What is European in Legal Tech? – Report on ELTA’s First Conference (#eltacon)

By Nico Kuhlmann

The recently founded European Legal Tech Association (ELTA) held its first conference on June 15th and 16th in Berlin. Almost 200 participants from all over Europe discussed various aspects of the digital transformation of the legal market. The focus was on incubators, artificial intelligence and the embedding of legal tech in legal advice. The international campfire panel highlighted the need to change the mindset of lawyers, something that must start at law school. In the end, everyone agreed on one thing: Much remains to be done.

Europe’s first meeting of legal tech enthusiasts was kicked off on June 15th by Roland Vogl (CodeX) with a magnificent keynote speech about legal tech in Europe from his US perspective. In his speech, he focused on disruption and whether the legal market is ripe for it or not as well as on the up and downsides of innovation. He encouraged the participants with the famous quote by Michelangelo „I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. “

ELTA Connect

After a warm welcome by Hariolf Wenzler (Head of ELTA), the conference started on June 16th with the presentation of the newly created ELTA Connect by Patrick Häde. This platform aims to connect all different players in the European legal tech market. Law firms, companies, startups and individuals can create their own profiles and interact with each other.

Check it out here: https://elta.connect.eu


Accelerators/Incubators in the Legal Market

Panelists: Behnam Sadough, Dima Gadomsky, Julien Lasala, Marine Simonnot, Jeroen Zweers

Chairs: Maximilian von der Ahé

The first panel discussed the role of accelerators and incubators in the legal market. What seems to be the new normal in a lot of other markets is still a rarity for law firms in Europe. Maybe, lawyers don’t feel the need to stay innovative despite the digital transformation (yet). One major obstacle is probably the zero tolerance for failure attitude lawyers are famous for. But in one way or the other, law firms will have to invest in research and development to keep up with changing market conditions, the panel concluded. In the end, avoiding risks could be too risky.

Working with AI

Panelists: Rick Seabroock, Michael Grupp, Artem Goldman, Pieter van der Hoeven

Chair: Micha-Manuel Bues (ELTA Board)

The second panel focused on the use of artificial intelligence in law. The panel tried to demystify the buzzword “AI”, which unfortunately causes much misunderstanding. It was stressed that it is only AI until you know how it works. Afterwards, it is merely software. Therefore, lawyers should not focus on AI but on the problems of their clients and how to solve them. The utilization of AI is then only secondary. In addition, the differences between the established rule-based systems and the newly created data-driven systems were discussed. Hence, the promising data-driven approach needs a lot of suitable data, the lawyers were advised to put some thoughts into the data strategy of their own law firms and companies.

Embedding Legal Tech in Legal Advice

Speaker: Philipp Kadelbach, Kai Jacob

Chair: Hariolf Wenzler

First, Philip Kadelbach talked about the legal tech requirements for instant redress. In his opinion the three main pillars are a live success prediction, a binding online agreement (e.g. cession of rights) and a quick and automated pay out. Against this background, he presented the recently introduced service called “Flightright Now”. This service helps passengers retrieve their money in cases of a plane delay in an astonishing timeframe of only seven minutes.

Next, Kai Jacob gave an insightful and inspirational speech about the innovation he is hoping for from his law department’s perspective. In his words, legal tech is about re-arranging legal knowledge, legal processes and legal services in the legal industry. In order to embed legal tech in legal advice, he calls for standardization, collaboration and a new mindset. In addition, he pressed for a dewordification (techslang for getting rid of MS Word) to create more and better useable structured data.

Campfire Panel: Overview of the Legal Tech Scene in Europe

Panelists: Karl Chapman (UK), Orsolya Görgényi (Hungary), Maria J. González-Espejo (Spain), Valentyn Pivovarov (Ukraine), Nestor Dubnevych (Ukraine), Ivan Rasic (Bulgaria), Andreas Mätzler (Austria), Holger Zscheyge (Russia), Kaisa Kromhof (Finland), Riikka Koulu (Finland), Eva Indruchovà (Czech Republic), Pierre Aidan (France), Jean-Luc Delli (Switzerland), Nico Kuhlmann (Germany), Jeroen Zweers (Netherlands)

Chair: Jimmy Vestbirk (UK)

In what was likely the biggest panel in conference history, the digital readiness of the different national legal markets in Europe was the leading topic. Amongst other questions, the discussion focused on what or who is driving the change regarding legal tech. Here it was considered, whether customers as such or only a few individuals act as main driver. From then on, a wide range of topics were discussed quite lively. In the end, a consensus was reached inter alia regarding the need of law schools to react to the digital transformation. However, in this regard a holistic and foresighted approach is still missing completely.


The conference started a coordinated European movement, which needs to continue. Therefore, a few tasks for the near future seem to be obvious in my opinion. First, legal tech is a great term to raise awareness, but in part insufficient for precise debates. Therefore, we should try to establish meaningful subcategories. Some proposals are already out there, but they need further discussion. Second, to change the mindset of future lawyers, we should reach out to law schools and offer our expertise for speeches and workshops. The academic establishment is left mostly clueless on technological advances that are changing the legal scenery and thereby the skills necessary for future success. Let’s help the next generation of lawyers prepare for the digitized world, which is out here waiting for them. Finally, we should keep pushing the topic of legal tech internally, in our own law firms, legal departments and companies. It is not enough for one or two pioneers to engage in innovation. It takes each and every one to carve the angel out of its marble mold.