This year’s speakers at the Lawyer’s Weekly Future Forum demonstrated that innovation spans the entire entity of an organisation—from technology through to business models and operations—to enable lawyers to provide a more intuitive experience for their clients.
Throughout the event keynote speakers and panellists brought their take on the law industry and delivered both practical and leadership discussions to the audience.
“Lawyers are not immune to tech. disruption.”
Panel: Is there a future for law firms?
The opening panel: is there a future for law firms, discussed how the legal ecosystem is changing and technology will augment not replace lawyers. Allen’s Chief Legal & Technology Services Officer Beth Patterson explained that today’s computing power allows for evolving business models. The lower cost of cloud computing, the high performance of the desktop, and the flexibility of working outside of the traditional office environment is a strong combination for successful alternative business models. The result is more players in the market.
Tim Frost, Partner at PwC, explained that agility in legal services is more than just the application of technology. Lawyers need to be creative, and adopt a team methodology to access a talent pool. Different strengths and styles of working will create teams that offer creative solutions. A future where all lawyers work for the Big 4 is not likely as the industry is in a phase of exploring varying frameworks for legal services, including the gig economy.
Teddington Legal Director Mark Gardiner agreed that technology and innovation creates freedom in the work place. He spoke of networking and of relationships which are forming between freelance specialists who rely on consultants to provide advice where they cannot; for example, tax specialists who require advice from immigration specialists to provide the full service to the central client. This collaborative system keeps the client relationship with the primary specialist.
Retaining talent and providing an environment which fosters opportunity and support for your legal teams should be a key business strategy, according to Fiona Crawford, General Manager-Human Resources at InfoTrack. Crawford works with employees to develop their strengths and ensures that the company provides the services which staff see as essential.
Organisations are investigating different approaches to offer legal solutions; we see this in new law, contract-based law, peer-to-peer services exchange, and remote working models. There may be less partners, and more same-level teams which operate in many agile ways, and not all team members will have law degrees. Disaggregation was highlighted as an area where there is still a lot of exploration. This global trend is bringing about discussions on billing models and cost analysis.
The gig economy is the prime framework for the business model at UrbanYou. Co-founder Noga Edelstein delivers pre-screened and registered household services to clients. Edelstein is a former senior lawyer who realised that technology could assist to solve problems for busy executives.
With new service models in law, and the direction of creativity and demand-based services, it was noted by Dr Bob Murray that a human experience was the baseline for growing relationships and engaging new business. Dr Murray presented fact-based evidence to support the importance of providing clients with services through a mutual, trusted relationship. He expressed that lawyers need to ask more questions and listen to clients so they in turn can make better legal decisions and provide a better service. The lawyer will become the trusted advisor.
“Technology will enable you to make more informed decisions, not replace lawyers.”
Whit Lee, Lexis Nexis Asia Pacific
Innovation works alongside law firms to deliver comprehensive legal solutions to clients. Artificial intelligence will not replace lawyers, but will greatly enhance development of a more holistic client experience. In Sydney, Whit Lee, Executive Director of Strategy & Customer Research, LexisNexis Asia Pacific, put into perspective the eruption of AI in the legal scene. Lee reminded us that AI is only as good as the data you put in it, and that blind faith in algorithms is a dangerous place to be. Two areas that will change; AI will enable lawyers to spend more time with clients for their real needs, and less time on the legal strategy- resulting in a better and deeper understanding about clients’ requirements. Lee talked that the trend is that intelligent systems will enable firms to become more efficient, which allows for you to do more value-added tasks.
“Client service is as much of a differentiator in today’s legal landscape as is your actual practice of the law.” Click to tweet
Brendan Smart, LEAP Legal Software
Today’s lawyer is adapting to the modern consumer who is comfortable with self-service access to professional services, 24/7 access to information, and who interacts across many digital environments. LEAP’s Chief Executive Officer Brendan Smart spoke on the need to engage with clients and provide legal services which accommodate their lifestyle and needs. Smart showed us how to be creative and responsive to clients, through the adoption of technological innovation, which can only provide a better service. Law firms must become better communicators and give control to clients, so they can access information as they wish.
The Lawyers Weekly Future Forum 2017 was held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne from 17-19 October.0