Matheson’s innovation manager Tom Connor explains his big prediction of where the future of legal technology will lead us and how the design function will be the next seat at the table, ahead of his panel debate around AI at the Business Leadership Summit.

Do clients have unrealistic expectations of AI capabilities?

The legal industry has seen a lot of hype and dystopian predictions around the impact AI is going to have on the delivery of legal services. The hype can lead to unrealistic expectations but I think we’re at the plateau stage of the AI hype cycle now where law firms are finding a narrow set of use cases where cognitive computing technologies can be utilised to optimise internal work flow processes or enhance advanced service delivery offerings. The recent CLOC 2019 state-of-the-industry report suggests 45 per cent of in-house legal teams are exploring the use of artificial intelligence while only 12 per cent incorporated it into their tools and processes. At Matheson, we believe that the onus is on us to cut through the hype and share our experience on the practical application of AI through workshops and presentations on our client education program.

Tom Connor

Where do you think the future of legal technology will lead us?

I think we’re going to see big law firms investing in legal technology and specialist legal engineering talent to advance the delivery of their legal services. Those who don’t are at risk of losing market share to fiercely competitive alternative legal service providers.

I think we’re also going to see law firms move away from offering point technology solutions and begin to adopt the digital ecosystem approach which will see a stronger focus on API integrations between their internal platforms and external client-facing platforms. Legal technology companies like HighQ tapped into this trend by positioning their platform as the central point through which firms could integrate data from other systems and applications and surface content to clients in a secure and manageable way. The recent acquisition of HighQ by Thompson Reuters is an indication of increasing consolidation in the legal technology market and in my view it remains to be seen whether this is a positive development for law firms and in-house legal teams.

What function [within law firms] can you see gaining a seat at the table in the future?

The design function. I think we’re living in the age of user experience and many law firms will start to rethink how they are delivering their services. We’ve seen large corporations in other industries transition to becoming design led organisations. In 2017, Ford appointed former product designer Jim Hackett as their CEO who is a strong proponent of design thinking and focused their strategy towards focusing on the interaction experience between the passenger and the vehicle. What can the legal industry learn from a design led approach? While the practice of law is primarily a relationship business and that’s not likely to change, the law firms who combine the right people, process and technology to design new products and services will enhance the client experience, deepen their relationships and differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market.

What would the title of your autobiography be and why?

“Just a Thought”

It’s an email sign off phrase I’ve used throughout my career to propose concepts and projects to senior law firm management. Some have been successful and some haven’t. The important thing is to not be discouraged when things don’t work out, learn from your experiences and continue to channel your creative energy to solve business problems. If I write an autobiography and try to connect the dots looking back at my career, I think that title would tie it all together and maybe inspire others.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Being shortlisted for the Financial Times Young Legal Innovator of the Year 2017 for Europe.

Tom Connor is part of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s Business Leadership Summit on 25 September. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to inquire about attending, please contact Felicia Drakos on +44(0) 20 7970 4279.