Interview | Stuart Clout (thedocyard)
Milan (TLF) caught up with Stuart Clout, the super insightful former partner of Colin Biggers & Paisley who left it all to establish Australian lawtech startup thedocyard – now the world's leading deal management platform.Stuart, what is something you believe that other people think is insane?That in the lifetime of my 3 year old son Australia will be the new world super power.Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones (John Maynard Keynes).What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?My relationship with wealth creation, which is the obsession of the western world. I once strode the treadmill of get a degree, get a good job, work really hard, get promoted, become the boss, accumulate wealth...die. But I got off that treadmill, when I looked around me and saw my future in those who had been on the treadmill longer...and did not like what I saw.Now I focus on creating, building, people, ideas, change, relationships and humour.Tell us about thedocyard. How did it come about? thedocyard is the world's leading deal management platform, it is a seriously cool piece of technology that solves real problems faced by the legal and financial sectors right now. It has been described as the "Atlassian for deal makers".It optimises current transactional practices, bringing efficiency, transparency and control to what are stressful and high stakes undertakings.It came from an anxiety attack, in my office, on a Sunday night. I was running the biggest deal of my career and I suddenly realised I had no idea where anything was up to, who was meant to be doing what, and what needed doing next! This happened as I did not have the tools I needed to properly manage my transactions. The legal and financial sector clings to old technology like spread sheets, word tables, white boards and post it notes as a way to manage complex matters. I knew there had to be a better way, so I built it!thedocyard will stop anyone having that problem ever again!What is next for thedocyard? What is next for you? Next for thedocyard and me are closely intertwined at the moment! We will be expanding our footprint in Europe and launching into the US market this year as well as delivering some new features which will take our technology into the stratosphere compared to what is on the market - very exciting times for us @thedocyard!You were the youngest ever partner in a prestigious Sydney law firm – why did you leave it all behind?See my answer to Q3 :-)What do you believe are the shortcomings of the partnership model and do you think law firms will have to evolve beyond it in future? I think law firms are already evolving beyond it, and have been for some time particularly in the UK with alternative business structures now common place. The partnership model is fundamentally skewed towards conservative and short term thinking, as the core driver is annual partner returns and is not a sound business structure for leverage and long term investment.As such, we see organisations with partnership models lagging miles behind other businesses in areas such as investment in technology & innovation as this requires long term thinking and patience to see results (and resilience to a bumpy road to get to a better place).What does legal innovation actually mean? It means adapting to the changing needs of the client. I see a lot of innovation talk in the legal sector being very internally focused, which is plainly flawed. Clients (still) are not properly being brought into the conversation, and this is reminiscent of the way law firms have always worked. And it is a huge problem. And it is also why New Law outfits which are doing things differently are winning work away from the old model.I think it is important to point out that innovation is not a new thing, we have been innovating since our ancestors used a stone as a tool. Innovation is about progress, doing things differently, trying new ideas and changing how you do something now for a better outcome.The legal sector has been wonderful at avoiding change, but the game is well and truly up!How can we harness legal innovation to enhance access to justice for everyday people? In a number of ways. At a very basic level technology applied to the legal industry frees up lawyers to do lawyerly things, not mundane repeatable tasks. This frees up bandwidth in the sector which can be applied to pro bono work.Technology will find its home first at the top end of town, but will filter and refine into applications which enhance and indeed facilitate greater access to justice. An example could be work flowing and automating a consumer complaint - this could very easily be done, and we could all have an app which automates and makes binding decisions in relation to consumer complaints instantly - how good would that be! This is where we will see the real explosion of technology opening up access to justice. By the way, I may have just told you my next great idea!Do big law firms have a role to play? 100% yes, and I think more so than ever as they will hone technology in their formula 1 garages that we will see in our every day firms and social justice outfits in the years to follow. I also think the big firms will become even more important for business as they will be able to run a model of high end laser focused advice bureaus opening up access to the impressive power of their intellectual property to a broader range of business. This is as exciting for business as it is for the firms - imagine working for an elite firm and actually working with emerging business which traditionally would not walk thorough your marble lined foyers!Do you have any advice for those graduating law school in 2017? (answering this makes me feel old) Yeah, I do, and it is challenge the way you are taught to do things, both in law school and more so in your new roles. But challenge with respect and a mind to the fact that change is hard, and that 55 year old partner you report to who does not use technology when they could, well, it is hard for that person, so take them on a journey rather than shove things in their face and expect that to change the way things work.Remember that all of us are just people, trying to do their best, and we all put our socks on one at a time. So use your privileged position of having an instinctive relationship with technology as a power for good, and help bring others who are constantly trying to catch up with it...hey I am not even that old and when I got my hotmail account in uni, I had no one to email as none of my friends had heard of email! So change has been fast, be a facilitator and leader.