By Clarilis February 28, 2023

The evolution of innovation and LegalTech - a law firm view

At the Clarilis Customer Forum at the end of last year, we invited Artificial Lawyer’s Richard Tromans to chair a law firm panel discussing the interaction between knowledge management and innovation and how this is driving tech adoption in their firms. Here, we summarise the main talking points from this session.

The evolution of innovation and LegalTech - a law firm view

The panel members

Sarah Vickery, Head of Knowledge, RPC

Amy Moore, Digital Legal Delivery Manager, Gowling WLG

Ben Murdoch-Smith, Senior Digital Transformation Manager, Arthur Cox

Where do knowledge management and innovation sit in your firm?

Every firm has a slightly different approach to how they organise and co-ordinate knowledge management and innovation. But what seems to be consistent is the value now awarded to each area, and also the need for them to work in parallel.


“When I joined RPC, my remit was to set up a knowledge function for the firm. Two and a half years later, we have a thriving knowledge section with four sub teams and it’s very much valued by the firm. I think this is demonstrated by the fact we've grown from a team of three to a team of 30 in this period.”


“For Gowling WLG, innovation and knowledge are separate. The knowledge team came out of the old library services, so they deal with precedents and intelligence tools. My team covers more the process improvement side of things and using LegalTech to help with projects. But we’re seeing more and more crossover, so we're now working closely together, so that we're not bringing in anything that clashes with each other.”


“At Arthur Cox we also separate knowledge and innovation. Our Knowledge, Learning and Development team, KLD, includes both IT trainers who help ensure lawyers can use the tools available, and Knowledge PSLs at a practice group level. Then we've got a separate Legal Tech and Innovation Services practice group. Half of this group focuses on client facing work such as eDiscovery, due diligence and large-scale data projects, and the other half, where I sit, focuses more in innovation by engaging with our lawyers to find, implement, and encourage adoption of tech tools that will better enable them in their day-to-day work.”

What innovation priorities are dominating discussions in your firm?

With innovation now securely positioned as a strategic priority in all three firms, the focus is on how they can optimise the use of technology to drive up efficiency and ROI.


“We've recently embarked on a new strategic programme. There are eight strategic priorities and one is ‘process and innovation’. We have an ambitious programme of 56 projects to deliver over the next three years. It’s all about making sure our lawyers are able to do their work as efficiently as possible, and also maximising the value we get from our LegalTech investments.”


“Innovation means quite different things to different people, so we're talking to all the different practice areas, finding out what their strategy is and working out how we can help them get there. What we're hearing a lot from practice groups is that we need to be more responsive – our clients are expecting real time answers. We're also seeing a lot of clients asking us what we use to be efficient, so we can help them to be more efficient as well.”


“There’s been a massive shift in our priorities post-pandemic – we’ve fundamentally re-evaluated our roadmap and initiated a very strategic Digital Workplace programme. And that's not just the legal tech innovation team, it's a close-knit collaboration with IT and the KLD team. For example, when we shifted to Teams last year for messaging and calls, we realised we needed to put a lot of effort into driving adoption and usage if we wanted people to make use of everything Teams has to offer. In collaboration with KLD and IT, we did a lot of work to really drive adoption and used data to track the success of this effort really well.”

How do you get lawyers to use the digital solutions?

You can buy a tool, but it can sit on the shelf unused. What became clear in the discussion is that targeted campaigns and structured effort are the most effective ways to maximise adoption of LegalTech.


“We’re trying to use user stories more. So, instead of me going to teams and saying – ‘here's something, why don't use it?’ – we’re doing showcase sessions where someone within a team will show, ‘this is how I used it and this is how many hours I saved’. We find that provides a lot of interest, because suddenly it's someone who's sitting next to them using it rather than someone from outside of their team telling them about it.”


“We focus on adoption at a tool level. Some tools, like Clarilis, adopt themselves, whereas other tools can be very difficult to drive adoption. When we did a programme last year to drive adoption of the Outlook app on mobiles, we took a very data-driven approach and were able to tailor and target our messaging to particular user groups as a result, focusing time and attention where it was most needed.”


“I think any successful adoption needs to have the lawyers involved from the beginning. For example, in developing an app for the tax team, our lawyers have been in meetings with the tech team developing the platform. Because they've committed to those weekly meetings, and invested in it, the project is going live on time.”

How do you decide what documents to automate?

As a Clarilis-hosted event, the panel discussion naturally turned to document automation and how each firm is tackling the process of making drafting a more streamlined, digital process. The answer overall seemed to be in a very focused and measured way.


“We have to be led by the business in what they feel is ripe for automation, but we also need to make sure the time, energy and effort spent automating something will give us return on investment. The two main factors we consider are volume and complexity. We try to consider automation at suite level wherever possible, rather than on individual documents, because that tends to be where we're going to get the most significant value.”


“When people approach us with new ideas for automation, we don’t just look at the hourly saving we're going to get from it. There’s also the client satisfaction piece to consider. We have situations where clients come to a service partner and ask, ‘what can you do to reduce this somehow?’ and anything we can do to improve client service is important for us.”


“We're looking across the firm for where we can find those things that are repetitive and that might save time – like engagement letters. But you also need to look at your return on investment – how many you do and how much will it cost you internally? If we don't do it, are we not going to be competitive? Or are we going to miss out on work because we can't do it for the price?”

Conclusion: First-hand assurance that adoption of LegalTech is growing

It was both heartening and enlightening to hear so loud and clear during this panel discussion how innovation is becoming more ingrained in the fabric of law firms. The realisation that legal technology is best implemented in a collaborative and targeted way is a huge step forward for the industry and is reflected in the impact more innovative approaches are having on the efficiency in how legal services are delivered.

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“I think any successful adoption needs to have the lawyers involved from the beginning.”

Sarah Vickery


“What we're hearing a lot from practice groups is that we need to be more responsive – our clients are expecting real-time answers.”

Amy Moore

Gowling WLG

“We focus on adoption at a tool level. Some tools, like Clarilis, adopt themselves, whereas other tools can be very difficult to drive adoption.”

Ben Murdoch-Smith

Arthur Cox

Screenshot 2022-07-25 at 12.33.23