Legal tech made simple

Interview with Andy Wishart, VP Drafting & Productivity Solutions, Thomson Reuters

April 02, 2020 Dom Burch
Legal tech made simple
Interview with Andy Wishart, VP Drafting & Productivity Solutions, Thomson Reuters
Chapters
Legal tech made simple
Interview with Andy Wishart, VP Drafting & Productivity Solutions, Thomson Reuters
Apr 02, 2020
Dom Burch

Andy has 20 years of experience in building innovative legal technology solutions and leads a product management team at Thomson Reuters that build a number of drafting and automation related products such as Contract Express, Drafting Assistant, West km, Legal Search Connect and Case Notebook. 

Andy joined Thomson Reuters in 2015 with the acquisition of Contract Express, where he was co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. He is passionate about enhancing lawyer productivity through smart and easy-to-use solutions. He is a graduate in Artificial Intelligence and Psychology from the University of Edinburgh, where he also worked as a researcher and lecturer.

And he is described as a 'legal tech rock star' by his peers in the industry. But which rock star is he? Tune in to find out.

Show Notes Transcript

Andy has 20 years of experience in building innovative legal technology solutions and leads a product management team at Thomson Reuters that build a number of drafting and automation related products such as Contract Express, Drafting Assistant, West km, Legal Search Connect and Case Notebook. 

Andy joined Thomson Reuters in 2015 with the acquisition of Contract Express, where he was co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. He is passionate about enhancing lawyer productivity through smart and easy-to-use solutions. He is a graduate in Artificial Intelligence and Psychology from the University of Edinburgh, where he also worked as a researcher and lecturer.

And he is described as a 'legal tech rock star' by his peers in the industry. But which rock star is he? Tune in to find out.

Dom Burch:   0:05
Welcome back to legal tech made simple with me, Dom Burch. I'm not a lawyer and I'm not a techie, which makes me perfectly qualified to make legal text simple. Join me on this podcast as I interview expert legal engineers, software developers, law firms and large corporations who are at the cutting edge of legal technology. And I'm absolutely delighted to be joined by Andy Wishart today. Who's the vice president of drafting & productivity solutions at Thomson Reuters. Andy is a co founder of Contract Express. And described by our very own founder, Alistair, as a legal tech rock star. So welcome to the podcast Andy.

Andy Wishart:   0:49
Hi Dom. Great to meet you and thanks for inviting me on to your podcast. It's great to be here.

Dom Burch:   0:54
So question one has to be. What sort of rock star are you, Andy?

Andy Wishart:   0:57
Very good. Um, let me think. Well, a couple of nights ago I watched, I guess, Scotland's equivalent to La La Land, which is Sunshine on Leath. So I think if I was to choose an appropriate rock star, it would be the Proclaimers, also because they're from a town quite close to where I grew up a town called Auchtermuchty which very few people can pronounce. So I'll go for the Proclaimers. They're cool, hip and not old.

Dom Burch:   1:28
You've been in and around legal tech for 20 years. You know you cofounded Contract Express. You've been here since the very start. Just give us, you know, a potted history, if you like, of that journey over the last couple of decades.

Andy Wishart:   1:41
Yeah. I mean, I cannot believe it's actually 20 years since we started Contract Express. You know, back in 2000 the summer of 2000 along with Richard Newton  and Tim Allen, Henry Steen, Phil Vasey, we co founded the company, actually, in the basement of a law firm. The law firm was called Tarlo Lyons, which through various acquisitions and mergers has become Blake Morgan. We were we were incubated by that law firm and funded as well. The partners had put in the original seed funding. We were set in their basement over in Farringdon actually working on a prototype that then became Contract Express and co creating that prototype with one of their clients, which was a major International Bank. So it's funny to see the growth of legal tech over the past five years. And following a similar sort of pattern to what we followed 20 years ago.

Dom Burch:   2:46
Bring it right up now to the present day. What are the challenges and what are the hurdles that some of the customers and clients that you work with now through Thomson Reuters are trying to overcome? How are you having to help them, particularly in the context of Coronavirus.

Andy Wishart:   3:00
Yeah, good question. I mean, for a lot of our customers,  we're just trying to help our customers with business as usual. You know, we're really fortunate at Thomson Reuters that, you know, if I think about the way in which our product and technology teams work we're globally distributed, and prior to the current crisis, we were spending most of our day on video conference in collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. So we're just doing that all from a different room now. So we're continuing to, you know, make sure that we're addressing any issues within our products, make sure that we're keeping up to the pace that we've got with bringing out new product releases. And then you know, for the wider business. You know, we know our customers are working really hard at the moment on making sure that they can continue with our work. Law firm customers have continued to help to serve their clients, and we're doing as much as we can to be a good partner, both to our law firm customers and to our corporate customers as well.

Dom Burch:   4:07
And it's a It's a challenge for everybody, isn't it? We're you know, we're a digital company we're agile we're based at home, and we've got 60 people around the world who are used to working remotely. But for a lot of people, this will be the first time they've had an extended period of actually having to operate and do their day job in and around childcare in and around the tech, falling over the WiFi, not working. So it's not just doing the day job isn't getting used to perhaps using automation tools for the first time, actually, just the standard. How on earth do I get up in the day and get through my to do list is gonna be a huge challenge for folk over the over the weeks ahead.

Andy Wishart:   4:40
Yeah, absolutely. In fact, we've been helping some customers, even on just some issues that they have been having, their teams having local connectivity problems. So just rolling up our sleeves and helping out in any way that we can. Particularly if, you know, with us being distributed for so long. We can sort of help give advice that we wouldn't normally really be in a position to be giving that advice on how to best make use of things like Microsoft Teams, Zoom on best practises. So, yeah, we're just helping our customers in any which way we can.

Dom Burch:   5:13
Are you giving people advice on how to turn their profile pictures into potatoes? I saw that was doing the rounds yesterday. I'm instantly downloading the snap camera to my laptop today. I mean, what's interesting to me is a sort of relatively newcomer to the legal tech sector is just how quickly the big players like Thomson Reuters are beginning to build end to end solutions. So you know, whether that's HighQ coming on or or attaching Tracker, so almost allowing companies that have perhaps one of your one of your products to actually build out from there an entire end to end solution or just go in narrow and offer a very, very sophisticated point solution to the thing that they need to fix right now.

Andy Wishart:   5:54
Yeah, Dom, it's really an exciting time for for us at Thomson Reuters right now, following the acquisition of HighQ, you know, we're beginning to look at those end to end work flows that can help our customers solve more problems and that includes thinking about how we can create work flows that are initiated within HighQ. But also includes an element of document automation from Contract Express and bringing that all together into a seamless user experience, which I think is just going to be really powerful. Customers are also still very much interested in solving discreet problems like, you know, ensuring they can provide end to end drafting capability in a discreet drafting solution like Contract Express. We're obviously still catering for those customers that are looking for those points solutions.

Dom Burch:   6:48
And I guess, companies like SYKE have sprung up, haven't they over the last three or four years to actually do some of that configuration, some of the implementation or hand holding, whether it's a corporate customer or law firm through the process, because it's kind of a change management programme, really, as much as it is about introducing technology or new software.

Andy Wishart:   7:08
Yeah, absolutely it is change management. To adopt a solution like Contract Express is not like just turning on access to Zoom or Microsoft Teams. There is a change management process to go through. There's work that has to be done ground work and preparing for getting the most out of a solution like that. I think, you know, if I look back over the past 20 years, I think the proudest thing is to look across, LinkedIn to see the number of people that have Contract Express skills on their Linkedln profile. You know, we've created an ecosystem of people that can build sophisticated, complex templates in Contract Express. But we also know that there are still not enough of those people. And as demand for automation and solutions like Contract Express increases we've seen recently over the past few years, the emergence of legal engineering organisations like your own that we partner with in order to help serve those customers and provide those necessary skills to get their projects off the ground.

Dom Burch:   8:16
Now it's a completely unfair question I'm gonna ask. But if you had a crystal ball, but maybe let's be realistic. Over the next 6 to 12 months. How do you see the industry continuing to develop? Be that consolidation of product stacks and tech stacks or or even just ways of working now, because of, you know, the inevitability that we're not going to be in our offices for extended periods of time, possibly for the next 12 months.

Andy Wishart:   8:43
I think it's probably too early to tell, and I wouldn't want to speculate. But they're definitely others in the industry that believe that this will be a major event, and a major acceleration of the digital transformation in law firms and in corporate legal departments. I guess we'll have to wait and see. We've seen from history from the global financial crisis that there was certainly an uptick an increased focus on digital transformation in law firms. I think we'll have to wait to see what happens. Following Covid-19. You know many law firms many corporate legal departments are really focused on how legal tech can drive efficiencies and to help them as a law firm to differentiate. I think that will continue. I suspect there will be a greater focus upon that and you know, we're here to help at Thomson Reuters to help him on that journey.

Dom Burch:   9:41
And this podcast is deliberately called legal tech made simple because what we're trying to do, I guess, is demystify something for for those that either haven't started the journey. Or perhaps somebody else started in their organisation and they've been left to pick up the pieces and try and work out. How on earth do I get value out of this thing? What would be your advice to somebody listening? Perhaps in a law firm who either has some licences already for Contract Express, or is thinking about starting that journey, what the things what the pitfalls they should look out for and what pearls of wisdom you could offer them just to reassure them that this is the right thing to do.

Andy Wishart:   10:19
Well, I think the biggest reassurance is that these tools are really really robust and mature. You know, we've been at this and refining it with the top law firms and top corporate legal departments for the past 20 years. These tools are very robust, I think if organisations are looking to adopt things like Contract Express / document automation, you know, now is a good time to be thinking about planning, identifying the types of documents that they could see value in automating, either right now or what they might see in six months time and talk to us. We've got a team of customer success managers, we have our wider partnership with partners like SYKE and others. We can help you with that journey and with that implementation.

Dom Burch:   11:14
Brilliant. Well, listen, Andy it has been an absolute pleasure to have a rock star on the podcast. Others will have to stand up to that title now! But thank you so much. Really appreciate you taking the time. It's been absolute pleasure speaking to you and I look forward to staying in touch.

Andy Wishart:   11:29
Thanks Dom. My pleasure. Thank you.