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From Law School to Luminance: Q&A with Frederica Kitchen

16 July 2020 | Luminance

This week, we spoke to Luminance’s Frederica Kitchen, a Senior Account Manager who works with some of the world’s leading law firms and organisations, offering support and guidance on how to use Luminance’s technology to implement time and cost efficiencies across document review processes, and gain better insight into their datasets. Prior to joining Luminance, Frederica had a brief stint as a trainee solicitor at a top-tier London firm where she quickly realised that life as a junior lawyer was not what she had imagined. Frederica then decided to pursue her passion for all things legal tech by taking up a position at Luminance and the rest is history.

Luminance: Frederica, please can you tell me about your legal and educational background?

Frederica: At school, I didn’t know what I wanted to read at university- I liked English, writing and solving problems and wanted to study a subject that could harness those skills. I then decided to study Law at the University of Exeter but at that point, I didn’t know the difference between a solicitor and barrister! As the years progressed, I became incredibly interested not just in the basic principles of law otherwise known as ‘black letter law’, but also in how the legal sector was changing and developing. I then secured a vacation scheme and a training contract at a top London firm but it was during my LPC (Legal Practice Course, a mandatory phase of training to become a solicitor) and Masters in Law that I became incredibly interested in legal technology and how it was transforming the practice and delivery of legal services. In fact, it was when I was writing my dissertation that I came across Luminance.

Luminance: How did you find your experience as a junior lawyer?

Frederica: I found that the portrayal of the legal profession that I had been sold by the media and at law school was very different to the reality. Junior lawyers are often given very mundane jobs that seem very simplistic, but the work involved is actually very high-stakes. On top of that, it is a very competitive environment and there is a constant pressure to impress. This is reinforced by models like the ‘billable hour’ which means that you would often be under pressure to deliver results in the shortest timeframe possible. My passion and joy for law wasn’t there anymore.

Luminance: Do you think that your experience would have been different if you were able to use technology to enhance your reviews?

Frederica: During my time as trainee, I was often tasked with finding a specific document or email, an exercise that could take hours of manually sifting through pages (or even physical documents!) but would be instantaneous in Luminance. Some of my colleagues even joked that their role was to ‘manage a data room’, where they would be tasked with manually organising over 2,000 documents. In hindsight, I think that even small exercises like going through emails in Outlook or searching through the internal document management system would be much more productive and efficient if I was using technology like Luminance. Further, by allowing lawyers to immediately uncover crucial information and datapoints, I believe that technology like Luminance would also relieve some of the stress in pressurised situations.

Luminance: Luminance recently teamed up with a law school to create an e-learning course for the students. Do you think that law schools should partner with tech companies to teach students practical skills earlier in their career?

Frederica: Most definitely! During the course of my Masters, I quickly became aware that whilst the legal industry is constantly evolving and innovating, one thing that hasn’t changed is the legal curriculum, meaning many students will fall behind at the first hurdle. Just dedicating one year to practical skills with the LPC (Legal Practice Course) plus any lucky work experience you get does not prepare you for the real world of law! By teaching and educating law students about technology and how to use it, lawyers will be in a better position when they start practicing law.

Luminance: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing young lawyers at the moment?

Frederica: I think that the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown is very challenging for young lawyers at the moment- there is a lot of uncertainty ahead and it must be very difficult for junior lawyers who are working remotely and don’t have the hands-on support they need. Technology like Luminance is crucial- the platform works alongside lawyers to supercharge their review process, allowing lawyers to focus on the higher-value tasks and analysis. Moreover, its project management tools are essential at a time like this, allowing teammates and colleagues to work collaboratively on projects whilst working from home.

Luminance: You work with some of the world’s largest law firms- do you think there is a real interest in using tech to enhance the work of junior lawyers?

Frederica: I think that there are a lot of innovation teams that are seeing the value of legal technology, including its ability to increase efficiency, profitability and opportunity. Moreover, as we see millennial and forward-thinking lawyers progress through the ranks, I think there is a renewed focus on using technology to generate more opportunity and make life for junior lawyers easier and more rewarding.

Click here to read and listen to Frederica's recent interview with Panteleimon Athanasiou from SCL Student Bytes.