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

What has been your experience or interaction with legal innovation and technology?

Legal innovation doesn’t have to be the big exciting techie products that win innovation awards. Innovation in our firm is the incremental changes in how we work. It comes about from everyone’s input into ‘how can we do this better’. I get a real kick out of finding the most efficient and effective way to get something done. This could stem from laziness to get the job done quickly, but I prefer to say I’m motivated by efficiency.

What changes have you seen in your firm, team or organisation recently?

We have specifically listed “be open to technology and new ways of working” in our annual strategic plan for the past few years. Three years ago, we became ‘fileless’. We still use paper for some things, but the end goal is not to be paperless, it’s about access to information and efficiency. Other changes we recently implemented were BigHand’s speech recognition, software to trawl through our emails to ensure they are all saved to client files, a workflow tool to manage matters. Changes we have made in the past couple years have enabled 75% of our staff to work an alternative to 9-5. Some work from home one day a week, some start early and finish early, some work part time.

However, over the years not all our new ideas have performed well or provided the benefit we had hoped for. It’s been a learning curve.

What challenges or barriers do you face when innovating or looking to use new tech?

There needs to be a good business case for the new tech. The new tech needs to solve a problem or make life easier. We need to ensure we aren’t just using new tech because everyone else is using it.

Managing change is a huge challenge. It’s hard to change the way someone has always done something. People have to really understand the benefit the new technology will provide to fully engage and buy into the change.

Time is another barrier. As a practice manager of a small firm my time is spent across so many different aspects of running the firm. So, when looking at new tech or innovation it can be hard to find time to look into all the different options available, not to mention the time to implement and train.

Lastly, it is frustrating when you find a fantastic product, but it doesn’t work within our infrastructure. Or you have a piece of software, but the developers can’t keep up with the changes that need to be made to meet the changes in the market.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The opportunities for law firms in NZ are huge, we seem a little behind other countries when it comes innovation, however we’re starting to see more and more alternative ways to working come through now.

With greater adoption of tech and more innovation, how do you see your role evolving in the future?

As a practice manager of a small firm it is impossible to be an expert in all things relating to technology, so it will become increasingly important to be able to work with other experts, to outsource projects/tasks outside my expertise.

LawFest is focused on innovation and tech in the legal profession, why do you think it’s important for legal professionals to attend an event like LawFest?

Attending events like LawFest is great for hearing about what others are doing, to network with those in a similar position to bounce ideas off one another. We don’t all need to reinvent the wheel. Sitting in a conference away from the office is great for getting the creative mind thinking.