There is a fundamental problem with innovation in the legal market. As one general counsel pointed out at The Lawyer’s recent Business Leadership Summit, clients understand why technology is a priority to improve the efficiency for their advisers, but it’s not a selling point. After all, what do they get out of it?
For them, the conversation boils down to what firms are willing to do for their clients. Without proper investment, law firms may lose out on key relationships – and the increasing pressure on in-house counsel to find the best advice for the best price means there are no longer any long-term guarantees.
The client technology innovation experts shortlisted at The Lawyer’s Business Leadership Summit have already bridged the gap. Take Reed Smith, for example, which developed a ‘Deal Performance Platform’ to improve both internal and client efficiencies to reduce costs.
Efficiency was also the motor behind Addleshaw Goddard’s technology. The firm worked with long-standing client National Grid on a platform to manage a three-year complex project, co-ordinating four different law firms and controlled by Addleshaws and the client. This allowed them to identify problems in real time, create automated legal documents, and disseminate project information for better communication across teams.
Kennedy Van der Laan created a network to improve the relationship between multi-national companies and external European counsel and provide a stronger client offering. The first user was Nike, which was seeking a solution equivalent to an international law firm in 22 jurisdictions.
Paul Hastings has focused on the challenge of data protection. The firm developed a flexible data model for a non-profit organisation client, which maps all of its data and data transfers internationally and grows at little or no extra cost as the charity expands its footprint.
Taylor Wessing and Pinsent Masons’ ideas focused around the challenges of regulation. Taylor Wessing produced a web application (accessible via the web on any device) that informs clients of the new legislation and quickly conducts an initial analysis of how it will affect them and suggests the level of legal support they require. Pinsent Masons developed a compliance solutions and technology business that helps companies implement and monitor compliance programmes. In short, it drives compliance culture.
K&L Gates’ HUB product provides a directory of information for in-housers on key topics that they may not have the time to research independently, including information on continuously changing laws and regulations, legal and business news, and the latest on industry-specific developments.
Tech – not as expensive as you think
In just over a year, the board of Riverview Law approved and implemented ‘Project Gold’, a plan to transition the firm from a technology-enabled to a technology-led business.
As part of this process the award-winning firm entered a knowledge transfer partnership with the University of Liverpool to leverage its AI expertise in early 2015, and acquired a US technology company, renaming it Kim Technologies.
The first public output of these combined steps was the launch of the Riverview Law Virtual Assistants powered by Kim in April 2016.Through the programme, virtual assistants help in-house teams ensure that the right work is done by the right people, at the right price, whether the work is undertaken internally or externally.
They do this by managing instructions coming into the function, triaging it to the appropriate individual and automatically delivering real-time trend dashboards and management information. They provide the foundation data layer upon which in-house teams can build an effective legal operating model. In short, they help in-house functions to be ‘AI ready’.
Riverview believes that the direction of travel is clear – new technologies at commodity prices will change the value curve dramatically. Thanks to Riverview’s investment in this area the firm’s customers have already voted with their time and spend. Organisations with which it had no prior work have either purchased or are in discussions about purchasing the virtual assistants.
As the firm puts it, this initiative is fundamentally a game-changer for in-house teams. Price is no longer a barrier: the assistants cost less per annum than a secondee per calendar month. Neither is it about taking a risk with technology: the technology is proven and quick to deploy. All that clients have to ask themselves now is, why wouldn’t you do this?