Interview | Jodie Baker (Xakia)
Milan (TLF) recently interviewed Jodie Baker, Founder and Managing Director at Xakia Technologies. Xakia was created in response to a widespread research project targeted at understanding the daily demands on in-house legal team management. A comprehensive list of in-house needs led to the building of Xakia Matters, and continue to inform the user-designed approach to its functionality.
Jodie, what is something you believe that other people think is insane?
Breaking something can be extremely productive – it forces you to find a new and better way to build it.
What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?
In the journey vs destination discussion, it is more than recognising that the journey is just as important as the destination. I have come to realise (and even enjoy) that there may never be a destination at all, and that the goal posts will always be shifting as new possibilities emerge.
Is there a quote you live by or think of often?
Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone
Tell us about Hive Legal. Why did you start it?
The idea for Hive Legal was born when I was working remotely in the U.S. for an Australian company. This experience was very powerful for me and cemented my view that granting talented people the autonomy to decide for themselves where and when they work most productively can lead to extraordinary outcomes.
At the time, I was aware of the exit of many talented people from the legal industry simply because there was an insufficient level of workplace flexibility and I was disappointed by the slow-moving nature of the major firms to address the issue. In the U.S. and the UK, law firms had been built which granted more flexibility, but there were very few (if any) options in the Australian market for lawyers doing top tier quality work who wanted flexibility.
I decided to build the solution for the Australian market.
In the process of building a ‘virtual’ firm it became clear that there were many aspects of legal practice that were ready for an overhaul. Hive Legal became a unique combination of flexible working, fixed pricing and tech savvy solutions.
As an entrepreneur, were there key learnings you took away from establishing Hive Legal?
Thomas Edison was right: genius (or in this case, innovation) is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
What does the term “NewLaw” mean? Is Hive Legal a “NewLaw” firm?
This term has now become very broad … at the time Hive Legal was created, absolutely yes.
What are flexible work arrangements and why are they important?
Tell us about Xakia Technologies. Why did you start it?
We all love using beautiful software that helps make our working environment easier and more enjoyable. My background as a lawyer and a financial analyst has informed my desire to see in-house lawyers have a beautiful way to order their working environment and provide automated reporting, similar to platforms that are available for other industries and functions.
In particular, a central platform that makes it easy for legal teams to see ‘who, what and when’ about workloads can improve visibility and productivity significantly. There is a strong shift in market power toward corporate legal teams, yet tools built for law firms – which provide these sorts of platforms – don’t always adjust well to corporate legal environments.
At Xakia, we are building a beautiful, intuitive platform that corporate legal teams love to use.
Was there a point at which you felt the initial concept was validated? How important is validation?
Hive Legal won loads of awards and received external validation early in its life.
For me, validation came in the form of stories from staff members who were able to change the circumstances of their lives because they had more flexibility. The ripple effect was very powerful.
How do you believe the role of in-house counsel will change over the next decade?
As legal teams are empowered with legal technology tools, they will increasingly be able to run their legal function like mini-law firms. This will change the type of work they do, how they do it, how they deliver it, which external resources they engage to assist them, how they communicate with those external resources etc. A decade from now I see a highly systemised and automated in-house function, where the lawyers are focused on delivering the highest quality and most strategic legal work.
What does “legal innovation” mean?
I don’t think legal innovation is any different to innovation in other industries – it is the combination of imagination and invention, finding new ways of doing old things or doing new things entirely.
Do you have any advice for legaltech entrepreneurs following in your footsteps?
Understand the market you are trying to service. Henry Ford and Steve Jobs may have built their ideas on the basis that customers would follow but these are the exceptions rather than the general rule. In this industry, your clients are exceptionally smart people who can help you shape your product or idea. If you understand their needs intimately and give them a voice in its creation and continuous improvement, you will develop something amazing.
We understand you are the co-chair of the advisory board to the Centre for Legal Innovation. What can you tell us about the CLI? Why did you decide to get involved?
College of Law Centre for Legal Innovation is creating a central place or community where legal professions can be informed about legal developments and innovation, and prepare for the new world order in an accessible manner. Innovation has become an over-used term and has created a noisy environment where lawyers find it difficult to know what they should prioritise, what is relevant or important to them, and how they access the information they need. I’m excited to be part of an initiative that breaks this down and makes legal innovation an accessible topic to all legal professionals.
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