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?

Legal innovation is about improving the way the legal system works. It means reimagining the future of law, questioning entrenched norms and establishing better ways to deliver law to people.

As a legal designer, I innovate by applying design thinking to the law – combining legal expertise with a design thinking approach by embracing visualisation, plain language, simplicity and smart use of technology. This allows us to improve any aspect of the law – from legal contracts, policies and legal advice, to workflows and organisational structures that lawyers operate in.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology can really enhance legal innovation, making legal solutions more interactive and digitally accessible. However, technology does not equal innovation. With all the hype around legal technology and the ‘race to innovate’, we’ve seen many legal teams hastily buy tech solutions. But technology tools are not a ‘quick fix’ to solving your problems. We need to start by understanding the crux of the problem we’re trying to solve – our users’ needs and pain points – then design a solution that solves that problem. If this requires technology, we select the most appropriate piece of tech to help.

What people often miss is that technology is just one piece of the puzzle – tech must be implemented in conjunction with good design, legal engineering (eg, training a machine learning tool) and project and change management.

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

The modern-day legal client – just like consumers in most other sectors – expects robust design. There is mounting pressure to deliver legal services more clearly, visually and enhanced seamlessly by technology. When you’re used to the great design offered by Apple, Google, IKEA et al, it’s natural to have the same expectation of legal services.

Legal service providers are facing more pressure than ever to deliver top quality legal services more efficiently and under new cost structures. In-house clients are often under-resourced and feeling the pressure to “do more for less”. Law firms can no longer be complacent – their clients expect them to be embracing efficiency, automation, new fee structures and smarter (cheaper) ways of working. Many businesses are driving efficiency in their legal divisions and exploring new business models around the use of data, which pose tricky questions for counsel. All these challenges can be tackled with legal engineering and legal design – the sensible use of technology, data science and design within law.

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

Lawyers are starting to see the value of putting their clients at the centre of their service delivery. There has been a realisation across the market that, in many cases, the way we deliver legal services is not appropriate for the users or consumers of those services (eg, contracts written by lawyers, for lawyers) and organisations are starting to embrace legal innovation and design.

We are seeing lawyers collaborate more. Legal design thinking advocates working collaboratively with a diverse team (like data scientists, technologists, designers, HR professionals, psychologists, as well as lawyers) to generate the best and broadest range of ideas for approaching legal problems.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

The rise of legal innovation has allowed me to move away from traditional legal practice and build my career as a legal designer. It’s given me the opportunity to work towards making the law more engaging, accessible and understandable – something I feel passionately about and suits my character and skillset.

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

Start thinking about the user. Who is the consumer of your legal advice? What do they really need to know, and what do they not care about? Would it be easier for them to understand your advice if you wrote it in more ‘human’ language (without jargon or unnecessary complexities) or reformatted your advice into a visualisation? If you shift your mindset to put the user at the heart of your legal service delivery, you’ll be innovating before you know it.

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

It’s important that all legal professionals are working toward making the law more user-friendly – more engaging, accessible and understandable. This is likely to mean adopting legal technology and embracing legal design to do things better.

The legal industry is experiencing massive disruption (about time!) and those who refuse to embrace legal innovation are going to be left behind. There are so many opportunities for us as lawyers to do better by our clients – and we should all be welcoming this positive change.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2020, and Charlotte Baker will be on of the speakers. LawFest 2020 is held in Auckland on 18 March 2020.