New Zealand Law Society - The Innovators: Nick Whitehouse, Co-founder and CEO, McCarthyFinch

The Innovators: Nick Whitehouse, Co-founder and CEO, McCarthyFinch

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Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Innovation isn’t about doing things differently because you can, it’s about the client. There are two approaches to innovation, the first approach involves iterative innovation to sustain the existing business model; the second approach involves radical innovations that ultimately disrupt the current business model. I’ve seen a lot of sustaining innovation in the legal profession, and outside of eDiscovery, I haven’t seen a lot of disruptive innovation, which is why we started McCarthyFinch.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Innovation starts with a willingness to put the client and their problems front and centre, to think competitively about problems and to take long-term action to solve them. While technology is more often than not the mechanism through which we execute innovation, it’s not all about tech. Exploring new business models, working agile, partnering and so many other non-tech actions are very innovative. Successful innovation is very much rooted in non-technology based thinking.

What pressures are organisations facing in the delivery of legal services?

Time, money, scale! If you look across the industry, every law firm is working harder, the largest in-house teams are being overwhelmed, courtrooms are at capacity and more and more legal consumers are looking elsewhere for advice. Where once the industry accepted each year as a new normal, we’re now seeing growing demand for change.

What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?

The big shift we are seeing internationally is in the legal ops space. Corporate clients are taking legal efficiency very seriously and are beginning to invest both their time and resources into achieving outcomes for their businesses. This focus will force the hand of reluctant firms and provide opportunities for legal tech players.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought to you?

Our entire business is built upon legal innovation and the demand for it.

What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

Take a long term view of your clients’ needs. Understand their business, and in particular the pressures being put on them to go faster as they respond to more and more change. Talk to them about what frustrates them and do the same internally. More often than not your own people are banging their heads against brick walls doing things in ways that also frustrate clients.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

Toddlers are on iPads, five-year-olds are learning to code, 42% of China’s commerce is done online, Google is the largest advertiser in history – the world is becoming overwhelmingly digital. Digital natives are creating companies at an unprecedented rate and it’s estimated that 75% of S&P 500 will cease to exist in the next nine years. Not understanding this digital wave, how it impacts our clients, and how we serve them, is equivalent to expecting to serve clients while talking in a different language. Luckily there’s an app for that.

Andrew King is organiser of LawFest, which will be held in Auckland on 18 March 2020.

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