New Zealand Law Society - The Innovators: Tila Hoffman, Special Counsel and Business Transformation Manager at MinterEllisonRuddWatts

The Innovators: Tila Hoffman, Special Counsel and Business Transformation Manager at MinterEllisonRuddWatts

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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?

To me, legal innovation is changing legal practice so lawyers can deliver even better value to their clients. It is that simple. If it does not add value to your clients, then it is not innovative – or necessary.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology plays an important role but it should not be confused with legal innovation. Some innovation involves technology but you can be innovative and add value to your clients without using or developing new technology.

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

Law firms and in-house teams are faced with the same issues as other businesses and professions. There is pressure to do more with less, to add value and to continually improve – it is no longer enough to do what you have always done.

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

There are many opportunities to improve on business models that don’t serve either lawyers or clients. Typical client demands mean lawyers sometimes work long hours, often late into the evening and on weekends, to meet deadlines and ultimately to prove their worth. If we add innovation and some legal tech to the equation, lawyers may be able to meet the deadlines without working longer hours. There will always be one-offs, but with a few changes they won’t be the norm.

I would love to see lawyers working collaboratively with their clients to carefully identify issues, analyse options and offer solutions to fit a particular client’s needs.

What I enjoy about my role is getting to work on ways to free lawyers up so they can focus on their clients, using tools that cater to specific client needs, and ensuring a consistent delivery model.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought to you?

I’m naturally curious and solutions focused. I like to visualise what can be and then actually turn the vision into reality. My current role allows me to draw on my experiences as a lawyer (in private practice and in-house roles here and overseas), to think about how a little (or big) change can positively impact our firm’s legal team and clients. I get to identify pain points, consider and trial options, implement solutions and support our people and our clients to ensure solutions are embedded and actually have a positive impact.

Legal innovation has created that opportunity for me and I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of a firm that deeply values innovation.

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

Start somewhere – take a step and give something new a shot. A good place to start is thinking about a task you do more than once a day and think of ways to streamline that task. If something frustrates you, think of how to remove the frustration (for you and others). Get your content right and then add the legal technology tool on top.

Always keep the needs of the people you are innovating for top of mind – stand in their shoes and see your project or initiative from their perspective(s).

Be prepared for resistance but don’t become inactive because of it.

Don’t be so concerned about perfection that you never introduce your initiative – this is a common risk with law firms. If you keep trialling, your solution may be obsolete before it’s implemented.

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

In my opinion, our value as lawyers is our ability to communicate, develop trusting relationships and be in “partnership” with our clients. To be a trusted advisor and partner, you need to focus attention on your client’s business. If you streamline processes and embed some legal tech into your organisation, you will have the time to truly focus on your client. If you don’t, another lawyer will.

Tila Hoffman will be speaking at LawFest, at the Cordis Auckland on 18 March 2020.

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