The Corporate Law Journal interviewed LEVRA Co-founder Emily Gill who provided an insight into her transition from being a Finance Lawyer to founding an EdTech start-up. Originating from the Latin word ‘to uplift’, LEVRA aims to boost interpersonal skills across the legal industry through the use of innovative technology, including VR.
Q: Can you give a brief overview of what LEVRA is about?
At LEVRA, we believe small incremental changes are the most effective way to shift behaviour over time. We teach interpersonal communication skills to young professionals and our coaching is delivered through Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. During each 15-minute VR coaching sessions, one new skill is introduced and targeted for the full duration.
The sequence of these sessions is as follows:
The session starts with an overview of the skill. Following the introduction, the individual is immersed in a roleplay scenario that replicates a real-life situation. For example, the learner may be asked to provide an update on a project or respond to critical feedback. The learner responds to the question (delivered by human like avatars) over a period of time. After responding to the prompt, feedback on the performance is delivered in real-time. The learner is scored on metrics such as how appropriately they reacted and time taken. In the final takeaway part of the session, the learner is also provided with suggestions for improvement: such as the use of body language, vocal tone and pace, building rapport.
Another lesson may instead consist of a series of multiple-choice questions again delivered by a human avatar, where the individual has to choose the most appropriate response to continue the conversation. For this style of session, they may be asked to resolve a dispute. The feedback will assess the suitability of their answer – whether their choices were the most direct at solving the problem, or if the issue could have been settled more efficiently.
Over time, we hope to develop more complex algorithms and incorporate smart AI tools which can track mannerisms such as hand gestures, eye gaze and changes in tone of voice.
Q: What impact would you like LEVRA to have in the professional world?
Most graduates in the legal world boast impeccable academic credentials and possess all of the technical and hard skills required from a junior lawyer. However, as a lawyer for over 7 years and as a certified coach, I noticed often junior lawyers lacked social skills that are vital to the profession. There is sometimes a stigma associated with asking questions, borne out of fear of being wrong. This can discourage an individual from sharing their opinion, opting instead to remain silent.
As lawyers, we are asked to distil complex matters in such a way that clients can comprehend. The ability to communicate effectively in front of others is of utmost importance to deliver client satisfaction. We hope not only to develop interpersonal skills, but to boost confidence and promote leadership skills at an early age. This process takes a lot of time – after all, confidence isn’t built overnight. Our aim is to encourage all professionals to adopt a growth mindset: believe that you can become a confident speaker. By adopting this approach, leadership skills can become secondary. When these young professionals reach more senior positions, these qualities are embedded within them.
Alongside boosting confidence, we are striving to promote collaboration in the workplace. Communication is critical to achieving this. On average, about £231 billion is lost every year in UK businesses due to poor communication. We want to cultivate workplaces that embrace effective communication as an intrinsic skill to prevent wasted time, client errors and retention issues.
Finally, we at LEVRA are committed to providing all young adults, new to the working world, equal access and opportunity to improve their interpersonal communication skills with a focus on improving social mobility. Training these imperative skills also creates a more diverse and inclusive workforce, ensuring anyone can reach their full potential.
Instead of solely emphasising the intellectual skills, we are highlighting the value of human skills in the professional world.
Q: Talking generally, how do you feel about the relationship between technology and the law?
When comparing my seven years of work in a law firm to other sectors and industries, it is clear to me that the legal industry remains one of the most antiquated in terms of technological development. Our clients are becoming increasingly technologically advanced, but the legal world appears to be behind on these trends of adopting innovative technologies. It is, of course, a complex interaction – there are concerns of privacy and confidentiality in sensitive cases for example. However, it will ultimately serve as a detriment if the legal sector does not adopt technology to improve efficiency and productivity in the industry.
Generally speaking, I don’t think enough is being done. The legal industry is often dubious of drastic change – we tend to stick with what we know. Resisting technological innovation is usually an effective way of circumventing risk, but the legal industry can’t drag its heels forever. To stay on track with global competitors, the English legal system needs to do more to embrace the legal tech that is on offer.
Q: Finally, how has your experience in the legal sector helped with LEVRA?
All of my legal skills have been fundamental to getting to where I am today. A solid professional grounding stands you in good stead to understand complex matters, and simple day-to-day tasks such as drafting our own legal documents streamlines a lot. Ultimately, with an understanding of the law (and with a co-founder who is an accountant) we are able to act swiftly and effectively. We are excited to bring the future of communications training to the legal sector.