Last week Passle attended the Legal Innovators 2019 event and we had the pleasure of hearing from a mixed panel - tech vendors and innovation leaders from top firms - who discussed automation and its benefits in the legal sphere.
The panel certainly didn't agree on whether lawyers should learn to code (more on that later) but one thing they did agree on was that people are at the centre of innovation & automation.
Stuart Whittle (Business Services and Innovation Director at Weightmans LLP) talked about the process of introducing new tech. The first step is to "Establish and set a Standard Operating Procedure" this will then help you to "Understand the people and the process involved". Stuart stressed that you should only introduce tech once you fully understand this process. He also commented that if tech is introduced and it does not work, it's unusual for the tech to be the problem - it's more likely to be the people and the process in place that has led to the undesired outcome.
Another common theme of the session was that Innovation must be client centred. Often law firms have the thinking - What can WE do to make US more innovative?
Jonathon Patterson (Managing Director at DWF Ventures) describes this approach as "Inside out" and feels law firms are often doing it the wrong way round. He believes that clients should be at the centre of innovation and that firms should identify the client's needs before introducing any tech.
The panel got a bit lively when Mathias Strasser (CEO of Scissero) suggested that the modern lawyer should be able to write rudimental code. This was in relation to document / workflow / contract automation. He argued that this would improve efficiency and help those lawyers better understand the process involved, its limitations and what is possible. This was challenged by James Touzel (Partner and Head of Digital and Innovation at TLT LLP) and his response was "Should lawyers code - NO, Could they code - Probably, but they would be the most expensive coders in the world!". There are probably arguments for both cases but I think ill stay out of this one and let you folk discuss and decide for yourselves.