When you've been working in legal innovation for the number of years I have, you see a number of cycles in the market.
Right now we are seeing an increasing focus on news reports about technology companies getting funding, which product is the next shiny thing and how the battle for the legal technology seems focused on consulting firms and the vendors themselves.
What seems to be missing is the commentary about and from law firms. In fact, in a conversation recently I was asked if law firms are 'over' legal technology. So it felt like the right time to write a first blog post in a while to talk about the law firm side and what the actual battle for legal technology is.
I certainly feel that law firms are not 'over' legal technology. I can see that from what we are doing and the growth we are seeing in our own team but also in other firms. Innovation and legal technology is a topic that is getting hotter by the day and as a team supporting our firm and clients, we've never been busier. And this is equally focused on what we are doing internally – on large client projects or BAU work but also helping our clients with their approach to the adoption of technology.
I felt like it was time to speak up to talk about what that battle actually looks like on the coal face and to bring back the law firm perspective to the discussion. The battle for legal technology is not about press releases about acquiring new technology – or even really taking much notice about which technology company is buying another, or who is investing in what. The battle is in how we actually use technology and new ways of working to add value to the work we do and deliver to our clients and how we scale that.
It's about knitting together various platforms in intricate ways to deliver large scale projects so that they work seamlessly (almost hiding the complex discussions and planning that went into it) and delivering a project in a way that a client feels they are getting value for money whilst also making sure it makes sense financially for your own firm. A huge part of 'legal technology' is about obtaining, structuring and fixing data that enables a project to be run with technology tools – about finding out which version of terms, a loan or contract is based on before you can apply logic and process; it's about getting paper documents onto systems to enable an AI tool to do its work; it's about filling in missing data that needs to be there to automate the documents that you need.
It's about developing products that you can roll out to a number of clients so you aren't reinventing the wheel each time, but that can also be easily bespoked for a client's specific needs and ensure its managed in a simple, efficient way.
It's about helping people who've worked in a certain way for so long to change how they do things. It's about not underestimating how difficult it is to get someone who is used to printing out a document and amending in manuscript to draft and amend on screen.
It's about managing the stream of (some, not all) vendors who approach every partner in your firm about their product and dealing with the inevitable requests that come through when you are part way through a negotiation with another vendor. Or those on a corporate legal drive who are approaching our clients and selling them technology but not helping with implementation and planning about how that system will actually work for them.
It's about the getting the leadership of your firm to back the choices and investments that need to be made in this area to make it work.
And whilst this may sound like a negative post – it really, really isn't. It's about turning the narrative on legal technology around. Away from the systems, the funding, the acquisitions to the how we actually do this and what it means for our clients and our firms. And it's really to dismiss the notion that law firms are 'over' legal tech. We really, really aren't, we are very much in the battle too.
In the following weeks my Senior Managers will be also be blogging about the areas they are focusing on and their strategy for helping us win the battle of legal technology.