Shieldcast: Episode 009

Hosted by Geoff Dunnett

Modern Law: Nick Kirby on Technology

Nick Kirby, Legal Director at Mishcon de Reya discusses building specialist technology teams, starting incubators, and how tech has transformed the legal industry.

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Firmly establishing himself as one of Mishcon de Reya's Tech Champions, Nick is a mentor for MDR LAB, Mishcon's programme for tech start-ups in the legal space. As part of this role, he has built technology products which help the Real Estate department automate various tasks. In addition, Nick also mentors PropTech start-ups at Pi Labs, a company investing in early stage property tech ventures. 

Nick is responsible for researching new technologies, including software which utilises machine learning and AI for smart document automation.

Named as one of the top 10 most innovative lawyers in Europe by the Financial Times in 2019, Nick was commended by the FT for his role in the digital transfer of residential property with the Land Registry. He was also named in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 in 2018 within the 'disruptors' category, hailing those on the front line of legal tech.

The Lawyer commented: "In recent years Mishcon de Reya has made a name for itself as a technology-focused business and, when it comes to real estate, none of its lawyers are more engaged than Nick Kirby."


In this Modern Law episode of Shieldcast, Nick and Geoff discuss:

  • What role new technology plays in de-risking and streamlining the legal practitioner’s caseload
  • When legal tech can help firms improve and prepare the lawyers of the future that provide value for clients
  • Why a collaborative approach to legal product development can bring positive change for the industry
  • How the Covid-19 crisis has significantly advanced innovation and change for both the legal industry and tech innovators.

Listen to this Modern Law edition of Shieldcast to find out more!

Read the transcript of this podcast

Geoff: Where once major law firms were only as good as the stable of lawyers and talent they could attract, but now, having the best tech stack is also of vital importance. Modern law firms are looking to new technologies to improve internal efficiencies, reduce risk and to provide the best client experience. Let us also not forget that many had to overnight change ways of working because of COVID. Law firms are building specialist technology teams, starting incubators and even making investment into the most promising legal tech companies. My guest today is Nick Kirby from Mishcon de Reya. Welcome Nick.

Nick: Hello!

Geoff: Today, Nick, we’re going to be talking about how the approach and emphasis on tech has transformed in recent years and all its hype. And how particular to your area of practice, real estate, is this change and where we’re heading, so great to have you on the show. By way of an introduction of Nick, Nick is a legal director in the real estate team at Mishcon de Reya. He specialises in commercial real estate work, dealing with investments, acquisitions, sales of institutional and private clients. Nick has a passion for technology and legal tech, and is a mentor for start-ups taking part in MDR LAB and one of Mishcon de Reya’s tech champions. I’m sure you’ll tell us a bit more about what that exactly means but welcome to the episode today. To kick things off Nick, tell us more about you, your practice and everything about MDR LABs and anything else.

Nick: Thanks very much for having me, Geoff, it’s great to be here. So a bit about me and my time at Mishcon. I’ve been at Mishcon for thirteen or so years now, about five years of those have been spent doing tech transformation, being a tech champion. It’s been a really exciting journey across the way. When I started doing transformation, I don’t know what I really thought it would involve but I think I had a relatively narrow vision of what being involved in real estate tech transformation would mean. Since then, we’ve obviously gone to do some of the really exciting things that you’ve talked about. My passion for technology, as you said, came from my dad. He had an Apple Mac reseller during the 80s and 90s, so I spent a lot of my time as a young five, six, seven, eight- year-old playing with old school Apple Macintoshes. That must be where that passion for tech came from originally. I’ve got twins and I once pedaloed 500 miles around Scotland, so that’s a little bit about me to start off.

Geoff: That is very cool. That was totally unexpected, Nick, but I’m very keen to hear more about that at some other point.

Nick: Yes, I know, this is probably not the podcast for the 500 mile pedalo, we can do that another time!

Geoff: Absolutely.

Nick: That’s the stuff about me. As I said, I’ve been spending that time for the last five years on this transformation journey. My practice area is obviously real estate. As you said, I focus on investment, purchases, sales, development. I think one of the things I really like about my day job as I always call it, which sounds like I have a night job, but it’s not, it’s just transformation is one day a week. (laughter) My day job is that it’s really varied. So we act for lots and lots of different clients, lots of it is focussed on institutional clients but we still have this great client base from back when Mishcon was an older law firm and less focussed on institutional real estate work, so it’s really varied. We haven't pigeonholed our lawyers into doing just investment or just development. I think that makes it exciting to be a lawyer in the real estate department, but I think it also makes it exciting for our lawyers that are coming up through the ranks to be involved in real estate day to day. The firm has got a couple of offices, one in London, one in Singapore. There’s about 1000 people, I think it’s about 600, 700 lawyers.

It’s been an exciting place to work over the last ten to thirteen years, it’s grown enormously. That’s come with the challenges that come with any organisation that grows that large but it’s done some amazing things, and MDR LAB is one of those really amazing things. I think I joked in a speaking session I did once that when I first started on my transformation journey you couldn’t even get an MDR LAB t-shirt. That was true, you couldn’t, no one had thought about it. And it’s one of the most exciting things about that journey that I’ve been involved in. It’s enabled me to mentor start-ups, get really involved with the dynamic people that make up the really exciting start-ups that we’ve got involved in. And to watch them on their journey and to watch the firm invest in them and to watch the impact that it’s had on both the firm and those start-ups. So that’s like a quick flash through I guess me and the firm and the LAB.

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