The 60 second interview: Cost holds back the wave of in-house tech

Imperial College London head of legal services Milena Radoycheva talks to The Lawyer ahead of this year’s In-house Counsel as Business Partner Summit in association with EY.

Milena Radoycheva

What does innovation mean in legal services?

There certainly has been a great level of innovation in the provision of legal services in modern times – just try researching a legal topic with certain legal solutions to see just how quickly and how much relevant information comes up, saving lawyers an enormous amount of time and helping them do their job much more efficiently.

There are also more and more solutions nowadays to help with large due diligence or document disclosure processes also saving a lot of time and money. However, a lot of legal work still requires human analysis and bespoke solutions so there is a limit as to how much technological solutions can help (at least currently).

Legal advice often involves balancing a wide variety of considerations and choosing between different risks and potential implications, innovative solutions can help up to a point to perhaps narrow down some options or elaborate on others, but have thus far not been able to substitute the type of legal advice and recommendations that an expert lawyer can provide. In that sense I see innovation in legal services as an enabler for the lawyers (it enables them to be more efficient and accurate) but it is not yet something that can readily be passed onto the final client as the reliable answer to their questions.

How can in-house lawyers be more ‘strategic’ in their roles?

In-house lawyers can be more strategic if they understand the risk appetite and business priorities of their organisation and if they feel they have the support of senior management, and are empowered, to prioritise higher risk and strategic legal work as opposed to being hijacked on routine and low risk matters.

Also, it helps where the organisation supports the training of non-legal staff so that they understand well the paperwork they use day to day and have knowledge of any recurrent legal aspects in their line of work i.e. just as lawyers are expected to be commercially aware, non-lawyers should be trained to have some awareness of the legal and compliance aspects of what they do day to day.

What holds legal departments back from exploring new technologies?

I believe that currently, the primary reason why (some) legal departments don’t explore new technologies is the cost – the more sophisticated legal solutions are expensive and require a significant time and money investment as well as ‘buy in’ from internal clients (especially where integration with other business practices and systems is required); while there are cheaper technologies on the market, these sometimes don’t inspire much confidence and often have an amateurish look and feel.

Also, the market for new technologies is very fragmented – there isn’t a single comprehensive technology solution for ‘legal work’, there are many different solutions suitable for different types of legal work – an in-house team will struggle to win a budget to purchase a whole collection of different technologies to suit their various needs.

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order)

  • I have run more than 900km over the last 12 months.
  • I get really annoyed by long-winded legal analysis and advice.
  • I have published a number of fiction books anonymously.

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what do you think you might have done instead?

I would have probably been an aeronautical engineer and a cosmonaut.

Imperial College London head of legal services Milena Radoycheva will speak at the upcoming In-house Counsel as Business Partner conference on 6-7 November in London. Find out more information about the speakers, topics and to book your place here