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.

Jon Calder is the CEO of Tompkins Wake. 

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 is the founder of Legal Innovate ( He helps lawyers and organisations successfully innovate through leveraging technology to help improve the way they deliver legal services Legal Innovate includes LawFest (, LegalTech Hub ( and E-Discovery Consulting (
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