The Future Is Now: Laura Keily Of Immediation On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Sales is hard and is also the most important role in the organization, other than engineering. Most people who say they know how to do it, don’t.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Keily the Founder and CEO of Immediation, the leading online dispute resolution provider. Laura is a barrister (trial lawyer) and entrepreneur whose background spans M&A and corporate law at major international firms; company director, business advisor and in-house counsel for public corporations. In addition to her role as an attorney, she is a qualified arbitrator and specialist in corporate law and complex commercial litigation. Laura was awarded Australian Innovator of the Year by the Women’s Barristers Association in 2020 for her work in pioneering online mediation. She was also named “Australasia’s Most Influential Lawyer — Changemaker” in 2021 for her work in pioneering online dispute resolution.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was an M&A attorney for quite some time. I had a wonderful tenure at Slaughter and May in the UK before returning to my native Australia. It was at this point in my legal career that I realized that partnership with an Australian firm was not for me, so I decided to become a barrister. Barristers with a background in corporate and finance practice law are rare in Australia, and even more if they are female. I was admitted to the bar (how we term becoming a barrister) and began my career arguing before judges. During that time, I trained as an arbitrator as well.
The change into legal technology was definitely not something I planned. I vividly recall lying in bed thinking that my clients were spending $300,000 fighting for a claim that was worth maybe $200,000. I kept thinking there must be a better way. I came up with the idea of an online system that would mimic the hearing experience in every way — rooted in the rule of law and offering a workflow to help claimants settle disputes faster and with less acrimony. That’s how Immediation was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It was one of those moments that end up changing your life forever, and for me, this happened really just by chance. I had conceptualized the idea of Immediation, but as all ideas are, initially it was just a pipedream. I met with my superannuation fund manager about whether or not I could finance the idea of Immediation to get a prototype platform developed, and he loved the idea so much that he offered to invest! I did the math and realized that with a small initial investment from a few friends and family, I could actually turn the dream into a reality. The first version of the Immediation platform was born.
Later it was funded and built out as a much bigger offering. Covid-19 was a game changer for the legal industry, forcing proceedings to move online almost literally overnight — and we were the best offering (being purpose-built for legal). We have supported this online transition for legal matters and began delivering a solution for hybrid proceedings. The business took off so quickly that my side hustle became my full-time role.
Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
As far as we can tell, Immediation is the only online dispute resolution platform that was built on the rule of law — meaning we are law first and tech second. All others are tech first and attempt retro-fitting into law. The reason that fails is that law is a very particular sector with specific rules, procedure and respect for precedent. Thus far, we helped the Australian court system during the pandemic — federal, state and family court cases were heard on our platform. Now we’ve moved into complex cross-border arbitration with two arbitration centers in two of four major geographic powerhouses for global arbitration. Ultimately, we are offering speed to resolution — helping courts with their backlog and end-users get on with their case, in order to protect and enhance the rule of law and reduce the impact of disputes.
How do you think this might change the world?
I told my children that other than them, perhaps my legacy will be to stop people from flying all over the world to settle disputes — aiming for something more than sustainability: Regenerative Resolution. And offering greater access to justice — to a system meant to protect people but many of those very people have no way to enter or access the system. They will have access with Immediation.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Funny you mention that, Black Mirror is fundamentally about the law of unintended consequences. We are the solution for that. Right now, courts, arbitration centers and mediators are using traditional video conferencing tools to conduct legal business. Basically they are using technology you use to talk to your grandmother to conduct court hearings. I’ve written a think piece about how this is already leading to new jurisprudence around online dispute resolution. The rule of law is centered around privilege and security — traditional video conferencing platforms do not provide this — and in fact, courts are already overturning decisions rendered using standard video platforms so in my view, we are not far from that same reasoning being applied to arbitration and mediation. Our platform solves for all that.
In that way, we are the solution to the Black Mirror dilemma!
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
That moment of lying in my bed fretting about how much money my clients were spending and the fact that I couldn’t resolve their issues (settle their disputes) was the moment it crystallized for me. Beyond that, it has been people — the ones who’ve invested in Immediation and the team we’ve hired. Hand on heart I can say this is the best group of professionals in this industry and I am honored to lead them. Immediation would not be the breakthrough product it is were it not for them.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Awareness. Understanding that if you are using a standard video conferencing platform for a legal use — you are using the wrong tool!
Immediation is leading digital transformation for dispute resolution. Developed more than five years ago, it is considered as the gold-standard platform for arbitration, mediation, court hearings and corporate resolution — offering unmatched security, accessibility and sustainability. Immediation is ideal for online hearings, arbitrations, mediations, negotiations, witness conferences and more and is used by Federal Courts, Government and law firms. Everyday more sign on as awareness about us grows.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
As a start-up we have to stand out. Luckily, we hired a cracker-jack marketer from outside legal who understands how to make us stand out, get noticed in the most creatively strategic ways. Between the conferences we attend, the thought leadership events we hold and the collateral we produce, we clearly look different than other players in the field. And we are different — so all our marketing is truly authentic to who we are and what we do. As an example, at a court technology trade fair, where the theme was the “future of justice” our booth was designed as the Starship Enterprise — literally taking courts into the future. The legal field can be fussy so it’s nice to offer a bit of breathing room and show a better way and smile while doing it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As they say, it takes a village. So many people have shared in this dream of making dispute resolution more accessible to all, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my incredible team, the backing and encouragement from investors and shareholders, and the trust in our great product from our clients. I am however incredibly grateful to my partner Troy, who ensures our household continues to run smoothly while I work long hours and is an amazing dad to our kids, and also to my parents.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am in the practice of law as an officer of the court and now bringing technological change to my ancient and noble profession, from the inside out. To me goodness looks like equity and fairness — it looks like leading by example. I’m a barrister, a tech entrepreneur and a woman. Some say this makes me a unicorn. I’m not sure about that. Mostly, I’m the same friend, daughter, parent, sister, aunt, cousin, colleague, lawyer and professional I always was, but I try to let my light shine out into the world (Sint Lucernae Ardentes) and encourage my team to do the same. I lead from the trenches, next to them as a partner and friend, and to bring out the best in them. I don’t really know how to be anything other than authentic — my mother always said, “to thine own self be true” and I live by that mantra. I also try to be the change that I wish to see in the world, for women in leadership, for all professional women who also are mothers, and for change in the legal profession.
What are your 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- I wish someone had told me just how hard it was going to be to build a tech company, hire a seasoned team and get the product off the ground. Funding is just the first part. When you get the funding, you are suddenly responsible for everyone’s part in your dream. It’s daunting. But if I had known, I likely wouldn’t have done it — but I am so glad I did. It is paradoxical.
- The difficulty in shifting the belief that justice, or dispute resolution, had to be administered in a traditional courtroom environment. While the pandemic helped initiate this shift in perception somewhat, there is still a way to go.
- There will always be bumps in the road no matter what you do, so you need to be resilient and keep getting up each time you fall off. I inherently knew that anyway. Most of my life in the CEO role I feel like I am driving along the road, getting constantly side-swiped — by technology issues, team dynamics, people, customer success, all coming out of nowhere. ALL the time. And yet, despite the bumps, I persevere and thrive.
- Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and stay focused. Distractions pop up. That said, it is important to be able to adapt and in doing so, always remember the core vision.
- Sales is hard and is also the most important role in the organization, other than engineering. Most people who say they know how to do it, don’t.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Increasingly, I am focused on the sustainability impact; helping to reduce the carbon burden associated with international dispute resolution. Immediation provides the legal industry with all the tools that are required for international dispute resolution to occur effectively online, hence reducing the need to pay the hefty financial and environmental costs of international travel for dispute resolution. If we can consolidate the use of sophisticated online dispute resolution platforms that do the job properly, we can capitalize on the rapid advances made during the pandemic to capture the long-term benefit for the legal industry, clients and the environment. My ultimate goal is to reduce the number and impact of disputes and also to ensure that we redress imbalances in equity, for women, for the community and for access to justice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My late father always said, “if something is worth doing it is worth doing properly.” I embody that. I can’t do anything less than 100% and put massive action and effort behind it. I have a hard time with anything less than perfect, which has pluses and minuses. But in many ways, I credit that for getting me where I am today, I have had to teach myself to accept that things, people and situations are not always perfect and that is ok. But ultimately, my father was right. Show up, be a good person, do your best work, live your best life. I can’t do anything else. And frankly, the more I lean into that, the more it has worked.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Immediation is on a rocket ship taking the entire vertically and horizontally integrated market for dispute resolution, justice and legal. This team and this product are untouchable. Jump on board if you can catch up!
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Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!