Lawfest 2021

By Andrew King, Founder of Legal Innovate


In late March, 280 legal professionals from across Aotearoa gathered in person in Auckland for the premier legal innovation and technology event on the New Zealand calendar.


Like so many events globally, LawFest had considerable disruption and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic to run the event in person. However, in Aotearoa we have been fortunate to be able to bring together again the legal and technology community to celebrate, collaborate, network and learn about legal innovation – and all in person.


The last year has reinforced why we need to innovate and leverage technology – LawFest 21 demonstrated how we can go about this! The event was once again a must for anyone interested in driving efficiency in their organisation.


Key Highlights of LawFest


The one-day event was a great opportunity to hear from leaders and change-makers in the innovation space. The programme provided something for everyone, from those new to technology, to those currently at the forefront of legal innovation. Over 20 amazing speakers, delivered practical insights of what they are doing, together with how they started, as delegates learned from their stories of success and failure and what they did next.


Mary O'Carroll, President of CLOC and Google legal operations guru was the opening keynote and inspired and challenged thinking.


Mary discussed how legal operations are shaping all our futures and explored what's next for the legal industry, challenging us to think about our own roles and ask ourselves “what will I change” and “what will I keep”.


The other fantastic keynote was Gus Balbontin, who provided an energetic and highly entertaining session on adapting.


Gus challenged us to face the future with courage and an open mind, whilst warning us if we don’t deliver to our customers what they want, we risk becoming obsolete.



Grant Pritchard, a senior in-house Lawyer at Spark and President of ILANZ delivered an inspiration and thought-provoking session on the critical topic of mental wellbeing for lawyers. Grant shared his own raw experiences, offering practical ideas and strategies to improve wellbeing for individual lawyers, teams and firms, including the Umbrella model and the role of technology in supporting better mental health.


A Catalyst for Change


Throughout the day we heard how the disruption of COVID-19 was the catalyst for change that many resisted for so long. Those that were reluctant to innovate or invest in technology now appreciate why they need to, together with the value of investing further going forward. Barriers to change quickly disappeared, as many were forced to make changes within weeks that previously may have taken years to implement.


The opening keynote panel featured Emma Priest of Blackstone Chambers, Julian Benefield of Foodstuffs, Hayden Wilson of Dentons Kensington Swan, together with Louise Taylor of Russell McVeagh with their journeys as they (and their organisations) adopted new ways of working and found opportunity amid the chaos of COVID-19. They shared key lessons they learned along the way and discussed whether the pandemic is a critical stepping-stone to the wider transformation of legal services.


The event culminated in a fascinating conversation on what the future holds for the profession and the delivery of legal services with Nick Whitehouse of Onit AI Center of Excellence, Maria Sopoaga of Auckland Council, Jarrod Coburn of Portia, together with Helen Mackay of Juno Legal. They identified what is possible and how we can better adapt in this ever-changing world. Bringing the fast-paced event together superbly was the MC, Erin Ebborn of Portia.



Seeing the Great Legal Tech


LawFest continues to be the only legal event in New Zealand providing the opportunity to meet and see the leading legal technology in one place on one day. Even with border restrictions, we still had the largest turn out of legal tech exhibitors at the event, with many first timers all displaying their latest solutions for the legal industry. Like the attendees these legal tech companies enjoyed the opportunity to meet with existing and potential clients once again – and doing so in-person.


The interest in the legal tech solutions, has led to the development of a 'Demo Day' to showcase the organisations providing legal tech products and services. New Zealand's inaugural Demo Day will be a free event on 11 August, where you can see first-hand the legal technology solutions in New Zealand, and then available to watch at any stage OnDemand - to enhance awareness of the great legal tech now available.


Get LawFest Sessions OnDemand!


With LawFest 21 behind us, the focus now shifts to LawFest 22 where we will look to explore further how to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing legal market.


In the meantime, if you want to find out more you can see all these sessions OnDemand. This features all the sessions from LawFest 2021 as part of over 50 speakers from New Zealand and abroad providing practical insights of how to innovate and leverage technology.


Andrew King Founder of  Legal Innovate
Andrew King, Legal Innovate

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate. He helps lawyers and their organisations successfully innovate through leveraging technology to improve the way they deliver legal services now and into the future.


Legal Innovate brands include LawFest, LegalTech Hub and E-Discovery Consulting.







Hear more from leaders and change makers around New Zealand with our 'Expert Interviews' , including '5 Minutes with an Expert: Andy Higgs' from CentraPass.