Matthew Berrick is an impressive individual who I first connected with by virtue of our mutual interests in legal technology and legal innovation. Matt isn’t yet a lawyer, but already has accomplished quite a bit including publishing a book and co-founding a legal magazine. He is most certainly destined for more upon entering the legal field.

What prompted your interest in legal tech?

After taking a course on artificial intelligence for cyber security at Oxford University this prompted my interest in the technology space. I also wrote my dissertation on cryptocurrencies and explored its application for money laundering in the cyber criminal and terrorist. In particular, I found the Silk Road case fascinating and this prompted me to want to understand more about blockchain technologies and the legal ramifications. This led me to create a magazine called ‘Global Tech Loop’ with my co-founder and release monthly issues which share insight of legal professionals who are experts on legal technology. I have also used this magazine to interview a host of other technology professionals working in different industries and companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, Apple and beyond to enhance my understanding. From this I have learnt about the implementation of artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies which has enhanced my understanding and interest in technology for the legal sector.

As someone fairly new to the law and not yet a lawyer, what are your thoughts on the practice law at this point?

I think as someone who has not yet entered the industry, the opportunities are exciting. So far, law firms have been rather slow at implementing technology and still very much are far behind other sectors. COVID-19 has prompted law firms to become more agile. With commercial firms already being expected to provide more for less to clients as legal service providers, I think now is a great time to be entering the profession. As someone who will be starting at the bottom of the profession, a lot of trainee tasks such as bundling or simple due diligence processes are likely to become assisted by technology. Whilst I am not blind to the fact that we are a long way from being tech savvy across the legal sector, I am interested to learn about how law will be practiced and how the role of a lawyer will be adapted in the years to come.

Tell me a little about your book, Legal Insider, and why you wrote it.

Legal Insider was reviewed by a New York Times Bestselling author and was advertised in the 2020 Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Report. The book provides a collection of unfiltered insights from professionals working across the legal sector. On the first day of the release, Legal Insider ranked 2nd on Amazon’s bestseller list in ‘Law for the Layperson’ and ranked top 20 in ‘Legal Education’.

Initially I had started this project because of my curiosity to learn about the industry I was entering. Whilst I had secured a job at an international firm at this point, I still felt there was so much that I did not yet know about the legal industry. I wanted to go outside my comfort zone. The idea sort of snowballed from there as I began thinking, why not map out the entire profession as best I could and break down every department by including insight from trainees, associates and partners in those departments. I then wanted to know about diversity and inclusion in the legal sector. I scoped out the sector by including perspectives and insights by showcasing lawyers from different backgrounds such as LGBT+ and BAME as well as those with disabilities that have entered the profession.

With over 35 different insights from lawyers there was a host of different experiences they each had. From private practice, insights included legal professionals working at a variety of outfits such as: Norton Rose Fulbright, Baker McKenzie, CMS, Mishcon de Reya and others. From in-house, perspectives were included from a host of legal professionals working at companies such as: Uber, BBC, Arsenal, Channel 4, UBS and Barclays.

This project was never something that I wanted to profit from and I always knew I wanted to donate all proceeds raised by the book to charity. I then sat down and thought about which charity would be best placed for the proceeds. This led me to create a scholarship where all royalties are being used to finance aspiring lawyers undertaking legal studies. This is aimed at enhancing accessibility to the profession by appointing a committee of lawyers to determine who is awarded the royalties/proceeds.

What has most surprised you about what you’ve learned about the practice of law so far?

As a non-law graduate, I wanted to create a community for aspiring solicitors. This led me to found ‘The Legal Line Up’. I reached out to six others to be co-founders of the platform. Our team has all secured training contracts at magic circle and international firms. We collaborate with universities and other organisations across the U.K. to provide free support for other aspiring solicitors.

By interacting laterally with my peers who are all going on to different top international law firms, as well as interacting with lawyers higher up at different firms, I discovered the law is not as black letter as I imagined. After interacting with a variety of lawyers at different stages in their career and hearing about their day to day job I learnt how more often than not lawyers are deconstructing the jargon of legal terms to present easily digestible information when delivering answers to clients. As someone who is not a law student I thought this was particularly surprising from the outset. 

To other fellow pre-law students interested in the law, what would be your advice to them?

Explore what interests you instead of mirroring what interests the person next to you. Whilst it is tempting to look around you at what individuals to develop their skills, I think the best way to stand out is to pursue what you’re passionate about because that is how you will become a bold candidate. Remember that your experiences will always be different to the person next to you, that is something you cannot change. However, remember that law firms are not identical and they don’t want everyone to ‘fit’ a particular type. It is important to focus on the core values and competencies that the firm is looking for in their trainees. So, students aspiring to enter the profession should focus on drilling down on what skills you bring to the table and package that in a way that demonstrates to an employer that you would be an asset at the firm you are applying to.