There may be a perception that the legal sector lags behind on technology and innovation, but the reality is that most law firms are adept at using technology to modernise their service and drive efficiency in their processes. Since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in early 2020, we have seen firms pivoting to fully online working overnight and adaptation to new ways of working taking place rapidly. But this is no accident - the relative ease with which many firms responded is largely because law firms had good IT systems in place to begin with and were already quite far down the line with digitisation and remote working. As firms increasingly use technology effectively to shape their practices, clients are keen to benefit from the skills, experience, and platforms that law firms use every day.

Often overlooked is how law firms have a long history of document management, which has evolved to encompass all types of digital data files, from emails to audio and video files. This is taken for granted in our sector, where management of emails and documents is robust and highly structured, but relatively rare outside of it. In terms of security, law firms were once perceived to be the "soft underbelly" of cybersecurity – storing highly sensitive data but lacking adequate protections for it. However, firms have matured, and worked hard to earn accreditations and put in place management systems and technology to reassure clients that their data is protected. Machine learning technology, so well suited to largescale document review, is now part of the arsenal of most firms, and document automation and electronic signatures finally seeing widespread usage. In terms of innovation, where Law was also once seen as lagging, we have seen strides taken, with the creation of innovation programmes and new roles to manage them.

Terms that would have seemed alien to a law firm five or more years ago are now commonplace. We have product owners running ideation workshops, legal project managers analysing matter life cycles and performing post-matter reviews, analysts and data scientists mining data, with design thinking and continuous improvement commonplace. More importantly we are seeing a focus on the customer experience: listening to what our clients need, rather than assuming we know what they want. As part of this evolution, we are moving away from the common assumption that all clients want is shiny technology. While technology nearly always has a part to play, it is only a part of the solution. The first step is understanding the problems they are up against and working out the best way to resolve them.

When we speak to corporate clients, often we hear that they want to take advantage of the innovation and legal technology that their lawyers have already implemented. Sometimes they have projects that require significant effort to resolve, but more often the help we can offer is with passing on what we have learned or giving access to our toolbox. For example, we may run a workshop for a client that helps to define a problem that they are struggling with to streamline a process. Or we may be able to offer self-service access to software we use already, so that with little effort and without major implementation costs and complexity they can take advantage of the latest tech used by our lawyers.

The key to all of this is collaboration, working alongside our clients to deliver value, involving both legal and business professionals from across the firm. Now that the hype around innovation and legal technology is starting to subside, there is a growing understanding that the reality for both clients and law firms is that what is important is empathy and collaborative working; understanding what the problems are and solving them together. We call this "client listening" and it's how we work to enhance the client experience and bring additional value to the core legal service.


Damien Behan

Innovation & Technology Director