This summary covers recent LegalTech and Innovation news.
LEGALTECH INNOVATION LEADERS
The Lawyer, organizer of the September 25 Business Leadership Summit in London, interviews with the following heads of innovation. We paraphrase their insights:
- On lawyers and new roles: Various new roles are springing up in law firms – from dedicated legal technologists to legal project managers, innovation teams, legal engineers and process improvement professionals. Having people in the firm who are specifically responsible for particular strategic projects, such as legal tech development or flexible legal resourcing, means that we can make sure things get done and changes happen quickly and efficiently to support our lawyers and clients.
- On the Use of Data: Law firms have reams of useful data that can help improve client service and assist with smarter internal decision making. These uses can be as simple as leveraging more granular data about what is required to achieve a matter, thereby allowing firms to price or carry out matters in a more nuanced, efficient or certain way, or joining up existing data sources to provide a more seamless experience for lawyers working on transactions. The use of data could go well beyond workflow efficiency, particularly in terms of leveraging AI expertise in new use cases – the potential is certainly there to assist in practice management and ultimately data will be able to assist with anticipation of legal issues clients may encounter, or even provide services they didn’t know they needed yet.
- On Law Firm Leadership: I anticipate that business services directors will be increasingly involved, bringing non-legal skillsets to the leadership team. It would be surprising if technology didn’t also impact law firm leadership decision making.
- On Law Firms and Innovation: To encourage innovation, law firms need to ensure they are positioned and able to adapt and respond to market change and evolving client need by making changes to legal service delivery, and through solid client relationships, and forward looking firm culture leadership, and strategy. It’s key that a firm’s culture and leadership are forward looking and open to new ways of doing things. Structures and process for delivering change and innovation are essential (including processes for communicating about the changes being made). If you want it to happen, make it someone’s job. To succeed and bring everyone along with you, it’s important to implement change in a way that’s sympathetic and complementary to the positive aspects of a firm’s practice and avoid change for change’s sake.
- Innovation Strategy: Although we have an ambitious legal tech strategy and we work hard to ensure we’re on top of all new developments, we’re not about jumping on any bandwagons. Instead we prioritise areas where we know that our clients (and our lawyers) want to see change and improvement, and we implement new solutions in areas of our practice where they’re likely to be embraced and have the highest chance of success. [The Lawyer, Aug 29]
- Legal knowledge alone was never enough: What is changing is that lawyers need to become expert users of technology. [The Lawyer, Aug 29]
- On Training Junior Lawyers: A lot of the tasks done by junior lawyers will be automated. It may be that we will go back to a sort of apprenticeship where trainees will watch senior lawyers operating and see how to deal with problems.
- On Career Paths: The long established structure of becoming associate and then partner is breaking down, peer advisory lawyers will just be one role. The old pattern did not suit some lawyers. I’m a professional support lawyer and I never wanted to pursue partnership, when you consider some of the sacrifices it entails. The important thing is to have an open mind and don’t have any fixed idea in terms of skillset. [The Lawyer, Aug 29]
- On AI & Mixing ‘Human & Machine’ Capabilities: At PLMJ, we have focused on implementing innovation through, for example, an advanced course on artificial intelligence and law. Our aim in adopting AI tools is to improve the basis of our work, which is the relationship with our clients. We believe that our clients are also seeking enhanced engagement with us. They want to move beyond traditional transactional models towards a more collaborative relationship model. However, clients also still expect law firms to deliver top human talent, while making the most of technological advances. Law firms need to take charge of creating the right mix of human and machine capabilities to re-cast future relationships that benefit both provider and client.
- On Technology, Knowledge, & New Business Models: The successful firms will increasingly adapt to a new business model that reflects technological demands more accurately. Work processes must be more standardised and will use technology to achieve this. Standard templates for carrying out most types of work will become the norm, even in higher value work. By making better use of innovative technologies, lawyers will become more efficient and this will contribute directly to the success of a law firm.
- Strategic Knowledge Management Innovation: Law firms have to keep up with technological developments and must have a strategic vision when it comes to knowledge. Adapting to changes in the market and to its needs is crucial to having a sustainable business model. Against this background, the demands that arise from practising law in the current climate have led us to create and introduce internal tools for knowledge management and CRM. [Lawyer Firm News, Aug 14]
- Freshfields is investing heavily in LegalTech: Our global centre in Manchester has fantastic capabilities in legal tech operations, dev ops, architecture, change management and security. Tech reaches its full potential only when complemented by the insights and inputs of its users. It’s less about individual pieces of technology but rather a rich and connected eco-system of services for clients and lawyers. Technology works best when combined with the human experience, so firms can really differentiate themselves by using the drive and skills of their people in implementing technology solutions.
- Technology Development: The best long-term strategy is a balanced combination of in-house development and external resources. I think firms need to take a dual-track approach: develop in areas where there is a clear market differentiation for clients but otherwise adopt standard off-the-shelf software. I also think that firms adopting a cloud first approach will realise greater benefits in the long-term.
- Build versus Buy: Buying off-the-shelf products comes with the need for law firms to differentiate themselves from the competition. The actual benefit here is not in the product you offer to your clients but in how well the product is integrated to the legal services provided. You need to distinguish yourself by reconsidering your very proposition and value offering. A problem is that people continue to offer the same legal services, but in our experience it does not improve value. Tech in itself doesn’t help to stand out. Your willingness to reconsider value and improve it, that’s the way to stand out.
- Clients driving Innovation: It’s now the clients who take the lead on the discussion on legal innovation, demanding more efficient, transparent and sensible services.
- On Artificial Intelligence: After underwhelming delivery for most of its history, AI’s latest developments show a more mundane application, but it is still in need of improvements. The attention is now on efficiency and data measurement. There will be more space for AI once there is a more standardised way of storing information and streamlining processes.
LEGALTECH VC, INCUBATORS & ACCELERATORS
- Singapore lawtech accelerator – FLIP – has attracted Linklaters, Dentons and Clyde & Co: The ‘future of law innovation programme’ (FLIP) is run by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL), a statutory body which promote the island’s legal sector.
INNOVATION-RELATED APPOINTMENTS AND RESTRUCTURING
- Clifford Chance has launched two new units to boost its digital products and help foster new ones. Clifford Chance Applied Solutions will house the firm’s expanding range of digital product such as CCDr@ft and a MiFID II compliance tool. These solutions will be run as separate ventures using a range of flexible business models that will enable more effective roll-out. Clifford Chance Create will bring together initiatives that underpin its innovation ecosystem, and include a new cloud-based platform, Clifford Chance Labs, to foster internal idea generation and interdisciplinary solution development. Clifford Chance has also announced IGNITE, the first training that providea a route for a tech to qualify as lawyers.
NEW LEGALTECH PRODUCTS
- OpenText, a provider of enterprise information management (EIM) software, has announced OpenText Legal Center, a cloud-based EIM application designed to integrate with OpenText eDOCS to manage client onboarding and document sharing.
BOOKS WE ARE READING ABOUT INNOVATION
- Game Thinking by Amy Jo Kim, is an excellent resource for innovation leaders aware of the importance of design in achieving product-market fit and adoption of their software solutions. Kim applies her product strategy and management experience in the computer game business to the world of software development and emphasizes the need to think of the user’s experience over time as they become more skilled with the system.
Feel free to suggest topics that you and other heads of innovation at law firms and legal departments would find interesting. We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org