Category Archives: Uncategorized

Interview | Nicole Billett (Teddington Legal)

Nicole Billett is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Teddington Legal.  It is Nicole’s desire to develop and lead a diverse network of talented lawyers to provide commercially sound, outcome-focused legal solutions to businesses and their owners.  Nicole’s purpose is to create an environment where entrepreneurial lawyers can provide great value, pragmatic, commercial legal solutions to the small and medium-size enterprise sector.

Michael Bidwell (TLF) was very fortunate to ask Nicole some questions about her amazing career so far!

What do you think are some of the positives and negatives of running a virtual legal practice?

The positives are that the model services both the needs of lawyers and clients.  We have found that lawyers, and particularly younger lawyers, want much more flexibility around how they drive their careers.  They don’t want to be boxed in and be one dimensional, they are multi-faceted and want to be free enough to explore other sides of themselves and what it means to be a lawyer.  I met a fascinating young lawyer who works 3 days a week for a major bank in compliance and then 2 days a week with a manufacturing business as an industrial designer.  How wild is that?  What excited me was because he has this whole other interest and skill set in industrial design, he comes at legal problems with a design thinking mentality.  So rather than splitting his focus, I believe it actually improves his legal abilities and he gets variety and fulfilment in his professional life.

For clients, they are much more sophisticated and informed today and know what parts of the value chain can be automated, outsourced or done more cost effectively and don’t want to pay for highly educated humans to perform tasks they know don’t add value.  By having a virtual practice with a network of lawyers working to their strengths and providing value-added client outcomes, means both sides benefit and personally I love the win win aspect of that.

Hmmmmm negatives…….well the legal industry is still quite conservative and sometimes the idea of utilising technology and pushing the envelope with the style of delivery for legal services, does not sit well with the more traditional members of the fraternity.  And difference or change can be really confronting for some folk who fear and maybe question the future because they can’t see how they fit into the new environment.  I see it as our responsibility to help them understand how they can be part of new law and delivery legal services in the currently business environment.

How did you get into your current position at Teddington Legal and what has really prompted you to stay for nearly six years so far?

I own Teddington with my husband Mark Gardiner who is the Legal Director.  I’m not a lawyer, my career has been in strategy and marketing; together we come at solving legal problems from two different perspectives.  Whilst we have different skills sets we have the same philosophy of being customer centric.  When you put the customer in the centre of the solution you’re providing, you are half way to meeting your goal.  So, you could say I got my position as CEO of who I knew…… but when we decided that we really wanted to grow the business, it seemed logical as I couldn’t give the legal advice, that I would take the CEO position.  Seeing the business grow, developing the clear client proposition and brand and watching our network lawyers thrive, has kept me interested for the past 6 years.

I see on your website that clients can choose the level of involvement with their lawyer up to essentially having their own in-house legal counsel.  How does this work from your end ensuring you have enough staff to advise clients who request lower involvement?

 We’re very responsive to client needs, one of the benefits of the model.  Another benefit of the model is that the network lawyers are not employed, we revenue share, so we can resource up in accordance with client needs.  These clients would not be 100% of any lawyers’ client group so we can balance the workload that way.

You were a Non Executive Director of DV NSW from 2013-2015 advocating for improved responses to domestic and family violence.  I want to firstly thank you for being part of a fantastic organisation and also ask what the most rewarding experience was for you?

 Thank you.  It was quite an honour sitting on the board of DVSM NSW.  What I loved about it was that when the organisation was separating from the Peak Body and was going to focus purely on the service delivery, it went out and sourced corporate women to sit on the board to complement the existing team of professionals navigate a turbulent landscape of funding changes.  This organisation has been run by tireless women committed to creating safe retreats for families suffering with domestic violence.  So to be able to bring my area of experience that I had gained over my career, into a new environment in order to help them achieve their goals was very rewarding.

What is your ‘legal forecast’ for the rest of 2018?  How will the practise of law continue to change?

Law will continue to evolve, more and more lawyers will make the choice to do things differently, less and less will see the only path to satisfaction is that of 100-hour work weeks and a myopic focus of partnership.  I think the Partnership model will continue to come under stress with the requirement to trim costs, outsource repetitive non-value elements, and provide greater value to clients.  Clients will continue to drive towards frictionless relationships with their lawyers.

What advice would you give to graduates and early career professionals?

My advice would be to really challenge why they want a career in law.  If they think it’s for the glamour and see themselves as the next Harvey Spectre or Alicia Florrick, they may need to rethink it.  But if they enjoy problem solving and looking for creative solutions that are actually going to help someone make better decisions then I would recommend they get experience and learn as much as they can about their potential client’s environments.  In our case, we deal with businesses and their owners, so all of our lawyers need to have an interest in business, be interested in what the client is trying to achieve, understand the language and the landscape and be inspired to use their legal skills to add value to the client’s business.

 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

Interview | Dr Emily Verstege

Dr Emily Verstege is an expert at capturing and integrating consumer voice into strategy and governance frameworks. As a (reformed) research academic, tech start up survivor and public policy analyst, she has more than 15 years experience working within the professional and healthcare sectors to put people first.

Michael Bidwell (TLF) saw Emily speak at Convergence 2.0 and was very grateful to ask her some more questions!

 

When I saw you speak at Convergence 2.0, I really resonated with your comment that technology is changing exponentially but people are not. What does this mean for business?

It means we are suffering from a lack of connection. We are obsessed with and surgically connected to our devices and to a constant stream of content, but studies show Australians are sadder, sicker and lonelier than ever. Rapidly changing technology means we are disconnected from ourselves and from other humans.

The evidence of this is everywhere. Volume is rewarded and value is lost. The professional services sector works with clients who are stressed or vulnerable, and often because we bill by the hour and need to get through a volume of work, we miss clients’ emotional needs. And of course, people in the professional services sector work long hours and, thanks to their devices, are constantly available. It means their personal needs are sacrificed. Again, volume rewarded and value lost.

Your client list is remarkable – who has been your favourite to work with and why?

I am always fired up by working with businesses that understand nothing can stay the same, who are willing to look at what they do and start turning the status quo on its head. I love organisations that invest in people’s experience: their own people, their clients and the broader community. In doing so, their impact is magnified.

I see you have received a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, Bachelor of Science (Hons) and Doctor of Philosophy (Epidemiology). You were then part of the first wholly electronic longitudinal survey in public health research. Please share what these surveys were about and why they were so important.

The studies looked at the health of nurses, midwives and doctors in several countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. We know that the Australian healthcare system is in crisis: there is an increasing demand for healthcare, but the way it is funded rewards volume and not value. There is a very real toll on the health and wellbeing of nurses, midwives and doctors, many of whom suffer poor mental or physical health. These two studies collected important health data—which is still being analysed—to inform workforce planning.

You also spent time researching and evaluation projects in the human services sector, including housing and homelessness, health, disability and young people.  I volunteer with the Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic advocating for the impacts of poverty to be decriminalised.  In your experience, how could the laws and legal industry change to improve the response to homelessness?

Homelessness is a really tricky problem, as you know. It’s often tied up with mental or physical ill health and disability, lack of education or income. In my experience, our human services systems don’t ‘see’ the entirety of a person’s journey into or out of homelessness. Approaches to preventing homelessness tend to be siloed, which makes them one-dimensional and inappropriate for many people. We could do better by connecting data systems, which would require some pragmatic changes to data linkage laws and information systems across government departments.

What advice would you give to anyone reading this?

When we connect with people, we do better. Get into the habit of seeking insights—not just big data, but deep insight from a range of sources—to understand what’s important to people. Integrate those insights into your strategy, business processes and governance. When we deeply understand people we can magnify our impact through exceptional experiences.

 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

Don’t Blake A Smile | Mental health

As the Editor in Chief of The Legal Forecast, I have the pleasure of working with some brilliant authors sharing their ideas and perception of how the legal industry will adapt in the future due to technology and innovation.

I noticed a Facebook page had recently shared the wonderful article by Eloise Dibden.  As I reviewed the posts by “Don’t Blake A Smile“, I immediately felt the pain, loss and confusion in the writer.  I reached out and spoke with Gemma Wilson, the creator of the page.

My motto is for everyone to ‘live out loud’ and Gemma is doing exactly that.  She is sharing her pain and healing in honour of her brother to advocate for a better society – a society that genuinely discusses mental health.

I do not need to remind anyone of the staggering statistics of mental health concerns in the legal industry.  I do want to remind you that you are never alone.  I do want to remind you that you are so valued.  I do want to remind you to “speak, even when your voice shakes”.

If this post causes you any discomfort, or if you would just like to speak to someone, please never hesitate to reach out to:

Gemma’s story is below and you will probably need some tissues.  It is people like Gemma who remind us what true bravery looks like.  It is people like Gemma whose stories will hopefully help others share theirs.  It is people like Gemma who give me hope that our society will continue to embrace those who are open about their mental health.  Gemma, keep fighting the good fight.  I am with you.

Regards

Michael Bidwell

Don’t Blake A Smile

June 4th 2017,

The day my eldest brother Blake committed suicide.

Blake was my hero.  I looked up to him so much!  I remember thinking “If I can be more like Blake I’ll be happy.”

He was a carefree tradie by day and an energetic, bubbly shop assistant by night.  Blake had a smile that lit up any room and the ability to make anyone and everyone feel very special.

Those traits explain why there were over 400 broken hearts at his funeral and why so many generous people from our community donated over $22,000 to our family to pay for funeral expenses. Blake was known by everyone around town so I was inundated with messages about how “strong” and “well” I was doing since Blake took his own life.  That was not the case.  I was not doing well.  On the inside I was crumbling.

I would wake up (that is if I had even slept at all) in the morning asking myself all the who’s, what’s, where’s, how’s and the whys which are by far the worst.  Mentally I was not doing well.  It was then that I realised I was doing the same thing as Blake… I was hiding my true emotions from everyone.  I was smiling through the hole in my chest and the weight in my legs, which is why I created the Facebook page “Don’t Blake A Smile.”

I was so ignorant when it came to mental health and suicide before Blake.  It was never taught to me in school and it certainly is not mentioned in general conversation in our society today.  I had heard of suicide and depression but never in my wildest dreams thought that it would affect someone who I adored.  I guess that is the issue, we do not talk about mental health and people suffer in silence.

With an abundance of ways to communicate with someone, it almost seems impossible that you cannot talk about the things that make you unhappy or tell someone that you are struggling.  I cannot stand that there are people who wake up every day feeling the same way that Blake did and face the world with that painful smile.  I was not going to hide my emotions and my opinions anymore because I know it can be so hard to function some days.

I know how hard it is to try to walk when it feels like your knees and ankles are cable tied together.  I know the feeling of that large hole in your chest and golf ball in your throat making it almost unbearable to breathe.  I was done with this public facade.

Mental health is not discriminatory and it certainly is not a one size fits all.  Mental illness is not something you are necessarily born with and you certainly cannot see it but it does not mean it cannot creep up on you or that it isn’t there.

By creating the “Don’t Blake A Smile” page, I want people to realise that they are not alone and that there is help out there for everyone.  I want people to be aware of what makes them unhappy or emotional and speak up, say no and feel good mentally.  I want people to pay more attention to others and if you notice that someone is not happy, offer help or speak up on their behalf.  It’s true.. everyone is fighting their own battles but I read something a while back that always stuck with me, “If we replace the “I” in illness with “we” we get wellness.   #Don’tBlakeASmile

Community Legal Centres Queensland | Conference

From 8-9 March 2018, Community Legal Centres Queensland hosted their annual conference at the Oakwood Hotel & Apartments in Brisbane.  The conference was a fantastic opportunity to meet with a diverse range of people from across the state involved in community legal centres including centre directors and lawyers, social workers, volunteers and decision makers.  There was a wide variety of panel discussions, presentations and workshops relevant to both the community legal sector and the wider legal community.

Laura Spalding and Richard Gifford from TLF represented us well contributing to the conference program.

Key points from the panel included:

  • Importance of private sector getting behind what Community Legal Centres practise so well: un-bundling and legal coaching.
  • Discussed the role TLF events like Disrupting Law play in using technology to solve legal and access to justice problems.
  • Discussed the role the private sector (ie incubators) and crowd-funding initiatives can play in realising access to justice dreams that may otherwise be difficult to finance.
  • Responding to a question regarding the role of AI in the app ‘Divvito’ (one of the panelist Wendy Oxenham’s app on divorce communication): it has in fact used AI to demonstrate empathy; usually an argument mounted by lawyers to justify our relevance, but it’s done better in this case by a chatbot.

 

Laura and Richard had a brilliant time and we look forward to assisting our Community Legal Centres in future.

 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

Would the real para-legals please stand up? | Disability, mental health & the law

Eloise Dibden is a fourth year law and international development student at University of Adelaide.  She is responsible for assisting the Student Representative Council with hosting its first Student Disabilities Working Group to discuss the issues facing students with disabilities and the ways in which the SRC can support them.  Michael Bidwell, our Editor in Chief, reached out to Eloise to share her story and important message: #thatsokay

Would the real para-legals please stand up?

Disability, mental health & the law

When I was asked to write this article, I was equal parts enthusiasm and nerves. Somehow, even though I feel I am completely out of my depth, I hope to impart to you some insight in to what it may be like to be a young person with a disability, hoping to enter the legal world.  Disclaimer: I have cerebral palsy and have confronted mental health issues… and yes, unfortunately that is a pun in the title.

Being a lawyer (at least so I’ve been told) can be stressful, exhausting and downright hard work.  When you have a disability, all of these things can be amplified… That is of course assuming you have been given the opportunity.  Something that terrifies me as I head closer to the end of my degree, is that employers will never get to witness the skills, knowledge, and quite frankly sassy personality I have developed through my time in law school. Then, even if I am recognised, this does not mean that the work place suddenly becomes a fantastic hive of understanding, respect and support.

However, before any of that happens, I strongly advise you, and remind myself (because goodness knows I need to), to take a breath and look after yourself. I have found myself comparing and judging myself against others. I felt less than people posting on social media about their lives, work and relationships, because I wasn’t up to the same ‘stage’ as them. Then, I realised something: there are no deadlines, or clocks ticking dictating your life. You can set your own pace with your own goals.

Take the time to get to know yourself, your strengths and limitations. These will be different for everyone and that is okay. Knowing yourself and what you can and maybe can’t do is a huge asset. You now know where you shine, and what to work on in the future. You now know when you might need to ask for help: it’s okay to ask for help. That goes for everyone. If you find you need assistance achieving something that’s okay. If you find you can do it alone, that’s okay too. What’s not okay is struggling unnecessarily in silence. What’s not okay are people telling you what you can and can’t do. Say something. The truth is, you need to be your own advocate. This can be a huge task – I have already found it overwhelming during school and university – but it will improve with persistent practice.

One of the biggest hurdles for me to get over (… I should probably say around… I certainly can’t jump over it) was my self-doubt. I believed no one would pick me, or hire me, or think I was worth the effort. I have changed this negative mindset, which has taken me years to really do properly, and now when I see an opportunity I think I may as well give it a go. If I do get selected then I will prove I was worth it. I will ask for the assistance I need. Those who reject me are clearly not the right fit. It’ll take a while, but eventually you may just find your people: your tribe that champions your vibe. Don’t settle for those who ‘overlook’ or dampen your flames.

Although I am speaking on behalf of individuals with disabilities, I can tell you why not creating an open and accepting workplace can be a detriment to all workers: you never know what will happen in the future. I’m not just talking physical difficulties, but also battles with mental health. Instilling a positive organisational culture, and not just on the visible surface, but underneath in the invisible behind-the-scenes day-to-day running, will promote and keep business strong. There are so many ingrained perceptions and assumptions that are still barriers to people gaining the meaningful employment they desire and deserve.

So, I challenge you today. Start a conversation with someone you know, a family member/work colleague/that person you always mean to get around to, but don’t. Ask them, genuinely (I’ll know if it’s not sincere), how they are, and be open and willing to share something of yourself. Too often I have found that by sharing something I have been through, it is only then others are willing to do the same. I know it’s tricky, and could be asking a lot, but if we don’t start communicating, we may never develop the compassion and understanding that is needed for everyone to be their best selves.

You are your own advocate, so take charge of that. Honestly, as corny as it sounds, be the change you want to see.

Start talking, and please let me know if there are any other topics you want me to discuss or experiences you want me to share!

Fingers crossed I’ll see you again,

Eloise Dibden

 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

Interview | Anne-Marie Cade (Divorce Right)

Anne-Marie Cade launched Divorce Right with the aim of making the divorce process smoother, kinder and less painful and keeping families out of court. She works with couples to empower them to reach a peaceful, amicable separation and stay out of the family court as she believes this approach will ensure a positive outcome for the family.

She won the Thought Leader of the Year award at the 2017 Women in Law Awards and was a finalist in the Sole Practitioner category and was also shortlisted for the Women in Law Excellence Award. In 2016 she won in the individual category at the Lexis Nexis & Janders Dean Legal Innovation Awards and was a finalist in 2015.

Sophie Tversky (TLF) recently asked Anne-Marie some questions below!

Headshots Brisbane

 

We’ve read that you studied in Colombo, what cultural differences underpin market changes? What differences have you noticed in innovation in Colombo and Australia?

The legal profession in Sri Lanka is steeped in tradition and this is partly because of the very conservative nature of the profession. The younger lawyers in Sri Lanka are accepting of innovation and the changes that come with it but it will be a very slow and gradual process before it changes the practice of the law in Sri Lanka.

What does legal innovation in the family law sector mean to you and how did you know Divorce Right filled a gap in the industry?

In the course of my practice I noticed the dissatisfaction among clients particularly in regards to the approach to family law. It is almost from a sense of fear that they would make that call to a family lawyer if they were considering divorce as they feared that  it would cost them a lot of money that they would be billed for every call they made and every question they asked and furthermore they were dissatisfied with the adversarial approach to resolving family law disputes.

I am dedicated to changing the perception of how people divorce as a community and as a country and I encourage couples to work together with a mediator to resolve their disputes.

So it’s all about the approach I adopt when dealing with my clients and expressing empathy, compassion and seeing the problem thorough my client’s eyes. This is an under cultivated ability for lawyers. To really take the time to listen to the clients and understand the emotional under belly of what they are saying.

I have a vision and purpose to help people move on so when I work with a client I encourage them to look at the bigger picture, their goals and needs going forward and make decisions that will work for the family moving forward. I see divorce not just as a legal problem but an issue that has legal, emotional and financial implications. I adopt a holistic approach to the way I approach my client’s problem.

How is technology facilitating greater understanding/empathy with clients?

When people, particularly millennial clients, need to see a lawyer and even if they receive a referral from a friend for a lawyer, they will “google” the lawyer first before calling them. They will check out the website, the social media profile and make a decision as to whether they want to hire that lawyer or not. Lawyers can use technology/ social media to interact with their clients, to humanise the law and build trust so that clients will engage them when they do need a lawyer. Lawyers can also do this by blogging and providing people with good content, legal information freely. This is another way of building trust with members of their community.

Clients are now more empowered and want to be always kept informed about where their matter is at. Client portals are very useful as all information regarding a client’s matter can be stored on the portal and will be easily accessible to the client 24/7.

DivorceRight provides spouses with a ‘support team’ including: lawyers, financial advisors, mediators and counsellers, but the process is primarily driven by the spouses. In what way do you think ‘party led’ processes will inform other practice areas of law?

Lawyers may not always have all the answers to their client’s problems. They can come together with other professionals to work collaboratively. When this approach is taken higher order and complex problems can be solved by getting the insight needed from other professionals and disciplines other than pure law. This approach can be helpful in other areas of the law as well not just family law.

As accessibility is a key part of your platform, how do you ensure that you achieve a work/life balance particularly given the growing expectation of people to obtain information instantaneously?

I don’t believe in a work/ life balance as such. I believe in work life integration. Work/life balance creates almost a sense of competition between the two elements. Whereas when you integrate your work life with your home life, this approach creates more synergies between all areas of your life such as work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health. I think this a far healthier approach to adopt.

However success will be about seamlessly integrating your work life with your personal life rather than keeping work and self/family at bay (balance).

Do you think innovation will change adversarialism?

I think what is really disruptive is changing HOW we practice as lawyers. We need to be more client focused and see problems from our client’s perspective. It also means adopting a more collaborative approach and seeking alternative means of dispute resolution. We need to create the perception that lawyer culture is changing. And when people notice that lawyers are behaving differently and practicing differently it will change the narrative of what it means to be a lawyer.

It’s important that in order to practice in this way it’s not enough for lawyers to merely subscribe to this vision but rather to act consistently with it.

What is your greatest learning in your legal career thus far?

Personalize the experience for your clients and they will love you for it.

What is your creative outlet/de-stresser?

Spending time with family, listening to music, going to the movies.

What is your legal forecast for dispute resolution?

Alternative means of dispute resolution and collaboration

 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

Interview | Ian Goddard (Yarris)

Ian Goddard is a man of many talents. He transitioned from senior partner of a prominent corporate law firm to delving into the world of entrepreneurship and technology, founding Yarris Pty Ltd, where he is the CEO.

Yarris develops cloud-based technologies to simplify workflow processes, working across many sectors, and managing well over $1 billion dollars of services each year, including legal services,  telco construction and insurance. In legal, ‘Dazychain’ manages legal operations for in-house counsel, and ‘Legal Panel Gateway’ is the system for government legal departments.

Ian has served as chairman or director on various public, private and Government boards. His career shows his passion for developing new and better processes for commerce and work.

Sophie Tversky (TLF) was very fortunate to gain the below wisdom from Ian!

Capture2

What is one word to describe your approach to life?

Happy (and persistent).

Throughout your career you have embraced change, as reflected by your career shifts from corporate law to founding a business incubator, which then led to Yarris Pty Ltd and Dazychain. How important is adaptability and what has this looked like in your life?

Absolutely essential. Like it or not, life and circumstances are constantly changing, and we can adapt, or give up and die. I think adapting and changing is fun, it keeps life interesting. I would hate to be forever static and unchanging.

Over the years, I, just like others, have necessarily adapted through being younger, poorer, older, richer, single, married, divorced, married and a parent. In work I’ve changed from a builder’s labourer, a factory worker, a boat charter operator, a junior lawyer, a partner, a company chairman to a technology CEO.

In most changes I was untrained, and I just ‘learned on the job’. I think the difference between successful people and less successful people is that some people learn to adapt quickly as their circumstances change, and others don’t adapt well and repeat mistakes. With hindsight, I would have sought out more training or paid more attention to the training that I was given so that I could have adapted faster.

Very often change is uncharted, painful and/or scary and you don’t really know how you are going to adapt, but you always do, hopefully. For example, coping with a little daughter with asthma for the first time, managing a cash crisis in business or having to terminate staff in a downsizing. The experiences are vital for learning how to do them the next time.

Of course, good changes are easy to deal with. Signing off on a big deal, getting married, winning an award, these don’t take any resilience to manage. The good changes are easy, but I wonder how much we learn from them.

Throughout your career, you have striven to give back to the community. Are the changing legal landscape and the new generational mixes in organisations changing the concept of corporate responsibility?

The concepts certainly have changed.

I think there’s a greater emphasis on more formalised philanthropy, and corporates now are supposed to operate corporate social responsibility programmes if they want to be seen as good citizens. So to that extent, the willing volunteer has plenty of opportunities to sleep rough or run  marathons to raise money for charity.

What has interested me more is being part of the leadership creating these programmes or managing the organisations that are involved. I think there’s still plenty of opportunity to be involved, but the landscape has changed. The people who get the jobs are more formally qualified now and there is more competition to win those roles. The bar has been raised by a number of factors.

  • A number of high profile cases have illustrated the risks of being a director. Enterprises want directors who are skilled and can manage risk.
  • There is a trend for non- executive directors to be qualified with the AICD.
  • Aspirant directors commonly see their path to commercial boards as starting with a not for profit organisation, so there is more competition for those places.
  • Also, with the very justifiable emphasis on diversity, the path to directorships has broadened for women and narrowed for men.

There is a lot of discussion regarding 21st century skills for legal graduates. In your transition from corporate law to technology, what skills have you found essential and transferable? Additionally, what new skills have you had to learn?

Initially, when I jumped from law to business, I thought I was pretty well equipped for it. I was partly right.

The skills of mastering a brief, making presentations, leading a team, understanding finance, dealing with clients and generally knowing how to get on with people were really useful. Many lawyers I know feel they don’t have the skills to move into business, and they looked longingly at their colleagues who did make the jump. The fact of the matter is, they could move, but they risked a good income.

Lawyers should take heart, they possess valuable and sophisticated skills that many workers lack.

However, there were, and still are, skills that I have to work at. I think a couple of decades as a lawyer did not help me to be a great manager. I’m not particularly good at setting goals for staff and monitoring them in a systematic and disciplined way.

My biggest learning was that in my former role as a lawyer, the longer I worked and the more hours I billed the better. However, that attitude is utterly wrong in business. I now try to involve others and delegate as much as possible. I don’t win plaudits from doing the work, I win plaudits for the results. I still have to strive to be mindful of this. I find that habits I learned early in my career are very hard to change.

How do you think delivery of legal services will continue to change?

Here are my guesses.

Law will be a lot like retail. That is, in the total shopping mix, some purchases will be made at the store, but online is more convenient and cheaper for many everyday things.  Similarly, some legal services will require face to face and bespoke, but many needs will be satisfied with cheaper pre-packaged and online services.

Law firms will have fewer staff, but more highly skilled staff.

Specialisation will be essential for successful private practice. Only specialists, assisted by the right technology, will satisfy customers who want formulaic service delivery, at a good price, with great service.

Technology will continue to improve productivity. E- discovery has been mainstream for a while, and we will see growth in automated contracts, smart contracts, automated workflow systems and blockchain.

More lawyers will provide their services in an in-house capacity.

In-house lawyers will use not just their legal skills but also operational and business skills. Their roles will increase in importance.

In-house jobs will be well paid, but not at the levels of current private practice partners.

One might think the Bar should prosper with high calibre junior barristers able to provide their services more cheaply than their high-priced solicitor brethren. However, my guess is that the Bars’ conservatism and some archaic practices will impede them. Combine that with society’s aversion to expensive litigation, and quality competition from law firms, and I think the Bars will inevitably shrink, although there will always be an important  place for skilled specialist advocates and criminal specialists.

There will always be a highly paid demand for lawyers who are great negotiators and advisors who can navigate their clients around society, business, government.

In your opinion, is there a difference between the state of change in government and corporate sectors and how do you approach working with each?

Yes, I do think there is a difference.

Corporates have a definite edge in innovation because they are more nimble. In fact, even the historically bureaucratic big corporates are investing in startups and new practices. Finance and insurance companies recognise that cheap specialist competitors will probably destroy their old business practices. They are seeking to stay relevant by pouring money into fintech startups. Mining companies are challenged with lower profits and an imperative to reduce costs, and Australian miners are world leaders in adopting new mining technologies.

Government has huge needs – to reduce expenses and try to balance their budgets, provide desperately needed services to people with disabilities and to fund the rapidly aging population, to name just a few imperatives. Government needs innovation and technology more than any other sector. However, given the inherent bureaucracy and the low quality of political leadership, government badly lags the corporate sector in innovation. There has been good policy work on innovation done in theory, but much less achieved in practice.

Having said that, our experience, as vendors of innovative products is that at the end of the day it is ordinary humans make the decisions to innovate or not. Whilst most people favour change and improvement in principle, in practice they often are too busy just coping, or worrying about their kids, to spend the time and energy to learn how to do something differently. ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, it’s good enough to get by.

In all cases there is a couple of constants – expert change management makes the difference between a successful launch and a failed IT project.

Also, in all organisations public and private, if you want to innovate you need to find the powerful champion who can make it happen.

 In creating your products, how do you balance innovation with increasing privacy/cybersecurity issues?

I don’t find that an issue. The privacy and security requirements are a given, they must be met, so we meet them and develop products within those requirements.

The consequence is that those requirements might mean that we invest time and money in meeting new requirements imposed by our customers instead of focussing on new developments.

It’s worth noting that every year the requirements are more onerous. I expect the coming European changes will add yet another degree of complexity.

 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

Interview | Tomoyuki Hachigo (sprintlaw)

sprintlaw is a new type of law firm that operates completely online and on a fixed-fee basis. They are on a mission to make quality legal services faster, simpler and more affordable for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Tomoyuki Hachigo is the co-founder and lawyer at sprintlaw. Recently, Milan was fortunate to interview Tomo!

1. Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?

I’m not a really big quotes kind of person, but there are a few concepts I do live by. One of them is this concept of “daydream”, which is also one of our core values at sprintlaw. The basic idea is that all innovation starts from unstructured thoughts, from daydreaming.

This is particularly important in an age where everyone is measured against how productive they are. Instead, I’m a big believer in creativity and the idea that from time to time you have to take a step back and reflect on the bigger picture.

2. What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?

One that comes to mind is how I used to think you can achieve everything through hard work and by satisfying some pre-defined set of criteria. But I’ve realised that just because you work hard, it doesn’t meant that things will just be handed to you and you’ve really got to work smart and carve out your own destiny if you want to succeed.

And this is a fairly common way of thinking in the law because we’re trained to be that way. Starting all the way from getting a high ATAR score to get into law school, maintaining good grades throughout uni, collecting extra curricular activities for your CV, getting that first “law job”, and so on. Then you see this translate to attitudes in the workplace as well, where people who have ticked all these boxes then complain about not getting a raise or promotion. But in reality there are many other factors at play, often those that are not entirely fair. And so you can’t always rely on the system delivering for you, and instead you have to take initiative and be creative to make things happen.

3. What was the toughest challenge you faced in starting sprintlaw and how did you overcome it?

Trying to innovate while being restricted by the rules of an old profession that hasn’t yet adapted to the 21st century. In order to build a legal service delivery model that is convenient, online and customer-centric, we do things differently. But at every step along the way, we have encountered some law society rule that prohibits us from designing the perfect solution.

Of course, many of the ethical rules are there for good reason and to protect the integrity of the profession. However, the regulations (and the supporting software solutions) seem to be built for the old way of doing things – where lawyers work in offices, meet clients face-to-face, and charge by the hour to unquestioning clients.

That being said, the good news is that Australia’s legal business regulations are actually more liberal than many other jurisdictions, and there’s a lot we do at sprintlaw that wouldn’t be possible overseas.

4. Is there anything that you miss about working at a top-tier law firm?

One thing I definitely appreciate in hindsight is how a top-tier law firm is full of super intelligent people. Not sure if I “miss” that, but being surrounded by such people on a daily basis was a unique experience.

I also couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without the training I received at the BigLaw firm. And that’s part of the problem because I don’t think it is sustainable for traditional law firms to keep training up junior talent. This is why I want sprintlaw to eventually be a place that also equips the next generation of lawyers with the tools and mindset required in the future.

5. What are the common pitfalls for startups and small business that do not get legal advice?

It’s usually the simple things – having a shareholders agreement, registering a trademark, employment issues, writing up a contract, and so on. With all of these, the main issue is that they don’t get the advice early on before things get problematic. Small businesses often try to just wing it and only see a lawyer in crisis situations – and it’s usually too late to deal with things then. Businesses often sign up to a bad deal, or end up in disputes that could have been avoided, because they just didn’t have the right conversations early on in their business dealings. A lot of the time, the real value in seeing a lawyer is just to go through the process of fleshing out potential issues and risks when making business decisions.

6. How does sprintlaw get buy-in from a client base that is generally reluctant to use legal services?

Following from the previous answer, the real problem is that this market doesn’t see the value in seeing a lawyer. And I don’t blame them when the status quo lawyers are so expensive, overly complicated and time consuming. Lawyers also tend to be very out of step with how consumers, especially the younger generations, nowadays prefer to transact online and through smartphones.

That’s why we focus on making it easy to consume legal services, by improving user experience and designing the entire business around the customer. From the client’s perspective, the sprintlaw experience is very quick and easy – make an online enquiry, get a fixed-fee quote, connect with one of our lawyers, and problem solved! To make this simple 4-step process happen, we’ve put in a lot of thought to the tech infrastructure and business processes to make this as efficient and seamless as possible. Coupling this with the latest legal technology to help our lawyers be smarter and more efficient, we’re able to provide quality legal output at the fraction of the cost.

7. What advice would you give a law graduate in 2018?

Read Richard Susskind’s books. Be aware of the changing landscape and be open to learning new skills. Technology will certainly play a huge part, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all about tech skills. In fact, I think it’s more than ever important to think about traditional human skills like intuition and creativity.

8. What is your legal forecast? i.e where will the Australian legal market be in 10-15 years

Of all the technologies that have been hyped up in recent years (e.g. AI, machine learning, big data, blockchain, etc), there’s one specific idea in Richard Susskind’s book that I’ve always been drawn to. It’s this idea of “Embedded Legal Knowledge” whereby the law would be embedded within society’s systems and processes. The example he gives is a car that doesn’t drive if the driver’s blood alcohol level exceeds the limit, instead of the status quo which requires the driver to know and interpret the law (though, we may not have drivers anymore in 10-15 years, but you get the idea).

In such a world, the role of lawyers would obviously radically shift, from specialists who react to certain situations, to some sort of an architect of social infrastructure. 10-15 years is a very long time in tech and my prediction is that there will be so many aspects of the world that would be unrecognisable from today’s perspective.

Before getting excited about the future though, a more immediate development would be to bring lawyers up to speed with 2017! I find it crazy how much grunt work there still is at law firms, even though there are already tools out there to automate so much of the work lawyers don’t want to do. I think there’ll be an increasing trend for lawyers to focus only on things that machines can’t do. For the legal market, this means that the top end will probably continue business as usual but under a leaner and more tech-enabled outfit. The commoditised end of the market will also continue to develop with new offerings reaching underserved markets. The consensus seems to be that the middle is in trouble, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case in 10-15 years time.

 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

TLF Brainstorm | Ep. 5 | What is your legal forecast for 2018?

What is TLF Brainstorm? 

TLF Brainstorm is an opportunity for our community of legal forecasters to share their creative ideas in response to an interesting question about the role of the lawyer.

TLF Brainstorm is one part philosophical, one part creative, and most of all, it is a space to share new ideas.

Some of our responses may be genius and change the world forever, some may completely lacklustre, some may be riddled with typos (having been typed and sent through on someone’s mobile phone while on the bus). This is the beauty of TLF Brainstorm.

This episode’s question from Angus Murray: 

What is your legal forecast for 2018?

Kyall Partsch (TLF VIC)

The Court System

I believe 2018 will see an increased emphasis on the workings of our Court System – in particular the strain and overwhelming they’ve recently experienced. There will be a renewed push to incorporate and adapt innovative legal concepts and technologies into the Court system in order to not only just streamline it’s productivity but also ensure it retains its relevance in the increasingly disrupted legal landscape. Existing initiatives such as E-filing (which has been in use for over three years) and the “Technology in Civil Litigation Practice Note” which commenced in early 2017, will be joined by other similar initiatives as the Courts continue to evolve and prepare themselves to cope with the recent surge in commercial proceedings and the increasing complexity of these cases (including an increase in group proceedings).

The Hierarchy

I believe a major focus in 2018 will be the hierarchical nature of legal structures (such as law firms) including the continued discussion as to whether these hierarchies are actually an inhibitor of progress, innovation and adaptation in the legal services market. An increased emphasis on the development of effective mechanisms and strategies to encourage firm-wide (rather than top-down or vice versa) creativity, problem-solving and innovative thinking will lead to the introduction of more collaborative platforms that foster fresh and vibrant ideas.

Access-to-Justice

I hope 2018 is a year in which access-to-justice becomes a major focus for the disruptors and innovators of the legal industry. In particular, I believe a growing consideration that will be turned to is the ability to retain the ‘human element’ in connecting disadvantaged individuals with the legal services they require. Rather than merely supplementing the services of a lawyer with technology (such as AI/chatbots) I believe there will be a new focus on ensuring that innovative services that improve community access-to-justice will retain an element of personal engagement and connection – and which, above all, ensures a level of human empathy.

Laura Spalding (TLF QLD)

Implementation

A much bigger focus on implementation as firms figure out how to actually walk the walk and tackle the following issues:

  1.    Who is responsible to implement new software/technology (IT teams? Lawyers themselves? the SLG?);
  2.    What products/systems are even out there;
  3.    How do you change the attitudes of lawyers unwilling to adapt;
  4.    What exactly are the business benefits of implementation or equally, what are the potential business losses for a lack of adaptation by lawyers?

I think this will lead to bigger emphasis and investment by firms in either in-house or external IT providers, and other consultants and professionals.

Managing client demand

Clients are becoming more sophisticated and cunning in their selection of legal service providers. As a result they are having more of a voice in how legal services are provided, for example in relation to alternative fee arrangements and access to resources such as pro forma documents.

Preparing for a redefinition of legal services

What can lawyers do to better their own services in preparation to compete with a new wave of legal service providers (not necessarily a threat in 2018 but definitely a consideration for the future) for example:

  1.    New skills such as coding;
  2.    Overcoming cliché discussions and determining what we actually need to know about to keep up with the things affecting the business of our clients? (I.e. blockchain, cryptos, ICO’s etc);
  3.    Lawyers jumping from firms to the big four.

New structures of law firms

Is it the end of the traditional partnership model? What else works and how can lawyers get a better deal.

Angus Murray (TLF QLD)

This year has marked a significant increase in the legal profession’s interest in technology and innovation. This discourse has largely been centred around artificial intelligence (“AI”), automation and document management. I expect that this discussion will continue as a centre point in the new year, however, my forecast is that the following points will become increasingly relevant.

  • Access to Justice

As technology is implemented within legal practice, there will be an increase in the way(s) in which society can access justice. This may be via AI-driven legal solutions, the Court’s architecture, information availability for the public and the cost of basic legal services. Access to justice is a fundamental aspect of law and, once the “tech hype” has subsided, I hope that access to justice will theme as both a morally and commercially important aspect of technology in law.

  • Future-proofing graduates

The legal landscape is clearly shifting into the digital era and with this transition comes the need to appropriately educate and skill new generations of lawyers. I forecast that this will involve an increased focus on the broader ambit of law (i.e. areas of practice) and utilisation of a law degree outside of the traditional pathway (and aspiration) to partnership at a large law firm.

  • Decentralised practice

The increase of interconnectivity is arguably the greatest disruption to the traditional legal model and mindset. The ability to work from home, on the bus, in the airport, etc. is creating a situation where the necessity for a physical and central location for a law firm may become redundant.

  • Legislative reform

The law will be required to change to accommodate new methods of practicing and communicating legal services. The abovementioned points will require legislative change and it is, in my hopeful view, likely that the new year will see Parliament considering the best way(s) to regulate and quality control the evolving nature of legal practice.

  • An increase in the “art of law”

This is probably the biggest (and boldest) forecast for the future of law. I have repeatedly stated that, arbitrarily, law is 80% science and 20% art. The science aspect of law is the process driven elements of law and are thus capable of automation (eg. the preparation of a standard license agreement). The art of law is more finesse and is the deeper human element of law. The importance of the “art of law” will become clearer as technology struggles to properly identify and act upon complex variables such as sensing untold needs, credibility, ancillary issues and advocacy. I forecast that the art of law will become increasingly important in legal education and professional development.

In sum, we live in interesting times and I forecast that the new year will continue to deliver challenging and exciting issues.

Gemma Freeman (TLF VIC)

My thoughts are as follows (apologies that I have not had time to polish up as much as I’d like): My legal forecast is somewhat conservative in that I think we will see a continuation and acceleration of current trends (as outlined below), with large significant changes still to follow.

I see a continued (and accelerated) commercialisation of the legal profession. Truly ‘commercial’ firms are those that are client-centric which differs significantly from the historic role of law as a profession (in which lawyers could say, do and charge as they pleased!) and I think 2018 will see an acceleration in this shift from the latter to the former. This will raise additional tensions with the regulation of legal practice (the current model poorly applies to legal technology and to firms wishing to offer a truly commercial service) and hopefully we will start to see some of the industry’s regulations updated and adapted (however not without tensions along the way!).

I expect even more service providers to begin to offer legal services in addition to their other services, challenging the current top-tiers. I also expect a big shift towards making legal services more approachable and accessible for clients; e.g. online billing and client access to matter information (such as online portals); many clients are asking for these and it is strange that the legal industry has been so slow to adopt, however presumably they will have to be adopted in 2018. I expect that the largest corporations and the banks will really begin to implement reg tech (following in Europe’s footsteps) to cope with the increasing regulatory burdens and higher risk of enforcement action from regulators, and firms and start-ups are likely to be competing heavily in this space.

As for access to justice, I anticipate that additional online resources will pop up providing people with information on the law and further breaking down barriers (and ‘undermining’ law as a profession).

I also think the legal industry will begin to draw from other professions and disciplines in order to provide a more holistic view of legal issues. For example, perhaps we might see an increasing  collaboration/merging between those involved in dispute resolution and those that understand human psychology, in order to develop and structure ‘smarter’ dispute resolution interactions between people that help reach speedy resolution (particularly in the context of family law).

I expect that the judicial system and the education system will continue to lag behind the commercial realm in terms of change (given the lack of commercial incentives driving change and the generation of those running the courts and the universities) and that it is unlikely to see any significant changes occur in these areas in 2018, however the conversation on what needs to change in these spaces will continue.

Lastly, on lawyer wellbeing, lawyers will continue to demand healthier and more sustainable work environments, as knowledge on what makes for a healthy and happy life becomes more adopted by the mainstream. I think there will be a decrease in those willing to sacrifice their health (and life) for the sake of a ‘successful’ legal career.

Daniel Owen (TLF QLD)

 2017

Save for a perhaps inevitable (but erroneous) conflation of innovation with technology and mounting evidence of a legal innovation echo-chamber, 2017 has not been without progress.  The legal landscape in 2017 has been punctuated by the mass realisation that there is opportunity in legal innovation.  We can also now safely say there is a burgeoning micro economy with legal innovation as its centre point.

Notwithstanding the above, 2017 has not escaped the growing pains of innovation.  

This year has continued the trend of a stunning lack of understanding from industry players who continue to believe that innovation is opposed to their bottom line.  To anyone familiar with the literature, the notion that innovation is inherently good is derivative.  Enduring sentiment to the contrary is the intellectual equivalent of a 7-foot NBA player air-balling a free throw – disappointing, but altogether not that uncommon.

2018

1. Regulatory development

2017 has seen substantial movement in the regulation of innovative practices.  Particularly interesting in 2018 will be the interplay of alternative capital raising efforts with ASIC’s crystallised positions on crowd sourced funding (RG 261) and Initial Coin Offerings (Info Sheet 225).  Undoubtedly, 2018 will offer a mix of financial products that utilise alternative funding as a compliment to a sound underlying business model and those that attempt to rely on alternative funding to make an otherwise untenable project tenable. 

2. Legal integration

2018 will likely see progress toward ‘legal integration’, being the merging of legal practice with business practice, as the demand for legal services ebb and flow with macro-economic trends.  For those resistant to the legal integration trend, a key question is how to create utility out of the inevitable downtrends in demand for services (i.e. how can law firms create business for themselves rather than piggybacking on the business of others).  

A key example of innovation in practice comes from recent ASX listed entity Go2 People Limited (ASX: GO2), which took to market the idea of combining FIFO worker recruitment with internally-driven prefab home constructions during low-demand periods.  2018 may very well be the year that law firms discover their version of the ‘prefab homes’ model.   

3. The client/risk portfolio

As the goodwill of premium law firm brands retains status as the most valued currency in legal services, downward pressure on pricing will continue to influence the way law firms share project risk allocations and receive remuneration for their services.  Particularly in the micro-cap space, law firms have demonstrated a willingness to accept alternative fee arrangements, whether by way of deferred payments, scrip arrangements, or a derivative thereof.  

2018 may see law firms begin to view their clients as investment ‘portfolios’ that balance high risk/high return projects with more reliable traditional arrangements.  Law firms willing (and financially able) to de-emphasise short term profits and carry greater risk will position themselves ideally in the long term to compete with firms above their market position.

4. Innovation in practice

For those who caught the ‘innovation discussion bug’ in 2017, 2018 should be focussed on turning those words into practical action.  Core to this process will be taking the time to quantify processes (including mental processes) for the purposes of leveraging technology to replace the repeatable aspects of practice.  The small minority of unquantifiable aspects of the profession that remain (being the inherently human aspects), will be a potent mix that Angus Murray so rightfully calls the ‘art of law’.

Assisting this process, and/or capitalising upon it, should be the focus in 2018.

Michael Bidwell (TLF QLD)

Everyone keeps looking at the bigger firms for defining the status of legal innovation and technology.  I think that is going to change in 2018.  People are going to stop relying on the bigger firms as the benchmark for what is progress in the industry.  2017 saw some of the most innovative firms created or highlighted in the industry for their adaptability and commitment to making access to justice a reality.  That is who will continue to shine bright in 2018.

The traditional partnership model will likely not change in 2018 but I think you are going to see more attention brought to the inherent flaws in the system given today’s world market.  Millenials are continually entering and rising up in the legal industry and the traditional partnership model often does not sit well with our values.  Clients want a full-service package and it is about damn time law firms realised they need to operate as a collective business rather than 50 individual businesses headed by individual partners who get angry if their client likes another lawyer at their firm more.

Importantly, universities have been quite responsive to change in the industry and I believe 2018 will see more law/technology offerings whether that be dual degrees or more courses.  This is significant because the next generation of lawyers need to be prepared for the disruptions that are to come.  It will also comfort students to know the big firms are not the only highly coveted positions as innovative law firms continue to offer flexibility and unique opportunities along with businesses who traditionally would not have taken law graduates.

Chris Ritchie (IT Manager at Franchise Control Systems; Business Analyst/ Implementation Manager at Hosemasters International)

To begin my Legal Forecast for 2018 I believe it is critically important to form a distinction between incremental innovation and disruptive innovation. Incremental innovation is the incremental improvement of a service or product. Examples of incremental improvements using technology are report aggregation from previously decentralized data sources, workflow automation in which time-consuming, repetitive tasks are automated, or integrated communicative tools. In contrast, disruptive innovation is by its nature paradigm shifting and transforms the way in which entire systems perform. Examples of disruptive innovation are Google’s search technology, Amazon’s cloud services, Netflix’s initially DVD-by-mail model, followed by its streaming service, or Uber’s transportation service. Of the two established firms tend to focus on the former. Why? In my experience, because incremental innovations are often apparent after performing standard analysis processes, it is less risk intensive, and it is far easier to identify a clear ROI for projects. Furthermore, established firms are averse to a mass transformation of the landscape they already dominate in, where disruptive innovation threatens to destabilize a tried and true business model.

So what does this mean for the legal profession in 2018?  I would assert that legal profession is ripe for incremental innovation in 2018, yet not disruptive innovation. To list a few reasons why 2018 is not the year for disruptive innovation in the legal profession:

  1. Many of the technologies propounded to cause disruption are still in their infancy stage (AI, machine learning, blockchain)
  2. There is a lag cycle between these technologies reaching maturity and gaining widespread adoption
  3. There is yet to be signs of a singular pre-eminent legal profession platform that is challenging the status quo

With this said incremental innovations can result in major increases in productivity, and lay the foundation for full-scale transformation. Incremental innovation often emerges from the intersection between a problem made evident through the regular performance of a business 

process; and the knowledge of an available technology, software, or method. Application of this available technology, software or method to the problem generates a solution. This solution represents an incremental improvement to the process, and in-turn improves the efficiency of the system. For this Forecast, I will focus primarily on incremental innovations through intersections of problems and available technologies in the legal profession.

Key Trends:

Open Source Technology

Open-source technology represents unparalleled opportunities for innovation. Open source projects like Red Hat Linux, TensorFlow, HyperLedger, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL to name a few offer the chance for a regular full-stack developer to leverage the knowledge of the world’s greatest software engineers through using open source technology in their projects.  Open source technologies develop a symbiotic relationship with their user base, where users gain the benefit of usage, and the open source project gains active QA testers, developers to grow, and perhaps most importantly network effects through widespread user adoption.

Platforms Design/ API

Technology companies are consciously designing their applications as platforms and allowing their users to have greater control over how the application performs. API’s (Application Programming Interface) allows users to integrate services across multiple platforms, allowing functionality which previously required months or years of planning and development to be available within hours or days.

Flow-on Effect

The flow-on effect from the expansion of open source technology and IT companies undertaking a platform-centric model leads to previously inconceivable interconnectivity, interoperability, and integrability for IT projects. I believe these trends will yield a stream of new SaaS (Software as a Service) applications, and accelerate the maturing processes of existing SaaS applications for the legal profession.

Does this mean law firms need to increase their internal development budget significantly? Not necessarily, many of the problems lawyers face are universal, which means it is highly likely that there are already tools and technologies available to fulfil the firm’s technological/ business process requirements. With that said, enterprises which are developing SaaS applications for the legal profession will be strategically positioning themselves to expand their service catalogue and lay the foundation for a platform technology. To gain a competitive advantage law firms may consider a similar strategic approach.

Examples of Intersections Between Technological Trends and the Legal Profession:

Workflow Automation:

Chatbots (Internal and Managing Client Relations)

ChatBots are becoming more widely used and accepted across many industries. As the technology matures, firms may opt to deploy chatbots to serve as an interface with internal knowledge bases for internal stakeholders and clients alike.

Smart Contracts

The blockchain technology offers unprecedented opportunities for transparency through the creation of decentralised general ledgers for specific applications. By integrating the blockchain technology into contracts firm’s yield nearly instantaneous digital proof of a legal interaction between parties. This is only one example of countless opportunities for the blockchain to transform the way law firms manage contracts.

Contract Analysis

Softwares like Kira Systems offer new methods to aggregate large repositories of contracts and swiftly parse these contracts. Software’s like this will provide analytical features and new ways to observe trends in contracts en masse to assist lawyers in practice.

In conclusion, it is my belief that the challenge for 2018 is to actively seek opportunities to integrate already available technologies into the legal profession. Fostering a culture of innovation and dynamism in the face of technologically caused change will prepare legal professionals to take future disruption in-stride.

Mollie O’Connor (TLF QLD)

AI has been a big buzzword in 2017, and there has been increasing discussion about the impact it will have on law firms and the legal profession, and the pros and cons of its implementation. However, the legal profession has not yet moved beyond merely talk and speculation, and we haven’t seen much happen in terms of actual implementation or adoption of AI technologies by big law firms and the wider legal profession.

My legal forecast for 2018 is that the legal profession will be confronted by the impact of AI in a way that they have not been before, and mere discussion of its potential influence will have to shift towards actual reaction and implementation. The responses of law firms and the wider legal profession will have an unpredictable impact on their continued operation and existence into the future. Whether law firms embrace AI technology into their operations will influence whether they will survive over the coming years. I predict that law firms will need to deeply consider AI technology, and their current use of it as a buzzword to demonstrate that they are ‘tech-savvy’ will not be enough going into the future.

Andrew Dibden (TLF NSW)

More talk, less action, little change. No choice.

More talk,

Big firms, who possess the capital which could be deployed to effect real, meaningful change in the legal industry, will continue to eek out growth where scarce opportunities for growth exist. Big firms will continue to assume that their own ignorance of the changes threatening their profession is shared by their clients, who will continue accept an inferior product from “trusted advisers”. They will try to fill their sales with the winds of change, however, puffing about how their “AI-enabled, machine learning, cloud-based fully integrated” solution is groundbreaking and miles ahead of the competition.  

One could speculate as to whether these firms’ amazement with, what is to the tech-savvy, quite mundane outputs, stems from pure ignorance or laziness.  Whether firms are genuinely unaware that the ‘innovation’ they have achieved is technologically “ho hum” or whether, rather than invest in meaningful, revolutionary change, firms would prefer to scale back investment in innovation, while continuing to herald it as the the greatest thing since the automated bread-slicer.

less action

In fact, firms’ current attempts at innovation will sate the appetites of the entrenched management who are simply seeking to adorn their firm in the sleek gloss of the digital revolution and the growth in innovation initiatives will slow. The During-Kruger effect will take hold and firms who fail to properly address the knowledge asymmetry that exists between their management and the junior members of staff will have the dual effects of:

  • leading management to erroneously believe that the changes they have implemented are adequate to both protect their firm from the threat of disruption and retain their more technologically adept junior staff, and
  • exposing these firms to greater business risk as smaller firms marshal their resources behind initiatives which are set to change the face of the industry.

Firms need to critically assess who is in charge of assessing the adequacy of their innovation initiatives and ensure that an adequately critical eye is applied to the task.

little change.

More broadly law firms and lawyers will fail to confront the fundamental substance of the disruption occurring in their industry. Conversations will skirt flirtatiously about the “how” of law (i.e. the method through which legal services are delivered), rather than boldly scaling the depths of the “what” (i.e. tackling the existential question of “what does it mean to be a lawyer in 2018?”).

Lawyers and policy-makers alike need to start to articulate an answer to this question to ensure that the job of “lawyer” and the professionals in pursuit of it remain focused, and more importantly, relevant to community needs.

No choice.

The biggest risk with the bleak portrait of the profession I have penned above is that readers will take my prediction as a promise.  It is not.  It is a view of things to come based on current trends.  But current trends are just that, current, and if you don’t like them, make new ones.

I hope that in 12 months I look ridiculous for having put to paper such a pessimistic view of the legal profession.  But at this stage, I’m looking far more reasonable than ridiculous.

Sophie Tversky (TLF VIC)

Education

The discussion regarding changes to legal education is just beginning. I think in 2018 there will be greater involvement and discussion with Regulatory bodies regarding skills sets required to meet the demands and changes of the evolving legal industry. The difficulty is to set a curriculum that can weather unseeable changes in the market place. However, I do think that greater cross-disciplinary collaboration between Faculties, an understanding of legal business and tech literacy will be on the rise and setting in motion shifts so that some of these can be introduced within curriculum. I hope that there will be an equal push for developing EQ-related skills. It would be great to see industry, academia, students and Regulatory bodies come together to visualise a curriculum to provide students with the skills they need for the fourth industrial revolution.

Focus on diversity of thought

Terri Mottershead at the Melbourne Centre for Legal Innovation  ‘To Code or Not to Code?’ event, discussed the ‘rise of the aggregator firm’, firms constituted and managed by different skillsets in addition to legal minds. It will be interesting to see whether there is a shift to decentralised structures, maybe not in 2018 but I believe there will be a shift in the commonality of the business model in future. I think there will be an increase in firms merging with technology-based companies or investing in their own start- ups. There is a universal recognition that embracing different skillsets is necessary and the importance and rise of lateral hires, however I think there will be a shift in discussing how we go about communicating, constructing and working in teams which carry different value propositions and priorities. This is underpinned by creating cultures that value contributions across the board and the spirit of inquiry.

Refocus on the people – access to justice

2017 was filled with discussion about AI and how this will change lawyers’ work. I feel in 2018, there will be increasing discussion regarding the way innovation can transform accessibility to legal information and justice. Technology will play an integral part but I also think there will be a re-focus on human-centric redesigning of process (e.g. communication pathways, fee structures, accessibility of lawyers and legal information).

Implementation of technology

The narrative regarding technology is likely to widen and refocus on questioning, experimenting and sharing learnings such as how do organisations effectively implement technology, how do we find the balance between the human element and technology within an organisation and how do organisations find new ways of effectively balancing risk and expenditure, technology development and the iteration processes of new products within a law firm?

I agree with Chris, I think AI, Blockchain and machine learning are in their infancy stage in terms of their implementation and it will be interesting to see their further impact on practice.

Client-firm technology collaborations will be on the rise in 2018, increasing visibility of trajectories of client matters and the role of the Legal Project Manager, Technologist, Legal Designer and Legal Engineer will be of increasing importance.

Sebastian Cross (TLF VIC)

I think overall, 2018 will see an increase in the adoption of innovative ways of providing legal services across all levels of the market. As technology assisted review (TAR) and contract automation skills become necessary requirements of members of the profession, the ‘buzz’ surrounding these technologies will fade and they will simply become the norm.

Adaptation of Technology

The threat that firms may fall behind will be realised in 2018, and investments into increasing technological capacities will undoubtedly be at the forefront of many firm’s strategies leading into the new year.

I think that this will result in the solidification of the divide between firms who have the ability and willingness to implement changes in the way that legal services are provided, and those that don’t. Firms must work with their clients in trialling and testing new ways of producing deliverables or face the threat of obsolescence.

The role of smaller and mid-size firms who have neither the agility, willingness nor the capital to embrace new practices that meet the increasing demands of sophisticated clients remains to be seen. The less risk averse the firm, the more likely that firm will be able to sustain themselves.

The ‘Non-Lawyer’

The role of the non-lawyer will only become more and more important to legal practice as time goes on. Legal project managers, process engineers, knowledge managers, pricing experts and most importantly legal technologists have quickly become integral to the practice of law in Australia. I believe 2018 will formalise the necessity of these positions in the market, and in turn create new and alternative career pathways for law graduates.

Education & Recruitment

2018 will only see firms continue to increase the diversity of characteristics they seek when recruiting their junior lawyers. Soft skills, intricate commercial understanding, tech literacy and openness to new ways of working will become of paramount importance for tomorrow’s graduates, if they aren’t already.

As a result, the education landscapes in which the LLB and the JD are taught will continue to evolve, as it has been in recent years. Australian law schools are rapidly designing and implementing courses relating to change management and technology in order to future-proof graduates. These ‘alternative’ and sought after skills will become more prevalent in course structures over next 12 months as law schools attempt to equip their students with the necessary skills and mindsets to tackle the rapidly changing industry.

Iain McGregor-Lowndes (TLF QLD)

Initial Coin Offerings


We have had the first official word from ASIC regarding the new fundraising model of initial coin offerings (ICO) in September of this year. The information sheet confirms that many of the provisions of the Corporations 2001 (Cth) will apply to ICO’s dependent on which preexisting regulatory box the ICO can be put into (as a derivative, managed investment scheme, crowd-sourced funding etc).  It is likely that ASIC is working on a clearer regulatory direction for ICO’s in 2018. Hopefully, it will strike a balance between the current mostly unregulated framework which allows greater access to smaller investors and the strict and expensive compliance requirements of initial public offerings.


Smaller firms packing a bigger punch


The current structure of most mid-tier and top-tier firms which often has each partner or team running an isolated business unit does not lend itself for firm-wide uptake of new technologies. I believe we will see more small law firms started by young senior lawyers from large firms who leverage technology much more effectively.  These firms will continue to chip away at the client base of larger law firms by providing a quicker, cheaper and more effective service.

What is legal design? | Q&A with Meera Sivanathan (Legal Designer)

Meera is a lawyer turned legal designer originally from Australia and now based in Helsinki, Finland.

Meera

The last time Meera and I saw one another (circa 2011) we were both studying at Bond University on the Gold Coast. I was studying film and Meera was studying law / commerce.

In film school we focused on creativity and design.  I can say from experience that law school is typically not focused on these things… and at least in Australia, you have to sign up to events like Disrupting Law to find the intersection of creativity + law (#sorrynotsorry for the shameless plug)!

Today, on the back of an impressive legal career both in Australia and now in Finland, it is Meera who is leading the charge in bringing a creative and design-centric mindset to the provision of legal services.

“Legal design” is a super exciting (albeit little understood) concept and catching up with Meera was an awesome opportunity to find out more.

Q&A

Meera, thank you for speaking with us Legal Forecasters!  We are intrigued by many aspects of your impressive career and particularly your move to Helsinki, your work with the Legal Design Summit, and your new role as Lead Legal Designer at Dottir Attorneys.

  1. First off, how did one of our best and brightest Aussie lawyers end up in Helsinki?   

Long story short, some new and cool opportunities came along for my partner and I in Helsinki, Finland. We decided it was the right time to make the move to the Nordics/Europe and have been making the most of it ever since. 

  1. Is the vibe of the legal profession in Finland any different to ours in Australia? 

In general, people and companies adopt a really forward-thinking mindset here in Helsinki, which extends to the legal profession. Passion for technology, design and innovation are longstanding components of the Finnish DNA with companies such as gaming giant Supercell and events like Slush (Europe’s largest start-up event founded and held in Helsinki) changing the way things are done.

This mindset, geared to disrupting the status quo and evolving with the times is embraced within the legal industry here in Finland. Amazing legal events and initiatives such as the world’s first and largest Legal Design Summit are born in Finland and gaining global recognition quickly – it’s great to be a part of this positive vibe. 

  1. What tips do you have for other Aussie legal professionals who want to follow in your footsteps and work in Europe?   

The opportunities are definitely out there. Do your research to gain an understanding of the legal environment and the firms and companies leading the way in your region of interest. It’s important to determine what you want to reap from your time working abroad. This will help you make the right choice in terms of work opportunities. Also, don’t be shy to reach out to contacts in your broader network. Based on my experience, Australians are warmly welcomed all over Europe as we tend to have a great reputation for our strong work ethic and friendly nature.

Legal Design 

  1. Can you explain what the term “legal design” actually means?  

Legal design is the application of design-thinking principles to the practice of law, to make legal systems, products, services and processes more useful, useable, understandable and engaging for all.

Presently, contracts are mainly drafted by lawyers for lawyers, our court systems are not easily navigable, terms & conditions and privacy policies are incomprehensible for most consumers and company internal policies and legal obligations are often little understood by staff. This has resulted in a large disconnect between the law, lawyers, companies and the end users of legal information and services.

With legal design, we can change this through a human-centered approach in which the users’ needs, wants and desires are first identified and then used as a basis to design and develop solutions. The result is legal information and services that are transparent, accessible, visually clearer and as mentioned above, useable, understandable, useful and engaging. When applied in a strategic manner, legal design can improve performance, innovation, brand perception, audience engagement, conversion rates and many other metrics.

  1. When did you first come across the concept?  

I’ve had the curiosity for combining creativity within the legal practice for quite some time. After several years working as a lawyer I decided to pursue this further. At the start of the year I was 1 of 16 people selected to complete a Master’s program fully focused on design-thinking at Aalto University, which is one of the world’s top design universities.

As for the concept of legal design itself; I guess it started from conversations with Jaakko Lindgren and Antti Innanen of Dottir Attorneys, who were already spearheading the legal design movement globally.

  1. What is the Legal Design Summit and what was your role as part of it? 

The Legal Design Summit (LDS) is the world’s first and largest legal design conference founded and held in Helsinki, Finland. It brings together international professionals in the fields of law, design and digital services to discuss and explore how human-centered design can transform the world of law.

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This year, I had the immense honor of hosting the LDS. In just its second year, over 600 people from around the world gathered collectively to form the world’s largest legal design movement – creating an inspiring atmosphere for change and validating the concept of design-thinking in the law. More information from this year’s LDS can be found here: http://www.legaldesignsummit.com.47

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Photo is of Justin North (Janders Dean, and TLF Advisory Board), and Joe May (Janders Dean, and TLF United Kingdom) who presented at the Legal Design Summit. 

7. Where should people look for more information about legal design?  

Currently, I’m co-authoring a book on legal design with Antti Innanen and Johanna Rantanen – both recognized thought leaders in legal design, co-founders of the Legal Design Summit and Partners at Dottir Attorneys. It’s a privilege to be working with them. The book includes insights from other leading professionals involved in the legal design movement and should be published soon…watch this space.

In the meantime, great resources can be found on the Legal Design Lab website, written by Margaret Hagan of Stanford University.

  1. How did you nab your new role as Lead Legal Designer at Dottir Attorneys and what will be your “day-to-day”?  Congratulations by the way!

Thanks Milan. It’s certainly exciting to be one of the world’s first legal designers.

My role as Lead Legal Designer arose after meeting the team at Dottir Attorneys who were already forging the legal design movement globally. With my background in law and my ongoing masters in design-thinking, and their growing company, it was the perfect match.

My day-to-day routine is exciting and fulfilling. It’s a combination of client focused work and workshops as well as external projects within the legal design space such as co-authoring a book and hosting events. Clients include private and public companies as well as legal and academic institutions. There is no ‘typical’ legal design project. I’m fortunate to work alongside talented service designers and researchers to solve an array of legal challenges – from redesigning contracts to make them more engaging, to prototyping new online legal platforms and designing better ways to communicate legal information and privacy policies on apps. We’ve also been quite busy planning and launching Dot. – a brand new sister company for Dottir Attorneys focusing solely on legal design.

  1. Do you have a view on the importance of creativity in professional services more broadly?

Every company is looking for that competitive edge. Encouraging creativity amongst staff and including those with creative backgrounds in the decision-making process can help bring on board that special x-factor solution, idea or approach that may set a company apart from the pack. Design lead companies such as Apple, Nike and PepsiCo are evidence of this. Understanding the value and benefits of creativity and incorporating it strategically is a key factor to success for professional services.

  1. Do you have a Legal Forecast. how is the legal world going to change in the next 10 – 15 years?  

The legal industry is ripe for disruption. Aside from the obvious automation and streamlining resulting from new technologies like AI, we will also see a shift in the way legal services are provided and the way legal challenges are tackled. The new age law firm will comprise both traditional legal teams as well as interdisciplinary teams of lawyers, researchers, technologists, designers and other professionals. In these interdisciplinary teams, professionals will collaborate and combine competencies to devise new ways to solve complex legal challenges as well as collaborate to design better customer experiences that bridge any disconnect between lawyer and client.

  1. Do you have any parting tips for law students?   

Work hard. Be authentic, be kind. Figure out what makes you tick and go for it wholeheartedly.

Questionner: Milan Gandhi (TLF).