about, you know, I’m an adviser to Radio AI, the 1st basically AI focused broadcasting radio show with its own sort of, you know, presenters and voices and various things connected to it. So you know, nobody really can not afford to pay attention to AI in every single facet of business.

32:55 Piers Linney:

And especially in law, because that is, you know, accounting as well, it’s going to be very, very good at that. I don’t think you’ll have accountants, within 10 years. I mean I advise various companies yeah, and the futures we’re talking about, it’s things like, you know, my daughter’s what, she’s 15, maybe she’s a bit old, but if your kids are, you know, below 10 now, younger than 10, in a lifetime, in my daughter’s lifetime, it will probably be illegal to drive a car in a built-up areas if you are human, you know. Her children will never trust a human accountant. Why would you, because the, the automaton, the AI is going to be far better. And that’s the world we’re going, and we, and people always say, oh, well, they can’t do this now, it can’t do that, it’s not very good at this, and it’s, it’s got BioShock, yeah, okay. But it’s Pong, it’s Nokia snake, it’s, it’s, it’s never going to be this bad ever again. Every day is getting better.

33:50 Rob Hanna:

Yeah. And that’s the excitement for me as somebody who’s open minded, and that’s what I’d say to our listeners, be open minded, be curious, listen to thought leaders and experts, definitely listen to, to what Piers is saying, because I agree. Piers, I want to talk about speed of adoption when it comes to AI. You know, are companies looking to adopt this quickly? And you know, any other thoughts around that?

34:10 Piers Linney:

I spent 10 years trying to sell Cloud solutions to companies. And but the issue about Cloud is, is that the infrastructure, well, to then cost looks exactly the same. It’s just different infrastructure where it’s deployed. They are Blockchain and, you know, crypto. And no one can really understand what the use cases were for that so, they were a lot of consumers got involved, a lot of high. AI is different in my opinion. AI, there are existential threats to entire industries, you know, entire sort of roles within organisations, especially law firms understand this. So, you are seeing very large companies, already, very quickly in a space of 6 months, where these large language models became available, starting to spend millions of pounds. I saw some very large law firms, I was looking at their website, their recruiting prompt engineers. I mean, no one knew what a prompt engineer was last December. So you’re seeing the adoption take off very, very quickly because people know, and they’ve seen and they’ve seen the proof of concepts, it’s completely changes what you do and how you do it. And the idea is, is it helps you grow, but your cost don’t increase, your margin goes up, you become more profitable. And you have to get ahead of the game because as I said, this exponential, exponential change, very hard to catch up. So, it’s not Cloud, it’s not Blockchain, AI is different. And, anyone who doesn’t think that is, is, is going to find themselves left behind very quickly.

35:27 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I encourage people to go back, rewind, re-listen to that, and just put that down and actually take note what Piers is saying, because I 100% agree. I want to talk just a little bit though before we, we, we look to close Piers about sort of social mobility and diversity and inclusion, because I know it’s very important to you and you’ve spoken openly about adversities you faced whilst building your career and businesses. You’ve shared, I believe, “I kind of made sure that all the barriers I perceived for me getting a job in the city, the colour of my skin, my academic record, the school I went to, and my accent, I tried to lower them as much as possible”. And you touched on this earlier, but I just want to, sort of ask the question, how have you stayed resilient and optimistic throughout? Maybe there’s other people who that really hits home or resonates with. What, what advice would you give to them in terms of staying resilient and optimistic?

36:13 Piers Linney:

So I, I was quite determined, quite blinkered, and kind of laughed it off. And if something stood in front of me, I’d kind of go round it, over it, through it, whatever I had to do. Not everybody’s like that. And that’s the issue. I think things have got better. Looking at AI, well 1 of the things about that is that, there’s about over 100, human biases, biases, however you pronounce it, and if you can take that out of the loop, that’s a big part of it. I work with Sky very closely on this, and they’re, they’ve invested a huge amount of money, probably 30 million over since George Floyd was murdered, to becoming a more improving diversity, which is being asked to the dance. I’ve been asked to the party, and inclusion has been asked to dance, to see different things. So, you shouldn’t have to do what I did. I just burnt too much energy, when you’re sat in a meeting, worried about, oh are they gonna like my accent, or are they gonna find out that I grew up in this area, that’s just nonsense. And the good news is, is that there’s a talent shortage. So, a competitive advantage for any organisation now is to broaden its access, its talent pool. And I will say that most organisations, most people can’t be bothered, because it’s more energy. But again, fishing unfamiliar waters and fish deeper. And that’s resources, energy, it’s money, essentially. So, organisations have to do that, organisations increasingly are doing that, trying to take bias out of the recruitment process, which is really important. But it, you know, I grew up, it happened to me this week, but not to go into too much detail, but I was, where I live, and something happened. And there’s some police officers and someone ran off or something, and I’m on my doorstep and I’m wearing like black, black shorts, black t-shirt, and they knocked on the door saying, have you seen these people and I was like, no. And they looked me up and down, looked behind me sort of checking what’s going on in there, and said, it wasn’t you was it. And you kind of think at the time, kind of brush it off. But then afterwards you think and I tell people I know, he probably has got the wrong end of the stick. But if you’re a person of colour, and you’ve had these micro-aggressions, 1000s of them, if you know 1 when you see 1, and some people, it just wears them down. So, there’s a kind of societal issue you have to deal with. But you can in organisations, just the process structure and being aware of this, you can reduce the barriers for people. I’m a great example, I in many ways, I was compared to as a school kid, you know, I was quite bright. I wasn’t, I wasn’t like super academic. But I could do the work when I needed to, my dad was very academic. And I managed to end up at Credit Suisse, at Boston, as an M&A banker, at the time I was like, 1 of the, the top jobs you could have as a professional in terms of earning potential. So, I’m an example that just through blood, sweat and tears, really, I managed to make it. But if that journey had been a lot easier for people like me, then organisations like that particular bank would have access to more talent. And in a world where they’re struggling to find talent now, and are drying up, that’s what they need to do. So if you’re, if you’re in an organisation, and you’re involved in recruitment, sort of here that’s what you do as well, this is really important.

39:20 Rob Hanna:

Yeah. And you’re talking my language there. And I think you know, it’s, it’s diversity of thought, diversity of culture, all these added value, adds to organisations and like you say, if people invest the time, energy and effort, and some law firms, to their credit, are doing a good job of this, but I strongly believe more needs to be done. It’s something.

39:35 Piers Linney:

Disability, that’s the next big 1. Obviously learning a lot about neurodiversity. And what technology will do and AI as well is level people up. So it’s going to mean eventually that if you being disabled, we are not there yet, it’s going to take more time and robotics, but being disabled will not be a disability. Being neurodiverse today, rapidly, is no longer an issue.

39:57 Rob Hanna:

And I do want to kind of wrap up talking about mentorship, because it’s another, you know, as we talk a lot about legal careers and things in and around the industry. You know, 1 of the key things that I believe in, and I’m sure you do too, is the importance of mentors. So, who have been some of your role models and mentors, and maybe some of the, the best piece of advice, the 1 or 2 key pieces of advice you’ve received that benefitted you throughout your career?

40:17 Piers Linney:

So I get asked this a lot. I’ve never had mentors. Never had a formal mentor because a mentoring, a mentoring relationship, a real proper 1 is kind of formal relationships, it’s like, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how long am I doing it for, what do you want to get out of this? It’s a process that they would have met. My role models were my parents. So my mum was this strong willed, you know, West Indian women. My dad was a, quite academic, you know, went to Cambridge and, you know, spoke several languages, and in Russian fluently, in naval intelligence for the world, doing national service and you know, and my dad would, they were very different people, they were my kind of role models in many ways. The mentors I had really, well in my career were probably senior people that I worked for, so probably the partner at SJ Berwin that trained me, a couple of the Managing Directors when I was a banker, who I looked up to, I learned from when they gave you time to, to teach you. I never really had, I never really had that formal relationship. The nearest I’ve had to mentor I’d say is Sir Kenneth Olissa. Sir Kenneth Olissa is the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London. So if you see a, a mixed race chap with a sword, organising coronations. His job really is to represent the, the Monarch and to live with them in London, in Greater London. They’re out and about. He and, he’s, you know, he’s got a great story himself. I mean, he’s, seeing him in a 2 up 2 down, 1 brought him up a nice, nice, Sir Ken. His been the chairman of a couple of things I’ve been involved in. Founded a charity together, he’s still chairman of. So he’s, I spend every so often I meet Ken, I met him about, actually wrote a blog on my website about this. He’s got a coat of arms, as you do. On his coat of arms, it says, do well, do good. Whenever I meet Ken, normally, whenever he meets me, whatever I’m doing has completely changed. So, he finds that quite interesting, he’s like what are you doing now, he’s like, what, what, what’s the hit rate now? I’m like it’s probably 1 in 3 businesses, that kind of work, and he’s kinda like, very good. So, it’s informal, but I do look forward to those meetings, but, never a mentor. Having said that, if you’ve got the time, and you’ve got something you’d like to do, as you correctly said, it is actually really important. So, spending time, so 1 of the big issues in social mobility is social capital right, and I had to create my own, you know, piece by piece over many, many years. And, especially when you want to start a business, social capital is, you are where you grew up, your network, you know, it can be, family wealth, it can be, a lot of different factors. But it’s really important. When people don’t have it, and it can be about confidence, networks, contacts. I meet people all the time and I will just say look, why don’t you go and ask them for a quick email, while I’m with them. And I was sat in the reception in the Tower 42 in central London, the old NatWest tower. And some lady came up to me, young black girl and said, I’m starting a business and I don’t know what to do, and I recognise you. I’m kind of like, and they think I was gonna brush them off, they think I’m some famous guy, which isn’t the case. And I’m like, we’ll sit down here, talk me through it. And she’s like right, right, right. I go, okay, brilliant, right, I’m gonna send an email to this person, and go and talk to them. And just that, I get an email about 2 weeks later saying, thank you for that connection, that’s changed everything. Even doing things like that can make a big difference to people’s lives. Do not underestimate the power of your network, when you have 1 and you’ve grown up with it, because you’re so used to having it, don’t understand the value of social capital. And if you can, share it.

43:44 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, I love everything about that Piers, because the things that I bang on about, I always have an acronym NSN, never stop networking. And I think that’s a really good example, you’ve given there. And interesting fact, my first business was incorporated in Tower 42. So, the law firm.

43:58 Piers Linney:

I had my moment there when I was at Credit Suisse. I remember standing on the top floor at about 4 in the morning, it was well late. Looking out in my stripe suit, my braces, looking over the, looking over the city in Tower 4 thinking, how on earth did I end up here? And I remember that moment. Any moment I kind of verbally, metaphorically patting myself on the shoulder. So, well done mate. I’ve got some good memories there. I will say that sort of mentorship is 1 of the most powerful things you can actually, actually do. Networking is very much about, I’m talking about sharing your network. We all have network, I’ve got an amazing network. You know, I can, my daughter’s gonna say to me, I want to be an intern, doing anything, anywhere in the world. I can pick up the phone, drop an email and sort it out. So, network is important, but if you’re, have this advantage you’re not really aware of, it’s huge and hugely powerful. A lot of us have it, share your network, that’s the key.

44:52 Rob Hanna:

And that’s why I’m super passionate about community building. And you know, that’s 1 of the best ways, if you can build a community and grow that community the more you can share, you can release that thought leadership, and it’s just a far better way, I believe in, in modern, particularly technology and social media, et cetera, et cetera. So, Piers we can be cheeky and ask 1 more question to sort of sum up today, which has been great. I really enjoyed listening to your, your story, lots of lessons. But for those listening into this, what would be your 1 piece of advice for lawyers looking maybe to move out of legal into entrepreneurship and, and maybe mirror what you’ve, you’ve done or, or look to do something similar? What would be that 1 piece of advice?

45:28 Piers Linney:

That’s very interesting. I’ve got lots of friends who are lawyers. And when I kind of left law, even my mum was like, why you leaving? You haven’t had a proper job since. And years later, a lot said to me, I wish I’d left earlier. That seems to be what I hear most from people I still know who are lawyers, who are still thinking about a career change. And the issue was then clearly is that you know, you qualify, now you’re 3, 4 years in, now you’re thinking oh, you’re earning quite good money. These are, you know, then the partnership kind of carrots being dangled in front of you, then your partner, now you’ve got kids, a mortgage, you know, you go skiing twice a year, and you, you, you accumulate these costs, it’s kind of balls and chains basically. So my advice is, if you’re in a profession, like those do what I did, is get out, get out quite early, because otherwise you’ll find yourself locked in. And, you know, I would, I would become a lawyer again. There was my career progression, if I could go back. I wouldn’t, say well I’m not a lawyer now, what was the point, and I would literally do it again, because it opened lots of doors me and gave me some amazing skill sets. And, but it does train you to think in a certain way, depending what kind of law you do obviously. And it can instil in you risk adversity. And if you want to go into business, that’s more helpful.

46:39 Rob Hanna:

It’s so true, don’t risk anything you risk everything right. And, you know, 1 of my mentors said to me, you know, don’t let your wage be your cage, my biggest regret was not starting my businesses sooner, you know, I, I should have gone into entrepreneurship, a lot younger, in, in my view, looking back. So I definitely agree with what you’ve said there.

46:52 Piers Linney:

The beauty now is you can, what they call a side hustle. I will say take it seriously, it’s just like a business, right. You can now, the beauty of the world we live in is that very little infrastructure, very little cost. You can try different things, you can snap up a website, you can create a product, phone on there, do a bit of marketing, see if it’s got any traction, it hasn’t, you know, move on to the next thing. That’s what you can do that. And eventually, maybe, maybe it’s been, a bit like you as well, is that, that side hustle, that passion can become something that can actually, you know, pay the bills, move into it. And what I don’t really think that, I will say is stay employed for as long as you possibly can, because not being employed and trying to start a business and not having any money, super stressful, it’s not good for anyone’s mental health.

47:38 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, no, that’s a really good, valuable point. So Piers, before we wrap up, where can our listeners learn more about Implement AI? Where’s the best place for them to go and, and?

47:47 Piers Linney:

So Implement AI is a new business. So we’re helping small businesses be more profitable. So it’s like 500 employees, 1 of our clients, understand technology, understand, discover, but discovery solutions, and then start implementing it. These are not final solutions yet because, the, this we’re all on a journey, and it’s technology is moving very, very quickly. But the issue is you have to start understanding today, what it is, how you implement it in your business? What can you use today? What are the quick wins? What are the big wins going to be? And understand the impact on you, business, your employees, sector your operating in, understand that kind of that horizon scanning as well. So we do all of that, we offer it, fractional AI officers will help your policy. So if you go to Implement AI dot IO or just ping me on LinkedIn or, wherever you, wherever, wherever I pop up with some annoying video, probably. People say, I keep seeing your video, people approach me on tubes and say, alright Piers and start chatting to you, and I’m like, sorry I don’t want to be rude, but do I know you? And their like, yeah, we’re connected on LinkedIn. And I’m kind of like, there are 30,000 odd people as well. But you were saying, that we put a lot of content. So blogs, videos, we started a podcast, it’s called the AI assisted organisation. And the key is whether it’s you personally or your organisation, have to become AI assisted, moved out of human first with an AI assisted world, and eventually it’d be an AI first world. That we got 5 years in software, a bit longer in robotics, to become AI assisted. And AI is not going to take your job, not going to kill your business. It’s somebody using AI that’s going to take your job, kill your business.

49:25 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, so true. And it’s been invaluable. And yeah, I was going to say where people can find you. But they’ve got Google. They can just look on social media, you’re everywhere. Yeah, exactly. So, Piers, this has been an absolutely immense chat. Thank you so much for coming on the show. It seems weird to say wishing you lots of continued success with all your ventures and pursuits given what you’ve already achieved. But definitely from all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast, and shout out as well to Alex Chisnall at Screw It Just Do It podcast, for, for connecting us today. But for now, over and out. Thank you for listening to this week’s episode. If you like the content here, why not check out our world leading content and collaboration hub, the Legally Speaking Club over on Discord. Go to our website www dot legally speaking podcast dot com for the link to join our community there. Over and out. 

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