The human side of legal tech

21 October 2021

The first thought that comes to mind when you say “legal technology” is most likely scientific or mathematic. It’s algorithms and AI, automation and logic systems – cornerstones of the legal tech industry, to be fair, and a valid view of the subject matter expertise to found in the field.

However, having attended a number of industry roundtables and flagship legal tech conferences this past month (from the LMA and Confederation of British Industry, to LegalGeek and Future Lawyers Week) our lawtech team was struck by a concerted shift toward a more holistic approach to legal tech. This approach focuses not simply on the technology underpinning change, but on the people and the issues leading the charge.

The themes below grew out of panels, debates and discussions that resonated with us in terms of our own experiences innovating (both internally and in collaboration with our clients) and in terms of discussions we’ve had with our clients around instigating change within their own businesses.

  • The benefits of openness and transparency cannot be overstated

Transparency and trust are key when cultivating a thriving and collaborative innovation relationship. While partnerships have historically been seen through a more transactional lens, the innovative success stories of today involve deep, ongoing relationships in which both parties’ needs and opportunities are understood and worked toward.

  • Hone your human skills and design for impact

Change and innovation frequently require shifts in behaviour or working style, but simply stated facts or plans do not always change human action. Approaching a project with nuance and empathy for your target audience and collaborators can help align design with desired impact and create action.

Fine tuning your human skills ensures that you are able to identify the true problem statements, pain points and challenges of your stakeholders, while allowing for – and nurturing – diverse solution-oriented thinking.

  • Learn from other sectors and remember new isn’t necessarily better

Diverse solutions come from diverse backgrounds and thought processes, noting that progress does not always mean creating something “new”. The legal profession is not the only industry grappling with issues in relation to digitisation and tech enablement. Before trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel, in-house and external legal teams can learn a lot by looking to other sectors, from banking, insurance and other professionals, and by embracing approaches which focus on service design and design thinking.

  • Keep questioning and be ready to self-correct

For change to happen, everyone within the organisation needs to be given the “psychological safety” to be able to ask questions and investigate. Driving and promoting innovation and change is an iterative process requiring flexibility, resilience, an openness to experiment within a controlled environment and (as even carefully laid plans won’t always work out as intended) a willingness to self-correct. While things may end up moving in an unexpected direction, having a transparent course change is not a sign of failure, but rather a sign of collaboration moving forward.

Different organisations will have different sensitivities and sensibilities, admittedly, but change can (and should) be a holistic process, however you go about it, wherever you apply it. We’re excited that the direction of travel points to a more expansive, comprehensive and business-led vision for the law – innovation not simply for the sake of innovation, but innovation with purpose and care.

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