The challenges lawyers have in adopting legal tech

Last updated: 04-10-2021

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The challenges lawyers have in adopting legal tech

Lawyers need to flip the switch on how they’ve operated traditionally if they are ever to fully appreciate the value that technology can bring to their roles, according to an Allens expert.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly on the tech trends likely to play out in 2021, Allens’ head of legal product lab, Penelope Barr, said much of the opportunities created in 2020 for lawyers to capitalise on new and emerging technology will only be truly felt by those who understand its full potential. 

“Lawyers are typically rewarded due to their focus on quality and deepening domain expertise. Embracing technology, sourcing problem areas and contributing to the productisation of these ideas typically draw on a wide range of new ways of working skills such as problem framing, problem discovery, experimentation, prototyping etc,” Ms Barr said.

“Being asked to work in a new way and using new technologies may prove challenging for some lawyers.

“Working in a lean way, working in the art of the possible and defining small steps to support the delivery minimum success criteria is different to drawing on presented past judgements, sourced from the past.”

That being said, Ms Barr said she’s observed some firms that are captaining off the back of technology more and more. 

“Firms are starting to realise and support the ‘we’re better together’ approach to embedding and realising the benefits of legaltech,” she said.

“Small, focused teams of legal, innovation and knowledge management people will increasingly work together to ideate, experiment and potentially deliver new product and legaltech initiatives. 

“Sourcing early innovation adopters and then enabling the majority to embrace new ways of working is challenging. Adopting a lean approach to realising early change is crucial to the success of this kind of digital transformation.”

Ms Barr also spoke to Lawyers Weekly about the notion of a siloed approach, and how this is prohibiting teams to take advantage of the offers available. 

Her comments echo a similar sentiment to those of Telstra’s Scott Smalley, who, speaking from the perspective of the corporate counsel side, spoke of the need for lawyers to expand their tech toolbelt. 

“Not everyone needs to be an expert, but lawyers will need to at least be conscious of the processes they participate in, actively question the type of value they’re adding to the process, and to be aware of what the alternatives are,” the legal business partner – services and strategy, sustainability, external affairs and legal (SEAL) at Telstra said.

“Also, I think it will become standard for new roles to appear in larger legal teams; roles to do with data analytics, product lifecycle management, and change management.

“...In the longer term, as legal tech becomes capable of doing more complicated tasks, it will push lawyers to become more focussed on the higher value skills that they bring to the company, of which there are many, like strategic advice and predicting trends, interpreting the law, advising on complicated trade-offs and risk decisions, stakeholder management, bringing a trusted and independent voice to a decision, being a moral compass, and even simply being able to break down a problem logically and clearly express the issues. 

“I think the greatest compliment a lawyer can get is not ‘I think you drafted that well’, but rather ‘I make better decisions when you’re around’.”


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