Giles Thompson is the Head of Growth at Avvoka, a document automation, collaboration, negotiation, and analytics platform with a global client base that includes many CEE lawyers. Giles spearheads its revenue growth strategy, works with leading law firms, in-house legal teams, and businesses. Aside from this, he spends lots of his time designing and creating bespoke document automation solutions for clients.
Previously, Giles worked as a city lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills and Kirkland & Ellis. He also had in-house experience working for BP’s in-house legal team and in the regulatory division of PAX Labs.
2. What is your “legal tech story,” Giles? Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into the field of legal innovation.
My family background is farming; my dad grows potatoes for a living, which was my first job too. I didn’t have any exposure to law before getting to the university when one of the people in my class took me along to some commercial law milk rounds. During these seminars, I realised how privileged the role of lawyers is. They get to speak to the most innovative technologists in the world and figure out how to enable them to achieve their dreams. I signed up as a lawyer and trained at Herbert Smith Freehills and ultimately qualified at Kirkland & Ellis as a technology patent litigator for that reason.
However, while practicing, I realised that much of what I was doing could and should have been automated. Moreover, I had a sinking feeling that many of the tasks I was becoming an expert at were not tasks that I and others would need to do in the future, nor would they be relevant when making the transition into partnership. Things like deleting square brackets around the boilerplate parts of precedents to get to a first draft, reviewing a recently completed document to draw out the key terms, and the creation of bundled suites of interrelated transactions documents. These aren’t the tasks that lawyers go to law school to do. They aren’t tasks that anyone enjoys or identify as sources of their professional pride and personal differentiators in the market.
With this in mind and a sense of urgency around the desire to make some of these manual and less enjoyable elements of the job things that junior lawyers will not have to do within the next 5-10 years, I went out to the market to see if any firms who address these issues would be interested in hiring me.
Thankfully, Avvoka, the best document automation, collaboration, negotiation, and analytics platform in the market, was hiring a Head of Growth, and they were as interested in me as I was in them. I now spend my days relieving others of the work I know they enjoy less than socialising with and advising clients and doing cutting-edge legal analysis.
3. What problem are you trying to solve with Avvoka?
Avvoka is a document automation, negotiation, and analytics tool designed to help law firms, in-house legal teams, and businesses (of all sizes) draft documents, negotiate them, and leverage data insights from that process to draft better documents, and eventually get to “yes” faster. Unlike legacy tools, with Avvoka, you can rapidly build automated versions of your most complex documents using our intuitive automation builder. This means no more tricky coding within Word documents. Our customers reach agreement fast by collaborating on documents with colleagues in real-time and negotiating with counterparties via the Avvoka online platform. Avvoka has a range of sophisticated reporting tools that allow businesses to monitor push-back against their standard contract clauses, track key commercial terms and compare individual negotiator performance.
4. How does the Avvoka platform work?
Avvoka is a complete end-to-end document automation tool, which, unlike other document automation systems, allows the user to take a document from precedent through first-draft, collaboration, negotiation, execution, and analysis.
Avvoka’s editor is deceptively simple – by doing away with the requirement to ‘code’ word documents, users with no prior technical knowledge can automate powerful documents using our plain-English, visual template builder. Despite this, our numerous partnerships with the world’s most prestigious law firms and financial institutions demonstrate that Avvoka can handle even the most sophisticated documents with ease.
With Avvoka, users can take their contracting journey beyond the first draft, with the platform facilitating real-time collaboration with colleagues, workflow and approvals management, and task allocation. Once the home team has prepared their draft, users can then invite counterparties to negotiate via the platform at no extra cost. Negotiating online stops email-Word document ping pong to allow contracting teams to reach execution faster, while the editor collects all the data in the
background on how the text is changing during the negotiation.
Once the document is signed (via native integrations with Adobe Sign or DocuSign), Avvoka allows users to surface structured data from entire document portfolios to analyse on the platform or via connectors with other reporting tools.
5. Avvoka operates in CEE. What is your view on legal tech and innovation readiness and absorption in our region?
Avvoka assists many of its global clients (like All3Media, Allen & Overy, Baker McKenzie, Booking.com, Carlsberg, HSBC, Sony, and WarnerMedia) in their CEE operations and offices. We also have a team of developers based in the Czech Republic, led by our CTO, Tom Doskocil.
The CEE region is going through a rapid and expedited process of LegalTech and innovation readiness. We have seen this firsthand and now view the region as one of the world’s pioneering regions for LegalTech adoption and innovation. Avvoka has attended and worked with brilliant firms, institutions, and events in the CEE region and Europe as a whole, to name but a few: Legal Tech Hub Vienna, InvestCEE, the Austrian Legal Tech Konferenz, and the UK’s LegalTech Trade Mission to Switzerland.
6. Any advice to fellow legal tech and innovation enthusiasts from CEE?
Check out Lawtomated. It is a fantastic resource for LegalTech beginners and experts alike and those considering moving into the area.
Suppose you are interested in document automation specifically. In that case, you should also check our Ultimate Document Automation Guide, which has all of the information you will need to launch a successful automation project.
The Avvoka Lab is our way of making sure that we put our users first. From first-year law students to non-lawyers, to Partners and GCs – every piece of feedback matters. That is why we started the Avvoka Lab. The lab is an invite-only user group that gets free access to our latest features and functions before anyone else. We’ll work closely with all our lab members to run feedback and testing sessions on some of our most exciting innovations. Help us develop the product and learn something along the way.
Avvoka Academy sessions are workshops that we run for hundreds of people each month to give them a rare opportunity to experience legal tech and have accessible document automation lessons. They are DIY document automation clickthrough tutorial sessions. We started doing these sessions during the pandemic, and we’ve been teaching all of the participants how to automate a simple legal document on our platform. It is usually a 60/90-minute seminar over Zoom where everybody participates some time to try it for themselves, with team members on hand to assist. After the session, we allow the participants to continue their learning. It’s a great way to get free access to a leading document automation platform and learn automation’s practical skills in a hands-on and accessible way.
Thank you for reading! 😊