The Nordic countries are popular these days. We have gained a reputation as progressive and liberal, and we have won huge advantages by being on the forefront environmentally. There is a hype around the New Nordic Cousine where young chefs re-discover the otherwise gray and rainy Nordic nature and serve new dishes like fermented squirrel or duck brain. Furthermore, we are known for exquisite Scandinavian design, being super happy, sinister crime stories and the term “hygge” which more or less has become an international remedy for increasing stress levels. When a city like Aalborg can get recommended as a travel destination in New York Times, creating some buzz around Nordic legal tech should be fairly simple. Especially since the Nordic countries are known for being stable states with little to no corruption, a fair legal system, and a trust-worthy ethos. Who would not want to use a well-designed, eco-friendly legal tech company from Scandinavia?
So, where to begin?
One answer could be Nordic Legal Tech Hub that just launched in Copenhagen this winter. The new initiative aims to gather tech providers, law firms, corporate counsels, and academics from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark to a platform where they can share their visions, express concerns, and form collaborations to develop new tools. “It is a platform that gathers legal-, compliance- and reg tech on a Nordic level - both online and offline - to create awareness and discussion”, says their founder Nick Hawtin to Legal Tech Weekly.
Their location is perfect for a platform that wishes to innovate the whole industry. Their office lies in an old building that once housed the legendary Danish lawyer Johan Schlüter, right next to the parliament and the highest court in Denmark. Yet, Nordic Legal Tech Hub's most notable presence is their new website where you will find an extensive overview of the Nordic legal tech ecosystem; among other things they have created a useful map over the Nordic legal tech providers and solutions: From marketplaces for legal services to document automation platforms and compliance tools.
“We have already found 80 companies within legal tech, compliance and regtech. We want to make them visible for lawyers, investors, politicians, and other industries. In 2000, The Economist wrote that while IT might have received all the attention, the real revolution of the 1990’s was in logistics; container ships got bigger, logistics got faster, supply lines shrank, and it made everything cheaper. Something similar is happening in legal, governance, and regtech today, and they are the technologies that we want to cast some light upon,” Hawtin explains.
Read also: Nordic Legal Tech Trends 2019
This initiative has been well received in the legal industry and the hub has already formed an important partnership with the Danish law firm Bech-Bruun. “It is a great addon in our approach to get more structure on our work with legal tech. The hub can map out and engage with the market in an unbiased way and thereby have the ability to create a bigger platform for the market in general. We would like to collaborate more closely with the legal tech startups, and we believe that our collaboration with Nordic Legal Tech Hub can help us getting closer to the market and introduce us to startups and peers when we need sparring and to discuss new ideas,” explains Head of Legal Tech Innovation in Bech-Bruun, Torsten Torpe.
Torpe also hopes that Nordic Legal Tech Hub becomes a forum where the legal industry can have an open discussion about approaches to innovation and help the relatively small Nordic market find a common ground, thereby staying ahead of the legaltech development and be prepared for the competition of international players.
Besides creating a dynamic list of Nordic legal tech companies, Nordic Legal Tech Hub also informs about all legal tech-related events in the Nordic countries, and they even facilitate a newsfeed with the most important stories from the industry: “We want to inform people about what is happening, but we also want to create events. We believe that face-to-face meetings and events are the way forward,” Hawtin elaborates.
Their plan is to arrange a legal tech conference with University of Copenhagen during the autumn and also begin collaborations with other Nordic events. They are also aiming to create an incubator with one of the universities where students and researchers can develop and launch legal tech startups. Hawtin believes that physical meetings are key to accelerating the awaited emergence of a digital transformation in the legal industry: “You have to talk, bring people together and build human connections. I think that these informal networks are important to build trusting relationships.”
There is no lack of enthusiasm at the University of Copenhagen where Assistant Professor in Corporate Law, Alexandra Andhov is part of a Legal Tech Lab that represents a group of researchers at the Faculty of Law: “Together we aim to establish a space, both physical and mental, where various stakeholders, including researchers, start-ups, entrepreneurs, public authorities, students and lawyers and law firms will be able to communicate, collaborate and design new solutions for their and others’ needs,” Andhov explains, and then continues:
“In simple terms, I believe we will generate knowledge, innovation and new opportunities. And I mean this in a very broad sense. The new technological developments bring many openings, both legal and business-wise, but in regard to the upcoming legal technology, it is extremely important to combine the entrepreneurship with in-depth knowledge, and not only in technology, but very much in law. And this is where the hub and the university meet. Innovation and technology may offer many great solutions, but we should be cautious when designing these solutions that they are beneficial and valuable for their users, be it public, consumers, law firms or anyone else. In order to achieve this, we need creative minds and great legal minds and people who can help differently set minds to communicate, as I see this being one of the main challenges. If we can achieve that legal scholars and lawyers become more entrepreneurial and address societal issues by hands-on designing new solutions, including the technological ones and actively cooperating with other professionals, in doing so, I believe we are at the beginning of something very special."
Hawtin believes that the future is especially bright for the Nordic legal industry. Since Nordic people are known for being trustworthy and law-abiding citizens that obey traffic laws even when alone in the middle of the night, they are also attractive to work with when it comes to legal matters. Nordic companies can benefit, for example, from a time focused on data privacy and creating a more ethical tech-industry. “Trust is important. We, Nordic people, trust each other and the system, which is why our countries are some of the most digitized places in the world; we are not afraid to test and try something new,” says Hawtin.
Torpe from Bech-Bruun agrees that Nordic legal tech is doing good: “The products offered to the market are of extremely high quality. It is not just good ideas, but we have some intelligent people behind the products who know what they are doing. In the Nordics, we are really good at understanding the consumer and create well-designed products with a great user-experience. I see a bright future for Nordic legal tech – but the legal industry including ourselves need to be more welcoming and open to innovation and new innovative products and solutions.”
Even though they just launched, Hawtin says that Nordic Legal Tech Hub has received a lot of positive attention. They are recruiting members and partners and plan to focus wherever there is traction and a clear need for their organization. A key factor is addressing the fragmented and hyper-local nature of the Nordic legal tech market, and one tactic will be scaling meetings and conferences across the Nordics: “I am a big fan of the Nordic and the international,” Hawtin concludes.