Akber Datoo – where tech meets law meets finance

 
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Founder and Managing Director at D2 Legal Technology (D2LT)

Digital transformation is a top priority for today’s business leaders. Digitisation, innovation and disruption are not words readily paired with the antiquated, Dickensian perception that many have of the legal profession. Despite this, these have become the latest buzzwords in law.

D2LT has been instrumental in this wave of change, working in the investment banking industry to digitise the law for business optimisation, regulatory compliance and operational management. As part of this journey, D2LT was awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd across different categories in the 2017 FT Innovative Lawyers Awards, and shortlisted as outstanding at the 2018 FT Business Intelligence Summit.

Khoja News asked Founder, Akber Datoo, about five key steps to success:

  1. Challenge the status quo

Successful innovation requires an innate curiosity; asking questions, challenging assumptions and exploring new ways of thinking. One must refuse to accept the premise that, “This is right because this is the way it has always been done”.

Datoo started his professional career with investment bank, UBS, after reading Computer Science at Cambridge University. As a quant, valuing complex financial derivatives, he couldn’t understand the gap in legal data to inform business decisions, despite the fact that financial instruments are simply contractual obligations. “This was 2003 – the world was embracing data to unlock business value, but the legal profession insisted on using a quill and parchment paper.”

  1. Think differently – value alternative approaches and unique perspectives

Thinking differently is hard emotionally.  Neuroscience tells us that our emotions are intertwined with our cognitive processing. Combining thoughts across industries and verticals means we can apply truly game-changing approaches to solving client problems.

Datoo had read Professor Susskind’s book “The End of Lawyers”, forecasting their demise with the rise of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The legal profession clearly understood the management of legal risk, but needed to apply this to a mindset that generated more business value. This inspired Datoo to retrain as lawyer, combining the skillsets of a legal mind with that of a technologist, all within finance.

  1. Don’t be afraid of failures – learn from them

Too often we focus on strategies to succeed (such as this interview!). Yet we learn so much more from studying our mistakes. Innovation relies on learning, agile working and constant improvement.

D2LT learnt from early attempts to digitise legal agreements into consumable data, including an early project where it was described that a proverbial Ferrari had been built, but in a garage with no door. D2LT quickly learnt to make an opening to drive the car out!

  1. Be positive – every challenge is an opportunity

Throughout the journey of life, we are afforded opportunities to grow and expand the scope of what is possible.  We learn of these possibilities through challenges, which allow us to grow and flourish.

Reforming the legal profession can be difficult, with constraints that quite often stifle successful change. Datoo was appointed to the Law Society of England and Wales’ Technology and Law Committee to help modernise the legal framework and profession, so businesses can embrace AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain and Smart Contracts to unlock value.

  1. Have a plan – and be persistent!

Planning is key: setting clearly defined goals and the means to assess whether you are attaining those goals, evolving them during the execution of your plan.

Datoo initially planned to work as a solo consultant; however, over the last eight years, D2LT has successfully delivered for some of the biggest financial institutions such as Barclays (winning the Financial Times award) and ISDA, a trade association representing some 900 members (for which D2LT are designing and implementing a foundational industry legal agreement standard). The firm has grown rapidly and has offices across Europe, the US and Hong Kong.

Datoo’s advice for young Khojas

So what advice does Datoo have for the new generation of budding Khoja entrepreneurs?

  1. Think long-term – that means hard work and patience
  2. Be positive and embrace challenges
  3. Love what you do – passion and balance enable you to succeed
  4. Protect your values and what you stand for
  5. Be resilient. When you have a setback, keep going!

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