This podcast examines one of the key themes from this year’s The Changing Lawyer report, the transformation of client service delivery in law firms due to the application of technology. Litera’s Legal Content and Research Lead, David Curle, interviews Rachel Broquard about the changes in client service delivery from the perspective of her role as Service Excellence Partner at Eversheds Sutherland. Read transcript
Meet our Host and Guest
Legal Content and Research Lead, Litera
David Curle provides research, analysis, and thought leadership about the competitive and market environment in the changing legal services industry.
Service Excellence Partner, Eversheds Sutherland
Rachel Broquard combines global transactional work (M&A, investments, JVs, re-organizations) and managing significant client relationships with a passion for innovative client service solutions, often with a technology angle. She has sponsored Evershed’s flagship award-winning M&A project management tool and implemented electronic signatures, making Eversheds Sutherland one of the first global law firms to do so.
Welcome to a special edition of LEGALTECH MATTERS devoted to important topics from Litera's The Changing Lawyer research and report. In a series of special podcasts, we’ll speak with industry experts with insights on the key takeaways from the report.
00;00;00;12 - 00;00;27;09
Hello. Today's conversation is a part of a series of podcasts based on some of the key findings in Litera’s The Changing Lawyer report which was released in August at the ILTACON conference. I want to first start with a little background on the Changing Lawyer report. This is a report that Litera has published for several years now based on a survey of 300 lawyers at law firms of 80 lawyers or more.
And we also surveyed 100 allied professionals from law firms working in different roles like operations, data management or project management and other roles. Most of the respondents were in North America, but we also have a sample from the U.K. and several European countries. The research consisted of surveys, but also some qualitative interviews with experts and some third-party research sources.
And one of those experts is here today to talk about the topic of the role of technology in improving client service delivery. So Rachel Broquard is a service excellent partner at Eversheds Sutherland in the UK. Welcome, Rachel. Really happy to have you here with us today.
00;01;13;10 - 00;01;14;25
Thanks for inviting me along, David.
00;01;15;24 - 00;01;36;18
You know, I think you must be the perfect interview subject for this discussion because, you know, the topic is really a part of your title, which is Service Excellence Partner. Can you tell me about the origin of that role, the scope of the role, and what was the background that led you there to that particular role in the firm?
00;01;37;06 - 00;02;03;22
Yeah, sure. I mean, I've been a practicing mergers and acquisitions lawyer for more than 20 years. And then I transitioned from my role as an M&A partner, at Eversheds Sutherland to the service excellence partner in early 2020. And as a partner, I've had a relationship responsible for some of our large global accounts. And I continue to have the privilege of doing that today.
And that gives me insights into the challenges involved in delivering a globally consistent and excellent service to clients. I've always been interested in how we as lawyers can use technology to deliver legal services particularly in the context of large, complex workflows such as mergers and acquisitions. But as I've become more senior and manage cross practice script client relationships, I've seen the benefits of technology in all sorts of areas of our practice.
Now, the role itself was created as a result of partner consultation for a firm strategy that took place in 2019, and we recognized a growing demand for legal technology, legal project management and other innovative ways of delivering legal services. The demand for technology in law firms really needs to be set in the context of how we deliver legal services to clients.
Not only do they expect technical excellence and relationship excellence but they also expect service excellence, and by that I mean excellence in the manner in which legal services are delivered.
00;03;04;26 - 00;03;15;23
And can you give me a couple of examples from initiatives that have really focused on improving that, that level of service and that and that do involve technology?
Yeah. I mean, if you look at any workflow within a commercial law firm, right from when the firm is instructed through to the end of the matter, and if you map that out, you can very easily see how technology can support the lawyers in delivering that legal service. Say, for example, in the context of mergers and acquisitions. And you might be looking at, for example, the due diligence phase and data rooms and some of the AI document review solutions that help our lawyers find the information they need much more quickly.
You might look at the negotiation phase and really understand the various different data points and all the tools that help you draft and negotiate the legal documents for the transaction. You might then look at how you project manage the M&A deal and making sure that everybody's to a space where they can collaborate all the way through to completing the deal and using electronic signatures that we've seen grow extensively in use over the last few years.
Equally within litigation, you know, all the different technologies that support my colleagues in the litigation team, whether that be e-discovery and the case management itself, often they might use a document automation, all of the virtual courts that we've seen over the last two years and indeed litigation analytics, so many different opportunities to deploy technologies in the context of these complex legal workplace.
00;04;53;14 - 00;05;13;20
Those are all great examples and any of you presented as, you know, looking at and looking at the workflows and sort of breaking it down to where technology can make a difference but I assume that you also sort of consult with clients as well. You know, there are ways to get their input on what, you know, what their needs are.
What are some of the ways that you work with clients to help them understand sort of their perspective on where the service improvements might be needed?
00;05;22;00 - 00;06;04;14
Yeah, I mean, it's really something where we need to work hand-in-hand with our clients. And I look at these in and three different areas. First and the in-house teams and how they themselves use technology and to deliver to their business units. And there are some very sophisticated in-house teams and who have big legal operations programs. And then there's the piece around how the in-house counsel and our and outside counsel work together in a collaborative space in the technology that can support the relationship between the in-house and outside team, whether that's the relationship or working on a particular matter.
And then there's the technologies that help the outside counsel do that, their job properly. And in terms of the way that we deliver legal services and how you use technology, it's really understanding the end user of that technology and working very closely and with those individuals and whether that might be through design thinking workshops where you uncover the user stories and the personas to you to understand the needs and the requirements of whether that's the in-house team or the employees at the law firm.
One of the things that we undertook with them, a hackathon our October hackathon where we work closely with our lawyers and our clients to understand the needs that we could then look to use technology and other process improvements to solve.
00;07;02;14 - 00;07;22;02
Them in just the way you presented that sort of the three, three different areas where one is the, you know, the client's own technology. The second being the collaboration where your firm lawyers and the client’s lawyers are maybe working together on a project. And then that sort of the other stuff that's more of the background to help your lawyers work better. In that middle space, is that changing a lot? If there are more, are there more opportunities for collaboration, for using technology to sort of make sure that inside counsel and outside counsel are working well together?
00;07;38;19 - 00;08;07;20
Yeah, sure. I mean, I think historically we had seen that relationship conducted over email, particularly over the last decade or so. But we're seeing that changing in terms of how these in-house teams and outside counsel work together. Of course, there are, you know, the traditional billing systems and there are portals and client sites and the like.
And there are also other ways that those legal services can be delivered, whether through apps or the products. And so certainly we're seeing more innovation in that space than we have done.
00;08;20;13 - 00;08;50;26
So you know, one big challenge for any firm is to differentiate itself from competitors and, you know, large law firms tend to have a lot of the same components, lots of talented lawyers working in some of the same similar practice area. What are the ways that technology is helping you drive differentiation from other firms? You know, is it your approach to your firm's approach to clients’ service delivery itself is a competitive advantage, do you believe?
00;08;55;15 - 00;09;18;16
Yeah. Well, the first thing you touched on there was law firms being, you know, quite similar and needing to have a competitive advantage. And diversity and inclusion plays a massive part in terms of differentiation. In my view, the more diverse the firm is, the more likely it is able to come up with better ideas that meet the needs of its clients.
And in terms of technology being a differentiator and, you know, I went to a conference the other day where someone was saying that a technology is a business as usual expectation. It's no longer a differentiator. It's just something that clients expect to be there. And I would agree that technology is often a requirement in panel processes and pitches.
They want you to explain what technologies the firm has available all and how it will be used to deliver legal work. But I think what differentiates a firm is how they use that technology to deliver a great service, how they are helping their people engage with the technology, because simply having great technology is not enough. You need to ensure that the people within your organization have the knowledge and the skills to be able to use that technology.
And that's not an easy thing to do, particularly when lawyers, as we know, are very busy people. And finding the time to set aside to work through and learn about technology and how to use that in the context of your practice isn't straightforward. And so we look at each level of the firm from you trainees all the way through to partner and to think carefully about how we can help them with that journey with their individual learning journey when it comes to digital skills.
00;10;58;01 - 00;11;22;24
As you roll out new initiatives and new services. Are there some services that are sort of brand new that are just a sort of an upgrade of what the law firms have already always done, but rather, you know, more of an area where you're changing the nature of legal work, changing the nature of what you deliver to clients just because of the availability of certain forms of technology.
00;11;23;20 - 00;11;50;19
Yeah. I mean, the technology that we have today helps us continuously improve how legal services deliver, and that's a large part of where I spend my time and thinking, how about how we deliver better outcomes for clients? But you're asking whether it's changing what we deliver as well as how we deliver it. And again, the answer to that is, is yes.
And the needs of clients are constantly evolving and change over time. And law firms need to respond to these changes. And a prime example of that is ESG, environmental, social and governance issue and sustainable business structures which are no longer just regulatory concerns. These are sort of board level strategic issues and failure to take appropriate, informed steps could leave an organization really quite exposed to material business risks, particularly as those sort of key stakeholders are now requiring change within companies and for good reason.
And you see investors who see a strong link between investing in ESG and the financial value of companies. And so we've created a dedicated ESG Solutions team that helps clients craft an ESG strategy and take advantages of the opportunities that lie in implementing that type of strategy, helping to mitigate risks and build legal compliance on the way.
And our Legal Service Design Team and Legal Tech Solutions team are working closely with our ESG colleagues to think about how we support the delivery of these types of services through innovative product delivery and tech solutions. Another example is Konexo, our captive alternative legal service provider, and that part of our business provides a variety of different services, including sort of interim service, interim resource services and compliance services and so on.
And those legal services are heavily supported by technology And it enables in-house teams to focus on their high-value strategic matters, for example, through managing routine legal work and contract review and regulatory or business change projects. But they also offer in-house teams digital transformation consulting services and to help them review their processes and operating models, as well as identify opportunities for automation and using tech and data analytics and process optimization, for example,
The final example I'll give here is in relation to digitalization itself, and in particular this concept of corporate digital responsibility. Businesses are forecast to spend over $10 trillion in a five-year period on digital transformation. And that's really game changing. But that comes with numerous risks and challenges and that need to be understood and navigated. And there are complex laws and regulatory responsibilities across the globe, both current and impending that creates or will create significant legal obligations around digital responsibility for companies.
And, and it is a business imperative to have the right approach and strategy to deal with those risks. And we've written reports called Shaping the Future of Digitalization, Global Perspectives, on Digital Technologies, Risk and Corporate Digital Responsibility. And that highlights findings from a survey of 700 senior executives investigating the adoption of digital transformation and technologies and how they manage the related legal, ethical, ESG and corporate digital responsibilities.
And as digitalization accelerates, it's important to have a firm alongside you that can help and support you with your corporate social discipline, asset, corporate digital responsibility in order to succeed.
00;15;52;13 - 00;16;28;02
I think those are great examples I mean, it just gives you a sense of, you know, the breath of change, though, the expansion of what a law firm can do I think in this market, building on some of the technology that's available. Those are great examples. And I mentioned in Konexo you, you may be touched on this last question a little bit, which, you know what, how is the make-up of a firm in terms of the different roles and different skills needed, different types of professions that needed to be to be added to a law firm in order to execute on a lot of these initiatives?
What are some of the changes you see in the make-up of a law firm? And just in terms of people these days.
00;16;36;29 - 00;17;07;07
I'm going to get a lot of change. And I look at the different cohorts within our organization. And if you look at the traditional cohort of lawyers, first of all, there's a lot more focus on the skills that they have to now have and to work in commercial law firms and in particular, digital skills are increasingly important. And we're seeing law schools focus more now on that boarder skill set that a lawyer needs, including tech skills.
But we also recognize that, you know, ultimately lawyers are there to become an expert in their area of practice. And whilst we expect them to have strong digital skills, other technology professionals are able to bring deeper skills to help us deliver legal services to clients in a smarter way. And we've got a number of legal technologists at the firm, some based in practice groups, some form part of the Central Legal Tech Solutions team, some work within legal services design.
And they work closely with our more traditional I.T. colleagues who work in delivery and operations. Data and analytics is another growing area of importance, with teams of professionals focused on doing more with data. As well as that, you see teams of legal project managers and those are key individuals in managing particularly strategic projects or complex projects. And they benefit the team by enabling the lawyers to focus on the delivery of legal advice while the project managers manage the project.
And critically, those project managers will be working closely with our legal technologists to ensure that the right technologies are used on a project.
00;18;29;19 - 00;18;45;04
It's interesting you mentioned diversity and inclusion a little earlier. And in this case, it's a you know, you can really see the diversity of skill sets, diversity of ways of thinking that are necessary these days in order to deliver services in this way.
00;18;45;25 - 00;19;12;11
Yeah, that's right. All forms of diversity are required across the U.S. And that's really beyond the traditional gender issue that people immediately think of. But if we succeed in making technology and within the profession as effective as possible, you've got to have a diverse range of people in a firm to ensure that we are catering for a wide audience of users.
00;19;12;29 - 00;19;34;23
Well, that's great. Rachel, I really appreciate your insights on this topic. I'll just remind our listeners that The Changing Lawyer report is available for download at www.Litera.com/tcl. And I want to thank Rachel Broquard from Eversheds Sutherland for joining us today. Thank you.
00;19;35;15 - 00;19;37;20
Thank you, David. It's been a pleasure talking with you.
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