In recent weeks we have been posting summaries of some of the sessions from the Litera Changing Lawyer Summit, which gathered legal tech and operations experts from across the industry.
In reviewing many of those engaging discussions, one unmistakable thread emerges: in virtually every industry challenge for which legal technology provides a solution, there is a talent management component. The use of technology is driving changes in the way legal teams are deployed. It is driving changes in individual roles and creating new ones. And it is creating opportunities for new types of legal professionals.
A common lament in the industry today is that talent is hard to come by; firms and in-house departments are having a hard time finding and retaining the human resources they need. Part of that is a reaction against some traditional forms of legal work, which younger lawyers in particular can find tedious, outdated, and unrewarding. Technology certainly plays a role in driving some of that inefficiency and tedium out of lawyer workflows. But it is also true that the influx of technology has led to a shortage of people with multidisciplinary skills – the lawyer who can analyze data or effectively use technology to project manage a transaction, for example, or the person with a data or project management background who knows enough about legal processes to spot the opportunities for improvement without sacrificing the quality of the work.
The Changing Lawyer Summit was full of examples of how the legal technology challenges faced by the industry are accompanied by human resource challenges.
Examples from the Summit Sessions
- In Firm Intelligence: The Advantages of a Single Source of Truth, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP's Director of Knowledge Management Tanisha Little and Director of Data Analytics Andrew Baker described their critical roles in taming the firm's data, and putting it to work to support pricing, matter management, contract analysis, and many other uses that make legal work more efficient and accurate. Little explicitly acknowledged her team's role in the war for talent. "We see ourselves as creating a better platform for being a lawyer."
- In A Single Source of Truth for Strategic Planning and Execution, a panel of experts described how their organizations were using technology to support the processes of creating firm strategies and embedding them in individual objective and performance planning. Using technology to leverage data from financial, time-tracking, and matter management systems, these professionals are bringing performance plans to life. An essential part of firm performance, collaboration is a key factor in the success of strategy and performance planning. "Collaboration does not just happen," said panelist Amanda Bakken of Stinson LLP. The data and technology that legal teams are inserting into performance management is having a big impact on making legal work more rewarding and engaging.
- In A Single Source of Truth for Pricing and Legal Project Management, panelist Jessica Davis, Director of Matter Performance and Service Innovation at McCarter & English, LLP, spoke of the value of engaging lawyers in applying the firm's data to pricing and matter management. Data analytics and building a data-driven firm are not roles for a single person or team; Davis describes how she collaborates with lawyers in both the collection of data and its application to pricing and matter management. "It's truly important for everyone to see the benefits of what you are doing, and to understand that we all play a part."
- In A New Mindset: Empowering Lawyers Through Technology, a large and enthusiastic panel of CIOs, COOs, and other industry technology leaders reflected on how the pandemic has changed their organizations. While there was plenty of discussion of how new technologies enabled the transition to remote work in their organizations, the more interesting discussions had to do with behaviors, skills, and new roles. Ginevra Saylor, National Director, Innovation and Knowledge Programs, Gowling WLG, noted that her team no longer needs to "sell" technology or Knowledge Management practices to lawyers eager to improve their workflows. The biggest change, she noted, is that there is no "back office" anymore; there is less of a distinction between the lawyers and the other professional roles in a law firm. Everyone is on the front lines, solving client problems, and operations teams are increasingly client-facing, helping clients with all kinds of non-legal process and technology issues.
- In Solving Tech Adoption Challenges: Tech-Empowered Firms Enjoy Boosts in Efficiency, a trio of law firm practice innovation specialists looked at the problem of technology adoption, particularly the "people side" of that issue. The provided a game plan for engaging stakeholders in technology adoption. One of the key insights came from Rachel Broquard, Service Excellence Partner at Eversheds Sutherland, who noted that two of the key strategies for tech adoption don't focus on technology at all. One is that technology should be rolled out with the goal of eliminating routine work from a lawyer's day and allowing them to focus on higher-value work. The second was her reminder that the goal of technology adoption in law firms is not to benefit the firm or the lawyers, but to benefit clients. Both approaches make legal work more meaningful and rewarding, not just more efficient.
- In Technology in Courts, Dispute Resolution, and Beyond: From Automation to Innovation, Litera's Global Head of Corporate Development Haley Altman spoke with author Richard Susskind about the state of legal innovation in the courts during the pandemic, but the conversation also spilled over to the state of innovation in legal services more generally. Susskind pushed back on the idea that moving court processes online was a form of innovation. Moving court hearings onto Zoom only automated existing practices; those changes did not really change anything about the underlying legal process, which is still too lawyer-centric and complex. When asked where innovation will come from, Susskind made it clear that it must come from a broader range of stakeholders than just lawyers. He pointed to a Futures group that he chairs, which is looking at the future of courts in the UK. It's an example of a team with "cognitive diversity" – it includes not just lawyers, but also computer scientists, educators, and representatives from several other industries. Technology does not solve problems all by itself, and innovation will only come from multidisciplinary teams.
Technology can play an important role in meeting the current legal industry talent management and retention issues. The Changing Lawyer Summit documented the many ways that technology is driving new approaches to staffing and executing legal work. The organizations that can best integrate new roles and multidisciplinary skill sets will not only be able to successfully implement technology but will also successfully address the talent retention challenges that the industry faces today.
Posted in The Changing Lawyer