Legal Innovation Unleashed: Sparking Creativity at the Legal Tech Fest Africa!

career & professional development Feb 06, 2024

By Tessa Manuello, Founder & CEO of Legal Creatives | The Legal Designers

While some may hold stereotypes about legal innovation being concentrated in certain areas, like North America and Europe, the reality is that groundbreaking ideas and advancements can come from anywhere in the world. My recent experience in South Africa, where I had the opportunity to present at the Legal Tech Fest Africa, validated that creativity and design have no borders in law!

Dive into this post for some epic takeaways from the Legal Tech Fest Africa, juicy insights from stellar speakers, and real-life perspectives that give you a sneak peek into the sizzling world of legal innovation in this part of the world and globally. Get ready for the latest trends because it's not just about tech – we're spilling the beans on humor, creativity, design thinking, and the cherry on top: well-being!  

The Legal Tech Fest Africa is a wonderful annual conference organized by the Eventful People in Johannesburg, and its latest edition proved to be a groundbreaking convergence of legal minds. This exceptional event not only gathered legal professionals from South Africa but also attracted speakers from across the Sub-Saharan region and International thought leaders. With an impressive lineup of diverse speakers covering a broad range of hot topics, the Legal Tech Fest Africa offered a dynamic platform for the legal community to explore the latest trends and new technologies shaping the industry.

Having the privilege of opening the conference with my keynote on "Unleashing the Power of Legal Design Innovation," I discovered the incredible energy and enthusiasm that permeated the event. My unexpected air guitar and jazzy openings took everyone by surprise (and admittedly, were a spontaneous addition), turned out to be a delightful and well-received addition to my talks.

Amidst the electrifying atmosphere in the Maslow Hotel conference rooms and networking areas, I had the opportunity to attend several thought-provoking talks that shed light on the current landscape of legal technology and its future trajectory. Here, I share key insights gleaned from some of the sessions I attended, offering a glimpse into the rich spectrum of ideas, innovations, and collaborative spirit that characterized the Legal Tech Fest Africa.  

Unleashing the Power of Legal Design Innovation - Opening keynote by yours truly

The opening keynote set the tone for the conference by emphasizing the crucial shift towards customer-centricity in legal service delivery, highlighting that the real game-changer is not technology but the user experience. Legal design as a structured and proven process for innovation, was revealed as a key to creating a competitive edge by effectively meeting users' needs. The session was more than just a keynote; it sparked so much creativity! "Spark ignited" became a recurring motto in networking conversations, on social medias, others event mentions! I truly have the feeling that this opening Keynote primed the audience for exploring new concepts, engaging in thought-provoking conversations and getting a truly hands-on experiences of the conference.

Navigating Your LawTech Journey by Christina Blacklaws

Christina Blacklaws, former President of the Law Society of England and Wales, shared valuable insights on navigating the LawTech landscape. Emphasizing the need for a bold and adaptable strategy, she highlighted tailored approaches for small law firms and in-house departments. The comprehensive LawTech strategy roadmap she suggested at the event involves evaluating your current position, defining challenges, and making informed choices based on key criteria. Process analysis, strategic change management, and relying on successful case studies provided practical steps for successful LawTech adoption. In conclusion, Blacklaws stressed the importance of embracing LawTech strategically by understanding your current position, setting clear goals, and evaluating technology through defined criteria.

Navigating the Legal Tech Landscape and how to Revolutionize Legal Service with a AI-Driven Productization, by Tommaso Ricci

Tommaso Ricci, Innovation Lawyer and Legal Tech Ambassador, shared insights on successfully implementing Legal Tech. Highlighting Legal Tech budget trends, innovation drivers, challenges for in-house counsel, including the LegalTech pill phenomenon, Ricci provided a 3-step methodology for success. His practical advice on internal implementation, vendor selection, and calculating ROI laid the foundation for a future-ready legal practice. Tommaso Ricci also shed light on AI-driven productization in legal services. Addressing challenges and opportunities, Ricci talked about the transformation of legal services with AI, the benefits, the risks, and the future outlook of AI-powered productization. He emphasized a path to success based on understanding client needs, building an ecosystem, and continuous improvement - all keys towards embracing innovation for a future-ready legal practice!

Revolutionizing Legal Operations: A Talkalot Case Study, by Maryke Richards

In this insightful presentation, Maryke Richards, Senior Legal Counsel, guided us through the transformative journey of Talkalot—an initiative dedicated to automating and improving internal contract creation and management processes. The journey began by addressing challenges such as manual processes, version control issues, and tracking complexities. The Talkalot blueprint involved identifying business types, relevant users, understanding workflows, compiling wish-lists, and gathering user input. The journey followed the Design thinking approach, and included prototyping, testing, and only then scaling, with a phased implementation and active change management. Crucial pillars of stakeholder management and data security were highlighted, emphasizing alignment with legal teams, IT security, and data governance. Talkalot's success story is quite impressive, with over 10,000 documents automated in the last 12 months and 80 standard documents streamlined. What's more to that, everything was done internally! The willingness to adapt to changes, and go through continuous loops of iteration while maintaining stakeholder engagement was emphasized as key. Maryke completed her brilliant talk by sharing exciting future developments in the realm of legal operations, with customization and exploration into AI features. 

The Humorous Lawyer: Fostering Laughter in the Legal World, by Elizabeth de Stadler

Elizabeth de Stadler explored at the event the intersection of humor and the legal profession. Highlighting the emotional struggles lawyers face, she shared research that show that more than 50% feel a sense of failure, while over 60% battle physical or mental overwhelm. Elizabeth de Stadler went on explaining that humor not only provides relief but also brings about positive changes, from better memory to creative problem-solving. Using humor theories, charts on employee engagement, and the importance of practicing humor, she highlighted the positive impact of laughter in the legal world. "Practice humor! It's a skill you can cultivate", she said, quoting various authors, including John Cleese, former lawyer turned humorist. The cure for burnout, she suggests, might well be curiosity and adopting a "Mary Poppins mindset", ie.,  having a positive, optimistic, and imaginative outlook on challenges or situations. She urged leaders to embrace fun professionalism, fostering a more engaged and creative legal community.

Prioritizing You: The Urgency of Self-Care for Busy Lawyers, by Frieda Levyck

In the relentless world of law, self-care often takes a back seat, but Frieda Levyck's compelling presentation urged lawyers to break this pattern. She shared a concise guide to understanding and implementing self-care in the demanding legal profession, emphasizing the urgency of self-care for busy lawyers. In a field where putting others first is often praised, Levyck's message is clear – lawyers must prioritize themselves. Self-care is not an indulgence; it is a necessity for a resilient and thriving legal career. Unpacking self-care, identifying barriers, balancing needs, understanding the impact of neglect, and envisioning positive outcomes form the core of Levyck's message. She challenged lawyers to prioritize self-care, presenting it not as a luxury but a necessity for a successful, sustainable career.

In conclusion, the Legal Tech Fest Africa exceeded all my expectations, offering a truly fantastic experience. The event showcased outstanding content and presentations, providing valuable insights into the ever-evolving legal technology landscape. The networking opportunities were exceptional, fostering meaningful connections within this vibrant legal community. The top-notch facilities at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, and seamless organization by the event coordinators added to the overall excellence.

Beyond the enriching professional experience, the event's location in Johannesburg provides a unique chance to embark on a one-day safari trip. You can get to witness the Big Five in their natural habitat, these iconic animals often sought after on safari (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, and rhinoceros.) it makes the trip absolutely unforgettable and is a truly special addition to the event, making it a must-attend for legal professionals seeking both knowledge and adventure.

For the next edition of the Legal Tech Fest Africa, venture into Johannesburg, a city bursting with culture and creativity. Explore its museums, dive into the vibrant local scene, and immerse yourself in the wild side of the concrete jungle. I personally had an exhilarating skate boarding experience, unleashing the thrill in the heart of Jo'burg. It was an awesome adventure, adding a unique and exciting twist to my South African journey!

Find our more about The Legal Tech Fest Africa here: