LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.
Karen Venables is the Founder & Co-Director at Legal Solutions.
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 are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?
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 opportunities has legal innovation brought you?
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.