#LegalTechLives with Jimmy Vestbirk, Founder of Legal Geek

Ava Chisling
November 30, 2017

Jimmy Vestbirk is the founder of Legal Geek. For the past few years, he has focused on changing the legal profession by embracing technology. For the previous 10 years, Jimmy owned and operated a portfolio of online dating sites, run and sold a touch screen software development company (pre-iPhones), invested in storage and holiday lets and a music festival catering business.

OK, let’s start with something easy: Describe your company Legal Geek in 75 words or less.

We are a legal tech startup community of more than 6,000 active members, bringing change to the legal profession by connecting, sharing and inspiring. We organize events to bring the legal startup community together — our annual conference last month had 1,000 attendees and we also stage meetups for women-in-law tech, millennial talent, ‘law for good’ not for profit and disruptive tech events including hackathons.

How would I know if I was a legal geek? What are the main characteristics?

Great questions. Above all, it is a mindset open to change: If you see yourself as a Legal Geek, then that’s good enough for us. But we do have a simple ethos for our community, which we ask attendees to abide by:

  1. Come to learn and to teach
  2. Come to make friends, not to sell
  3. Dress comfortably (please, please, no ties)
  4. Look after your fellow law-gends, you may need their help someday
  5. This is your community, please pitch in and help. You will be rewarded

What are the main goals of events where legal geeks gather? What kind of positive outcomes have you experienced?

To meet, listen and discuss new ideas about how the legal profession can be improved by technology for the benefit of everyone: lawyers, law firms, the judiciary, law students, the general public, extra-terrestrial beings. Above all, we believe in innovation by doing and we encourage members to engage with our community by using technology.

The most positive outcome of our events is probably that people who are involved in lawtech — or who want to be involved — can come and discuss ideas with other kindreds. It’s very difficult to change the world in a vacuum, but when you know there are others doing similar things, it keeps you focused and inspires you.

Jimmy Vestbirk

Your big conference recently came to a close. Tell me about some of the great things that happened.

We had twice as many attendees as last year, doubling from 500 to 1,000, spread across three connected venues and featuring three times as many start-ups in the start-up alley. We outlawed robot slides from presentations. Doing this was a bit tongue-in-cheek but there was a serious point behind it as well, because AI is misunderstood and using robot slides to represent AI gives a negative undertone. We had amazing food and coffee. You’ve got to be fed well at conferences and we definitely got that right. And we trended on Twitter with over 9 million impressions in the day!

What are the three best things legal geeks have brought into the world?

Amazing pieces of technology that are saving lawyers time and reducing fees for clients.

Greater equality in the legal industry especially with regards gender. There is still a long way to go of course but what was a big gap is slowly narrowing and technology has a key role in this

A nervousness in the legal industry, but in a good way. No longer can law firms sit there doing the same things and charging the same fees. Legal Geeks are demanding that they get better and that’s what they have to do.

I admire the good work you are doing re: Law for Good and Women in Tech. Why are these issues important to you?

When I first started meeting people in the legal profession in 2014, it became clear that many people felt that access to justice and gender equality were two areas where change was well overdue. So right from the start, I wanted these areas to be high on the priority list for the Legal Geek community. I think everyone at heart wants to help others and to live and work in a more equal society — so it comes from that basic need.

What’s next for Legal Geek? If you could look ahead 10–15 years, what would you like the company to be focusing on?

We don’t look that far ahead. Technology is developing quickly and there many futurists in the space to give a view on the distant future. We are very focused on the next five years and the change that is coming to the legal profession is long overdue.

Jimmy Vestbirk

Of course, we at ROSS are into AI+tech and we think they are already imperative tools for any law firm. How important are both in legal innovation today?

They form the backbone of innovation. It will be great to see more law firms engaging with tech platforms like ROSS and not just talking about AI. We believe in innovation by doing and that means engaging and using tech.

And in our ROSS tradition, we always ask this question: What non-work related tech would you like to see invented right now?

I’d like a piece of tech which can turn on-off all the technology in the room in one go, plunging us into the Victorian age and then instantly back again. For now, I put my phone into airplane mode every night. We need to master our tech, not be held hostage by it, and this switch would help.

Ava Chisling

Ava is an award-winning lawyer and editor who counsels creative types, writes about pop culture/tech+law and sometimes creates ad campaigns. She is Quebec counsel for Momentum Law.