Why this principal became a tech founder

07 April 2022 By Jerome Doraisamy
Kathy Constan

Having achieved many of her professional goals in running a successful practice for over two decades, Kathy Constan realised she needed a new challenge. Observing the advent of legal technology and how it could reshape the legal profession, she dived in.

About five years ago, Kathy Constan (pictured) took stock of her career.

She had founded her firm, Hercules Constan Lawyers – a boutique Melbourne-based practice specialising in water law and commercial litigation – in 1993 and had served as its principal since that time: almost 29 years.

Her practice, she told Lawyers Weekly, had provided legal services delivered in “two distinct ways”: process-driven or rote, repetitive high-volume work and detailed, advisory, specialised consultative work.

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She believed, she said, that the legal profession would continue along this dichotomy, amidst the advent of legal technology.

“Of the two paths, it was clear that an opportunity existed to create legal tech that would reinvent the process-driven work, which in turn would free up legal practitioners to focus on the advisory specialised consultative work, which in essence is the core of legal practice,” she outlined.

“If I could successfully develop tech that took away the mundane for practitioners, it would enable them to have the time to return to the fundamental practice of law, to develop better client relationships, to master their profession and improve their career experience.”

It was clear to Ms Constan that the rote, administrative, regulated aspects of legal process were consuming valuable practitioner time and leading to increased dissatisfaction arising from the inability to successfully navigate the competing requirements.

“Legal tech, successfully delivered, would provide an answer to this problem,” she surmised.

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“I wanted to create such a solution first and foremost as a lawyer who intimately understood the challenges faced by practitioners.”

Such thinking led her to establish LodgeX, an e-conveyancing and lodgement solution that uses a bespoke platform, Lapp.

According to the solution’s website, “the idea was to create something that successfully combined legal tech with conveyancing/legal practice, which would become an integral part of shaping the future of how we all work together to make settlements happen smoothly and efficiently”.

Via LodgeX and Lapp, Ms Constan noted, property professionals can just book out their property transactions and focus their attention on their core business – that of providing legal consultation and advice”.

“Our vision is to be the ‘go-to’ trusted solution for property professionals through the power of legal tech automation,” she declared.

Lessons from nearly three decades as a firm principal

Hercules Constan has been in existence for almost 29 years. The “simple, most fundamental thing” that Ms Constan has learned in her time leading the practice, she identified, is the importance of taking time to think.

“This may seem flippant, but it seems to me that over the last few decades, with the increased roll out of more and more technology from facsimiles in the 80-90s to emails in the 90s-2000s, it also brought about a false expectation that legal professionals be on tap and have instant answers to what were often complex questions,” she mused.

“This ‘instant law’ response often sees the profession engaging in a process without taking the time to step outside and think about what that process is trying to achieve. Thinking about a matter and an outcome cannot be underestimated. It is the cornerstone of our profession, and when applied, leads to far better outcomes.”

Moreover, Ms Constan went on, the profession and the processes also became more regulated and complicated.

“This arose from increasing complexity in the legal process, from the need to ensure that formalities were observed and that checks and mechanisms to ensure compliance were in place. As a result, more documentation and systems were introduced so that lawyers became more specialised within the profession as it was too difficult to remain up to date on all the changes which were being introduced,” she detailed.

“Whilst there are a number of other changes, these two changes fundamentally impacted lawyers’ lives. Lawyers became increasingly time-poor, reducing the opportunity for real ‘think’ time whilst also increasing the necessity for regulatory administrative compliance. I believe that this, in turn, led to increased dissatisfaction within the profession.”

Reflections on her career

Ms Constan has had – and continues to have, she said – a “wonderful” career as a lawyer.

“Being a lawyer is not an easy profession – you need to have resilience, confidence and the ability to clearly communicate complex concepts succinctly, to deliver difficult news and provide a legal reality to your clients – sometimes dampening their enthusiasm,” she recalled.

“As a practitioner, you need to learn to balance the practice of the law with client management and expectations – clients come to you at a difficult or challenging time in their lives, they rely on you to manage and guide them through that process, whatever it may be to a successful outcome or resolution.”

All of the challenges over the years (including operating as a sole practitioner with a newborn and no assistant, and fluctuating staffing numbers due to environmental factors) have taught her a lot about herself, she explained.

“I learnt resilience and self-reliance. I built up great support channels and learnt to think about what the firm delivered to its clients. Through this process, I developed a very good successful practice,” she said.

“My systems were well established, easy to maintain and progressive, and I built strong, sustainable relationships with my clients. I was able to professionally challenge myself and take on more complex and rewarding files. I was also largely successful at balancing my work life with my personal life and being present for many important things in the lives of my children.”

Advice for others

When asked how other boutique law firm principals can be more involved in the tech conversation and evolution of client service delivery moving forward, Ms Constan said that they should set aside time to truly determine how available technologies can improve one’s practice.

“Assess your practice processes to determine where the efficiencies lie and how you can improve them. Reflect on which part of your firm’s processes takes up valuable time for little or no return and consider implementing tech as a solution for these time-wasting processes,” she advised.

“When choosing tech, look at the options available. Ask for a demo of the tech. Find out how easy it is to implement, what learning and training is required and what ongoing support is provided. Ultimately, legal tech solutions should improve your practice, free up your time and provide a better work/life balance for your staff.”

Legal tech, Ms Constan concluded, will continue to evolve and provide smarter solutions for the profession.

“Ultimately, it will never replace the role of the trusted advisor with a strong client relationship. Lawyers need to recognise the essence of their role and ensure that legal tech supports their practice so that they can concentrate on this fundamental cornerstone of the profession,” she deduced.

“Legal tech created by lawyers is nuanced differently to legal tech created by non-lawyers. Lawyers understand the pressures of the profession, they have been at the cold face in a practice and they are able to implement those learnings in the tech they develop. Particularly as tech evolves to provide more sophisticated solutions, it will require input from a legal brain to develop the computational prerequisites for successful development and deployment for the profession.”

Legal tech, Ms Constan believes, will improve such that it takes over the rote processes for lawyers.

“Legal automation will achieve basic processing and decision making for those aspects of a lawyer’s role that relate to regulatory compliance. This, in turn, should reinvent lawyers’ work lives, giving them back the opportunity to return to the role of the trusted legal advisor and, in turn, build stronger client relationships.

“Legal tech should not be feared – properly embraced, it will change the profession for the better,” she submitted.

Why this principal became a tech founder
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