The Innovators: Mickayla Strode-Penny, Aspiring Lawyer

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

Tell us about yourself?

I am 22-year-old, third year law student at the University of Canterbury and I teach children how to swim as my part time job. I grew up in a small town in North Waikato. 3 years ago, I moved to Christchurch when my fiancé encouraged me to put in an application to the University of Canterbury to study law.

What made you want to pursue a legal career?

At 8 years old I watched Bones and decided I wanted to do forensic science. However, when I started my degree, I had to do a couple of law-based papers. These papers opened my eyes to a challenging career in law, so I decided to change my degree. I also believe that all people deserve access to justice, and I want to be part of the current and future change within the legal system.

As an aspiring lawyer, what new skills do you think will be valuable going forward?

After covid I think flexibility is going to be valuable as well as being able to adapt to circumstances in short time frames. Technological skills are also going to become very valuable especially because everyone has changed their mindsets towards working remotely. I think being able to embrace the unknown will be incredibly valuable as well. I also believe now that Te Reo Maori is becoming more recognised within the legal system understanding of Te Reo and tikanga will be required.

How could legal educators better prepare students for the evolving skills required to practise law?

I think providing a more hands on learning experience would benefit students. Profs is great as it gives the practical experience, but it is at the end of a law degree. I believe that if educators give more practical experience throughout the degree, every learning style would be catered to. Things such as encouraging trips to the courthouse to watch a trial, tours of law firms on a working day to immerse students and providing real-career skills that actual law practises implement. Educators could also promote conferences towards the student body.

If you could give one piece of advice regarding internships and technology, what would it be?

Law firms should look beyond grades. I understand that everyone wants the best of the best, however life outside of study can affect your grades unless you are a robot. In place of A grades, I have resilience, perseverance and a can-do attitude.  My father was re diagnosed with terminal cancer and my partner spent 6 weeks in hospital after a motorcycle v car accident. Yet I still passed my exams. Many of my fellow students have also had life happen, yet they battle on but miss out on the best opportunities. However, if I had the opportunity to get an internship (despite grades) I would exceed expectations as I am more of a practical person than a test/exam person.

I think a way that technology can be used with internships is offering them remotely, my father is the subject matter expert for a set of regulations currently being drafted and he can do this remotely. So why should an intern not be able to research, communicate and contribute to the firm remotely.

For example, Office 365 has tools where multiple people can be working on the same document remotely from anywhere in the world with internet access. This means that students who are participating in the internship can complete it whilst continuing with their university work during times such as summer school. This also means they do not have to uproot their lives for a short period of time and at the same time adding valuable resources for law firms and real-life experience for students.

As someone just starting on their legal career, how do you see the importance of innovating and leveraging technology?

I think it will be very important as technology is always changing. With new technology being invented weekly being up to date with the latest technology can be a powerful tool. After attending LawFest and seeing how technology is used within the legal sector I have started using it more myself, particularly the organisation apps that Jeremy Sutton recommended to me. Some ways to learn how to leverage technology is by familiarising yourself with the various meeting platforms such as Microsoft teams and zoom. Understanding how to use Google Docs and building your network on LinkedIn is also important.

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

Being open minded and understanding that being told no is a part of life and a lot of the time it is not a bad thing; it often means you are not coming at the problem from the wrong direction. Who has not had to be innovative due to Covid and the issues the world has faced as a result? It is important to have an innovative mindset because life is constantly changing, often with no warning. I have had my fair share of unforeseen challenges this year such as my fiancés bike accident which resulted in me studying and sitting tests on the hospital floor.

What changes do you see in how legal services are delivered in the future?

Legal services are currently changing with businesses hiring in house counsel over hiring larger law firms. As well as defendants showing in court via audio-visual link. Another change I think we will see is that most meetings will be held less formally or even online. I also think we will see in house counsel oversee Australasia and further afield, and potentially see case hearings done remotely, as travel is becoming a hot issue due to climate change.

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

Ten years ago, the ability to have your voicemail turned into a text was never thought of, today we have that ability thanks to Vxt. I can only imagine what kind of technology we will have in another 10 years. Holograms to attend meetings, and the hologram communicates in the language that your fluent in even if the person in real life is not, you never know. Thinking back to 23 years ago the likes of Siri and Amazon Alexa did not exist, now you are able to write entire emails and texts and have received texts read out loud by these programmes. I think it is important to leverage technology as this is where the future is heading.

The legal profession is changing, I think being able to have an open mind and embrace the change is important. As well as the need to weave this change and technology into the historical framework that is the foundation for New Zealand law today.

 

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate (https://legalinnovate.nz/). He helps lawyers and organisations innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services. Legal Innovate includes LawFest (https://www.lawfest.nz/), LegalTech Hub (https://legaltech.nz/) and E-Discovery Consulting (https://www.e-discovery.co.nz/).


The Innovators: Murali Baddula, Innovation Lead at Law In Order

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

Tell us about yourself?

I have worked for more than 20 years in litigation support services and now head up Law In Order’s Innovation Labs with a group of our internal consulting and development experts who are enthusiastic and think outside the box about innovation. In this role, I collaborate with our inhouse teams and external clients to design and implement workflows and new tools to achieve winning outcomes.

Prior to this role, I worked as Vice President of eDiscovery and Head of eDiscovery at Law In Order, assisting legal departments by offering technical solutions and workflows.

With more than two decades of experience in litigation support, eDiscovery, consulting, project management, forensic investigations and software development, I understand the complexities of unstructured data and can offer solutions to make electronically stored information available for search, retrieval and review in a legally defensible manner.

Before joining Law In Order, I worked as Head of Analytics in one of Australia’s leading legal technology firms. I have seen the industry change drastically in the past 10 years and it is changing more than ever in the current market. I have experienced most of the pain points the industry has gone through in the early stages and now in my current role, I am focused on resolving these issues.

What challenges are organisations facing in how they deliver legal services?

In my view, most firms globally are facing various challenges. It can be competition from firms investing more into innovation, behavioural dilemmas with staff, the complexities of delivering fixed pricing models, the question of how to be more efficient using the highest quality product, automating day-to-day workflows and reducing human resources for manual work.

Virtual and Cloud based law firm models are emerging faster than ever, introducing increased competition across jurisdictions, and it is a big challenge to keep up with these new models. There is huge demand to focus on key things and leave the rest to low-cost resourcing structures. Apart from these conundrums, keeping good and experienced talent within the firm is the main and most significant problem for all firms across the globe.

How have you adapted how you work?

The only inevitable thing is change; new competitors enter the global market, the economy fluctuates and our own environment is always shifting. We need to re-innovate ourselves again and again to stay on top of the game as well as keep the job fun for others and the outcome efficient for clients.

I have been working from home for close to two years now and everything became more virtual and more productive in my view. Most of my duties include working with every part of the business as well as our clients and meetings became easier with advanced video conferences, particularly with our international clients. The COVID-19 situation worked in my favour as other businesses adapted to the changes and called on my expertise to help drive the transformation.

In terms of our service lines, our digital forensics experts can perform data collection working remotely across jurisdictions in many circumstances. They are experienced with the issues related to data protection laws in various locations. Our Managed Document Review team provides legal teams around the world with scalable support, 24/7, all year round. They utilise legal support professionals in India and a Project Management team in Australia. During COVID-19, the eHearings team was rolling out virtual hearing rooms across the globe to support legal firms and arbitration centres.

With this significant international scope and experience, we have worked on matters across Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, UK, the Americas and Africa.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over?

I wish I had the opportunity to be in this innovation space much earlier. Committing to innovation is brave and my leadership could have helped inspire others in the team. I definitely would have eliminated things I had done earlier in my career like worrying about my initial ideas being diluted. Those failures could have become the foundation for new concepts on how to do the ‘same old things’ better.

Are there any opportunities that you have found in how you have changed how you work out of the chaos of COVID-19?

We saw significant opportunities internationally as part of the COVID-19 period. As previously mentioned, Law In Order’s Virtual Hearings took off, taking full advantage of the sudden new demand in the market and having to increase capacity.

I upskilled myself and so have most of the company. I can now use those skills to our clients’ advantage and to benefit Law In Order.

In my experience, lawyers embrace self-sufficiency, keeping on top of the technology and going towards advanced digital solutions. Rather than focusing on trying to sell our services, we used the time to start working closely with our internal and external clients on their needs including triple checking our processes.

Our goal has been to provide an end-to-end solution which is available globally including privacy, compliances, forensics, breach management and eDiscovery to help control cost and manage risk. More importantly, it means clients don’t have to manage multiple suppliers, perhaps in different jurisdictions.

How can legal tech help you innovate?

AI is big part of Law In Order’s offerings and we build solutions by working closely with our clients. Innovation has become a bit of a buzzword in legal circles and research suggests there is very real investment. Working in the legal tech space myself for over 20 years, I have seen a lot of solutions that deploy great technology but are not fully adapted to the legal work they are meant to support. In response, we developed our own tools and workflows to deliver better value, outcomes and services for clients.

The benefits of legal tech to Law In Order are the ability to include greater automation, improved security, fewer risks, more transparency, better resource management, an up to date level of customer experience and, of course, an edge over competitors in the market.

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

Innovation can be challenging. The philosophy I follow includes being comfortable with being uncomfortable, getting your hands dirty and being curious. There is no need to be tied to the technical side of things. Collaborate with people, bring persistence and embrace failure as it will be part of the innovation journey.

Also, I believe that innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. Even the smallest thing can add value and create innovation for the company. I work closely with young lawyers and listen to how they are working. They have many ideas and talents, and the future of legal tech is in their hands.

What changes do you see in how legal services are delivered in the future?

The way that legal services are delivered is changing quickly due to advances in technology and business model innovation. Taking steps now to understand the landscape and think creatively about legal service delivery is vital.

We are now seeing a gradual shift towards affordable, standardised services and efficiencies in how law firms and service providers deliver services. We have seen new types of AI emerge to help address the pain points for lawyers within legal processes.

While many of the newer AI products are still in their early stages, there is potential for AI to help lawyers deliver more efficient and timely services to clients in the future. Rapid developments in AI over the coming years will lead the next stage of transformation within legal service delivery.

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

I believe all players in the legal profession need to re-innovate again and again. If we don’t, we will be left behind.

Technology facilitates and takes care of data accuracy and matter management so that lawyers can focus on advisory and leave their admin, low-cost review and document management to third parties. Our objective is to support this by continually improving our legal tech and working closely with our clients.

 

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate (https://legalinnovate.nz/). He helps lawyers and organisations innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services. Legal Innovate includes LawFest (https://www.lawfest.nz/), LegalTech Hub (https://legaltech.nz/) and E-Discovery Consulting (https://www.e-discovery.co.nz/).

 


The Innovators: Jeremy Sutton - Barrister and Mediator

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

Tell us about yourself?

I am a senior family lawyer based in Auckland. I primarily focus on complex relationship property matters where there are businesses or trusts involved. I am also a mediator, family and civil legal aid provider and a lawyer for child.

I first started my career in Tauranga before spending a few years working in London. After I returned to New Zealand I was based in South Auckland and then moved into the city.

What challenges are organisations facing in how they deliver legal services?

Some practitioners never say no to clients, even when they do not have the capacity to offer them the best service. No one wins in that situation. The lawyer is drowning under an unmanageable number of files and the client feels their matter is not getting the attention it deserves.

How have you adapted how you work?

I used to have two offices and employed a lot of staff but found that it overcomplicated the work and stretched me to thin. I scaled my practice back completely so that I now only employ one barrister, a graduate and a pa who works remotely.

My philosophy is now less is more. I have less clients so that I can provide more of my attention to each and resolve their dispute as efficiently as possible. I focus attracting a high-quality client, rather than high quantity.

I moved to do solely fixed fees about a year or two ago. I no longer time record. This has been a great time saver for me and provides certainty for my clients and for me. It sets expectations at the beginning of the relationship. It also ensures we remain resolution focused.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over?

I would have operated my barrister practice more simply from the start. I would have scheduled at least one client-free day on a Friday. That would have allowed me time to progress files uninterrupted. I would have set stronger boundaries and not taken home work.

Are there any opportunities that you have found in how you have changed how you work out of the chaos of COVID-19?

I now have a home office and I enjoy working from home a couple of days a week. My staff also have at least one day at home. It has been great for us. Covid showed us being in the office isn’t a necessity, although it is sometimes nice to be all together on some days.

Covid also forced everyone to reassess their reliance on paper. Our office is trying to go completely paperless. We have made big strides in that area but still have a way to go.

During the first lockdown I ran a couple of webinars for lawyers on how to adapt to working from home and how to progress their cases despite Covid. These were met with a great reaction, so I identified there was a need for lawyers to support each other and share more about the way we work. I founded an online community for lawyers called Ako Legal Platform to respond to this need. It has been great to connect with other lawyers around the country and discuss the challenges we face and highlight tech tools that can improve the way we work.

How can legal tech help you innovate?

Technology allows us to connect with others whenever and wherever. It enables collaboration which our profession so desperately needs to do more of.

There are so many opportunities to use technology to make your work more efficient or automate admin tasks. This means more time can be spent on legal thinking and innovation.

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

Don’t be afraid to try something and have it not work out. There is usually a learning curve involved for new systems or tech but give it your best go and set a date to reassess. If it’s not working out, ditch it and try something else. It is not a waste of time if it helps you on the path to finding the right tool.

Small and incremental change is still progress. Look for where you feel you are wasting the most amount of time in your day and start making small changes there. A couple of extra minutes in your day start adding up quickly.

What changes do you see in how legal services are delivered in the future?

Less paper and more collaboration.

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

Technology has the power to remove access to justice barriers for clients. They can connect with lawyers, even if they live remotely. Technology can make lawyers more efficient and then potentially more affordable (if billing based on time).

It can also lighten the load for us, allowing us to have more time out of work or connecting with others in the profession.

 

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate (https://legalinnovate.nz/). He helps lawyers and organisations innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services. Legal Innovate includes LawFest (https://www.lawfest.nz/), LegalTech Hub (https://legaltech.nz/) and E-Discovery Consulting (https://www.e-discovery.co.nz/).

 


The Innovators: David Hepburn, President, Actionstep

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

Tell us about yourself

It has been an amazing 25 years since getting my Chemical Engineering degree in the UK.  I’ve found myself on operations as a young officer in the British Army, figuring out how technology can deliver better patient care in places like Vietnam, Turkey and the USA – building high performing teams and businesses along the way.  Leading our team at Actionstep is the culmination of so many parts of my journey.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Legal innovation should always be about how to deliver better value, outcomes or services to clients. But many lawyers aren’t sure where to start. When firms are willing to challenge the status quo to bring quality and service issues into the light – and then commit to solving them – we see real legal innovation.

The area where we are seeing most innovation is where firms realise that the future of their firm means less reliance on the ‘human glue’ in their service delivery and processes. Whether that’s to work out the fat in their business processes or to free up lawyers to do higher value work – the outcome is often the same – a better experience for their clients.

These firms are moving the goal posts for everyone else.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is often the enabler for firms to fulfil their innovation goals. We have a saying at Actionstep that “changing software is easy, changing process is not”. When firms want to change the way they do things, they need systems to support behavioural change.

The right technology systematises innovation into better processes so everyone gets on-board – suddenly they have a consistent “new way”. Baking their process, their innovation and their IP into their systems.

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

Law firms are facing pressures from every angle – competitive pressure from more innovative firms or from alternative legal service providers. The pressure to deliver more within fixed fees – heightening the need for efficiency and automation. The commoditization of some areas of law puts pressure on firms to refocus on higher value activities that might not be everyone’s comfort zone. The demand from clients to be kept informed in a world of immediacy.  The need to find and keep good talent – again, something technology can help with as younger talent typically demand technology that reflects the collaboration, automation and tracking tools they are used to in their personal lives.

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

We are seeing the rise of ‘data driven lawyers’. This has been accelerated through COVID as people have had to rely more on electronic records rather than face to face updates. Legal teams now realise that inconsistencies and gaps in data lead to mistakes on documents, incomplete files and skewed reporting – all things easily solved by discipline around data capture.

When legal teams focus on really good data, they spend less time getting lost in documents and drafting and more time delivering great legal services to their clients.

We also see that immediacy and access are more important than ever for firm clients. Clients expect access to their lawyers directly. Corporate structures are falling away and clients see gate-keepers and support staff as barriers.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought to you?

15 years ago our Founder saw an opportunity to get ahead of the wave of law firm innovation. Actionstep was the first fully cloud based legal tech provider and still remains the most configurable and flexible – so legal innovation is really the cornerstone Actionstep is built on.

The reason we have such a configurable product is to allow firms to run their firm, their way – to enable legal innovation – because there is no one size fits all when it comes to law firm technology.

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

Innovation can seem quite daunting. To develop an innovation mindset, you start with just one thing. Because incremental step-changes lead to transformation. How do you pick? Listen to your clients – what are they telling you to improve? What process or activity is fundamental to that? Pick that. Try another way. Replicate and iterate. Trying to change everything at once leads to frustration and failure.

Get the best out of the tools you already have. Explore ways to use them more fully or in different ways.

Listen to what younger lawyers are doing. They should be your eyes and ears for how technology will change your practice in future.

Post Covid, what impact do you see in how legal services will be delivered?

Two things I think people have learned from COVID – firstly, clients remember the lawyers who called them up and asked them what they needed, rather than trying to sell to them. I think lawyers learned a lot about the value of being close to their clients and that will be a key focus of service delivery going forward – less about production & more about advice.

Second, I see lawyers, paralegals, practice managers and everyone else embrace self-sufficiency. Doing more yourself does not mean taking away someone else’s job, it simply means you aren’t reliant on other humans to get the information you need, the process to work or the document triple checked.  People had to upskill during COVID and can now use those skills to their advantage.

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

Because if they don’t continue to innovate, they will get left behind. Our core belief at Actionstep is that lawyers are Awesome. The reason we believe that is not because of how good they are at document turnaround or their legal knowledge – it’s the impact they have at key milestones in our business and personal lives. Lawyers need to be able to get their heads out of the admin and repetitive tasks that so much legal work has turned into. Technology facilitates that – it takes care of the data accuracy, the document production, the matter management and client processing – so that lawyers can focus on advisory, interpretation, breaking new ground on legal matters and doing great work for their clients.

 

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate (https://legalinnovate.nz/). He helps lawyers and organisations successfully innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services Legal Innovate includes LawFest (https://www.lawfest.nz/), LegalTechHub (https://legaltech.nz/) and E-Discovery Consulting (https://www.e-discovery.co.nz/).


The Innovators: Katie Bhreatnach, General Counsel, Airways New Zealand

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

Tell us about yourself?

Tēna koutou katoa. I am the General Counsel and GM of Customer and Regulatory Partnerships at Airways. In my current role I lead a talented and diverse group of functional leaders in Customer Management, Legal, Regulatory and Policy. Our team manages our stakeholder relationships with our regulator, industry associations, customers and the third parties we partner with. The aviation sector is fascinating and the work we do at Airways has a powerful purpose – we keep the skies safe today and tomorrow, and our vision is to create the aviation environment of the future. It’s an exciting and challenging time to work here – while the aviation sector and our organisation have been significantly impacted by Covid 19, transformational change that was already part of our strategy has been accelerated.

On a person note, my whanau is a big part of who I am. My three daughters, husband and dog offer a totally different kind of joy and challenge outside of work. I enjoy tramping and camping (preferably with no hot water, electricity or cell phone coverage), live music, travelling, comedy and the arts. I also love rugby and am a loyal Blues fan (and not just in 2020). Whenever I get the chance I head up to the far north where my parents live and everything is warmer and simpler.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

As the saying goes, innovate or die. Businesses are constantly innovating, and those that don’t risk obsolescence (just ask Kodak or Nokia). The same is true for in house legal functions. As in-house lawyers we need to be able to ensure we meet the needs of the business, and to adapt in order to remain relevant. As Charles Spillane once said years ago when he was the General Counsel of Auckland Airport, a good in house lawyer will help you navigate the top of a cliff by providing you with rope, not tell you to stay away from the edge. (Probably more eloquently though!)

What role does technology play in innovation?

When I started out in law school I hand wrote my assignments. When I started out as a law clerk, paper files and faxes were the norm. Technological change has revolutionised lawyering. It has allowed us to be more efficient and it will continue to do so. It has even changed the way in which we work. All of the lawyers in my team work remotely, part time and flexibly – and it is technology that facilitates this. We have cloud-based software that manages matters and contracts (thanks LawVu). We also have great dashboard reporting, which allows us to demonstrate to our internal stakeholders the value we offer them on a regular basis, and provides data and insights that support innovation.

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

Like our non-legal counterparts, there is pressure to do more with less, and to be able to demonstrate the value that we bring. For me this is a key reason why the money in my budget spent on analytics and reporting is money well spent.

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

Although there are six lawyers in my team, we rely on external support in order to meet the needs of our businesses, and will continue to do so. There are times when gold plated advice is exactly what’s needed, but other times it isn’t. The disruption and innovation that is happening in external law firm offerings is exciting. When I think back to the beginning of my career in house lawyers made up a small portion of the legal community. Now we make up 25%, and increasingly take up leadership and executive roles in the organisations we work in, as the combination of legal and commercial skills is highly valued. I think these trends will continue, and I look forward to more disruption.

How have you gone about getting buy in for legal technology?

People often ask me how they can convince the organisation they work in to invest in dedicated legal software. My answer is to develop a business case that solves other people’s problems or challenges. When I come in to an organisation I spend a lot of energy finding out what my internal stakeholders’ drivers are – what’s not working for them and where can I find solutions to problems or challenges. From that I build a business case that demonstrates how matter management and contract management systems can solve their problems, rather than focus on the advantages to the legal function. Once approved, I work hard to continually demonstrate value through dashboard and KPI reporting – just like my non-legal counterparts. It’s also a great way to make future business cases for additional resource!

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

An innovative mindset to me is seeking out problems and finding ways to solve them. To do that, think creatively and include lots of perspectives and people who will challenge your thinking. I’m a huge fan of diversity of thought, and getting to the right outcome rather than being right.

 

Andrew King is the founder of Legal Innovate (https://legalinnovate.nz/). He helps lawyers and organisations successfully innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services Legal Innovate includes LawFest (https://www.lawfest.nz/), LegalTechHub (https://legaltech.nz/) and E-Discovery Consulting (https://www.e-discovery.co.nz/).


The Innovators: Sabina Bickelmann, General Counsel, icebreaker

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

Tell us about yourself?

I’ve recently joined Icebreaker as General Counsel and am stoked to be part of such an iconic NZ company which is part of global movement striving to create a healthier and more sustainable future for our species and the planet.

I’ve always sought out as many different experiences and opportunities as possible. When I finished Uni with law degree in hand, I went straight to London where I worked for a US law firm before starting a graduate position in Sydney at DLA Piper (which was Phillips Fox back then). Prior to Icebreaker, I worked in the Cayman Islands and Auckland in private practice and at Pfizer and most recently led the legal function for nearly four years as general counsel and company secretary at Vend, a NZ headquartered global tech company.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Innovation is about implementing something new or different that is useful or delivers value in some way. Creativity, which is the ability to come up with novel ideas, is the seed of legal innovation, but unless it is activated and scaled, it is just still an idea and not innovation.

Legal innovation doesn’t always need to be disruptive or breakthrough, it is just as important to have a pipeline of small innovative ideas. For me, some of the best innovations are the simple ones where you slap you hand on the table and go “duh, why didn’t I think about doing it that way before!”.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Innovation and technology are not the same thing. Technology can be used to implement innovation, but the technology itself doesn’t always produce innovation. There are a few instances where technology is simply used to meet the status quo. However, in the majority of instances technology drives innovation by allowing us to do more with less, improving our organisations and lives in the process. Just look at how we are working and living our lives today.

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

The demand for legal tech will continue to increase. There is so much cool legal tech out there, it’s really a no brainer. In-house legal functions will continue to implement new technology to automate routine processes. The use of analytics will extend beyond managing legal costs into predicting areas of risk and exposure before issues arise. I doubt we will see robots replacing humans in the legal department, but machine learning will increasingly be applied to legal tasks.

External legal providers will continue to respond to demands from legal teams for disruptive offerings that assist in managing cost and add value. I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of subscription-based fee models which have provided me with predictable spend, as well as “crowd sourced” legal advice enabling access to high quality, specialist advice at a fraction of the cost. The demand for virtual GC/in-house legal on demand services will continue to rise, driven by “new law” firms responding to demands for flexible resources provided by highly experienced in-house lawyers seeking to live and work differently.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

I’ve been really lucky to have worked for companies where innovation and technology are part of the DNA. As a lawyer working in those environments, the internal culture of continually seeking to improve things including trying out new software tools quickly rubs off. It has been awesome to feel empowered to try new things, find out that they don’t work, and then pull the plug without fear or shame.

From a technology perspective, I’ve implemented plenty of technology solutions in a number of areas including to streamline workflows and approvals, create documents, automate record keeping and manage signatures, audits and notifications. However, to be honest, some of the best in-house legal innovations I’ve been involved with have not utilised technology, and instead are the result of great execution of a really simple idea that makes things better for the legal team and the business. For example, creating a new framework for the legal team to determine the level of legal input or rigour required around a decision based on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ “one-way/two-way door” strategy.

Legal innovation has obviously created efficiencies which have freed up me and others in my team to focus on higher value, more strategic work. In many cases legal innovation has removed pain points for the business, deleted legal work the team doesn’t enjoy and driven overall engagement.

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

Working in start-ups has taught me to not be satisfied only with making improvements. Instead, to strive to understand the source of a problem and continually ask “how would we approach this problem if there was no solution in the first place?”.

I think a great place to start is to pick a clear focus. Perhaps start by thinking about the processes or tasks that personally annoy you and that you really want to change. That’s the “why” for innovation.
Give yourself (and your team) the time and space to think. Google encourages its staff to spend 20% of their time on side projects, which is why it is one of the most innovative companies in the world.

This might sound obvious or patronising, but stop staring at your computer screen and sitting at your desk. Personally, I do my best creative thinking when I am being active and outdoors. Walking meetings and strong coffee in diverse environments are great cognitive enhancers!

You could take a formal course or read up on the internet on systematic methods of innovation where you can learn about idea management, idea selection and pipeline development. Innovation is essentially another competency which can be learned along with, for example, leadership.

As well as being a competency, I think innovation is a state of mind—it is an attitude and a culture. It helps to surround yourself with people who come from diverse backgrounds and challenge you to not just accept the status quo.

Post Covid, what impact do you see in how legal services will be delivered?

During lockdown, many lawyers who have previously feared technology suddenly found themselves seeing it as a lifeline to their survival. The realisation that technology is not to be feared will accelerate the pace for technology uptake in the profession which will in turn impact on how legal services will be delivered.

We’ve proved that working entirely through google hangouts and collaboratively through cloud-based tools such as google docs is not only possible, but manageable long term (and pretty bloody awesome!). As a result, there will be more remote working which will enable in-house legal teams and external legal providers to achieve better work life balance and do more of the things they love, which in turn will increase engagement and productivity (and a reduction in emissions from less commuting!).

I’m also hopeful that as a result of the lockdown, we have all become more conscious consumers. In-house legal teams will more than ever seek out external legal providers who can demonstrate a fair and inclusive culture (including gender equality) and a strong commitment to the environment.

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

At a minimum, we need to continue to innovate and leverage technology to stay relevant. We are in a time of unprecedented change. What may have helped the organisations we support be successful in the past could potentially cause that organisation to fail in the future. Just as companies need to change and grow, their in-house lawyers and external providers need to do so also.

As lawyers we need to support our businesses to confidently adopt technology at pace. We can do that by embracing the technology tools of our customers, trying out our own new tools and upskilling generally in the areas of privacy and cyber security.

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event, and the founder of the LegalTech Hub – the go to resource for legal tech in New Zealand. 


The Innovators: Josh McBride

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

Tell us about yourself?

I am a barrister practising in commercial litigation at Richmond Chambers in Auckland. I was admitted to the bar in 1998, worked in Sydney and London from 2000 to 2004, and commenced practice as a barrister sole in Auckland in 2010. Law is just one of many passions – I love boating, fishing, skiing, tramping, and mountain biking, preferably with my family.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Developing new ways of accessing and synthesising legal knowledge and process. Challenging orthodox approaches to the development of the law that has historically been constrained by limited access to legal knowledge and know-how. Finding ways to engage with and respond to more sophisticated queries from clients.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology, being a scientific solution to a practical problem, has always enabled innovation. The change that we are witnessing today lies in the scale and ambition of our expectations. We now demand that science delivers us answers not just to practical problems, such as how to put a rocket into space, but to assist us with assessing and judging human behaviours, such as likely jury reactions, or synthesising a complex pattern of share trades to demonstrate market manipulation.

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

Mooers' Law tells us that information will be accessed and used in direct proportion to how easy it is to obtain. Historically, the law has not been accessible. Buried in bound volumes in member-only libraries or law firms, or in proprietary document management systems, the public have had no option but to consult with lawyers if they wanted to understand their legal rights and obligations.

That paradigm has changed. Access to legal information today has never been so easy. Paradoxically, however, making sense of the law has never been so hard. Clients routinely dump vast tracts of electronic information on their lawyer for review, much of it difficult to extract and understand without significant contextual background. Against the rise of “big data”, lawyers now have unprecedented access to legal materials, such as online statutes, commentary, and case law, from a multitude of jurisdictions. Clients routinely email their lawyer with the results of online searches for cases that might assist their own position.

The Courts have responded to this increased complexity by insisting that lawyers reduce the size of submissions, streamline discovery, eliminate irrelevant evidence, and reduce authorities bundles to only the most relevant cases. The hope is that this will somehow make litigation cheaper or easier, as the material ultimately presented to the Court is diminished.

That in turn puts huge pressure on counsel to make difficult judgment calls as to what is in or out, and to ensure that the claim is put forward in the most focussed and best possible way. The enormity of this task cannot be overstated, both in terms of the workload and the difficulty of the decisions that must be made.

Once these trends are coupled with increasingly demanding and sophisticated clients, it is readily apparent that practice at the bar is not for the faint-hearted! While technology can assist to a degree with streamlining and automating some of the processes, ultimately counsel needs to have the experience, wisdom and most importantly courage to make difficult judgment calls at every step of the litigation process, to reduce the number of documents and legal authorities, and produce a coherent – and justiciable – package for the Courts to consider and rule on. That task is well beyond the capabilities of the average lay litigant.

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

The market will continue to consolidate and concentrate as high volume, low value work (such as debt recovery) migrates to online platforms with automated processing. Time-consuming and routine tasks, such as discovery, will be out-sourced. Automated processes will allow documents to be sifted for relevance.

Conversely, there will be increasing demands on senior counsel to advise on difficult judgment calls at each stage of the process, such as “what is relevant?”, “what should we look for?”, “what areas of law should we research?, and “what should our evidence address?”

The role of the senior advocate and adviser will accordingly become even more relevant and critical.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

The ability to offer creative, independent solutions that take a “pick and mix” approach to the suite of collaborative and analytical tools available in the market. I find mind-mapping programmes invaluable for devising a strategy and framework for the legal theory of the case. The traditional file-sharing apps such as DropBox are now being supplanted by more collaborative and adaptable programmes such as Teams and Slack that integrate readily with video calling and allow bespoke, client focussed, teams to be constructed for specific projects. This provides a very flexible, dynamic, client-focussed way to work, and it also enables a degree of co-operation and - dare I say it – collaboration with your opponent that traditional adversarial models eschew.

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

Accepting that innovation requires some co-operation and goodwill. Challenging conventional wisdom. And in the words of Sir Peter Blake, always asking ”But how does this make the boat go faster?”

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

Because we cannot survive without it. Both the Courts and our clients expect us to synthesise huge volumes of data and legal research into punchy, focussed claims. That task is simply not possible without learning how to automate and streamline some of the traditional legal processes, such as discovery, and then using innovative technology to make sense of that data and present it in a compelling way. If we cannot master this skillset, we will lose relevance, and our clients will ultimately be forced to look elsewhere for solutions.

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event, and the founder of the LegalTech Hub – the go to resource for legal tech in New Zealand. 


The Innovators: Simon Tupman

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

Tell us about yourself?

I started out as a litigation lawyer in London specializing in criminal defence. After five years, I became dissatisfied with my working life and so, after gaining a post-graduate degree in business administration, I ventured into the field of business consulting. After emigrating to New Zealand in 1992, I worked with Auckland law firm Hesketh Henry for two years as their first ever Marketing Manager before deciding to work for myself. Since then, I have been mentoring lawyers and law firms internationally. I live in Ohakune, New Zealand.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Innovation is more than improvement. It is about being inventive and creating valuable new ways of delivering legal services. Innovation is fostered by the culture of an organization. The culture of law firms (and the legal sector) is generally conservative, hence, relative to other industries and professions, I would suggest that many law firms would be in the ‘late majority’ or even ‘laggards’, to use Everett Rogers’ definition.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is a valuable tool that lawyers can use to make innovation happen. It has the potential to bring about much needed changes the legal system and also to improve the accessibility and affordability of legal services.

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

At the time of writing, New Zealand is in the midst of a COVID19 lockdown. As a result, legal organisations are facing some unprecedented pressures. In the short term, there is the need to simply keep operating and to safeguard cash flow. In the longer term, organisations will have to be more inventive, collaborative, tech-savvy and customer-centric if they are to have a future. Transition will be swift; there will be added pressure on organisations to adopt a fresh approach to leadership; people from all corners of the organization will be encouraged to step up and lead, irrespective of their tenure or title.

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

Automation is redefining how many legal services are being delivered. Consequently, many traditional roles are being eliminated; conversely new role are being created thereby introducing new skill sets into legal organisations. Market dynamics, not the regulator, will determine the shape of the legal services industry and an array of technological platforms will work to help organisations deliver legal services much more effectively.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

I have been able to achieve better results working with organisations who already have an innovative mindset and culture, who are receptive to new ideas and who don’t like to stand still.

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

COVID19 has exposed many legal organisations who may have been less than innovative in the past and who now find themselves particularly vulnerable. Leaders of those organisations now have no choice but to change the mindset of their culture. Innovation starts with uninhibited thinking that challenges the status quo. Look around, both outside and inside your organization for trends, ideas and solutions. Be totally transparent about the reality of your situation and involve all your stakeholders in finding new ideas and solutions. Start by asking them these three questions:

‘What do we need to do as an organization to survive and thrive in future?’

‘What do we need to keep, let go of, add to, or change?’

‘How can we better serve our clients in future?’

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

Legal professionals play a significant role in society by helping people and businesses get ahead in life. We are now living in the age of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, - a digital revolution that is transforming the way we work and live. Lawyers are very much a part of this world so they had better adapt or face the consequences!

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event, and the founder of the LegalTech Hub – the go to resource for legal tech in New Zealand. 


The Innovators: Wayne Rumbles, Associate Professor, University of Waikato

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

Tell us about yourself?

I have been a legal academic for the past 20 years. I began my academic career at the University of Waikato teaching Law and Information Technology and Criminal Law in 2000. In these early years, I quickly understood the importance of technology to law and the potential impacts of technology on law and the legal system. I have been fortunate over the years to continue to explore technology and its interface with law by developing a suite of technology related law papers at Te Piringa and sharing these with a continuous stream of students.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Legal innovation in my view requires a holistic vision of law; lawyers, law firms, students and academics must know what they wish to achieve. Innovation requires an understanding of where you are, where you want to be and the ability to plot the necessary pathway to achieve this goal. Innovation occurs along this journey by applying flexible knowledge and skills to available technology.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology provides us with the tools to innovate. It is the means by which we progress and re-imagine law, legal education and legal services.

What pressures are law faculties facing in the delivery of legal education?

Law schools are challenged to respond to a rapidly changing legal service environment that is evolving in response to disruptive technologies.
Law schools need to prepare graduates to practise in a new law paradigm where flexible, high-level skills are valued that allow practitioners to adapt and change, embracing new technologies and opportunities.

Law schools need to bring both students and academics along this journey against a background of increased expectations for student numbers, research outputs and sourcing of externally funded projects.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

As an academic working in this space since 2000, legal innovation and technology has been a constant inspiration for my research and the development of new law courses for future lawyers. Alongside papers in CyberLaw, Law and New Technologies, Digital Privacy, AI and Robotics in the Law we also teach a joint Masters in Cyber Security with Computer Science.

One of my recent opportunities has been the Technology in Legal Education for New Zealand project (TeLENZ) supported and funded by New Zealand Law Foundation. The vision for the project is that all law students in New Zealand are exposed to technology and legal innovation throughout the core law curriculum. To achieve this vision, I am teaming with academics from across the six New Zealand Law schools TO BUILD GREATER DIGITAL CAPABILITY, to develop a set of tools and resources that any NZ legal academic can use to integrate technology and the impact of technology into their core law courses. This unique and exciting project allows me to further focus my area of passion in partnership with all NZ law schools as we work together to create better prepared graduates for the changing legal workspaces.

What are some of your tips to develop an innovative mind-set in law students?

The basis for any innovative legal mindset is a firm and solid understanding of legal principles. Law schools in part need to keep doing what they are doing teaching critical analytical legal skills.

Students also need to have a range of flexible skills relevant to the current legal environment and be able to see linkages between disparate areas of learning. We cannot teach individual (or all) technologies due to rapid advancements where technology is quickly updated/replaced. However, students need to be aware of the possibilities and potential technology will continue to bring to the profession. We need to expose students to technology and the impact of legal tech throughout their legal studies.

We need to inspire curiosity and excitement about the possibilities of technology and legal tech, we need to instil a growth mind-set in future lawyers. Technology is not the end of law and lawyers but the path to opportunity and diversity of legal services.

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

I say in my welcome speech for new students at the Law Faculty, studying law is the study of life, the universe and everything.

Technology and innovation is everywhere; it is what our clients, business and students are using, living and consuming. Lawyers and provisioners of legal services need to be able to interact, represent and facilitate the use of (and control the misuse of) these technologies to be relevant to the current and future users of legal services.

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest, New Zealand’s premier legal innovation and technology event. 


Sian Wingate

The Innovators: Sian Wingate, Senior Legal Counsel, Ultrafast Fibre and ILANZ President

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

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Sian Wingate and I absolutely love being a lawyer! I wear a few hats in the legal profession.

I am president of the In-house Lawyers Association of New Zealand (ILANZ). This is a great, voluntary role that focuses on working with our wonderful in-house legal community to ensure they are connected with each other and the wider profession, supported by member events, CPD, development opportunities and led by a team of volunteer committee members and dedicated Law Society, Te Kāhui Ture staff to ensure their interests are covered.

I am senior legal counsel at Ultrafast Fibre Ltd. We build broadband fibre networks across New Zealand. I look after the legal operations of the team and the day-to-day matters.

I run my own online legal service called Tradie Terms. This is a coaching service that offers legal T&Cs packages to tradie business owners and wraps coaching around this using webinars and short videos and checklists accessed from a portal to help them use them effectively.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Always designing your legal output with your client audience in mind 100% of the time.

What role does technology play in innovation?

It’s a facilitator to achieve the output that meets clients’ wants and needs. I believe that technology products and services lawyers have started to use are not in themselves the “innovation” (sorry legal tech companies!). The innovation is the mindset shift by lawyers to realise it must be used, it can be used and that it meets our primary brief: to look after our clients.

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

Time is the single biggest pressure:

- Time to think about what the organisation needs from a legal team.
- Time to scope out the options, learn about them and understand them.
- Time to implement any changes needed.
- Time to upskill in crucial skills like business analysis, user-experience design thinking and customer service skills.

Every organisation I have worked with or for suffered from being time poor. Every in-house member who chats about leveraging technology to roll out a great new onboarding process or a self-service template area or a legal matter management system all have the same thing in common. They take an age to achieve it because they have the day-to-day work to do as well, plus they are learning from scratch.

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

I have seen some fantastic developments in the in-house arena.

Here’s a few:

- Thinking of efficiency first and then working out how to buy in or design a product to achieve that;
- Using training and workshops to collaborate with in-house clients to help them learn how to use a new service or gather their feedback first before launching it;
- Being creative and resourceful – in-house lawyers are especially awesome at this.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

The opportunity to feel confident to just get started. You’re not innovative if you don’t actually do something. Thinking about it and waiting until you think it’ll be perfect is a lawyer’s greatest risk to innovation.

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

I’d strongly recommend the three pillars I teach at our ILANZ mindset workshop:

1. Value your function. If you know that you are offering genuine value to a client, you will know if it’s worth spending some extra effort to make it the best function you can in the time and with the budget you have.

2. Value your time. If you want to try something new, you need to know that your time is worth spending on learning new skills, reading about legal technology options or meeting a former colleague to ask them to show you what they have used. It’s essential to value that this is time well-spent.

3. Value your audience. If you are designing a new legal function, a new product or learning how to create a new compliance framework for your business it’s only ever going to work if you value the input from your audience. Ask them, check with them and ask them to road-test options with you. They’ll love you for it and they’ll be more likely to adopt whatever fancy new function, system or programme you roll out.

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

All of the above! But on a more serious note, it’s less about importance and more about necessity. No-one is willing to pay for a service or product unless they know what it involves and how it adds value to them. This translates to legal services whether in-house or privately delivered.

Sian Wingate will be speaking at LawFest, which will be held at the Cordis Auckland on 18 March 2020.


The Innovators: Maria Sopoaga, Solicitor, Auckland Council

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

Tell us about yourself?

I’ve been fortunate to have fallen into this world of tech and innovation so early on in my legal career. I’ve always been somewhat inclined to think about how things could be done differently, more efficiently and more collaboratively. It wasn’t until the Young Legalpreneurs scholarship opportunity with the Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI) came up earlier this year that I realised how innovation and tech could really drive positive change. I am by no means an expert, but I come to the legal profession with fresh eyes and a new perspective, and that’s really what I think innovation and tech are all about.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

For me, legal innovation is fundamentally about being open to change. It’s about understanding that improvement is a continuous, iterative process, and not a destination. We work in a notoriously conservative profession, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that much of what we do and the way we work is unsustainable. Innovation speaks to our ability as both individuals and as an entire community to accept that there are areas in which we could do better, that this is okay as long as we are willing to try new solutions, and importantly, that failure is part of the process, and not a reason to give up.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology can be a fantastic tool in supporting and enabling innovation; one need only look at something like automation to see how tech can increase efficiency exponentially. In the same vein, technology can provide as much hindrance as it can support if implemented improperly, or particularly where organisations are required to make best use of outdated legacy systems. A huge learning for me has been understanding that innovation and tech are not the same thing. I’ve found that there are many in our profession that also confuse the terms, marred by their own experiences with poor technology and systems, and apply the same hesitancy and suspicion toward innovation and design. For me, we need to get the innovation part right before looking to buy/create/apply tech solutions.

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

Clients continue to demand more for less from their legal service providers. The growth of in-house capability shows that clients are wanting legal services even more quickly and for less money. On the other hand, the legal profession has been asked to take better care of its people, with mental health and wellbeing a huge priority across a multitude of sectors and industries. I believe when done properly, innovation and tech can be a huge leveller in this space, maximising the capability of existing individuals while also increasing the efficiency of legal systems and services.

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

With AI taking over much of the low-level work of law firms and organisations, younger members of the profession will need to leave university with better legal expertise and strategic skill right off the bat. On the flip side, this requires buy-in from law firms, willing to allow younger legal professionals greater influence and input into higher level work, particularly given clients continue to demand better legal services at a lower cost.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

Aside from the CLI scholarship opportunity and the amazing connections I’ve been able to make – both of which I am incredibly grateful for – legal innovation has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for legal services. The law can be isolating and discouraging for many who might not fit in the stereotypical idea of what a lawyer should be. Legal innovation has taught me that thinking differently is something to be valued, and puts me and others like me, on the forefront of change.

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

Just start! It sounds easy enough, but most people who may be thinking about alternative ways of doing things don’t realise that they’re thinking innovatively. There are so many free resources online for those who may be new at things like innovation and tech so look for them next time you’re perusing Google or LinkedIn.

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

Without overstating the fact – because it would be irresponsible not to. You wouldn’t use a pen and paper to draft pages and pages of written submissions (or at least I hope not), so it makes no sense not to learn about what’s next in innovation and technology. Whether you like it or not, change is already here, so might as well look into now.

Andrew King is the organiser of LawFest 2020, an annual legal technology event which will be held at the Cordis Auckland on 18 March.


Tila Hoffman

The Innovators: Tila Hoffman, Special Counsel and Business Transformation Manager at MinterEllisonRuddWatts

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?

To me, legal innovation is changing legal practice so lawyers can deliver even better value to their clients. It is that simple. If it does not add value to your clients, then it is not innovative – or necessary.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology plays an important role but it should not be confused with legal innovation. Some innovation involves technology but you can be innovative and add value to your clients without using or developing new technology.

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

Law firms and in-house teams are faced with the same issues as other businesses and professions. There is pressure to do more with less, to add value and to continually improve – it is no longer enough to do what you have always done.

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

There are many opportunities to improve on business models that don’t serve either lawyers or clients. Typical client demands mean lawyers sometimes work long hours, often late into the evening and on weekends, to meet deadlines and ultimately to prove their worth. If we add innovation and some legal tech to the equation, lawyers may be able to meet the deadlines without working longer hours. There will always be one-offs, but with a few changes they won’t be the norm.

I would love to see lawyers working collaboratively with their clients to carefully identify issues, analyse options and offer solutions to fit a particular client’s needs.

What I enjoy about my role is getting to work on ways to free lawyers up so they can focus on their clients, using tools that cater to specific client needs, and ensuring a consistent delivery model.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

I’m naturally curious and solutions focused. I like to visualise what can be and then actually turn the vision into reality. My current role allows me to draw on my experiences as a lawyer (in private practice and in-house roles here and overseas), to think about how a little (or big) change can positively impact our firm’s legal team and clients. I get to identify pain points, consider and trial options, implement solutions and support our people and our clients to ensure solutions are embedded and actually have a positive impact.

Legal innovation has created that opportunity for me and I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of a firm that deeply values innovation.

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

Start somewhere – take a step and give something new a shot. A good place to start is thinking about a task you do more than once a day and think of ways to streamline that task. If something frustrates you, think of how to remove the frustration (for you and others). Get your content right and then add the legal technology tool on top.

Always keep the needs of the people you are innovating for top of mind – stand in their shoes and see your project or initiative from their perspective(s).

Be prepared for resistance but don’t become inactive because of it.

Don’t be so concerned about perfection that you never introduce your initiative – this is a common risk with law firms. If you keep trialling, your solution may be obsolete before it’s implemented.

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

In my opinion, our value as lawyers is our ability to communicate, develop trusting relationships and be in “partnership” with our clients. To be a trusted advisor and partner, you need to focus attention on your client’s business. If you streamline processes and embed some legal tech into your organisation, you will have the time to truly focus on your client. If you don’t, another lawyer will.

Tila Hoffman will be speaking at LawFest 2020, which will be held at the Cordis Auckland on 18 March 2020.


Mary O'Carroll

The Innovators: Mary O'Carroll, Director, Legal Operations, Technology and Strategy at Google

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

Tell us about yourself?

For starters, I’m not a lawyer. My background is in finance and management consulting, but I’ve been doing legal operations for over 16 years. I started that journey working for Orrick’s COO focusing on firmwide profitability. After that, I was asked to join Google as their first legal operations hire. Today, Google’s legal operations team has grown to over 50 team members who are responsible for overseeing key aspects of financial performance management, outside counsel management, systems/tools, and internal operations. In addition to my role at Google, I am the current President of CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium), a global organisation whose mission is to help legal operations professionals and other core corporate legal industry players optimise legal service delivery models.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

To me, being innovative just means taking something that currently exists and trying to do it a little differently.

What role does technology play in innovation?

While technology is a fantastic enabler of innovation, it is not a requirement. There are plenty of ways to innovate and make a massive impact without any technology. That said, in today’s day and age, technology does create so many opportunities for us to unlock value through automation, improved accuracy, increased efficiencies, data, etc. We’ve already seen technology enable law firms and legal departments to gain insights into productivity and value. This transparency has driven increased demand for big changes across the legal landscape.

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

We’re all facing more pressure to be responsible stewards for our companies and to ensure we are maximising the value of all our resources whether that is money, people, vendors, tools, etc. As the demand for legal services continues to grow and the complexity of the legal and regulatory environment we operate in increases, we’re being forced to think more creatively about how to meet these needs.

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

In recent years, we’ve seen increased disaggregation of legal services, the emergence of alternative service providers, an explosion in legal technology, and new career paths for lawyers and legal professionals. Corporations are demanding a change in the way legal services are delivered and it can be seen in the way we are purchasing.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

I’ve been fortunate to have built my legal career at places like Orrick and Google – organisations that embrace legal innovation and challenge the status quo. As someone who did not come from a legal background, I always approached this industry as an outsider and continually asked “why?”. Through this, I’ve found myself in a wonderful situation where I get to work alongside the smartest people I know, collectively tackling some of the industry’s greatest problems.

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

Look for problem statements, ask why, launch and iterate, believe in continuous improvement, measure everything, and remember that fast is always better than slow.

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

Because the legal profession and the way services are delivered in the future are going to look vastly different than they do today. We’re living in a unique time where we have the opportunity to shape the future and not just wait to see what happens. I, for one, find that extraordinarily energising.

San Francisco-based Mary O’Carroll will be the keynote speaker at LawFest 2020, which will be held at the Cordis Auckland on 18 March 2020.


The Innovators: Charlotte Baker, Legal Design Engineer at Wavelength

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.


The Innovators: Michael Heron QC

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?

Just giving something new a go that will make your service better quality, or faster, or both. One recent example, on an inquiry I was running, was to use a secure document sharing site which enabled us to know exactly who had access to the draft report (with two-factor authentication) and to control that access in a way that they were not able to share or print a copy. The technology was pretty cool but I confess I was worried about using it. Ultimately, with some trial and error, it worked well and made the whole process of sharing versions of drafts and minimising the risk of leaks much more manageable.

What role does technology play in innovation?

I think technology enables you to try something different. If the technology is simple to use and makes a process easier, then it is worth a try. It might be sharing your screen on an AV conference, signing documents online, or recording advice sessions on an AV application. Perhaps it is the ability to search across hundreds or thousands of documents to enable key documents to be located much more quickly. In a recent arbitration, the fabulous Crown Law team organised the hyperlinking of footnotes and documents referenced in submissions (every single document) within the space of a few hours. We finished them late in the evening and they were hyperlinked and ready in the morning for the hearing. We could go to any document referenced at the touch of a link.

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

Understandably, everyone wants more for less; or at least more for no more. And speed. I think clients are expecting answers more quickly, partly because time is money. The growth of in-house capability reflects that. As well as a more collaborative approach to delivery, with multiple firms, barristers, in-house lawyers and others being involved in bigger projects.

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

I suspect that we will see a bigger influence of AI in the lower level information gathering exercise that is involved in law. Also, the increasing availability of online legal services – not just by email, but genuine online and automated services where the customer can get all sorts of legal documents and advice without leaving their desk, when it suits them.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

The ability to practise flexibly and give something new a go. New chambers, digital practice (as much as I can) and a start-up in online dispute resolution (a passion of mine). CODR and other online providers are focused on trying to improve access to justice (and legal services) for ordinary Kiwis – people without the money and time to use lawyers in the traditional way.

There is a developing range of offerings from some really innovative services – Automio, LawHawk, Justly, McCarthy Finch to name but a few.

CODR is offering a more efficient way of resolving issues in the areas of modest civil disputes and relationship property issues. ODR will (in time) provide the ability for people to get fast and fair decisions in smaller disputes from experts without having to go anywhere or print anything. I think it is time to look at this for our Disputes Tribunal and possibly even the District Court. So, legal innovation gives us the ability to try to solve the really intractable problems we have in the law.

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

I think I’m just starting myself and would not profess to be a real innovator – there are plenty more expert than me. Just give it a try, be curious, listen and iterate, I reckon.

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

Imagine if we still sent all our advice by letter. Or only used hard copy texts and reports. How many times do we think there’s probably a better way? May as well give it a go…

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2020, which will be held in Auckland on 18 March 2020.


The Innovators: Warrick McLean, CEO, Coleman Greig Lawyers

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?

It means doing things better. It means being able to step back and watch how you could join the dots differently. Interestingly, this is a skill not everyone has, and lawyers often tend to be challenged by transformation.

Legal innovation is important for our clients, firm productivity and also for our current and prospective staff. Fifty-four percent of my firm’s staff is millennial, so we get staff to think about and find new ways of doing things that are exciting, interesting and challenging. Firms need to challenge and engage their younger staff to think differently and add value to the work. Engaging millennial staff the right way can get the best from them and will help to potentially retain them for longer. It costs a lot to train quality talent, so retaining them for as long as possible is important.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology plays a crucial role in getting a firm excited about the opportunities that innovation can bring, as innovation is the key and technology is simply an enabler.

Getting partners to join the innovation bus. It is all about bringing people along for the ride from traditional law firms. Having automation champions and drivers of change is the key. These staff may not be tech-savvy, but they seek opportunities for improvements.

The biggest opportunity lies in automating tasks and workflows. Many firms may use your existing software rather than investing in new technology.

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

Firms are very competitive. Changes are impacting on the profession as it is being driven by pro-active firms and legal entrepreneurs. They are keen to cash in on an industry that has been historically slow to change. Clients are pushing some of the changes but on the basis of our experience we need to challenge our clients with different offerings and ways of doing things.

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

Many smaller and mid-tier firms are now able to “get in on the action” as the price of technology drops and the number of legal technology start-ups increases. The challenge lies in execution. Many of the legal start-up offerings make the execution of legal tech and innovation a whole lot easier for firms compared to what it was five years back. There are plenty of AI platforms but for many firms this is an area left to the big boys. Delivering automation to much of our daily routine is the key where smaller firms can improve service delivery, turnaround and productivity. AI will happen and is happening but only to a niche few at this stage.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

The push to change the way we deliver our services is much less of a push these days. Lawyers are actively highlighting the opportunities and seek assistance from practice service teams. It means legal innovation is no longer an internal sell and is now really gaining a life of its own.

If process improvement is your thing then it is an exciting time to be in law and for me, I simply enjoy reflecting on how far our firm has come over the last ten years. We have not been bold but have just been very consistent at improving the way we do things.

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

A few years back we picked a few innovation champions to assist with developing a programme of hackathons. From these hackathons we developed some key outcomes whilst actively promoting and celebrating each win we have had internally. Lawyers are a competitive bunch, so there is nothing like a little bit of peer pressure to get things moving.

Another key lesson we have learnt is to try and get things done quickly – if you are going to fail … fail fast and get on to the next project. Lawyers want things perfect and educating lawyers about delivering a project requires it to be delivered in a way that is 70% complete and then work on the next 30% during testing. Once we get teams past that hurdle, then the take-up has been really positive.

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

The challenge has been finding the right platforms to assist us with our journey. Many practice management software offerings in the 75 users-plus range, struggle to deliver an effective API [Application Programming Interface] let alone a workflow that would be considered leading in 2019 terms. Software offerings need to be easily integrated and vendors need to be willing to “play nicely with the others in the sandpit”.

Working with our legal tech start-ups on the other hand has been a real pleasure. The legal tech partners that we deal with are keen to grow, to adapt. Working with a service partner that is agile makes a real difference as they have touched all parts of our business and in client areas. So, it would be difficult to change like family law.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2020, which will be held in Auckland on 18 March 2020.


The Innovators: Nick Whitehouse, Co-founder and CEO, McCarthyFinch

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?

Innovation isn’t about doing things differently because you can, it’s about the client. There are two approaches to innovation, the first approach involves iterative innovation to sustain the existing business model; the second approach involves radical innovations that ultimately disrupt the current business model. I’ve seen a lot of sustaining innovation in the legal profession, and outside of eDiscovery, I haven’t seen a lot of disruptive innovation, which is why we started McCarthyFinch.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Innovation starts with a willingness to put the client and their problems front and centre, to think competitively about problems and to take long-term action to solve them. While technology is more often than not the mechanism through which we execute innovation, it’s not all about tech. Exploring new business models, working agile, partnering and so many other non-tech actions are very innovative. Successful innovation is very much rooted in non-technology based thinking.

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

Time, money, scale! If you look across the industry, every law firm is working harder, the largest in-house teams are being overwhelmed, courtrooms are at capacity and more and more legal consumers are looking elsewhere for advice. Where once the industry accepted each year as a new normal, we’re now seeing growing demand for change.

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

The big shift we are seeing internationally is in the legal ops space. Corporate clients are taking legal efficiency very seriously and are beginning to invest both their time and resources into achieving outcomes for their businesses. This focus will force the hand of reluctant firms and provide opportunities for legal tech players.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

Our entire business is built upon legal innovation and the demand for it.

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

Take a long term view of your clients’ needs. Understand their business, and in particular the pressures being put on them to go faster as they respond to more and more change. Talk to them about what frustrates them and do the same internally. More often than not your own people are banging their heads against brick walls doing things in ways that also frustrate clients.

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

Toddlers are on iPads, five-year-olds are learning to code, 42% of China’s commerce is done online, Google is the largest advertiser in history – the world is becoming overwhelmingly digital. Digital natives are creating companies at an unprecedented rate and it’s estimated that 75% of S&P 500 will cease to exist in the next nine years. Not understanding this digital wave, how it impacts our clients, and how we serve them, is equivalent to expecting to serve clients while talking in a different language. Luckily there’s an app for that.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2020, which will be held in Auckland on 18 March 2020.


The Innovators: Titus Rahiri, Director at KorumLegal

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 has become a popular phrase in today’s legal ecosystem. Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, defined it best when he said: “Innovation is a change in the process by which an organisation transforms labour, capital, materials, or information into products or services of greater value.”

Legal innovation is about truly doing things differently. It’s a changing of mindsets. It’s offering a new way of service delivery. It’s using technology as an enabler. It’s being absolutely focused on customer centricity – creating value in outputs rather than inputs.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Christensen describes three distinct types of innovation an organisation can engage in: market-creating, sustaining and efficiency. Market-creating innovation creates a market where there was not one before. Sustaining innovation improves existing services and is typically targeted toward customers that are demanding better performance. Efficiency innovations enable doing more with less. Efficiency innovations are about streamlining internal operational processes to improve profitability.

Technology can play a role in all of these types of innovation but it doesn’t define innovation. Having said that, there are a growing number of legal tech companies coming to market globally with suggestions that the legal tech industry is worth more than $16 billion and increasing. Investment and acquisitions in the legal innovation space is heating up as noted in my August 2018 post on Korum Forum, “Are we at the tipping point of the ‘law company’?”

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

A 2016 Deloitte ‘Future Trends for Legal Services’ report surveyed a number of general counsels globally and asked what they saw as their biggest challenge – doing more with less came out as the biggest challenge (44%). This was followed by rising regulatory compliance pressures (26%), the speed of business (17%) and use of technology (11%).

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

My thoughts align with legal innovator and thought leader Mark Cohen’s analysis that law has two components – law practice and legal services delivery. The latter leverages differentiated legal expertise and shifts many other former practice activities to non-legal professionals, and even machines. Furthermore, new skills including legal operations, process and project management, tech expertise, and data analytics are required.

This practice versus delivery distinction goes far beyond semantics; it is a reconfiguration of the lawyer role and the structural and economic models from which multidisciplinary, tech and process-enabled expertise are provided. At KorumLegal, clients are coming to us for these exact reasons – they want a more efficient and effective delivery model for legal services.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

Legal innovation has enabled the founding of KorumLegal. As a former general counsel, I was frustrated by the lack of innovative solutions being provided by traditional players – and therefore decided to be the change that I wanted to see. In our early days, we had the support of some forward-thinking clients and a legal consultant community who believed in our product and services. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing people and companies who continue to pave the way for legal innovation – and an awesome HQ team at KorumLegal. We’re shaping the new reality in legal solutions.

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

Legal services have long been whatever lawyers said they were. Lawyers, not clients, dictated what was required, the timetable for delivery, and the blank cheque cost of their services. Now, legal services are whatever buyers need to solve business challenges. Put yourself in the clients’ shoes. And then ask, how can I do things differently and deliver what the client wants – that’s developing an innovative mindset.

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

If legal professionals and the legal services industry are going to be serious about innovation, the journey must begin with the voice of their customer. If your customer wants an easier to use work product, lawyers should utilise design-thinking principles to develop plain-language tools that empower non-lawyers to be a sophisticated consumer of legal services. This may mean giving your client a flowchart rather than a memo. If your customer wants cheaper legal services, the challenge for their lawyer is to abandon the billable hour and replace it with technology-enabled solutions that are still sold at a profitable price. In the end, innovation is about re-imagining processes to generate value and value is about listening to clients and focusing lawyers’ efforts on clients’ demands rather than the lawyers’ skills.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2020, which will be held in Auckland on 18 March 2020. Titus Rahiri will be one of the speakers at the event www.lawfest.nz


The Innovators: Erin Ebborn, Principle Lawyer, Portia

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, to me, is the means of progression a law firm (or lawyer) uses to improve their service offering and profitability.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is an essential part of innovation: that is where efficiency is realised. For almost its entire history, humankind has used one tool or another to increase the output of the individual person. Technology is a multiplier of effort, meaning that one person is able to produce several times more output than normal. For example, a person harvesting 100 trees with logging machinery will be more efficient than if the person used a chainsaw, though a chainsaw is more efficient than using an axe.

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

of legal services are mainly external: a tight labour market; changing social values, greater competition and substitutes; consumer sensitivity to price; greater expectations as to speed. Internally there is the pressure of partners wanting to exit firms, so finding the cash to pay them out. In a regulation sense, the restrictions around third-party investment and diversification of governance boards. Some of the change is well overdue (eg, #metoonz).

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

More video-enabled services allowing lawyers to beam in to remote areas, or work away from the law firm’s location. A revamp of what practice management software does with more focus on CRM, document management functionality and a move away from hourly billing. Some use of enhanced machine learning services provided from offshore – this is now possible due to the settlement of the Microsoft v US Government case (with the CLOUD Act passed into law last year).

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

Legal innovation has enabled me to expand into other parts of the country fairly quickly. For example, hiring lawyers to work in Blenheim has been challenging, so we don’t yet operate a branch in Blenheim. Our lawyers from Christchurch and Timaru service the area, which accounts for around 20% of our caseload.

We’ve grown our business at a good clip and we have done this almost exclusively on legal aid. Surely, this is evidence that innovation has a direct relationship with efficiency! We are taking all the profit we realise and sink it back into the business to continue this growth. For those who don’t know, legal aid fees are between 30% to 50% of what we charge privately. So we also have the choice of charging what other law firms charge, and returning hyper profit, or offer competitive pricing strategies to take market share from other firms.

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

Read some books. I recommend The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt; Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter, and; Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors by Michael E. Porter. If you don’t have your head firmly in the strategic space, you won’t be able to effectively choose your technology path.

Hire someone who knows the law profession and technology. Don’t try to feel your way around … it’s too important a decision to just go with who has the shiniest brochures, or what vendors tell you that you need. You need to project future need rather than focus on instant solutions.

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

The biggest challenge firms face around innovation is about the gaps that exist between the profession and other sectors of business; so the critical task to consider is need identification. Because law firms have weakened governance structures (due to any non-lawyer being statutorily banned from partnership or directorship status) there is a tendency to have a low risk horizon, resulting in a lack of strategic insight.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2020, which will be held in Auckland on 18 March. Erin Ebborn has been a speaker at the legal innovation and technology event LawFest.


The Innovators: Renee Knake

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

Renee Knake holds the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Royal Melbourne Institute for Technology University and is Professor of Law and Director of Outcomes and Assessments at the University of Houston Law Centre.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Legal innovation means developing ways to make law more accessible for those who need it, whether on the street corner or in the corner office. It also means ethical innovation. Lawyers have a special obligation to ensure that innovations in the delivery of legal services are ethical, not only complying with professional obligations but also protecting clients from harm.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology plays an important role in legal innovation, both in the development of new tools to make law more accessible and affordable, but also in showing the way toward innovation through investment, trial/error, user-centric design, etc. Technology alone, however, is not itself true innovation, unless it becomes adopted and disseminated.

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

Better, faster, cheaper, more-for-less – the pressures facing all sectors certainly also pertain to legal services. But, a unique pressure for those delivering legal services is adoption, whether it be convincing lawyers or their clients to try new tools or methods. Lawyers, by nature, are often risk-adverse and clients may not understand the value of legal services. So, this creates an extra hurdle or added layer of pressures for those who want to innovate in the legal services space.

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

I believe we will increasingly see more focus on the needs of clients, whether corporations, government bodies, or individuals, as well as stronger efforts aimed at better understanding the lived-experience for those who need legal help. Even as technology changes the tools legal services providers use, one-on-one human interaction will remain centrally important.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

My work in legal innovation has brought a number of opportunities. It has expanded career opportunities for students of mine, for example as legal solutions architects/designers or innovation counsel, jobs in the profession that did not exist when I was a student at the University of Chicago Law School 20 years ago. From 2014-16, I had the privilege of serving as a Reporter for the American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services, which led to the creation of the ABA’s Centre on Innovation. And, currently I hold the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Royal Melbourne Institute for Technology University, a six-month fellowship through the Australian-American Fulbright Commission. In this capacity, I am building upon my prior research to better understand the role of entrepreneurship and innovation in the delivery of legal services globally.

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

Look beyond one’s own profession or discipline for inspiration. My essay “Cultivating Learners Who Will Invent the Future of Law Practice: Some Thoughts on Educating Entrepreneurial and Innovative Lawyers”, which, while written for legal educators, offers insights for anyone who wants to think differently about how we approach the delivery of legal services.

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

In the United States this is an ethical obligation for lawyers; American Bar Association Model Rule 1.1, governing competence, requires keeping abreast with changes in relevant technology. But even more significant, for legal professionals around the globe, learning about innovation and leveraging technology is essential to best serving our clients.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2020, which will be held in Auckland on 18 March 2020.


The Innovators: Tamina Cunningham-Adams, Co-Founder & Director, Evolution Lawyers

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 the continual evolution of legal practice. Innovation may occur by adopting or developing processes to better serve client needs. It can enable a firm to reduce waste and compete more efficiently in the market. Legal innovation is far wider than just technological innovation, however. There are many ways that a firm can innovate without spending significantly on digital technologies.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is a key part of innovation in all industries. It changes practices and procedures, which can also affect the people within those industries. In some ways, the legal profession has been slow to adopt many of the technological developments embraced by other industries much earlier. For example, electronic signing, cloud-based data storage, video conferencing, digital templates, and digital marketing. Perhaps this is why some criticise the legal profession and the continuation of expensive, cumbersome, and paper-based practice.

That said, technology is not the only way to innovate practice. There are firms that appear to still serve their clients well, despite using outdated technology like fax machines and avoiding accepted technologies like email. While they may not be innovating in a technological sense, perhaps they are innovating legal practice by investing more in effective communication, face-to-face dealings, updating their clients more frequently, collaborating with other firms, or perhaps charging fees that are far lower than the average.

I believe that technology has a large part to play in legal innovation. However, there are lots of ways to embrace technology, and lots of ways to innovate without adopting technology, especially the expensive technologies.

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

Increasing regulatory compliance and the constant threats of digital intrusion are two overriding issues for solicitors, especially those with trust accounts. The costs of practising in an AML/CFT environment is challenging, as is complying with our duties to report under various legislation. Changes to property tax and overseas investment rules have increased the number of documents required for simple property transactions. Some practitioners will charge more as a result of time; some firms will simply bear the cost internally.

Digital intrusion is a real issue. Intrusions can be slow and insidious. There could be a keylogger taking note of every word you type or a virus forwarding every email sent from or received by your account to another, controlled email account, all without your knowledge. Practices must be vigilant and proactive, and stay up-to-date with the creative ways hackers and thieves are using digital technologies to intrude into systems. Updating systems immediately, training your staff to spot issues and report them early, and adopting other proactive digital safety measures, could be the key to avoiding business interruption, comprised devices, breach of privacy, confidence, and privilege, and incorrect disbursements of client funds.

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

There appears to be a trend towards using bots to interact with clients. This is an interesting technological development that may be beneficial for people who do not like communicating with people. However, in my experience, clients still want to speak with a real person, especially if they consider their issue to be stressful or significant. For example, in dispute resolution many clients simply want to know that we have got their back or that someone is in their corner. They are looking for empathy, assurance, confidence, and other things best provided by human beings.

Culturally, there are many who prefer to do business ‘kanohi ki te kanohi’ or face-to-face. So, while bots may have their place, such as dealing with routine communications and non-contentious work, I question whether clients feel special when their first interaction is with a bot. While lawyers should use every tool at their disposal to provide better client service, including automated technologies in many cases, the service provider should be a person whenever possible, in my view at least.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

Evolution Lawyers has adopted or developed whatever technologies or innovations we believe we need to provide the type of legal service modern clients would expect. Our aim is to practise as leanly and agile as possible. By simplifying practice, our lawyers have more bandwidth to work on legal problems and complete tasks accurately. Administration and paperwork can burden a legal mind significantly, and the cost of a person to attend to that administration is significant for small businesses.

We are fortunate that many of our clients have similar philosophies to us. For example, Evolution Lawyers works closely with Arizto Real Estate, a company that documents and processes its residential property contracts digitally. Like us, they have an in-house software development team. By working and keeping pace with innovative clients, we create opportunities for our young firm.

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

Keep it simple – identify a problem and find a solution. We do not need to be tech-experts to do this in practice. Indeed, this is what lawyers do on a daily basis. Many of Evolution Lawyers’ innovations have come from having to deal with something unsatisfactory in existing, normal practice. Rather than tolerating the issue, we find a way to fix it – immediately, if possible.

There are many excellent, cost-effective steps that firms could take right now. For example, two-step authentication, digital signing, legal working day calculators, and more. Some of those benefits are free. One just has to investigate and try them.

Work with professional developers. As lawyers, we see the consequences of the bush lawyer or the legal dabbler trying to do their own legal work. We engage a competent professional to build our software, so that it can be maintained by any professional in the future. For us, we see it as a risk to build sustainable software ourselves, and a heavy time commitment to learn to code. So, we leave that job to the experts.

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

Lawyers should be continually learning. That is part of being a professional. Legal innovation is part of that continual learning practice. Like anything, the more you know, the more you can leverage that knowledge to create opportunity and benefit for yourself and others.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2019, which will be held in Auckland on 21 March. Tamina Cunningham-Adams will be one of the speakers at the event.


The Innovators: Pauline Glancy, Practice Manager, Haigh Lyon Lawyers

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?

I feel that I have had a positive interaction with both. People are now not afraid to question why we do something in a certain way. Instead, people like me are asking, how can we do this more effectively and efficiently and what are the technology tools that are available that might help us along the way.

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

My firm is not afraid of change and are embracing it. It is also not left to the management team to implement new ways of working but rather it is open to everyone in the firm to contribute ideas and solutions. The words paper less isn’t a scary concept anymore. A clean and paper free desk can be seen around the office. With the use of dictation technology such as Bighand lawyers are becoming more and more armed with the tools needed to work smarter. This also allows our secretaries to be more than typists. Instead they are more involved in the file and thinking one step ahead of what might be needed from them next.

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

Most new technology is great but what happens if it doesn’t interact with your current software? I find this the biggest challenge. E.g. This new trust admin system can do everything from A-Z but it won’t integrate with Infinity our current practice management system. Or this new cloud phone set up is top of the line but it won’t work with our current computer system.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

A move away from time billing and to value based services for clients. Using technology to improve productivity of legal authors by flexible ways of working. Lawyers can now access their files from anywhere and don’t have to be next to them at their office cubicle.

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

Instead of just managing people to deliver the outcome it has evolved into utilising the combination of people, technology and innovative ideas to deliver better outcomes for or clients.

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?

Aren’t we all looking to achieve the same thing? This is a great opportunity to get in a room with like-minded people who are looking to make a positive change or people who have already trialed it who are willing to share their thoughts.


The Innovators: Susan Bennett, Principal Sibenco Legal & Advisory, Co-founder and Director Information Governance ANZ

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?

When I commenced as a lawyer there was only the traditional paper ‘discovery’ and the technology to enable ‘eDiscovery’ had not yet been developed. I was a user of the initial versions of several eDiscovery technology tools and established a legal technology support team to support litigation matters and due diligence in M&As. I was also involved in one of the earliest commercial litigation trials in London that used live transcript – that was back in 1995. I was involved in the first electronic trial in a major commercial litigation case in the New South Wales Supreme Court, which was back in 2000-2001. As is often the case with technology, it takes time and improvements both to the technology and with the skills of the users before the full extent of the benefits are realised. The first electronic trial was also accompanied by multiple sets of an initial 165 folder trial bundle set, and almost everyone insisted on hard copy print outs of the transcript each day over the course of a 12 month hearing.

Further development of litigation legal technology in recent years has continued. In particular, the development of AI capabilities in eDiscovery software has been impressive. Technology Assisted Review (TAR) operating in conjunction with eDiscovery software, enables vast amounts of information across an organisation to be searched, identified and collated, and then utilising the sampling, training and prediction functions of TAR can result in significantly reduced number of paralegals and review lawyers.

The courts have also been active in deploying technology, from the use of electronic trials on a regular basis (with little or no paper), to the ability of court users to file documents on line, which is a huge time saver and reduces costs.

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

I’m now a lawyer who is a NewLaw provider and technology is key to enabling practitioners like myself who choose to practise law outside the traditional large law firm model. Soon after Microsoft built its cloud in Sydney, I moved to a fully electronic legal practice and now use a number of software programs to carry out my work. Technology is also the enabler to allow consultants and contractors who work with my firm to work remotely. The upside of email, mobile phone and web conferencing is that it enables lawyers to respond and communicate with clients with ease, even when they are not in their law firm office. Whether I am travelling overseas and/or working remotely, I find it is a non-issue for clients – the key issues are that you are accessible and available to do the work and then deliver.

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

I think a key challenge is properly understanding both the scope and the limits of new technology. I often ask for an explanation as to how a product being demonstrated differs from its competition to understand what the product does differently. The gap between what lawyers do and think they need and what the technology does, needs to be understood in order to get the best solution. Increasingly it is likely to be the lawyer who will need to change the way do their work and/or how they deliver their services. However, sometimes it is less about which software you are using and more about having the right skill set using it.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

I see great opportunities for those in the legal profession who innovate and are able to compete in a legal environment that will be completely disrupted by technology. The technology revolution is in its early stages and we will really begin to see some of the profound changes that technology will bring to the legal industry as technology becomes embedded and/or replaces traditional areas of practise. eDiscovery technology tools and Legal Process Outsourcing (LPOs) have now reduced the size of law firm paralegal and lawyer teams on document review. Other examples include the increasing use of AI software in contracts and blockchain, which will have a profound impact on contract and commercial legal areas.

Technology disruption to law presents innovation opportunities for lawyers who can see and seize the opportunities. For students and young lawyers, combining technology and legal skills will open up new frontiers – such as the development of legal apps or legal Chat bots. Students who combined technology and law qualifications are likely to have more employment opportunities and faster career progression given there will be an increasing demand for the combined legal and technology skills.

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

For current and including older lawyers, we all need to be continually learning, seizing opportunities and innovating. Experienced lawyers can combine their skills and expertise with new learnings to deliver new services. For example, my background in large scale document production in litigation and Royal Commissions and my involvement with the development of eDiscovery led me to write and speak on the importance of good document and information management and defensible disposition of records to reduce discovery and litigation costs. I now deliver services in Information Governance, including frameworks, policies and processes to manage the exponential growth in data within organisations from a strategic organisational perspective. This work also includes – privacy frameworks, privacy impact assessments, data impact assessments for data analytics projects including an ethical based assessment as part of the overall assessment framework. The legal work in data protection and privacy is a rapidly growing area of law, which exists because of the technology developments.

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?

Everyone attending LawFest will learn something new from a diverse range of leading innovators and leaders in law and legal technology. It’s a great to hear the speakers explain current trends and latest developments with their insights and practical experience.


The Innovators: Claudia King, CEO + Founder, Automio

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 and technology have given me life over the last 6 years or so. By nature I’m a curious person and like to try new things, and I have been incredibly lucky to have been in a work environment where I could try all the things. This led us to launching Legal Beagle in 2012 which was a nationwide online legal service, and this put us on the journey to create our own automation software which is now our full time business Automio. I’m also a big fan of digital marketing which is what I used to create and build a client base at Legal Beagle, and love the trial and error that goes with this type of marketing as well as the ability to accurately measure results.

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

Oh man, where do I start. We’ve undergone some huge changes as I sold my law firm Dennis King Law in July so that my team and I could focus 100% on Automio. So we went from being a law firm with a tech project on the side, to a standalone SaaS startup navigating #startuplyf which has no end of ups and downs and hilarious moments.

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

When I was a lawyer my biggest challenge was knowing exactly what I wanted in terms of software, but not being able to find it. I also found so much of the legal software available is so shit and clunky and you had to install in on your machine and the support from these software companies is terrible, and legal tech is so bloody expensive. What’s up with that?

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The biggest opportunity I can see right now is to look for ways to share legal innovation with clients. Currently many lawyers want to be innovative to benefit themselves and make their firms more efficient and profitable, but are not looking for ways to share these benefits with clients yet (for example, by committing to faster turnaround times, different pricing options, convenient online service etc). Ensuring that clients get to share in the benefits from innovation will become the norm, and those lawyers that concentrate on this now will go well into the future.

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

My role has evolved so much already, and will continue to do so. In my current role my mission is to help lawyers defend their careers in the age of automation and AI. As more lawyers take up our technology we want to quickly expand into other countries, as well as other industries. Automio can be used by any person or business that has a repetitive process they want to automate and then use that automation to generate revenue and allow customers to serve themselves online, so we see opportunities for our business in many other industries including education, engineering and healthcare. My role as CEO is to drive this growth.

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?

It’s not just important for legal professionals to attend an event like LawFest, it is a “must do” for any lawyer serious about future-proofing their career. Unless lawyers keep their knowledge up to date with the latest opportunities and technologies for the legal industry and keep their skills in terms of using technology up to date, then they are risking the future of their legal careers. Events like LawFest are a great way to absorb a bunch of new ideas, skills and knowledge in one quick hit.


The Innovators: Karen Venables, Founder & Co-Director, Legal Solutions

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?

Innovation for us has been around looking at our services from a clients’ perspective and designing the way we practise around what they want or need. Trying to identify and remove friction points or double handling to make us more efficient and responsive to our clients and a better place to work for our staff. We have also worked really hard to create a structure and culture of continuous improvement where all staff are responsible for identifying areas of improvement.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is the enabler. It will give us the tools to be able to provide our services more efficiently and in different ways so that our clients can easily access them. Research has identified that our clients rank having a relationship with their lawyer as more important than cost or experience. There are lots of tools coming to market that will help us do document preparation, review and research quicker so we can spend more time on the relationship with our clients. Our strategic vision is to provide an extraordinary customer experience. We want clients to leave saying “I can’t remember what legal work they did, but they sure did make us feel good.”

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

We are continually under pressure to do things quicker and cheaper. Our clients have become accustomed to getting an immediate response from Google so they want an immediate response from us. One of our biggest challenges is around how do we meet our clients’ expectations and respond quickly to them when we are in client meetings all day. Another challenge is the increase in compliance administration which the clients see no value in. We are always scanning the horizon looking for technology that can help us with these challenges and turn them into opportunities. We also have a new generation entering the workforce who have expectations that are outside of what a traditional law firm provides.

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

I think that a lot of the research and review work that we currently do will be able to be done much quicker by AI and robots. We will have virtual assistants who may be able to answer simple questions and undertake administration work. We will see more and more of our clients moving to alternative legal service providers. I also think that we see more specialisation in niche areas.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

I think the biggest opportunity has been around having better relationships with our staff and clients. We have created a firm that is client-centric and feels comfortable and modern. We have implemented alternative fee structures depending on our clients’ needs. Most of our clients know in advance how much their legal fees are going to be. This has significantly improved our relationship with them. Using tools like Automio has helped us save considerable time when preparing documents, which means we have more time to spend with our clients or improving our processes. We have also created a culture of continuous improvement which is led by all of the team and has significantly improved staff engagement.

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

I think the best way to start innovating is to notice a friction point in your business. It might be a friction between you and your clients or it might be an internal process that isn’t working well. Once you have identified it, work with your team to roll out a solution. Start with quick fixes, easy wins. This will help create momentum. Sometimes changes don’t work so identify this quickly and change. I first thought innovation was about having the newest, shiniest technology. I’ve come to realise that we all probably have the tools in our firms already. We just need to learn how to use what we already have smarter.

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

Our industry is in the process of being disrupted by technology and if we don’t change we may find ourselves irrelevant. If we implement technology that streamlines our processes and makes it easier for our clients to deal with us and if we create a work culture that celebrates improvement and development we will continue to attract good staff and clients. Your law firm will be a better place to work and you may even be able to spend more time doing the things you love.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2019, which will be held in Auckland on 21 March. Karen Venables will be one of the speakers at the event.


The Innovators: Gene Turner, Managing Director, LawHawk Limited

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?

I’ve always been interested in using technology to help me work better, but coming up through law firms and an in-house team, I had very limited opportunities to try new systems out. Mostly I dabbled in work-arounds as best I could, while trying to do all the usual parts of my job too. Even then I was able to find ways to work better, which reinforced that you don’t need a lot of technology to innovate.

Since setting up LawHawk, I’ve been immersed in the legal tech space. Document automation sits nicely in the middle of so many other processes, that I see a lot of opportunities and talk to a lot of people about other legal technologies, what they do, and how they can fit together as part of overall solutions. I’ve really enjoyed that part of things as it is the overall solution that matters, not the individual components.

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

We are still a relatively new company, moving quickly in a rapidly developing market, so there are always a lot of things changing.

When we launched in June 2016, very few people we spoke to had any idea that document automation existed as a concept. It felt like we were building a new market, one conversation at a time. We are seeing more awareness and interest in the idea, though knowledge of how to use it for advantage is still low, so that is a focus for us.

Our preference remains to work with law firms, but we haven’t been waiting for them to figure things out, and have been working more directly with in-house legal and procurement teams, and testing offers direct to consumers. After throwing the net out broadly looking for early adopters, we’ve been narrowing our focus and looking for customers we can do a lot more with to help them make substantial gains.

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

The same as any lawyer really: limited technical knowledge; limited budget and limited time.

I’m a lawyer that likes to use new technology when I think it can help me be more effective. I don’t always understand all the details about how it works. I have to take time to talk to people who do understand those things, and who I can work with to figure things out. Usually they have no idea how lawyers work, so it’s a sharing of ideas that is required. We have the best technology partners we could find.

I also don’t have an unlimited budget, and have to prioritise where to focus. We have to make sure that we are spending our money on things that our customers will benefit from, and that they want now. Timing is important – you can’t afford to be too far ahead of the market.

Thirdly, I also struggle to find time as much as everyone else does. I have to make time, as I usually find the new technology is a lot better, and easier to use, than I thought it would be.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

Once you have a clear strategy – you know the outcomes you want to achieve, and why – you can take your pick! Firms can innovate to win more work, protect the work they have, make law affordable for those who can’t or won’t pay, change pricing models to fixed prices or retainers, work more seamlessly with clients, increase quality, reduce risk, get real work/life balance by getting hours of work done in minutes, delegate more (or if you are a younger lawyer, be able to do more of the job), attract and retain the best people. As one example, Auckland Council was recently offering exclusive panel appointments to firms offering real innovation, which I thought was great to see.

Overloaded in-house teams can bring more work in-house and still do it easily, and enable their businesses to do more themselves. We recently helped an in-house team reduce the time to prepare a 3910 construction contract from 4 hours to 1 hour (and hope to get that lower). Instead of each person being able to process 2 contracts (at best) per day, they could do 7 or more and still have lunch. This will have substantial benefits for their organisation and the people that organisation serves.

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

We have two core parts to our business.

One is our online store, where people (including law firms that don’t have a precedent and/or automation) can buy a good legal document that they can really customise to suit their circumstances at a very low cost (usually under $50). We haven’t progressed this as much as we wanted to because the demand hasn’t been there and it is time consuming to develop documents for such broad use. We would like to partner more with law firms in particular areas to develop more of an overall solution – documents + legal advice. We’ve done this in the areas of wills, enduring powers of attorney and employment agreements.

The other side of our business is the custom automation of documents for customers. We started with a focus on law firms, but increasingly are working with in-house and procurement teams who have a greater immediate need and sense of urgency, and are closer to the real problems to be solved. We do expect to work more with law firms to identify and act on these opportunities together as that is what I think clients (and us) would really prefer, and law firms are starting to realise through tenders like Auckland Council’s that there is demand for it, and if they don’t do it, someone else will.

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?

One big benefit of an event like LawFest is the chance to learn from some really knowledgeable people who are at the forefront of a rapidly changing area, in a very time efficient way, but that isn’t the end of it.

I actually think a bigger advantage is in the networking, because it’s the combinations of people and technology that create the best solutions in each case.

At last year’s LawFest for example, we met two new organisations that we have since partnered with to develop joint solutions for particular areas of the market. One we planned to talk to, and the other was complete chance. Don’t just go to listen – make time to talk to people and find out what is really going on and how you can be part of it.


The Innovators: Shaun Plant, Legal Services Lead at Waikato Regional Council, Co-Founder and Head of Transformation, LawVu

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?

I had a previous career as an engineer and professional project manager which has influenced how I think and behave as a lawyer. I have a particular passion for using process improvement to deliver better legal services and for the past four years I have been hosting workshops for legal professionals on the practical application of project management, Lean and Kanban. I am also a co-founder of LawVu, legal operations software, so legal innovation and technology is already inherent in how I practice law.

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

One of our organisational goals is to deliver better services for our internal and external customers and we recognise that this can only be achieved through the use of technology and innovation. We’re moving towards using cloud-based software as a standard which when combined with portable devices provides the team with immediate access to a depth of tools and information. We use a range of legal and non-legal technology, such as Promapp to design and improve our business processes, Trello for workflow and of course LawVu for managing matters and work that is outsourced to external legal providers. Not only have these changes helped us to become more efficient in delivering legal services, but they have also helped to empower our 400+ clients to find solutions to routine problems freeing the legal team up to spend more time on more important matters.

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

I am fortunate to work for an organisation whose culture encourages innovation and embraces change so there are few barriers towards adopting new technology or processes. However, balancing the time that is required to fully identify and assess potential technology whilst servicing the legal needs of the organisation is a huge challenge. You can’t introduce change without experiencing some discomfort so to overcome the temptation to stick with the norm, I try to build momentum by taking small steps to solve one problem at a time rather than trying to solve a larger number of problems in one go.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The biggest opportunity for me is to use process and technology to change the way that I work, by removing the parts of my role that I don’t enjoy so that I can spend more time doing the parts that I do. Key to that is providing customers with access to information so that they can make good decisions without the need for actual legal support. The use of collaborative tools will enable external legal providers to gain a better understanding of our business which should lead to improved legal services. I also see a huge opportunity in litigation which is one area where I see so much waste in terms of time and cost and I’m hopeful that the uptake of products like LawVu for transparently planning litigation process and strategy, and the online court process being driven by Judge David Harvey, will get some real traction.

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

Technology and innovation are building capacity within the team so I see more work being brought back in-house, in particular being able to effectively unbundle projects will mean that only the truly specialised work will need to be outsourced. We are also starting to gather some useful and accurate data around the work that we are doing and I am sure this will lead to a stronger strategic aspect to my role.

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?

I attended the 2017 event and was impressed by the quality of speakers and exhibitors, and the wide range of attendees. It creates quality time so that you can give some real thought to new ideas, network with like-minded people and ask the exhibitors some real hard questions.


The Innovators: Steven Moe, Senior Associate, Parry Field Lawyers

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?

I returned to New Zealand after 10 years working for an international law firm (Norton Rose Fulbright) where I was one of 3,800 lawyers in 55 offices. That role took me as a corporate lawyer to work for several years in each of Tokyo, London and Sydney. So I’ve seen first-hand how the biggest law firms operate and push the boundaries by adopting new technology and trying new things. On returning to New Zealand last year I was really keen to explore what that might look like here too. The context for that exploration has been keeping this great quote from Joshua Gan at the front of mind: “Successful firms that are disrupted are not complacent or poorly managed. Instead, they continue on the path that brought them to success.”

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

At the end of last year I got really tired of reading about disruption in every article but often with only speculation left as the takeaway about ‘what next’. So we investigated for ourselves what it might actually mean for a medium sized firm like ours (8 Partners, 40 staff). The direct result was this year taking concrete action and forming a joint venture company with software developers who had developed AI chat bots before. This software start-up has been a wild yet fun ride of learning and growth. It’s called Active Associate (https://activeassociate.com) and it is developing an AI-enabled customer engagement solution for law firms. This solution is addressing some serious pain points for medium size firms such as a high amount of time spent on non-billable work and difficulties in maintaining a client base that can support their billable targets. Consumers are able to access the solution 24×7 via Facebook Messenger and ‘widgets’ on a firm’s website from their phones, tablets or laptops, and interact with it using natural language to get quick helpful answers to their legal questions. While helping future and current customers, the solution captures user information which can then be delivered to the law firm increasing workflow efficiencies and reducing the wasted time dealing with tire kickers. We’ve had a warm reception from forward-looking law firms in NZ and Australia who have already become our Innovation Partners and those that are about to join the Programme (we are open to a few more at this stage).

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

Understanding what is hype and what is reality – it’s a grey mist you have to really squint to see through. For example the term “AI” conjures up images for some people of robots taking our jobs when for the foreseeable future it is better to think of it as a description for natural interaction with consumers.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The next generations are first going to turn to their phones before they walk through the physical doors of an imposing looking law firm. It will be critical for those law firms who want to survive that they prepare and are ready to interact with that next gen thinking.
Culturally, there are many who prefer to do business ‘kanohi ki te kanohi’ or face-to-face. So, while bots may have their place, such as dealing with routine communications and non-contentious work, I question whether clients feel special when their first interaction is with a bot. While lawyers should use every tool at their disposal to provide better client service, including automated technologies in many cases, the service provider should be a person whenever possible, in my view at least.

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

My hope is that we focus more on the true value add that we can offer as professionals and get less tied down with the routine tasks that none of us really enjoy.

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?

It’s vital to stay in touch with the latest trends and developments and LawFest offers a great opportunity to hear from the best innovators in the field. By having a representative attend they can then go back and challenge the assumptions and old ways of thinking that will doom a law firm to irrelevance by just continuing to do what has worked in the past.


The Innovators: Anton Smith, CEO, Consensus New Zealand

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?

It means listening to lawyers and their customers and solving problems. Clients are often in the position where there’s no question they need legal assistance but, frankly, if they could avoid it they probably would. So what can or should we as an industry be doing to make the interaction easier and simpler? That’s what legal innovation should be all about, in my opinion.

What role does technology play in innovation?

User experience is everything and user-centred innovation demands the smart use of technology. Those who will succeed in #legaltech will only do so if they add value, and they’ll do it by making consuming and providing legal advice easier, better and less daunting.

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

Clients will always put pressure on price, especially if they don’t appreciate the value lawyers provide. It’s something which can be hard to convey, but it’s essential and creates competitive advantage for those who get it right. However, no one is interested in a race to the bottom with price, so what’s your differentiator as a lawyer if not price? To me, it’s who you are. At a certain point, most lawyers have the experience to answer the majority of client questions in their field, so the client will be loyal to you if they feel a connection to you. How do you build and maintain that connection in an increasingly digital playing field? That’s the big question and, I think, the cause of great pressure to come.

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

How legal advice is packaged, conveyed and paid for will change for the better. How legal advice is produced is also evolving through software, making many tasks previously done by junior lawyers and law clerks redundant. That presents a separate and major challenge for our profession’s growth and longevity and demands grappling with.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

The chance to meet and work with some of the smartest brains and forward-thinking professionals Aotearoa has to offer. It’s also been a way to dig deep into the frustrations those we live to serve as lawyers have about our profession. There is a literal abundance of problems to solve.

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

Develop a hypothesis - your guess about what your users or customers want - and then test it continuously. Honestly, it’s about running experiments. You have to not only be open to being wrong, you have to expect it. What you try is never going to be perfect, and that’s freeing. You have to be in it for the long haul and constantly strive for perfection

I think fear of failure is a big problem for all of us working in this industry. The best lawyers I’ve encountered or worked for are the ones who recognise they won’t always have all the answers straight away and, equally, that those working for them offer different perspectives that can deliver nuggets of gold. We have to be more open to the opportunities failure and different perspectives present.

As more lawyers adopt this innovative mindset, we will see the transformation of the industry that our stakeholders are crying out for.

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

The lawyers and firms with longevity will be the ones with competitive advantage, gained through leveraging the right technologies. That doesn’t necessarily mean AI or chatbots, although I appreciate software will become increasingly of interest. I mean using even very simple technologies to build a profile online.

The old approach of firms being comprised of ‘grinders’ (lawyers who prefer to ‘do the doing’) and ‘rainmakers’ (the legal salespeople) is already over. You can be a ‘grinder’ who doesn’t enjoy the business development side of private practice and still use technology to market your brand.

Legal professionals need to convey who they are and why they’re the best at what they do in a professional and appealing way, and they can actually do that at minimal cost. It’s an exciting call to action for our industry and one I’m thrilled to be exploring.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2019, which will be held in Auckland on 21 March. Anton Smith will be one of the speakers at the event.


The Innovators: Larissa Vaughan, Head of Legal Wealth and Digital Legal Lead, Kiwibank and Kiwi Wealth

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?

I’ve been working with our business teams to develop new financial services products and platforms. Many of our teams use agile work practices which challenges the way we’ve traditionally practiced law. I have also been involved with the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator Programme, which takes agile to a new level and ups the challenge for lawyers.

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

I think innovation is about more than pure technology, it’s also about adaptive ways of working. We’ve had to change the way we practice law to keep up with our the needs of our (internal) clients. Agile teams means we’re going to stand ups, monitoring beta tests and delivering advice via customer journey maps. We’ve had to get familiar with work management tools like Trello and Kanban boards, and switched email for Slack.

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

It can be hard to know what’s out there, without getting inundated with sales pitches. In particular it can be difficult to understand what will work in a NZ environment and which technology can best add value and fit with your particular business. It’s also easy to get bogged down in the day to day and default to the usual way of doing things. Sometimes you need a nudge (or even a well-executed push) to re-evaluate how you work.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The right innovation gives lawyers the chance to work more closely with their business and be part of the overall delivery. It also offers opportunities to automate repetitive work and focus on the more strategic value add work. For example I’d much rather focus on crafting court submissions than spend hours trawling through documents in discovery.

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

The concept of being a T-shaped lawyer really makes sense and appeals to me (a term first used in 1991 which has gained popularity recently see: https://www.americanbar.org/publications/law_practice_magazine/2014/july-august/the-21st-century-t-shaped-lawyer.html. That is having depth and expertise specialist legal knowledge and also general breadth in legal and non legal skills (such as tech know how) so you can work more collaboratively and holistically. It can be challenging to leave the comfort zone of pure law, but very rewarding.

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?

It’s good to get out of the office and see what else is out there – new technology, new approaches to lawyering and new connections. It’s great to have that plated up in a legally focused way that’s relevant for a NZ audience.


The Innovators: Rachael Stevenson, Practice Manager, AlexanderDorrington

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.


The Innovators: Thomas Bloy, Director of Evolution Lawyers and CEO of CataLex.

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?

My professional career today centres on legal innovation and technology. In 2014, I left Simpson Grierson to start CataLex (www.catalex.nz), a software company that develops solutions to improve access to law and legal services. Although I have no coding experience or development expertise, it was clear to me that 70-80% of what I and most other lawyers did at SG would one day be assisted by software, or automated to the extent a lawyer was not required. I think all lawyers face a simple choice:

stay as you are, and hope technology won’t replace your job before you voluntarily exit the profession; or
start adapting now – join the new technological wave that will shortly change the profession forever. You can’t beat ‘em, so join ‘em.
I chose the latter. My reasoning was, as it tends to be, pragmatic and simple: I would much rather create the technology that replaces my job than fall victim to it. Of course, when I say “create”, I mean “pay expert developers to create”. I wasn’t misguided enough to attempt to retrain as a software developer and DIY.

Adaption is the key word. My experience has convinced me lawyers and law firms who do not adapt to new technology will find it increasingly difficult to survive. Having a few staff who ‘know about IT’ won’t cut it. All lawyers must adapt or die.

The Darwinian theme runs deeply through both my businesses – CataLex (my SaaS company) and Evolution Lawyers (my virtual law firm). The two businesses are corresponding sides of the same coin: one creates software to provide services for functions where lawyers aren’t required in the brave new world; the other provides services that truly require a lawyer.

The more services that move from Evolution Lawyers to CataLex, the better. Ultimately, the Darwinian process will leave the legal profession with an irreducible core of services that no machine or software can provide; the services that define what it means to be a lawyer.

The law firm uses technology wherever it can to save time and cost for its clients. Evolution Lawyers is 100% Cloud-based, paperless (you know, to the extent you can be), virtual (no fancy central office), and mobile (we come to you). I have found a focus on technology, particularly on how it can improve efficiency, to be universally appreciated by staff, clients, and associates of the firm. It has also proven profitable.

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

Our team loves new solutions and processes that make their jobs easier (who doesn’t?). It frees them to focus on the more challenging but rewarding parts of their role. For example, Evolution Lawyers recently subscribed to CataLex Sign. Now, all our staff are signing documents, and inviting others to sign documents, online whenever possible. No more printing, signing in ink, transporting the original, scanning the original into the Cloud, and emailing to the client. The process is completed electronically in a few clicks.

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

A persistent issue for Evolution Lawyers is whether to buy software off the shelf or develop it ourselves. My experience in CataLex has taught me that many bespoke software solutions can be developed relatively easily and inexpensively. That knowledge led to a decision that Evolution Lawyers would create its own document template system, rather than buying Actionstep, LawHawk, Automio, or any of the other, numerous template solutions out there.

But not all decisions are so easy. What about practice management? Business and trust accounting? Document management? Should we create those too? Where do you stop? How can I know if the capital outlay is justified long term? Difficult questions indeed.

Another pet peeve, is the way some software companies oversell their products. Terms like automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain, smart contracts, and machine learning, are thrown around willy-nilly, often incorrectly. These days it seems “Cloud” means “Internet”, “artificial intelligence” means “smart”, and “automation” means “less data entry”. This kind of exaggeration and muddying of the waters confuses customers and makes them sceptical.

I’ve noticed this reaction when promoting CataLex products, despite being conservative when discussing feature benefits. There is a general distrust of software providers, perhaps with good reason.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The opportunities are almost infinite. I have staked my professional reputation on that belief and am confident it is well-founded.

Keep an eye on CataLex and Evolution Lawyers to learn the opportunities legal innovation will deliver!

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

Evolving – I like that.

I see lawyers becoming generalists again. Whereas most lawyers now tend to specialise, or at least head down that path, technology will enable lawyers to compete in multiple practice areas. This includes areas of the law where generalists would ordinarily be unable to practice. Tech will bridge the knowledge and experience gap, creating more competition and benefitting the consumer.

For me personally, I look forward to technology that enables small firms to compete with the big boys. Technology that enables a savvy junior lawyer of five years’ experience to go toe-to-toe with a long-toothed practitioner. Technology that, in short, will level the playing field.

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?

Because LawFest is a great vehicle for improving access to law and legal services, which is my passion.

I will be there in 2018 for sure.


The Innovators: Caroline Ferguson, Business Transformation and Innovation Director, Simpson Grierson

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?

Ever since I started working in law firms over a decade ago, I have been passionate about how we can make the delivery of legal services better for clients and the lawyers doing the work. During seven years at Allen & Overy in London I was lucky to be a part of, and work alongside, a number of leading developments in the global legal innovation and technology space. A&O has led the way with a number of their offerings including aosphere (online services), Peerpoint (contract lawyers) and Fuse, their technology incubator. It’s been great to bring this experience to Simpson Grierson, while also continuing to learn and keep up with new opportunities and developments. In particular, it’s been great to help Simpson Grierson with new initiatives, such as our online health and safety management service.

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

I am really excited about the new skills and expertise that we are seeing develop in law firms. Earlier this year we had a graduate join our business transformation team who, in addition to being a whiz with Excel and developing more engaging ways to present data, has experience with various technologies including augmented reality. He brings a new way of approaching things which is very refreshing and ultimately contributes to creating better solutions. It is also great to see more and more of Simpson Grierson’s legal teams using Design Thinking to solve problems. I certainly know from my own experience that taking the time to understand the end-users needs and then prototyping and testing ideas leads to better products, systems and processes.

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

Although it is important to be moving fast and experimenting, there are always steps you need to take and things you need to be thinking about before doing something differently and/or introducing new tech. For example, it is important that requirements around security and data protection are met and that there is adequate support in place. You also cannot just introduce tech for tech’s sake, it must be solving real problems for your clients and you need to think about the people element of any change. The best results come from having people with the rights skills working with the technology to ensure you are getting the full benefit from it and supporting others to use it. Sometimes things will take longer the first, second and third time you do it in a different way so you need to have the perseverance to push through and be open to adapting as you go.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

We are already seeing many benefits from taking more innovative approaches to the delivery of legal services, these include:

A more efficient, effective and enjoyable experience for clients (eg through visualising legal processes to increase transparency and understanding)
Less drudge work for lawyers so they can focus on the higher-value work for clients (eg using machine learning solutions to extract important data from large pools of documents so lawyers can focus on analysing the information and not finding it!)
Increased access to justice for those who may not always seek legal services due to cost, complexity and/or not feeling comfortable to ask for help (eg the resources on the Steps for Justice website led by CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario)).

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

I believe it is going to become more and more important to remain curious, open to experimenting with new ways of doing things and technology, and continually learning what offers the most value to clients. It will also become increasingly important to be able to collaborate, partner and work with people with all sorts of expertise including data analytics, artificial intelligence, design and behaviour science.

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?

I believe it is going to become more and more important to remain curious, open to experimenting with new ways of doing things and technology, and continually learning what offers the most value to clients. It will also become increasingly important to be able to collaborate, partner and work with people with all sorts of expertise including data analytics, artificial intelligence, design and behaviour science.


The Innovators: Jon Calder, CEO, Tompkins Wake

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?

Innovation in legal is any change or improvement that will drive efficiency and effectiveness of our firms and in the way we operate. That can be as simple as refining a process or finding a new way to use existing systems, through to pioneering new technology such as AI. Purists will argue part of that is simply continuous improvement, but I think that when you have a culture that constantly drives incremental improvements in the way you operate, the breakthrough innovation that enables big steps forward is easier to achieve and you’re better positioned to mobilise and respond to anything disruptive.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology is a key enabler and a vital component in innovation. The way we work is reliant on technology and the major gains we make in improving efficiency, accuracy and the speed at which we can operate is almost entirely driven by and dependent on technology. Technology plays a critical role in legal innovation.

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

Quality, responsiveness, delivery and price are the cornerstones of legal practice and are aspects most firms are challenged to maintain and improve. I think new ways to engage clients, information storage and dissemination, knowledge management, internal communication and collaboration, mobility and data analysis are all key areas that we have major opportunities to explore and exploit. Technology will be the tool that helps us unlock the next step forward and evolution of our service.

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

Our world is changing and evolving rapidly, and tech is part of our everyday lives. I’m impressed with automation tools like Automio. They’re making huge inroads because it’s great software driven by a team who understand what law firms need. When you can see how the tech solution solves a real problem, implementing it becomes easier and faster, delivering benefits to the firm and our clients. I am really interested in how AI is going to impact the profession. I think we are moving past the “robots will replace all lawyers” scenario and understand that AI will be a powerful tool that will increase our accuracy, speed and responsiveness.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

Internally we’re looking for efficiency gains through simplification and automation. Externally we have been exploring how we can use technology to better service certain client segments. In balancing clients wants and needs we understand we can’t be everything to all people, so using technology to deliver a bespoke solution for a certain a client segment allows us to meet the client’s needs without necessarily increasing cost or complexity.

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

It important to start by defining clearly the problem you are trying to solve. I think often businesses jump at the bright and shiny new tech solution without understanding the problem they’re trying to solve or fully understanding what it enables them to do. Looking at the problem through multiple lenses is important as not only does it allow you to understand the impact and benefits, often there are ancillary benefits to be gained that may have been unexpected at the outset. That then creates further opportunity to innovate.

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

If you look at what a platform like Xero did to accounting, or what online booking did to the travel industry there’s your clue as to why it’s important for legal professionals to understand and engage with technology and innovation. Online booking didn’t get rid of bricks and mortar travel agents, just like Xero didn’t get rid of accountants. It changed the way both professions work and in some ways highlighted the value add these professions deliver to their clients. That’s our opportunity, to understand how the way we work will change and adapt our model to cope but more importantly capitalise on it.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2019, which will be held in Auckland on 21 March. Jon Calder will be one of the speakers at the event.


The Innovators: Helen Mackay, Director and Lawyer, Juno Legal

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?

To me innovation means looking with fresh eyes at the delivery of value by lawyers, which is far broader than legal services. The literal meaning of ‘innovate’ is to create a new process or idea and this is exciting when the practice of law has been slow to change. Lawyers need to better define their value proposition beyond giving legal advice. For me it includes critical thinking, complex problem solving and good judgement. The challenge for in-house lawyers is to better contribute these skills in fast-paced, demanding environments. They are increasingly working in agile environments and for companies that must innovate or die. It will take creative thinking and rigorous analysis for lawyers to disaggregate what they do and find new ways to deliver better outcomes and value for clients.

What role does technology play in innovation?

I see technology as enabling and supporting innovation by stripping out the inefficiencies and repetition that is common in legal work. Better collaboration, project management and visibility are goals for most legal departments and there are some quite simple technological solutions that can help achieve these.

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

Law has traditionally been a reactive and deadline driven profession. This has led to the exponential growth of in-house legal teams but it is not feasible to continue to expand. The law of induced demand says when a resource is free the demand for it is infinite. Fees charged provide a natural check on demand for external legal services. For in-house legal functions with no internal charging mechanism, this resource is seen as free and the demand is infinite. When everyone in an organisation can instruct the legal team and there are no parameters on what requires legal review, legal teams are overwhelmed and stuck in firefighting mode. A surprisingly low number of in-house legal teams have a target operating model or guidance on when and how the legal team should be instructed. Our message to the clients we work with is when legal teams train their internal clients to effectively use their services, the team is able to contribute far more value to the organisation. An operating model and charter help to focus the internal legal team on the areas of greatest importance and enable them to have much better conversations with their internal clients.

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

I think the question of ‘what are legal services?’ will continue to evolve. In most in-house environments these go far beyond the strict definition of ‘legal work’ and are increasingly multifaceted. Thinking about parallels in the accounting world, no large chartered accounting firm would describe their work as purely ‘accountancy services’. Legal work will continue to be disaggregated and pushed out and down. New Zealand has been slow to benefit from the evolution of alternative legal services providers but we are seeing more legal teams using legal process outsourcing (LPOs), NewLaw firms and legal technology providers and thinking much more carefully about what to retain in-house and what to send out to external providers. Automation will obviously be a game-changer and is making significant progress. We are also seeing an increasing amount of co-sourcing where two or more in-house legal teams with similar issues jointly instruct work and share the cost.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

My current opportunity in leading Juno is a result of agile thinking in the wider world of work as well as the legal profession. The binary model of either employing lawyers as fixed resources or using the contingent capacity of professional services firms at premium rates has a new alternative of agile, on-demand resourcing to cover particular projects or needs with skilled in-house lawyers.

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

I think people worry that innovation has to be huge, transformative and technology-based to count but in my experience the teams that have gone the furthest over time have adopted an incremental approach and are constantly refining what they do. Design thinking releases lawyers from their traditional critical mindset and allows them to freely think about problems and potential solutions. I have led design workshops with legal teams where the creativity and change appetite of lawyers has surprised their leaders. The key in any change process is to ensure people’s fundamental needs for control and inclusion are met.

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

The world is changing around lawyers and many seem to think they can hold back the tide. The legal profession is one of the few that hasn’t yet been substantially disrupted and the longer the status quo remains, the bigger the potential impact will be. I think lawyers, both private practice and in-house, need to carefully define what their value propositions are and how technology can help them deliver better outcomes for their clients.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2019, which will be held in Auckland on 21 March. Helen Mackay will be one of the speakers at the event.


The innovators: Sophie Braggins, CEO, Govet Quilliam

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?

It means opportunity and optimism in the face of a demanding, evolving and unknown future.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology and a future-focused mindset are critical to enabling innovation in the legal sector.

Both will allow us to engage in ambitious projects that support creative thought, new learnings and competitive edge.

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

The pressure is certainly real. Clients, community and colleagues alike are eager to participate in the new wave of legal service delivery.

For Govett Quilliam, a firm with a 130-year history, we’re moving purposefully to address the pressures. We’re doing this by considering our strategic directions, adapting to more collaborative work-styles, incrementally adopting useful technology and embracing transformation as a team.

As an industry, we have the potential to deliver significant social value through improved legal services; services that improve the experience and the outcome, and that’s exciting.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

Of particular note, I think legal innovation has allowed us to explore the strategic and social opportunities, as a team.

Although not early adopters of ‘legal-tech’, our firm has a strong future-focus which is undoubtedly recognised by our community and clients.

Having a commitment to changing the established ways of working is also assisting our efforts to attract and retain exceptional people, and appeal to an entrepreneurial international market of clients; both enduring challenges for regional firms.

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

I believe that inspiration is at the heart of any innovative organisation. For us at GQ, this means ensuring our team understands and is excited by the journey of change.

Create an innovation and opportunities committee, relentlessly encourage collaboration and creative thinking, develop partnerships with clever operators, invest in useful technology, and create an engaging environment that people enjoy working in.

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

Keep it simple – identify a problem and find a solution. We do not need to be tech-experts to do this in practice. Indeed, this is what lawyers do on a daily basis. Many of Evolution Lawyers’ innovations have come from having to deal with something unsatisfactory in existing, normal practice. Rather than tolerating the issue, we find a way to fix it – immediately, if possible.

There are many excellent, cost-effective steps that firms could take right now. For example, two-step authentication, digital signing, legal working day calculators, and more. Some of those benefits are free. One just has to investigate and try them.

Work with professional developers. As lawyers, we see the consequences of the bush lawyer or the legal dabbler trying to do their own legal work. We engage a competent professional to build our software, so that it can be maintained by any professional in the future. For us, we see it as a risk to build sustainable software ourselves, and a heavy time commitment to learn to code. So, we leave that job to the experts.

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

Our people need to commit to continuous learning. In fact our collective comfort around change is critical to our success as a profession.

It’s now our role as leaders to gently and respectfully introduce legal-tech and innovative practices as the ‘new norm’.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2019, which will be held in Auckland on 21 March. Sophie Braggins will be one of the speakers at this event.


The innovators: Laura O’Gorman, Barrister, Bankside Chambers

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues his 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?

Coming from a family of computer experts, I have always been interested in technology. I am lucky to work in a large firm with the resources to innovate. This has enabled me to be an early adopter of tools that help my practice as a litigator, such as litigation support software, voice recognition and e-bundles for court. Meanwhile our general IT systems have also evolved dramatically over the last 10 years, to include a wealth of applications that make our jobs easier (eg document management, time recording, billing, CRM etc).

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

The rate of change is ever-increasing on a number of fronts. In addition to technology changing the way law is practised, client expectations and the way we prefer to work are also evolving. We are moving along the continuum towards a paperless workplace, reducing the need for floor space and improving communication flows within workgroups. There is an increasing demand for flexibility, which has both positives and negatives. From the client perspective, this can require after hours availability on urgent or important matters – portable devices and remote access greatly assist in delivering that level of service. On the other hand, we are more conscious than ever of the need to nurture wellbeing and other aspects of our lives and support systems outside of work. We are noticing a trend towards more project-based provision of services, requiring more innovative and collaborative problem-solving and pricing structures, often multi-disciplinary. There is a greater focus on delivering our primary value-add at the expert level, and minimising the costs of low level and routine work (eg through automation and AI, outsourcing, or those aspects being managed in-house). This is good for our junior lawyers because the quality of their work is better, but we are conscious that it might it reduce the overall volume of entry level work for law graduates. Overarching all of this, cybersecurity is now a major issue for any law firm.

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

This depends on the particular innovation that is proposed, but the main recurring issues are cross-expertise communication/understanding, change resistance, costs and learning curves, integration and security. In the past, the different functions within law firms were more independent. Lawyers could focus on providing legal advice, and the IT experts could set up our computers and digital voice recorders, without particularly requiring any understanding what the other was trying to achieve. Now the objectives are much more integrated (eg designing and using software to achieve a particular legal task), posing the challenge of finding people with multi-disciplinary expertise, or working collaboratively and communicating more effectively across those disciplines. To do this successfully, people need to be open to change, listen effectively and adopt a problem-solving attitude rather than simply sticking with the status quo as a matter of convenience or change-resistance. There are some great technological solutions out there, or that could be potentially developed, but this often requires risk and significant upfront investment (including overcoming a learning curve). Lawyers are generally risk-averse and time poor, so overcoming this type of barrier is difficult. To be done successfully, lawyers need to understand the reasons for the change and the benefits they will receive. Before introducing new technology, it is also critical to consider and test the knock-on implications in terms of how it will integrate with other existing systems (both internally and externally), and what security issues arise.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The purpose of innovation for any service provider is to deliver better value for clients and exceed their expectations. Value can be achieved in a number of ways – higher quality, lower cost, faster delivery, proactively understanding the client’s business better, anticipating issues, collaborating more effectively, reducing risk and adding value. Technology provides us with one way to achieve these objectives. We have seen many examples already, such as software that better deals with the vast volumes of electronic material (in contexts such as litigation or due diligences), cloud-based platforms that facilitate project and client collaboration, commoditising basic documents and automation of mundane or repetitive takes. These trends will continue, allowing us to focus on the areas in which we truly add value with our legal experience and expertise.

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

While the core service we provide is still legal advice, there is a much greater responsibility to ensure that we understand the bigger picture, and integrate our services both efficiently and effectively with others, including the clients themselves, technology experts and other service providers. Leaders within the firms need to prepare their teams to be problem-solvers in a rapidly evolving profession. This requires nurturing the skills of open-mindedness and adaptability, recognising that we need to keep learning and innovating throughout our careers. This will require technology skills too, not just legal training.

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?

LawFest is unique because it’s suitable for the different types of people that need to be on top of these issues within the legal profession – not just lawyers, but management and IT as well. It’s a very effective way for attendees to see the bigger picture from all perspectives, and get insight into what is best practice now and into the future, depending on where your firm sits on the investment and innovation curve.

If you want to learn more about innovative practices, drive greater efficiency within your organisation and ultimately drive profitability, then LawFest is the event for you. LawFest is being held at the Langham hotel in Auckland on 8 March 2018. Find out more – lawfest.nz


The Innovators: Matt Farrington, Lawyer & Legal Technologist, Juno Legal

The following is a part of a series of interviews with legal professionals and their experiences and interaction with innovation and technology in the legal sector. We hope you’ll get value from what others have learnt along the way and their recommendations.

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

As a whole, I think the legal profession has been slow to adopt technology innovations. Part of my role is working with other lawyers on their legal technology needs. Many of our clients seem to have the impression that everyone else seems to have this technology stuff sorted, and it is just them that are struggling with information or practice management. But very few firms or in-house legal teams have really cracked the full potential of legal technology. I’ve also seen many lawyers underestimate the value of general business technologies too – very few legal practices use a CRM to its full potential, for example.

But it’s an incredibly dynamic space. I’ve certainly seen some lawyers doing some really innovative and amazing things with technology. And the huge number of legal start-ups alone shows shows that there is real demand among lawyers for better ways of working.

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

I work a lot with in-house teams. The size and significance of in-house teams has been quietly growing over the last forty years or so, but the legal technology market has been slow to catch up. I’ve talked to technology vendors who have seemed to assume that an in-house legal team is just like a little law firm that doesn’t issue bills. But really the differences between in-house teams and law firms range from the subtle to the significant. I’ve therefore been really pleased to see that the market is starting to catch up with these developments. It’s great to see some vendors are offering excellent technology solutions that are squarely targeted at the needs of in-house lawyers.

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

One of the greatest barriers I see for lawyers thinking about adopting new technologies is just deciding where to start. Lawyers grappling with decision paralysis should identify one or two issues where technology could have a positive impact. Modern software-as-a-service solutions can be deployed quickly, cheaply, and easily. If you try a solution and it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to discard it and move to the next one. If you don’t have the time or expertise to try it yourself, find the most technology-enthusiastic person in your firm or team, give them a modest budget, and let them get to work.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

Short of a singularity event occurring, I don’t see AI as replacing lawyers any time soon. I prefer to focus on IA (“intelligent assistance” – and I will freely admit this is a backronym). Intelligent assistance technology will massively leverage the power of lawyers to get more done, in less time, with increased effectiveness, and perhaps even more enjoyably. The bionic lawyers of the near future will spend much less time hunting for precedents or manually reviewing thousands of pages in a discovery or due diligence exercise; instead they will be free to focus their efforts on providing the best possible legal services to their clients.

But lawyers will still be involved. Calculators didn’t replace mathematicians. Instead they provided a massive opportunity for better ways of working. The best mathematicians nowadays aren’t those that can laboriously grind through calculations by hand; the best mathematicians are those that can best conceptualise problems in to its core elements, then pose (or program) the key questions in such a way that their machine assistants are able to answer it most effectively. The future for lawyers is similar, and I think it’s an incredible opportunity to make the practice of law far more satisfying.

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

We’re basically living in the future right now! In an age where my fridge and washing machine have wifi and I can control the colour of my light bulbs from my phone, pretty much every legal project of any size will have some kind of technology component to consider. I’ve already talked about how we’re all going to become bionic lawyers. But I think that the very best lawyers will have a deep understanding of both the legal and technology issues and how they interact. For many problems, there might be both legal and technical solutions. For example, I worked on a digital privacy issue recently. The natural instinct was to include some additional disclaimers in a privacy statement. But the much better solution we arrived at was using a technology solution (hashing) to preserve the uniqueness of the data while ensuring that it was fully anonymised. Knowing what legal and technical solutions are available, and the best one to use for a given problem, will be a key role of the lawyers of the very near future.

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?

To me, the best part of Law Fest is talking with others that share an interest in the technology space, to find out what they’re doing and sharing ideas. I particularly like talking to tech vendors. Again, it’s an incredibly dynamic space at the moment and I’ve found the tech vendors at Law Fest to be really open to hearing suggestions about how you’d like to work or use their products, often in ways they hadn’t envisaged themselves!


The Innovators: Craig Columbus, Former Chief Information Officer, Russell McVeagh

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?

As CIO at Russell McVeagh, it is one of my responsibilities to ensure we invest in technologies that allow us to better serve our clients.

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

Within the last year, we’ve updated or replaced nearly all of our technology (laptops, servers, networks, applications… the whole stack) with leading edge offerings; the modernization of our technical capability is continual. We have a standing Innovation Committee and our mandate is to ensure we’re regularly looking at emerging technologies that allow us to better serve our clients.
That said, technology is not the only way to innovate practice. There are firms that appear to still serve their clients well, despite using outdated technology like fax machines and avoiding accepted technologies like email. While they may not be innovating in a technological sense, perhaps they are innovating legal practice by investing more in effective communication, face-to-face dealings, updating their clients more frequently, collaborating with other firms, or perhaps charging fees that are far lower than the average.

I believe that technology has a large part to play in legal innovation. However, there are lots of ways to embrace technology, and lots of ways to innovate without adopting technology, especially the expensive technologies.

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

There are a few challenges. Many new technology offerings fail to live up to the hype, so we must thoroughly test offerings before deployment. Being in New Zealand, it can be hard to gain access to bleeding edge tech, as many start-ups want to focus on major markets first and don’t have either the desire or infrastructure to support a geographically remote client. Integrating new technology with legacy technology can be challenging and often requires a redesign of work processes. Finally, it’s imperative to bring people along the journey. We must ensure that the pace of change is reasonable and that people are able to adapt to new ways of working.

What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?

The technology available today is amazing and is improving daily. I can foresee a time in the not so distant future when legal professionals spend little time doing tedious work, like document review, and spend most of their time working with clients to create great outcomes.

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

My role will continue to evolve, with a special emphasis on creating greater business value through the selection and application of emerging technologies.

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?

LawFest pulls together a fantastic blend of expert technologists and top legal professionals, all with a focus on building the future of law. LawFest attendees network, share knowledge and learn from one another in ways that would be hard to replicate outside of the event. If you’re serious about the future of your legal practice, you attend LawFest.

Andrew King andrew@lawfest.nz is organiser of LawFest 2019, which will be held in Auckland on 21 March. Craig Columbus will be one of the speakers at the event.