Operation Tech: Improve Your Business With Legal Technology – Eamon Chawke  – S8E9

Explore the impact of legal tech in boutique practices with this week’s guest, Éamon Chawke. Éamon is a Partner at Briffa Solicitors, a firm that specialises in intellectual property and IT law. In this episode, your host, Rob Hanna, led a fascinating conversation that covered everything from the impact of IP law on small businesses to Éamon’s experiences of working with our sponsor Clio.  

So why should you be listening in?  

You can catch Rob and Éamon talking about:  

  • What intellectual property law is 
  • Enhancing operations with technology 
  • How to choose your legal tech solution  
  • The impact of copyright on AI 
  • Competitive advantages of cloud-based technology 



Robert Hanna 00:00 

A very big warm welcome Eamon.  

Éamon Chawke 00:05 

Hi, Rob. Great to be here. Thanks for having me on.  

Robert Hanna 00:05 

It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Before we dive into all your amazing projects experiences to date, we do have a customary icebreaker question on the legally speaking podcast, which is on a scale of one to 1010 being very real, what would you read the hit TV series suits intelligence reality of the law, if you’ve seen that? 

Éamon Chawke 00:26 

I have seen it. But I haven’t seen it for a very, very long time. And I didn’t watch it for very long. So based on my very sort of cloudy memory, I would write in at about a three in the sense that it does sort of refer to basic legal things like documents and going to court or whatever, but almost everything else in terms of the execution and what people do every day is fine to see from what I can remember. So I don’t know whether that will anger people or whether people will agree, but there you go. 

Robert Hanna 00:55 

I think the majority will agree. And I think you’ve justified your three very well. So with that, we should move swiftly on to talk all about you. So to begin with Amy, do you mind telling our listeners a bit about your background and career journey? 

Éamon Chawke 01:09 

Yes, absolutely. So I grew up, I went to school and university in Ireland. And interestingly, or maybe not interestingly, I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a solicitor, I didn’t even always know that I want to study I wanted to study law. And actually, when I first finished high school, secondary school, my application was for an Arts degree in English music and the Irish language. I lasted in that chorus for about maybe four weeks, five weeks before dropping out of university, taking a year to decide what I wanted to do. And I ultimately decided that I would go into a law degree. And fast forward sort of five or six years, I don’t two degrees in UCC, and Cork in Ireland. And I decided that I was going to be a solicitor and I qualified as a solicitor with one of the really big commercial law firms in Dublin in Ireland. And, and the big focus of those big firms is on big commercial law. So I did seats and things like banking and finance, and, you know, investment funds and financial institutions. And so by the time I qualified, that was my, that was where all my experience lay. And so when I moved to London to work for a big US firm, that was the area that I went into. However, I sorted decided fairly soon after qualification that even though this was you know, the firms were great, and the opportunities were great, and the money was great. And there was lots about that life and that practice area to recommend it. It wasn’t where my passion lay. So I had a really sort of honest conversation with myself about what I actually wanted to be doing every day. And I thought back to the areas that I really enjoyed in university, the areas that I enjoyed and enjoyed in law school. And the parts of my training contract that I really enjoyed, which was my very first half of my first CS, which was being in the IP group of the litigation department in Madison in Dublin, Detroit, the firm I trained at. And I really enjoyed the people I worked with, I really enjoyed the subject matter. And so I decided I’m going to make the big switch to IP, which wasn’t easy because sorts of Banking Finance, which was where all of my recent knowledge and experience lay and tried to switch into IP, which is quite a different area was challenging enough. But I applied to a firm prefer the firm I now work for and I’m a partner. And luckily, I was given our shots by the by the then managing partner Margaret Margaret prefer. And yeah, even though I have very little experience or knowledge of IP, she gave me a shot. I came in, learn to launch really, really quickly in the first sort of six months to a year, went to Oxford did the IP diploma. And now for the last almost decade, it’ll be 10 years next year. I’ve been doing intellectual property day in day out every day, and I absolutely love it. So that’s my journey. I have a circuitous route. But that’s my that says in a nutshell.  

Robert Hanna 04:17 

No, and I really appreciate that. And a lot of our listeners will get value from that. And I hope that inspires other people. I think the key lesson is you have that honest conversation with yourself because I’m really passionate about people really having a fulfilling legal career and not being stuck in something that ultimately may not be giving them that fulfilment so that that you are actually confident enough, brave enough to do that, to then move into an area of law, the way your true passion lies and made a success of it. That’s fantastic. So really appreciate sharing that hopefully other people listening in will get some, some value from that, too. So you mentioned obviously, you know, you’ve specialised in intellectual property coming up to 10 years. You know, maybe for people who are less familiar, could you maybe give a bit of an explanation of sort of IP law better data Action and commercial as well, just very high level so people have a greater understanding. 

Éamon Chawke 05:03 

Yeah, yeah, sure. So intellectual property refers to property or assets that relate to the mind. But IP sort of on its own doesn’t really mean anything else. Beyond that high level, conceptual umbrella term. Rather, intellectual property refers to a set of individual rights or assets that sit underneath that umbrella term. And each of those things protect different different types of subject matter. So trademarks, broadly speaking, protect brands, copyright protects creative works, design rights, protect the appearance of products, patents, protect inventions, inventions, inventive products, or inventive processes. Yeah, so intellectual property law is all about understanding how you protect those different types of things through some sort of monopoly. And data protection that is about protecting information that relates to people, it’s, it’s sort of related to privacy law. And it’s related to the law of confidence, or the law that protects confidential information. But when we talk about data protection, we’re sort of talking specifically about the regulations and rules and laws that are in place to enable people to control what happens with their personal data when it goes out there into the world. And obviously, that whole exercise and giving people the power to control their personal data became way more important over the last, say, 30 years, with the internet and so much information being publicly accessible and online. And that’s what catalysed the the GDPR, which is the European law that came in and updated the old Data Protection Directive to make sure that people had you know, that that law had much more teeth, that state protection. And then commercial law is very sort of broad woolly term, which basically refers to the law in relation to businesses and how businesses interact with each other in commerce are in trade. So it’s everything from the law regulating the sale of goods, and the supply of services and agency law and bits of contract law, commercial contract law, and even intellectual property would be would be sort of part of commercial law. So yeah, broadly speaking, that’s my that’s my bag. 

Robert Hanna 07:27 

Yeah, no, and it’s already interesting bag. And you’re right. And again, with my legal recruiting hat on second point, you mentioned because sometimes in commercial departments, IP will will sit in that within certain firms and some have their own or have their own departments themselves. I think it’s a really good, general high level overview. And look, you’ve worked across some interesting sectors, you’ve worked some interesting professions, you know, authors, architects, photographers, you name it. Yeah. Is there a memorable case that stands out to you that you can share with us? 

Éamon Chawke 07:58 

There are loads of memorable cases. I don’t know whether I don’t know what I can or should share. One that actually stands out from from my early days of Briffa was I was acting for a quite a small business in West London. And he had a hairdressing salon, you know, quite a small business, but he’d been there for a really, really long time really well established brand and reputation. And in addition to providing hairs, hairdressing services, hair salon services, he sold his own brand shampoo and conditioner, and I think maybe a couple of other cosmetics, but the shampoo starts the main thing. And then this really big foreign cosmetics company was trying to enter into the UK market, and was filing an application for a trademark which was very, very similar, almost identical, visually and phonetically to my client’s brand name. And they essentially assumed that they would be able to bully him out of you know, bully him into sort of changing his brand name or just letting them come in. And he wasn’t really having any of us he said I have trademark protection for my salon and I have trademark protection for shampoo which sits in the same trademark classification as cosmetics so these guys who wants to come into the UK market and effectively use his brand name, you know would clearly have been infringing we had good grounds to prevent them we have good grounds to oppose their trademark registration. And the reason it’s a sort of a memorable cases we affected we sold our our trademark and our goodwill and our brand to this other company for a huge sum of money for for this guy. And the reason I think it’s a useful example is that it’s a reminder, even to very, very small businesses about how important it is to protect you sort of know what your rights are, number one and what you have. That’s a value even in a very small business, in this case, your brand name, your reputation, your goodwill, to know what to do to protect it filed a trademark application and to know what to do when someone in roaches on your space or does something that might damage your trading reputation or your goodwill, and to know how to sort of stand up for your rights and exercise your rights. And it’s, it’s a really good illustration of how these little trademarks are actually really, really powerful monopolies. And you know, this guy was able to rebrand and he was able to invest all that money in his business and do whatever he wanted. When in lots of other situations, you know, brand bullying happens all the time, or big businesses come in and effectively just outspend smaller companies or individuals. So yeah, that was a nice thing to be able to work on and to get a good outcome for the client.  

Robert Hanna 10:40 

It’s a lovely story, isn’t it? So almost a bit of David and Goliath. And it’s a really good lesson in terms of, you know, I always say to people with, with businesses or creators, like don’t be built on quicksand, you know, get the infrastructure in place. And of course, a large part of that is your IP, particularly now the world we live in with onlines. And everything involved. So yeah, I really liked that story that you know, maybe you don’t have the necessary the deep pockets in place. But if you put the infrastructure in place, you can still provide a level of protection, and then paying potentially get a pay day. And it sounds like a great, great result for your client there. So really good lesson, thanks for sharing. And let’s talk about partnership, you know, what does a typical day look like for you in a boutique firm as well such as prefer? 

Éamon Chawke 11:18 

I mean, it’s such a cliche, but you know, the only constant is change are certainly variety. There’s no two days in my job are now the same. And I love that it’s one of the it’s one of the ways in which my job now is completely different to my job working as a more junior solicitor in a very large firm, where then my day would be working on a very, very small number of very large cases or transactions. So you spend sort of every day and many days, drafting witness statements or drafting proceedings or reviewing 200 Page facilities agreements, or intercreditor agreements, and you become very that, you know, that’s can be interesting, too. And you become very technically good at that, because you do that one thing over and over again, and you become a very skilled advisor, and you learn your craft very well. As a partner in a small firm, it’s different in two ways. Number one, at least 50% of my time is not spent doing anything legal. You know, I spend my time going to finance meetings, going to partners meetings, thinking about technology that we want to invest in thinking about how we can improve our training, thinking about how we can make life better for our lawyers thinking about how we can make our service better for our clients thinking about our positioning in the market, you know, the legal market is quite competitive. And even in an area like a niche area like IP, you have to be constantly thinking about how you’re doing to be self critical. So I spent a lot of my time doing all of that and dealing with all that crushing. impostor syndrome. And the other 50% of the time I spent doing the stuff that I the other stuff that I really liked, which is dealing with clients and pinky, about IP, and working about IP. And as I said earlier, I love the subject area, I really, really enjoy thinking about trademark issues, design rights issues, copyright issues, even data protection, which bore some people to tears, I do actually find, you know, quite interesting if you’ve to sort of solve a problem. But again, because I’m working in a boutique firm with lots of smaller clients, rather than a large firm with a small number of larger clients, I start to bounce around to lots of different lines, lots of different matters, some of whom I’m dealing with myself. But in lots of cases, I’m supervising more junior lawyers, so I’m sort of dipping in and out of the different matters, they’re on discussing their strategies with them reviewing work that they’ve done, to make sure that we’re keeping all the plates spinning. So yeah, variety is probably the word that I would use to describe it every state refer.  

Robert Hanna 13:59 

And well justified as well, it has to be said, you know, and that’s an important point, you know, with with partnership, obviously, you know, you have salary partner equity partner variations of partner, but really getting into that role is you are more than a you know, just practising law that you’re, you’re running a business in many respects, and you’re looking across everything, like you said, anything from sort of people management, to training to technology, which we’re going to talk about at the moment to, you know, just general business solutions and driving the firm forward. Because, you know, let’s be real, we’re in a competitive world, and other people will eat your lunch if you’re not at the forefront of being sort of innovative, being creative and moving forwards because that’s just the nature of the beast that we’re in. So what I really admire about Brett was a business that you are forward thinking you do embrace technology, you do think of innovative ways of doing things and you know, undoubtably, that’s why you’ve been super successful and yourself and your own career. So let’s go back to 2019 because, you know, Britain recognised the need to innovate and improve its systems. Can you tell us about Britain’s journey and leveraging technology to enhance it operations and to help drive growth.  

Éamon Chawke 15:02 

Yeah, sure. So II, if you look at sort of the bigger picture of Briffa firm was started in 1995. So we’ll be 30 next year 2025. And probably for the first sort of, you know, two decades up to 2015, or maybe just shortly after that. Briffa operated as a really lean, scrappy startup, and very intentionally, so you’re very much by choice. And we sort of adapted to technology, as you know, as we went along, in the same way that every firm dates, but without making any huge investment in sorts of new tech. And that was a perfectly reasonable way for for a small boutique IP firm to behave. And we were all reacting to sort of new technological things that were happening in those first two decades. You know, in 95, Amazon was new eBay was new, Google wouldn’t come along for another three or four years, Facebook and all the big social media platforms wouldn’t come along, or other sorts of 10 or 15 years. So over the course, that first two decades, some things were changing, and we were changing the way we did our practice, because infringement was now happening online, and you had to interact with these new platforms. But in terms of the internal mechanics of the business, not a lot had changed, except for the fact that we were maybe using computers more often. But yeah, in 2019, luckily, given the COVID would happen. In March, the following year, we sort of sat down, and we thought strategically about the current state of tech. And we made, we made very sort of specific decisions about investments that we wanted to make in New Tech, to get ourselves on a on a track moving forward. And one of the first sort of key decisions that we made was that where we’re going to move away from physical servers and into the cloud, with an eye towards remote working, and being a bit more forward thinking and forward looking when it came to Agile working generally. But obviously, having no idea that within six months of having made that decision, everyone in the world, we’ll be working from home pretty good. So the first thing we had to do was go and find a cloud service provider to manage all of our data securely, and all the rest of it. And we did a lot of research, we auditioned a few people, we demoed a few people, and we ultimately landed on Cleo, who we know us. So that was the first sort of key step in our, in our journey. Subsequent to that we did, we did other things in conjunction with COVID. The following March and, and the year after that, and year and a half after that. So we sort of got rid of all PCs and replaced everyone with, with laptops to facilitate agile working, we got rid of all telephones and replaced everything with teams, which redirects to everyone’s mobiles very much geared towards cloud based mobile technology. All of that happened over the last couple of years. That was the internal stuff externally, we did a full sort of rebound, rebrand and revamp of our website. And we do a lot more investment into the website. And in particular into sort of SEO to drive inquiries through our website, a lot of our work through comes through inquiries for from small businesses, growing businesses, individuals, that’s been really successful and encouraged. And to drive that strive those inquiries, we put a lot of effort into generating content for the website. So we write blogs, and we do other things like that. And then I guess, most recently, sort of between the second half of last year and the beginning of this year, we’ve been driving very much towards investment in AI and looking towards what the legal landscape is going to look like in the next couple of years. So we’re looking at Yeah, we’ve we’ve sort of plans in the pipeline to invest in AI tools to make our service even more efficient. So yeah, that’s a sort of in a nutshell, but yeah, 

Robert Hanna 19:02 

well, it’s a lot, actually, you know, and it’s really great to hear that because, you know, perfectly relevant to about lawyers, they think about risk, right? And then they think about, you know, what is the risk, we’re doing this, this, this, this and this. And one thing I want to talk a little bit more about is, is technology because I think it’s a huge risk to not pay attention to technology. And obviously, you mentioned AI as well. And, you know, I want to go through sort of Grifters decision making process because obviously, you know, purchasing technology, there’s this this sort of risk attachment to there, and also the sort of, Am I getting the best thing so when you chose to sort of adopt clear, I think it was in 2020. We’re obviously proud sponsor of our show as well. Using both Clio grow and clear manage for Client Onboarding and practice management software. What were the key factors specifically for Briffa that led you to choose that particular tech solution and what advice would you have for other firms who might be thinking about, you know, a legal tech solution? 

Éamon Chawke 19:56 

Yeah, probably the first the first thing that struck me was they were everywhere. I kept seeing clear adverts everywhere. So whatever they were doing on LinkedIn, or wherever else I was reading there, the algorithms were doing their job, they targeted me in, in the way that they were supposed to. So obviously, they were sort of well invested in promotion, which is good. The other thing, which was a really key distinguishing point was they were recommended by the Law Society of England and Wales. And I think subsequently, they got similar recommendations or certifications from the Law Society in Scotland, I think the Law Society in maybe Australia or New Zealand do, they really worked at doing their research, looking at what the regulatory requirements were in different jurisdictions and making sure that their product was going to be fit for purpose, and these various different areas. So that was obviously important, as a regulated firm, we have to go through audits, we have to make sure that we’re tracking our client money correctly, that we’re doing all the things that we’re supposed to be doing. So that was important. And looking more at the sort of tech side of things, in comparison to some of the other platforms that we saw, my sort of personal view was that Clio was very intuitive, it felt modern, it felt easy to use, it was very much sort of drag and drop, click here, someone had thought through the process. And it’s a bit like when you use an iPhone for the first time, you never need to read an instruction manual, because it’s just intuitive that swipe of the finger or click of the finger is it does what you think it’s going to do. And it’s all very easy to use, I sort of felt like that with Clio were some of the older software packages, I felt were sort of a bit clunky, they felt a bit Windows 95, Windows 9080. That’s not necessarily, you know, that doesn’t, that doesn’t mean that they can’t do the job perfectly well. And in terms of functionality, maybe that’s fine. Maybe they’re even better, I didn’t know. But certainly in terms of usability and ease of usability, and getting all of our lawyers to transition into using a completely new platform, I felt that that was important that it would be something that we would easily adapt. And then the other thing is, the people we were dealing with customer service was really, really good. From the very beginning, it felt like you send an email, you pick up the phone, you get speak to someone, they’re really, really responsive, and they’ve loads of ways you can contact them, they’ve got the little chat thing in the corner of telephone, got the email, got that whatever. And, you know, we all deal with service providers, whether it’s your bank, or whether it’s the tax authority, or the local counsellor, whatever it is, we all know what it feels like to be stuck on a phone listening to hold music for 15 minutes, not being able to get in touch with your relationship manager, when you need to get something really important, don’t, it’s infuriating. So feeling like you’re sort of in it with someone who gets that you, you know, need a quick response is really important. And sort to connect it to that it felt to us that clear was a bit of a scrappy startup in the same way that we were. And they really listened to us in terms of what we needed, including, in particular, when we raised an issue with them that arose in relation to our Irish law society audit, where there was a sort of a gap in a regulatory issue, which I won’t bore you with. They picked up the baton, we had a meeting with them. And we worked with the developers to actually build a new thing that was required for this specific thing that arose out of our audit. And for most service providers, particularly for a small firm, you know, we’re not a massive, you know, we’re not their biggest client. Right? But it’s, yeah, for most other service providers that just say, oh, sorry, you know, computer says no, this, you know, your software has been made available to you on an as is basis doesn’t suit you, you know, sort of sorry, but you’re signed up now. And, you know, we could have walked away from clay Oh, and they could have said, Yeah, you know, we kind of associate you and you’re a small client. And there’s other areas where we want to put our development time and budget. But no, they start to cared enough to pick it up deal with it. And they fixed it in like, eight weeks, which is really, really, as you may know, is a really, really quick turnaround in terms of software development. So yeah, and you know, since then, we’ve been involved in various different ways and various different levels in sort of participating in the direction of how the clear platform develops and evolves. And and that feels good to be working with someone who is who is adapting to what we need, and to what the market needs. So, yeah, that’s what those are some of the reasons that we sort of went with them.  

Robert Hanna 24:30 

Yeah, I think there’s some some really good lessons in there for other law firms who might be thinking about you know, new technology. Number one is, obviously, is the product fit for purpose now, you know, may not be you know, like you reference some of these older products, you didn’t get the impression that it’s sort of where it’s fit for purpose. Now, then you talked a lot about sort of, you know, being able to communicate clearly and be listened to and feel like a valued customer. I think again, you want to make sure you’ve got that good connection and communication and relationship and then also when inevitably problems arise, you know, no, Businesses perfect, no person is perfect. And actually problems are good because it means you’re covering new territory, so means you’re improving. So the fact that then you can get responses to that. So, you know, whatever provider you use, if there’s an issue, then making sure if they’re being up to the mark and actually solving that and quickly, then that’s a really good supplier to you to definitely keep in your arsenal. Because even with us, when we’re thinking about technology, you’re using different things. You know, I’m really pleased when people get on the ball and change it. But I think there’s some really good lessons in that. Okay, I want to talk about generally cloud based technology, because this really shouldn’t be a new concept, you know, we are committed to a deep ball. But I still get the impression certain law firms are quite paper heavy, are quite still very much focused on traditional methods. How has cloud based technology particularly obviously gonna use Clio, but help breath or stay competitive, particularly in this rapid changing legal landscape? Where no two days are going to be the same? And it’s just going to keep getting quicker and quicker? And quicker?  

Éamon Chawke 26:00 

Yeah, I mean, in every conceivable way. Is that is a short, short answer. I mean, you can look at it from the perspective of, say us internally, or, you know, management. Pillar one, you look at it from the perspective of our employers, our sorry, our employees pinner, to, and from the perspective of clients, pillar three. So if you look at issue one, how we deal with things, having a cloud based system just makes everything more agile, we can access things at work, we can access things from home, we don’t have to deal with the risk of a physical server, we don’t have to deal with this sort of physical clunkiness stuff having to do with paper documents, rather than documents that we can easily access online. Everything about our management job, our supervision, all of our responsibilities are made easier by the fact that we can deal with a cloud based system. If you look at if I’m sorry, I suppose to add to to add to sort of pillar one and our our perspective as as managers and as partners, our business would have come to a complete and total grinding halt during COVID. If we if we didn’t have a system in place whereby we could work remotely, and we could access things from a cloud based system. So from a management perspective, and thinking about the survival of our business, that was really important. So that was one way in which you made a difference. And looking at it from the perspective of the people who provide legal services on our behalf, our lawyers and our other staff. Yeah, in exactly the same way, they wouldn’t have been able to do their jobs during COVID, if we couldn’t facilitate them working remotely. But also just thinking about their health, their physical and mental health, their happiness, the joy that they get out of their job, I hope they get at least some joy. The fact that we have all these technological cloud based systems in place means that they can easily work from home, they can easily work from abroad, they can avail of our unlimited annual leave policy, like we really tried to have a good culture of don’t live and die here, this is not your this is a job, this is not your whole life, you’re a much better, happier, more productive lawyer, if you feel like you can find a good balance in your life. And part of finding that good balance is taking down time when you need to take it taking time with your family, when you need to take us taking a day off or taking a holiday when you need to take it they do better work, they’re more productive, which is good for us and good for them and good for clients. And it would be really, really difficult for us to allow them to take holidays, whenever they want to work for abroad, whenever they want to be really flexible and have that family life. If all of their stuff is here. If you have a physical computer here, if you physical documents here, if you physical everything here. Either you have to be here as well, or you have to log it all around in a suitcase, neither of which are good. And then lastly, from the clients perspective, we’re just better, we’re just more efficient with a cloud based system. So we provide a quicker and more efficient service. We can allow them to access documents and things through platforms, we can facilitate e signature of documents, everything about services better for clients with with cloud software, as well. 

Robert Hanna 29:12 

Yeah, and I want to talk about speed and a little bit more detail. I just want to talk about you know, just some obvious benefits there when it comes to helping flexible working arrangements, helping you know families who may be raising young families who can work flexibly due to the benefit of having cloud, you know, remote working and let’s say just being continuously being able to sort of have access to your tools and your toolbox, wherever you are in the world is just an absolute game changer. Like you can’t just be running from I don’t know, I’m off to St. Lucia currently and you know, I can’t be running back to the office to try and grab something if I’m in a different part of the world. So yeah, really good point. Okay, let’s talk about your law because it comments because you say taking the middle ground. What tech savvy clients expect of us now is that level of speed which They refer to they will not wait two or three days for you to come back to them. So in what ways has implementing the likes of a Clio really assisted prefer in keeping up with client demands? And nowadays, expectations? Yeah, 

Éamon Chawke 30:14 

I mean, as I said earlier, having a cloud based practice management system has has made us quicker and more efficient. Just because we can access documents more easily, we can send documents more easily we can, we can, you know, you don’t, if you’re away from the office, for example, you don’t have to wait until the next day before you can do something. So there’s that that level of sort of speed. And efficiency just comes with having having a good system at the centre of your business. In that article, I think I was sort of referring specifically to generative AI and how quickly things are going to change in terms of, you know, contract drafting and trademark searching, and something that maybe now and certainly last year, you could reasonably with a straight face, say to a client, this is going to cost however, many 100 pounds or 1000 pounds, and it’s going to take me four days. Now, and certainly in the very near future clients just won’t accept that anymore. Because they’ll say, Well, no, that’s a piece of software that can, you know, review that contract or summarise that case, or do those searches in lightning speed. So yeah, clients expectations will change, just like when technology advanced in the past, you know, before everybody was using computers, you could legitimately take, I don’t know, a week or two weeks to review a contract and send it back, send your revisions back in the post, you know, nobody would accept that. Now, they expect you to do turn things around in a couple of days. So yeah, I think the I think the rate of technological change means that we must start using these tools implementing them into our practices to meet what would be client’s legitimate and reasonable expectations in the very, very near future. 

Robert Hanna 31:46 

Yeah, that’s the great word reasonable that lawyers use. But it’s so true, isn’t it? I think it’s a reason it’s not a sort of unheard of, or outrageous request. Now, that is the scale of the game, you know, and the velocity of speed on which technology is coming in law firms who refuse to kind of be current and forward thinking, you know, will be behind the curve. And it’s all about as you know, staying ahead of the curve. And let’s talk about Brexit, because it aims to make legal services more accessible to a broader population, which I think we’re all in support of. So how does prefer ensure it’s legal services are affordable and transparent for clients? And how does technology ultimately contribute to achieving this goal? Yeah, 

Éamon Chawke 32:26 

yeah, it’s a good, it’s a good question. I suppose. One of our sort of core ideas or something that has always sort of been at the centre of Briffa is that we’re a firm that, that services people at the end of the legal market who would have traditionally been priced out, and particularly in IP, I think, you know, used to be called industrial property, as opposed to an intellectual property. And there was a sense that IP and patents in particular, were very much for big companies, you know, big pharmaceutical companies, big tech companies, whatever. And if you were a small, creative company that wasn’t for you. So we wanted to start to confound that idea, by making by making advice and access to legal services available. The first and most obvious ways give information away for free, at least some information. That doesn’t mean you have to give advice away for free or that you have to work for free. But hear people out, give people consultations, try to arm them with as much information as you can, so that they can sort of help themselves and get themselves up on their feet, get the business going and get those early protections in place, if possible. And then when that business is trading, if you’ve treated them well, and you’ve developed a good relationship with them, they will come back to you hopefully, and then you will become their trusted legal adviser, you build that relationship, and then you get paid for your advice. That’s the first way. The second way is another sort of really obvious one, or at least it’s obvious. Now, it wasn’t always obvious transparency on cost. Traditionally, law firms charged on the clock, you’ve got an hourly rate, and it meant that the client was in a really weak position, very difficult to budget. But you know, no one was operating in any other way than charging on the clock. So you didn’t really have an alternative if he wants to access legal services. And so we tried to fix fixed fees as much as possible. So you say that letter that contract that filing, whatever it is, absent something really unexpected, we’ll stick to what we said that thing was going to cost that helps people to budget and at least if it’s, it may still be expensive, but you can put it into your budget, along with all your other costs, like your rent and your insurance and your whatever. And how does technology help you to do those things? It just makes the whole business more efficient. We can look at our resources and we can say okay, if this is how much billable time everyone is doing, and this is how much admin time we need. We could set aside this time for BD for outreach for, you know, whatever you want to call it. So our lawyers can hit their targets and they can work profitably by providing paid legal services and still have time to go to you or cities, to go to incubators to go to trade associations and professional bodies. And sometimes just to go to individual businesses and give talks and workshops and seminars on IP to give people free meetings and consultations to be as supportive as we can be. And that is effectively our investment in marketing. We do some investments in marketing, we invest in things like SEO, but we don’t advertise in newspapers, we don’t advertise and job stations, err on the side of a boss, that our sort of quote unquote spending on getting the word out, is by our time and giving people that advice. And sometimes people do help themselves, and we never hear from them again. And sometimes we do, but years later, or we don’t hear from them, but we hear from someone they met down the pub, and you got a source of a referral from an unexpected place. But yeah, I think the ethos is if you sort of put it out there, give people the information, develop a name for yourself, as someone with a bit of integrity, transparency, the work does come back. And yeah, technology helps that by just making us more efficient.  

Robert Hanna 36:01 

Yeah, and you gave some really good examples there about how it can help with your growth, you know, improving your firm efficiency, and ultimately, obviously, increasing revenue freeing up time, so many different ways that it can ultimately overall improve your your firm and your your business. And you’re right, I strongly believe in to putting yourself out there. And you know, that thought leadership and leading with value, you know, that I always say the web is really quite far and wide. You never quite know where that, like you say out of the blue referral comes from and, you know, someone did a great piece of work. And you stay top of mind from that piece of work that you did from way back when? Okay, we’ve touched a little bit about AI, of course, you know, I can’t do a recording now without talking about AI is just so prevalent. So in your article titled, AI versus copyright, you discuss AI on the platform chat GPT I think of that of that one, from a copyrights and intellectual property perspective, how does check TPT raise copyright issues? And I noticed the broad question. So you can be as succinct as you like. In other words, don’t talk for the next hour about copyright. I know that is an hour long question.  

Éamon Chawke 37:11 

I mean, Put very simply lots of these lots of these large language. In fact, all of these large language models are trained on some sort of dataset. Some of them are open dataset, they’re just mining and scraping data from the open Internet, and some of them are closed. If they’re close, you have some if the data set is fixed, and you know what data your model is trained on, you have some possibility of sorting out all of the underlying IP issues, because you can get licences or assignments to make sure that you either own the copyrights in the underlying data or you have a licence, you have permission to use it. If like Chachi Beatty, you’re just scraping open, you know, the open internet, aside from the increased likelihoods, but the quality of your output will be bad because you haven’t tested the quality of the underlying data. And aside from things like data protection issues, and other and other issues that might arise, one problem that you have is you are likely mining and scraping and reproducing. Copyright works quote unquote, whether it’s a literary work, whether it’s an artistic work or recording, whatever it is, and church, UBC is just one example. And the output for church UBT is literary. What we know now that there are loads of other platforms and and websites and models that produce artistic content and video content and all the rest of it. And what all of these things are doing are effectively acts restricted by copyright, which is Tet? Well, I suppose that’s the argument. Are you taking a substantial part of the underlying work and are you reproducing it is copyright infringer not. And that’s what we have to grapple with. That’s what we have to deal with as we try to we in the UK, but also other countries around the world as you try to regulate these platforms, both for the people developing them, and for the people deploying them and using them. You have to think about how you address that. How do you protect creatives, the copyright owners, IP owners, and how you also deal with the commercial reality that the internet is here to stay the data on the internet is here to stay and people are going to be using this technology? How do you regulate it? How do you allow people to benefit from it while also dealing with the IP issues? So yeah, there isn’t really a short or succinct answer. Sorry. 

Robert Hanna 39:35 

No, no, it’s very true. And I think you raised a good point but this is a global issue. You know, we live in a world where the internet and everything is being more connected than ever and AI is going to repeat more people connected but like you say so it’s not a straightforward he listed you’re dealing with multi jurisdictional different laws and a whole host of different things which you know, again, keep you rather busy, exciting from a practice point of view, but definitely not a straightforward answer. Okay, what are some of the equipment probably look to close Are some of the emerging trends or technologies alternate, we’ve touched on AI. But in the legal tech space you find particularly exciting or promising looking forward.  

Éamon Chawke 40:08 

In the legal tech space. Yeah, I think a lot of things that are emerging now are going to relate to, or do relate to some sort of machine learning or some sort of generative AI. The the tools that we’re looking at at the moment are around contract drafting and contract reviewing, which is really I mean, again, it’s really nerdy, but it’s such interesting tech, to think that you can say to an AI tool, review this 60 page contract, and summarise it in a couple of 100 words, or review this grant clause, this licence clause and make it pro licensee or pro licence or, and it’s based on huge volumes of data of other similar clauses that it’s read. And it can understand what is or isn’t pro licensee or pro licence or elect genuinely is interesting if you start to think about how much data that involves. So that’s really interesting. In a similar vein, for things like case law, having AI tools that can take a, you know, 50 100 Page judgement, and distil it down into principles is itself really impressive in terms of an output from a piece of technology. But then sort of Horizon gazing and thinking about what that could mean for the future, particularly in IP context is incredibly interesting. If you do that, for one case, what do you do if you do it for 100,000 cases? And you say, Okay, what’s the Can we now predict the outcome in a trademark infringement case, or a copyright infringement case or design infringement cases based on these 100 previous judgments? I mean, that’s interesting in any area of law, but I guess if you, if you were looking at a sort of tax law case, or a company law case, it’s a little bit more black and white, it’s a little bit more sort of predictable land law, or, you know, areas like that. Whereas I think with trademarks, you’re very often looking at two images, and forming a subjective view on whether they’re confusingly similar or not. Or you’re looking at two pieces of art. And you’re taking a view on whether artwork a has taken and incorporated as a substantial part of our work, we and what on earth does substantial Park means? Mean? It’s because we know in law, that it’s qualitative and not quantitative, or at least it’s not exclusively quantitative. It’s a combination of qualitative and quantitative. So that that sort of potential for a piece of technology to read a huge amount of data based on decisions that have been handed down by judgments in the past and predict the outcome of cases moves you closer until sir towards essentially AI courts or AI judgments, or at least preliminary judgments or AI mediators, AI arbitrators predictors of the outcome of cases, which facilitate something I’m really interested in, which is just better access to justice, particularly for smaller businesses and individuals who are effectively priced out of, even with things like the APEC, which is really useful. It’s a core of of cost caps, specifically for IP. But even then, lots of small businesses and individuals are effectively don’t have access to enforce their rights. And if you had technology, effectively predicting the outcome of cases, it could facilitate settlement of associate mediation could help people to enforce their rights much better. So yeah, again, not a short versus synced answer. Apologies. But that’s the those are the things that I think are coming that I find interesting.  

Robert Hanna 43:33 

Yeah. And who would have thought, you know, my late grandfather who ran his own law firm started Nightcliff, the AI caught he would probably say to me, What on earth are you talking about muddy, but that is the world that we live in, and it’s going in that direction. And I’m excited, and I’m here for it. So finally, what would be one quick piece of advice you would give to law firms looking to embrace technology and innovation within that practice? 

Éamon Chawke 43:54 

One piece of advice, start now jump in. Obviously, it’s important to do your research, as all lawyers know, you have to do your due diligence, you have to read your T’s and C’s, you to be clear about what you’re buying, look at the termination provision, make sure you can get out if things go wrong, and all that kind of stuff. And work with the right people, you know, know who you’re dealing with? Do they share your ethos? Are they likely are they going to be responsive? Are they going to work with you? But ultimately, once you’ve done that start, you know, don’t wait, particularly now the rate of change has increased rapidly. And, you know, what everyone is saying is it’s not that look, lawyers or law firms are going to be replaced by AI, they’re going to be replaced by other law firms, other lawyers who are using AI, because they’re going to be way more efficient, they’re going to be way more responsive, they’re going to be more profitable, and you’re just gonna get priced out or outpaced. So yeah, that’s what I would say to people. It’s it’s the the rate of change is, is fast though. You’ve got to read a lot. You don’t have the luxury of saying I’m not into tech. I’m not into a I’m not into any of that you have to be reading because as you’ve to be reading articles to try to educate yourself as much as possible. about what’s happening. And think about how you can use these technologies and tools in your business and lean in.  

Robert Hanna 45:07 

Yeah, so true and that’s why we produce the show you want people to get picked up on people’s wisdom and what they’re what they’re doing because it’s as simple as this. Isn’t that either invest now or pay a lot more later. That is kind of the option you have and I think now is the absolute opportune time. So even this been a fascinating discussion as I knew it was going to be always like talking about things tech and careers. And you know, you’ve done fantastically well throughout your career journey. And indeed, you know, briefers journey has been impressive too. So, if people want to find out more, where can they go to find out more if there’s any particular social media handles or website links, feel free to shout them out. We’ll also share them with this episode for you too. 

Éamon Chawke 45:44 is the best place to start or just googled refer solicitors Briffa IP brief ally. I think we’re the only show in town. And similarly for social media if you search prefer law, prefer legal or even just refer you find this really quickly. We’re on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all the biggies. All the biggies. 

Robert Hanna 46:02 

And you’re there and you’re myself as on LinkedIn as well as me. Yes, absolutely. Amen. Thank you so much. Once again, it’s been a real pleasure having you on the show from all of us on legally speaking podcast, wishing you lots of continued success with your career and future pursuits. But for now, over and out. 

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