LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.
Tell us about yourself
I started out as a litigation lawyer in London specialising in criminal defence. After five years, I became dissatisfied with my working life and so, after gaining a post-graduate degree in business administration, I ventured into the field of business consulting. After emigrating to New Zealand in 1992, I worked with Auckland law firm Hesketh Henry for two years as their first ever Marketing Manager before deciding to work for myself. Since then, I have been mentoring lawyers and law firms internationally. I live in Ohakune.
What does legal innovation mean to you?
Innovation is more than improvement. It is about being inventive and creating valuable new ways of delivering legal services. Innovation is fostered by the culture of an organisation. The culture of law firms (and the legal sector) is generally conservative, hence, relative to other industries and professions, I would suggest that many law firms would be in the ‘late majority’ or even ‘laggards’, to use Everett Rogers’ definition.
What role does technology play in innovation?
Technology is a valuable tool that lawyers can use to make innovation happen. It has the potential to bring about much needed changes the legal system and also to improve the accessibility and affordability of legal services.
What pressures are organisations facing in the delivery of legal services?
At the time of writing, New Zealand is in the midst of a COVID-19 lockdown. As a result, legal organisations are facing some unprecedented pressures. In the short term, there is the need to simply keep operating and to safeguard cash flow. In the longer term, organisations will have to be more inventive, collaborative, tech-savvy and customer-centric if they are to have a future. Transition will be swift; there will be added pressure on organisations to adopt a fresh approach to leadership; people from all corners of the organisation will be encouraged to step up and lead, irrespective of their tenure or title.
What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?
Automation is redefining how many legal services are being delivered. Consequently, many traditional roles are being eliminated; conversely new role are being created thereby introducing new skill sets into legal organisations. Market dynamics, not the regulator, will determine the shape of the legal services industry and an array of technological platforms will work to help organisations deliver legal services much more effectively.
What opportunities has legal innovation brought to you?
I have been able to achieve better results working with organisations who already have an innovative mindset and culture, who are receptive to new ideas and who don’t like to stand still.
What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?
COVID-19 has exposed many legal organisations who may have been less than innovative in the past and who now find themselves particularly vulnerable. Leaders of those organisations now have no choice but to change the mindset of their culture. Innovation starts with uninhibited thinking that challenges the status quo. Look around, both outside and inside your organisation for trends, ideas and solutions. Be totally transparent about the reality of your situation and involve all your stakeholders in finding new ideas and solutions. Start by asking them these three questions:
1 ‘What do we need to do as an organisation to survive and thrive in future?’
2 ‘What do we need to keep, let go of, add to, or change?’
3 ‘How can we better serve our clients in future?’
Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?
Legal professionals play a significant role in society by helping people and businesses get ahead in life. We are now living in the age of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, – a digital revolution that is transforming the way we work and live. Lawyers are very much a part of this world so they had better adapt or face the consequences!