Spotlight: Tompkins Wake’s force majeure bot

Each month, we spotlight one of our favourite Josef bots.

This month, we’re sharing Tompkins Wake’s force majeure bot, which was built in response to COVID-19.

Tompkins Wake is one of New Zealand’s most innovative law firms. They’ve recently launched a bot to help businesses impacted by the coronavirus, and used Josef to help them in that mission.

In this interview, Philip Monahan, Partner, and Catherine Bryant, Professional Support Advisor, tell us about the bot, share predictions about how COVID-19 will impact the way lawyers work, and give tips for firms wanting to try new things.

Edit: In the week since this interview, Tompkins Wake launched yet another bot in response to the pandemic, which helps New Zealand businesses understand what government benefits they are eligible for, and what their health and safety obligations are.

Philip Monahan, Partner, Tompkins Wake

Philip Monahan, Partner, Tompkins Wake

Can you tell us what your force majeure bot does?

PM: The idea is to analyse if and where clients can get relief from their contractual obligations, and to assess what options they have if they have an obligation to provide goods or services and are impacted by COVID-19.

Why did you decide to build it?

CB: There are a lot of businesses struggling to meet their contractual obligations at the moment and we wanted to come up with something to help them. There are a lot of articles out there, but it’s hard for businesses to know what to read or to find the time to read them all. This is a quick and easy way for them to get the information.

What are the impacts of the bot?

PM: I think the impact really is for clients. It’s to assess options for them and to provide relief in a time when they can’t deliver.

CB: It makes it easier for clients to get the information they need in a really difficult time.

PM: From the firm’s perspective, we put it out there as a method to help people in particularly hard times. If we can give back and provide some advice (in a kind of indirective way), then we’re delivering on our intent.

"We need to think about how we can interact with clients in different ways." - Phil Monahan

The force majeure bot was the first bot you’ve launched using Josef. You built it very quickly! What advice would you give to people starting to build on Josef?

CB: Get in there and do it. The more time you spend building, the easier it gets.

The bot was built in response to COVID-19. Do you think the coronavirus will change the way firms work?

CB: I think it’s going to accelerate a current trend of law firms trying to work smarter for their clients. Firms are being more responsive, anticipating what needs to be done, and working closely with their clients’ businesses. 

PM: Face to face meetings and mass networking are probably at an end for now. In that sense, it will change how we deal with clients, so we need to think about how we can interact with clients in different ways. The chatbot functionality of Josef allows us to interact with clients in a remote way (without passing on any viruses!). 

Tompkins Wake is a technologically sophisticated firm. If you could give one piece of advice to a firm starting to consider automation, technology and innovation, what would it be?

PM: You’ve got to get in on the ground floor. It’s coming, it’s here now, and you either use it and adapt or you risk falling behind. A challenge for all lawyers is to stay relevant and legal tech helps us to stay relevant.

CB: Do your research. You can’t just buy any legal tech and think that it will assimilate into your business. Think about what your goals are and try and find the best product that will help you to achieve your goals. 

We’ve worked with Tompkins Wake for a while now. What is Josef to you?

CB: A better way to do it. It’s easier than what we were using before, it’s more flexible and it’s more responsive to what we need and want to do. 

PM: One quote that hit me from one of Josef’s presentations was when we were asked, “What could be better?” That really resonated with us. It’s not necessarily saying “How could Tompkins Wake be better?”, it’s just asking what could be better. From our point of view, legal services can be delivered better, and we’re using Josef to deliver on that.


If you’re interested in using Josef to respond to – and drive – change, request a demo.

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