Did you know that Australia is a legal technology hotspot? The innovation in LegalTech in Australia has been growing rapidly for the past 5 years. The Australian Legal Technology Association (ALTA), created in early 2018, comprises 74 members – Australian companies dedicated to building legal technology. 


In late March, with eight weeks left before the scheduled 2nd annual ALTA conference, it became apparent that ALTACON 2020 could not go ahead as planned. Despite a fantastic launch in Melbourne in 2019, providing the opportunity for the industry to come together for a LegalTech discussion and showcase, ALTA was faced with options to delay, cancel or … go virtual.

On 28-29 May, 2020, the ALTA team, supported by major partners Macquarie Bank and NetDocuments, staged the first fully virtual LegalTech conference in the Australian market. Determined not to make a virtual conference a series of webinars stapled together, the virtual ALTA conference – vALTACon – was complete with three streams of speakers and a ‘virtual’ exhibit hall of legal technology for law firms, in-house legal teams, non-profits, students and the curious explorers to take in a plethora of content.

The LegalTech landscape

The conference took place within the context of COVID-19. The rapidly changing legal landscape is now defined by dual pressures: the rapid, widespread move to remote working and global economic downturn. This has created unprecedented demand for cloud-based solutions and business efficiency. Within that context, vALTACon 2020 drew an audience of those interested in building, adopting and using legal technology. 

The conference opened with a keynote address from Mitch Kowalski, who took us on a journey of legal technology maturity, outlining the prolonged embryonic or ‘introductory’ phase that lasted from the 1980s – 2000s, but celebrating the move beyond this in the past decade, evidenced by the arrival of LegalTech incubators, media interest, dedicated LegalTech conferences, and even a Wikipedia page. As customers become more aware of the value proposition, demand is now growing and customers seeking cloud-based solutions. Continued growth is expected in the decade ahead. 

From there, delegates were able to ‘visit’ the three different streams – Law firms, In-House and Legal+Tech:

  • In the Law Firm stream (sponsored by eBrief Ready), we heard from experts about business continuity, information security, legal design, change management and more. Key highlights:
    • Nicole Braddick outlined the importance of Legal Design, reminding legal technology innovators that they should, “for the love of god, use a designer”.
    • Andrea Foot touched on the struggle in law firms for change management when adopting legal technology.
    • Joel Barolsky considered the importance of scenario planning, including demand mapping, for all law firms as they consider their budgets and strategic planning when adopting legal technology.
  • In the In-House stream (sponsored by Neota Logic), we heard from experts about navigating the LegalTech market, how to get started, methodologies for using LegalTech and the all important ‘adaptability quotient’ in dealing with change. Key highlights:
    • Stephanie Corey from UpLevelOps outlined a method for navigating the LegalTech landscape for corporate legal teams, followed by a panel session about how each of the teams at Aurecon, Xero and Coca Cola Amatil have done this.
    • Becky White from Xero outlined their in-house legal team’s use of ‘Agile’ methodologies for managing work within teams and across the globe;
    • Emily Peters from Aurecon shared her journey as a new GC setting strategic goals for innovation and LegalTech projects.
  • In the Legal+Tech stream (sponsored by Dazychain), we heard about start-up and scale-up tips, financing tips and more. Key highlights:
    • Jodie Baker (me) moderated a panel with Jim Delkousis, Stuart Clout and Chas Rampenthal about the ‘do’s and don’ts’ for scaling up your legal technology company.
    • Eric Chin outlined the latest findings of the Global LegalTech Report.
    • Jonathan Lay hosted Ariane Barker and James Turner to talk about raising capital as a young LegalTech company. 

A new conference experience

The virtual conference experience offered something new: the ability to move between streams of content with ease, attending in your ‘work pyjamas’ or stretching in your private office whilst watching the presenters. 

And yet some things stayed the same: visiting an exhibitor ‘booth’ through an online zoom-room allowed for discussions and interactions with people you may not have met before. The exhibit ‘hall’ was complete with 5-6 min demo videos or 30 second pitches to be enjoyed at your own pace before entering a room.

Feedback from delegates included:

‘Great program with interesting speakers. Liked being able to look at some of the tech content on demand prior to the kick off.’

 ‘The energy was great across the speakers. You clearly had thought about how you bring it to life in a difficult setting. Variety of topics was good too.’

‘A very impressive delivery and you got way more people engaging than if it was a physical event. The future!’

What next for LegalTech in Australia?

Whether ALTACon returns to an on-site event next year, or remains a virtual experience remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that the Australian industry will continue to innovate and cement its place as a LegalTech hotspot on the global stage.

For those who have been innovating, educating and adopting in LegalTech over the past 5 years, the return on investment has been evident throughout COVID-19. For those who have been building – the members of the Australian Legal Technology – they are ready to meet new demand. For those new to the journey, the Australian LegalTech community is here to help.

If you missed the virtual ALTA conference 2020 but want to take in the content, you can purchase an on-demand ticket at this link. Interested in ALTA membership or becoming an ALTA advocate? Visit our website to find out more. 

Jodie Baker is the Chair of the Australian Legal Technology Association, and the Founder & CEO of Xakia Technologies.