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  • Writer's pictureEbru Metin

Applying Systems Thinking to Legal Tech Ecosystem Mapping: An Unstructured Experiment on the Turkish


(Toa Heftiba, Unsplash)


Mapping legal tech companies is one of the most common ways to understand a legal tech ecosystem in a country, region or in a specific area of law. This is very helpful to know the solutions provided by the legal tech companies. However I wonder if this is helpful to see the problems in the limitations of the map? Also, if there could be a different approach in mapping legal tech startups which could empower everyone benefiting from that ecosystem. Such as legal professionals who would like to use new legal tech tools, students for different career opportunities, startups who would like to do a deeper market research etc. I come to terms visualization or different kind of organizing the information is not enough and in order to find another approach, first I need to change my mindset.

Of course just changing the mindset is not enough. As a lesson learned from Legal Design Turkey [1] -the first community focusing in legal design that I have founded back in November 2020- collaboration and collective is a must to create change and positive impact in the society.

In this continuing series, I will explain about my upcoming experiment with Legal Tech Turkey [2] community where we will apply systems thinking methodology to the Turkish legal tech ecosystem collectively as our first project. I will be writing about our experiment continuously in the upcoming weeks. What are the Inspirations Behind this Experiment?

In August 2020, I became an ambassador of European Legal Technology Association. Later I became the Secretary General of Innovation in Law Studies Alliance and being a member of Global Legal Tech Consortium followed it the next. All these valuable networks taught me that knowing your local ecosystem is a must for both participating comparison studies and also contributing to your own ecosystem. Then, I started gathering data about the current legal tech startups. However this data was only showing me what kind of solutions we have on the market but not the accelerators, funding organisations, legal tech labs, regulations etc. So it led me to thinking, how it would be possible to map the whole ecosystem?

Second inspiration comes from a systems design course -thanks to the Atolye Academy’s [3] Co-Learning Community Series- back in winter 2020. System design can be referred as a combination of systemic thinking and human-centered design that is commonly used by designers adapted this methodology in their work [4]. I really like this approach since it was empowering designers with deep insights how the “whole system” works and help them create sustainable solutions. However I just wanted to see what is going on but not to create a specific solution to a problem.

My final inspiration came two weeks ago. I have attended Ashoka Turkey’s Social Entrepreneurship Day [5] event. During this two-day event, I had to opportunity to learn more about systems thinking from Daniela Papi-Thornton [6] who is an expert on system-led leadership. One thing striked me the most was that if we need to learn about a system, we need to ask as many questions as we need to understand. This meant not just asking about how many startups are on the market but what kind of legal system we have, how many lawyers we have, if the regulations are pro or con for legal tech companies. In short, my simple takeaway from the workshop during the Ashoka Turkey’s event was that in order to create or see how we can use the current solutions, we need to understand the problems and the systems in a way which will then enable us to see the “impact gaps” or “leverages” (as Donella Meadows [7] said) that would give the “thinker” the possibility to create “change”. OK But, What is a System? What Do I Mean by Systems Thinking? What is the Difference between Analytical Thinking and Systems Thinking? According to Donella Meadows, “A system is a set of things- people, cells, molecules, or whatever- interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time” which “must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections and a function or a purpose”.

When we think current legal tech startup maps, then we usually see legal techs gathered and organized in a meaningful way. However, as I mentioned before it gives us little information about the ecosystem surrounding the legal tech companies. Lawyers are known to be great analytical thinkers and problem solvers. Complex legal problems require great attention to detail, deep knowledge of the specific field of area and a sound awareness of the environment surrounding the problem. Thus analytical thinking is important but as Albert Einstein said to solve problems we also need to change the mindsets that create the problems [8].

Modern problems are getting more complex and complicated which requires multi-disciplinary teams, solutions backed up with technological tools and more importantly a change in the mindset. We are seeing a change in the lawyers’ mindsets with the emergence of visualization, legal design, design thinking and design sprints. Different methods enable participatory solution finding and co-creation in the legal sector. In addition to this, it is increasingly becoming essential to also know the “systems” surrounding the topic/problem in order to have a sustainable solution. More importantly a solution which will have minimum negative impact effect on the whole system and will not create new “wicked problems”. Systems thinking can be described as “an approach to understand, (…) systemize, the flow of value from various aspects of the organization across the value chain to ensure synchronicity, consistency, integration, and maximization between people, activities, processes, policies, places and resources. Systems thinking is easily understood and expressed through big-picture and detailed visualization” [9]. Basically systems thinking enable us to see the policies, regulations, pricings, actors and gain a wider understanding of the problems. What’s Next? What Do I Mean By an “Unstructured Experiment”? Legal Tech Turkey has recently launched and we are still meeting and adjusting ourselves to become a community. Our first challenge will be to learn how to act collectively. Most of our community members are lawyers, thus we will then first co-learn about the systems thinking by doing. Later we will start applying different tools (such as The Iceberg, Cluster Mapping etc.) to start learning more about Turkish legal tech ecosystem. We have an “unstructured environment” to create a safe space for everyone to feel brave enough to experiment and also have fun collaborating along the way. Quoting once again my favorite scientist, Einstein said “Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun!” which also underlies three key ingredients of our experiment: Creativity, (Collective) Intelligence and Fun.


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