Managing technology innovation and partner expectations

Stay ahead with the intelligent use of technology

What are innovative firms doing to stay ahead in an increasing complex legal market? That's what a panel of legal professionals from Europe and the UK explored in a 2020 webinar series on culture, client, and technology.

The panel discussed how firms and in-house legal departments can use innovative new technologies to optimize processes, improve efficiencies, increase productivity, and stay competitive. But they also warn that even with this growing enthusiasm for technology, the purpose and motivation for investing in new tools should be clear. In other words, it is important to clearly understand what you are trying to achieve and why.

Two paths to legal innovation

  • Actively fund innovation and technology to transform legal service delivery
  • Use market drivers to accelerate change and break down barriers to innovation

For over a decade, innovative firms were the ones using technology to transform their legal service delivery. In addition to enhanced file sharing capabilities, they began investing in tools like data visualization and workflow automation to help them become more efficient, productive, and standardized in how they managed transactions and litigation.

So, when COVID-19 hit, they had an advantage. They knew how to use smart technologies to transition to remote working as well as deliver more efficient and effective services to clients in a new landscape.

For those a step or two behind, COVID-19 accelerated the imperative for change and essentially broke down the barriers to innovation. Now, there is a greater appetite and willingness to try new tools. The fear of the unknown has greatly diminished.

“I think being forced out of your comfort zone and being forced to work remotely, independently using new tools has actually changed a lot of mindsets and habits across the network," said Saran Kaur, legal technology engagement senior manager at Allen & Overy LLP. “I think it's actually allowed people to be more comfortable and confident with the use of technology."

The importance of design thinking

Contrary to a popular saying, what's good for the goose is not always good for the gander. While sharing best practices and lessons learned is a valuable tool, we can't assume that what works at one firm or department will automatically work with another. The reason is one we explored in a previous webinar: culture.

Rather than trying to find a problem for a specific technology solution, we should instead apply design-thinking principles. This approach requires starting with the problem, asking what needs to be done, who wants the tool and how can we improve on what's being done today.

Read more on the principles of design thinking in the article Adaptive Innovation: Harvard Law School.

Employing design thinking has another benefit. By taking legal teams through the entire transformation journey, they feel ownership for the ideas that emerge. “They will actually become the biggest advocate of using that technology at the end," said Kenny Robertson, head of outsourcing, technology and IP, legal, governance and regulatory affairs at the Royal Bank of Scotland. And this will accelerate the level of change and adoption needed to realize value.

How to get more with less

When faced with a new tool request or a new problem to solve, the first step for both in-house and private practice firms is to look at how to make use of the technology they already have. “Don't let perfect be the enemy of good," noted Stuart Barr, chief product and strategy officer for HighQ at Thomson Reuters. Not only is it a matter of addressing cost implications; using the technology in your existing tool set can also give you immediate benefits.

“The pandemic has definitely opened people's eyes to think about how we are going to prepare ourselves or get ahead of potential disruptions," said April Brousseau, global lead at Clifford Chance. The important thing is to be more focused and to govern our technology strategies, rather than trying to use multiple, disconnected tools at the same time.

That's the beauty of pre-configured platform solutions like HighQ. They can accelerate processes and allow firms to “squeeze every ounce of value out of it," avoiding the problems that come with trying to manage too many technologies. “You've got to think of the end-to-end process and the end-to-end workflow to make sure the technology you choose connects together," added Barr. “It is crucial in any piece of technology selection that you make that it's integrated and interoperable with other bits of technology."

Whether you're an in-house legal team or a law firm, there's no doubt that technology can make life easier. But it has to be embedded in people's mindsets and maintained intelligently in order to continue being a catalyst for change. If lawyers can manage technology in a more thoughtful way, it can have truly positive outcomes.

Learn more about HighQ and how it can solve your firm's technology needs.

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