This year’s Legal Futures Innovation Conference brought together hundreds of lawyers, technologists and industry experts innovating legal services. In case you missed the event, here are my five key takeaways.
1. Business professionals running law firms is the future
“Lawyers know a lot about the law, but not about running a business” said Nicola Foulston CEO of RBG Holdings during her incisive presentation on floating and running publicly listed firm, Rosenblatt. It was clear that this was no lawyer speaking – from creating the ability to flex a cost base to a self-admitted unashamed focus on high margin work, Foulston knows her stuff. And with a revenue of £411,000 per fee-earner, comparable to big City firms like Herbert Smith Freehills, it begs the question: is this the future? Is this what happens when a business professional runs a law firm? As Foulston put it, when she took over it meant she did all the things lawyers hate: management, operations and running a business. It meant the lawyers could go back to doing what they love: the law and providing a great service to their clients. The result? A firm with lawyers doing what they love, and profits growing under the management of business professionals.
2. Improve processes before you think about AI
In discussing “AI hype” and what new technology smaller firms could benefit from Alex Hamilton, CEO of Radiant Law urged firms to not think about AI. Instead, think about your processes. What is repeatable? What can be improved? There’s no point in talking about AI, because when it comes to legal services actual “AI” is quite limited. “AI” can possibly identify a clause in a contract, but it cannot interpret it. You still need people for that. So, take a look at your current processes and how they can be improved.
3. Put user needs first
Dan Garrett, CEO of Farewill, brought a refreshing perspective to the discussion: stop thinking about your needs and put your users’ needs first. Like here at Legl, Farewill takes a user-centric approach to design: what are the users’ needs and how can we best solve them? Garrett, with a background in design, clearly brought something different to the table provoking a question from the audience on what lawyers can do, what skills can they adopt, to be able to do things differently, like at Farewill. His answer: “sales training and design thinking”.
4. Consumers have a higher appetite for tech than providers
Mathew Hill, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board, illustrated how the appetite for technology is being driven by consumers rather than providers of services. What does that mean in practice? To best service clients, lawyers need to be open to new ways of doing business.
5. It’s time to think about customer service
“This industry is screaming out for customer service like no other” said Mike Roberts, Managing Director at LegalShield UK. LegalShield is a subscription based legal services model which has been servicing consumers in North America for the past 47 years, and now is bringing that model to the UK. Consumers who need the law use it as a very last resort, and this is not a model for growth. However, for those who are able to look at what consumers need and deliver a great customer service, this presents a huge opportunity.
Joanna Sidhu is Head of Growth at Legl.