Interview | Max Paterson (Settify)
Sophie (TLF) recently caught up with Max Paterson, Co-Founder of BottledSnail Productions, Victorian Committee Member of Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation and the current Principal and CEO of Settify. When does he sleep?! Settify is developed by Family Law solicitors and technology experts to assist lawyers with servicing increasing client demands. They believe that the future of the legal profession is cooperation between human lawyers and technological assistance.
How has creativity influenced your legal career?
I think traditional practice comes with opportunities for creativity – creative arguments, creative strategies, and new approaches to problems. I did feel somewhat limited as a traditional family lawyer though.
I take huge enjoyment from identifying ways that things can be done better, and then working hard to offer an alternative. That urge propelled me to build Settify – it replicates the initial client interview, at least in terms of the data-gathering aspect of it. The idea is to use AI to gather the information, which frees the lawyer up to apply their human skills in the first interview – to connect with the client, apply their experience to a new situation, and give meaningful advice.
How is the lawyer/client experience changing?
I actually think a major shift is occurring across professions whereby people no longer idolise the ‘expert.’ Law is built on the assumption that because we are special people with magical knowledge, we deserve to charge formidable sums for everything we do in relation to your matter. I think the democratisation of information challenges that. People now know that not everything lawyers traditionally did can only be done by a lawyer.
With Settify, we have seen that clients are keenly aware of the value they gain from using tech to do the relatively straightforward, so that they can leverage value from lawyers where it matters – the application of experience and expertise. I think clients will soon revolt when a lawyer charges them $500 per hour to ask how to spell their middle name, and what their child’s date of birth is.
What role does interdisciplinary collaboration play in your work at Settify and in your opinion, what role will it play in the future of the legal industry?
My business partner Athol is a very good corporate lawyer and a gun full-stack developer. I know about Family Law, and what we do really sits at the juncture of those disciplines. We are constantly thinking about how to apply tech to solve problems in practice, and working to execute on the solutions we come up with.
I think we’ll see more and more collaboration with other disciplines to help things that were traditionally part of the legal process – particularly with tech, design, project management and process engineering.
How has the wellbeing conversation changed over the period you have been collaborating with TJMF and what do you think still needs to be addressed?
I graduated from law school in 2011 and I think the huge shift occurred before that, when the profession went from denying the issue to acknowledging it, and in some ways starting to think of wellbeing as a ‘hot topic.’
Since I started working with TJMF in 2012, there has been a fair degree of institutional response from law firms, law schools, courts, and other organisations. Some of it is lip service. Other bits are meaningfully chipping away at the structural issues that foment distress.
I actually think the most important shift has been cultural, particularly amongst younger lawyers and students. It’s the way we speak about mental illness and wellbeing, the attitudes we hold as we look at employers, and the way we treat each other. That’s a slow change, but ultimately the only true transformation possible.
How do you strike a balance between increasing efficiency through technology via your client-interface and ensuring that the human element and support are present, particularly in Family Law?
Good tech should improve the human element of lawyering. Good lawyers should identify the things that they are uniquely equipped to do for their clients, and do them well. In Family Law, that’s about talking to clients as people, meeting them in person, and applying expertise to their situation.
The thing that smart lawyers get, and plenty miss, is that you also need to think clearly and carefully about the stuff that doesn’t require you. It’s crucial that clients like the services their lawyers provide, but the other interactions they have with the firm are also important.
Our feedback shows that Settify improves client experience by giving them a clean, easy, friendly, efficient way to provide their instructions. They then walk into their first meeting knowing their lawyer has the background, and confident that they can make the most of their time.
In your opinion, what is the future for the Family Law sector?
I think we’ll see an emergence of alternative, largely tech-enabled ways for people to resolve their family law matters. Amicable separations will be routinized.
There will always be a core of clients for whom automation cannot provide the full solution. The crucial thing to attract, retain and delight those clients will be to demonstrate to them that they have received the best service they could, not just from their lawyers, but from the tech-enabled scaffolding around their lawyers.
How do you define success?
Having a vision and then getting the job done.
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