How can firms define and measure their innovative efforts? In this edition of Law Technology Now, host Dan Linna talks with Lucy Dillon and Nick Long of Reed Smith LLP about how to practice law with modern tools and in-depth metrics. They discuss how they approach new projects within their firm’s innovation program and stress the importance of listening to clients’ needs. They touch on how Reed Smith’s Summer Technology Associate Program works to equip new lawyers with tech skills needed to practice modern law and also discuss possible changes in technology regulations for lawyers.
Lucy Dillon is chief knowledge officer at Reed Smith LLP.
Nick Long is senior director of legal operation at Reed Smith LLP and director at Gravity Stack LLC.
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Law Technology Now
Practicing Modern Law—Using Innovation to Deliver Superior Legal Services
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Daniel Linna: Hello. This is Dan Linna. Welcome to Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. My guests today are Lucy Dillon, Global Chief Knowledge Officer at Reed Smith and Nick Long, Senior Director of Legal Operations at Reed Smith.
As Global Chief Knowledge Officer, Lucy is responsible for the delivery of Reed Smith’s knowledge, innovation and information strategy. Lucy leads Reed Smith’s Practice Innovation Team using technology and project management to deliver legal services efficiently.
As Senior Director of Legal Operations, Nick works closely with Reed Smith’s knowledge management, client technology solutions and practice innovation teams to develop creative solutions to help deliver legal services most effectively. Nick previously worked as a partner in Reed Smith’s Global Corporate Group and Nick is also the Director of Gravity Stack, a Reed Smith subsidiary.
Lucy and Nick, welcome to the show.
Nick Long: Thank you for having us.
Lucy Dillon: Thanks Dan. Good to be here.
Daniel Linna: Well before we get started, we want to thank our sponsor Headnote. Headnote helps lawyers get paid faster with their compliant e-payments and accounts receivables automation platform. To learn how to get paid quicker and more efficiently, visit them at headnote.com. That’s headnote.com.
All right Lucy, why don’t you just give our listeners a little bit of context, they might not know Reed Smith well, can you just kind of tell us about the firm and where it operates and so on?
Lucy Dillon: Sure. Reed Smith is a global service, full service commercial firm, global managing, where partner refers to us as a team of 3,000 people, 1,700 of those are lawyers. We’re based across 29 offices and the balance is about two-thirds in the US and a third elsewhere, and elsewhere is Europe and the Middle East and Asia.
Our focus is on our five main industry sectors, so energy and natural resources, financial services, entertainment and media, life sciences and transportation.
Daniel Linna: All right, well and what about you then Lucy, can you just tell us a little bit about your background and journey to becoming the Chief, Global Chief Knowledge Officer at Reed Smith?
Lucy Dillon: Absolutely. Well, as you can tell from my accent, I am based in our London office. I started my career as an attorney here in London at another global firm. I was a commercial litigator for seven years focusing on banking and insurance fraud. I then had the opportunity to move into a knowledge management role within the litigation department of the firm.
So focusing on supporting the litigation department but not fee, I mean looking at how we could help the lawyers to practice more efficiently. Did that for a number of years and then did an MBA and decided that I was wanted to try management, so I moved into a management role, did that there, then I moved to another London firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, which is now part of the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
And became their first director of knowledge management, so a firm-wide role, looking at knowledge management across all practice areas. And then four years ago, had the opportunity to join Reed Smith in this global role. So now looking after knowledge information and innovation across our global platform.
Daniel Linna: Great. Well tell us just a little bit more about your role there, because we’re seeing firms I think approach, well not all firms have been applying knowledge management for as long as Reed Smith has for example, and then also now the word of the day is innovation. So can you kind of tell us kind of how your role, where you fit in with innovation and knowledge management?
Lucy Dillon: Absolutely. I say to people that Global Chief Knowledge Officer is possibly the worst title in the world but it’s the best job in the firm, because it can mean so many things and which is where the joy comes from, because you can move wherever there’s need to support the business to be more efficient or to create new products for clients.
So my role was originally a very knowledge-based and it was to evolve and develop the knowledge function within Reed Smith, but sort of serendipity played a part as soon as I joined the firm, the word innovation became a thing. And the more you look or the more we looked at where innovation was happening, it really sat side by side with knowledge because we’re looking at how we can exploit our knowledge as lawyers better to deliver better more efficient services.
So it sort of naturally fell into the knowledge teams’ lap and looking at how technology can do that was something that my team already doing before I joined anyway. So it became that natural link to have the knowledge in the innovation piece sitting side-by-side.
And then I’m also responsible for the library here so our information resources and our client intelligence team. So again that research and knowledge piece very much fundamental to what we do here.
Daniel Linna: Great, and so Nick, Lucy’s in London, you’re here with me in Chicago. Can you just tell us a little bit about your background and journey to becoming Senior Director of Legal Operations at Reed Smith?
Nick Long: Sure. I’d like to begin by taking issue with one thing Lucy said, which is that her title is somewhat undefined and that her job is the most fun. I think mine is even more undefined and therefore it makes a little more fun.
But by way of background, I was a corporate attorney for almost 20 years, starting as an associate, became a partner. I was actually the last partner at what was then Sachnoff & Weaver and the newest partner it was then Reed Smith, had been doing traditional corporate and M&A work for a while and I loved it. I loved the thrill of the deal but it always made me think about what more, what more can I be doing, how can we be doing this better, faster, cheaper.
Because there’s a tremendous amount of inefficiency in a traditional M&A transaction. And so that sort of led me down a path of exploring other things to do with my time and I started doing more and more internally within the firm with both Lucy and her team and with our technology teams and finally, I got to a point where I had to make a decision as to do I want to be a full-time lawyer, do I really want to jump in with both feet into the more administrative side of the firm.
And as Lucy said, this is a tremendous amount of fun and so as of January 1 of this year, I officially quit fee earning and moved over to what some may call the dark side, but I call the front side.
Daniel Linna: Well and tell us a little bit more about that, your role, in charge of Legal Operations and also then I want to hear about your role at Gravity Stack as well.
Nick Long: Sure, sure. So the title Senior Director of Legal Operations is about as amorphous as it can get. It really means nothing to anyone, which means that just about any random special project that comes up somehow ends, it finds its way to my desk, but the things that I love doing the most and that I actually spend a tremendous amount of my time on, are working with the Practice Innovation Team under Lucy and working with the Gravity Stack team, really trying to identify areas of growth, trying to identify clients that we can help using the solutions we have available and using solutions that we might not even know about yet, and really being the bridge between both the technology side of the house and our partners and their clients to open their eyes to the opportunities that that different solutions and different approaches, not just with technology but legal project management and design thinking.
How those approaches can really change their practices and allow partners to get new business and make more money off of their existing business and make clients incredibly sticky and love us even more because we’re able to come to them with a solution that says, not just we’re going to throw more lawyers at you and bill you more time, we’re going to streamline your work process and make your lives easier. Nothing makes a client happier than telling them that you’re going to make their life easier.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well I love hearing, I think there’s not enough talk about how better serving clients doesn’t necessarily have to be a hit to the bottom line also for lawyers.
Nick Long: No, not at all. In fact Lucy and I gave a presentation at our Partner Retreat earlier this year where we were trying to educate our entire partnership. So if you can imagine 600 lawyers in a conference room it’s insert bad joke here, but we were trying to open people’s eyes to technology and one of the concerns we’d heard repeatedly is not just the hit to the bottom line, but you’re trying to steal our jobs.
And so, what I distilled it down to for the partnership is we’re trying to do three things. We’re trying to help you win new business, we’re trying to help you keep business that you already have that you might lose, and we’re trying to make your job both more efficient and more accurate.
Daniel Linna: Yeah.
Nick Long: That’s what we’re doing here.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, well that’s so important to engage with the existing lawyers and get them to see the value that it will add for them. Kind of going along that point Lucy the broader, you’re the lead for innovation, how do you define and measure whether you’re producing innovation?
I mean what kind of metrics do you maybe have for yourself or what do you — what do you think we ought to be able to define it at the law firm or industry level?
Lucy Dillon: So one of the things we did when we sort of took on innovation and started to talk about it at the firm was, we were very careful with the definition, because I didn’t want to exclude anything. You never quite know whether innovation is going to be completely internal or is it going to be completely external, and it should be a combination of both.
So we defined it very broadly and we said, this is about looking at the way we work, looking at the services that we offer and also looking at new areas of law and regulation and we sort of distilled it down to the doing things differently and doing different things and just left it at that, and just saw where it went and where the energy was, and we’ve had about two years now — two and a bit years of really focusing on this and we are beginning to look at measurements and we look at a mix of quantitative measures, so we look at — are we saving time to some of the points that Nick just made. Are we saving money? Are we making money? Do we have revenue generating tools that we’ve developed and we certainly have some of those, but also looking at the qualitative measures, is this making life better? You know that work-life balance that we’re all striving to improve.
So if we’ve got a better product, did it improving our brand, our satisfaction amongst our lawyers and our teams, and satisfaction within our clients. Are we delighting them with the way we deliver, we deliver our legal service, and so there’s a range of measures and one needs to keep that balance to make sure that we’re covering all those aspects.
Daniel Linna: Well that sounds like a great list of measures.
Nick Long: One of the important things about the definition Lucy said is doing different things because — and I’m sure you’ve heard this Dan too many times, innovation is simply equated with technology.
Daniel Linna: Right, right.
Nick Long: That’s you know you stop there.
Daniel Linna: Yeah.
Nick Long: But there’s so much more to it for a truly innovative firm. So the different things concept that Lucy hit on is what I think is really important about what the way we’re focusing.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah, well and I sometimes hear folks saying, well process improvement that’s not innovative. Other people have been doing it for decades and it’s like well — but that’s the point.
Nick Long: Right.
Daniel Linna: It is new for us.
Nick Long: Yeah.
Daniel Linna: And I mean it’s –
Nick Long: Yeah, lots of industries have been doing it, but it’s new to law, and yeah I mean and that’s innovation. I mean because clients weren’t expecting that from their law firms.
Daniel Linna: Right, right and then having real metrics in place to ask is this having an impact I mean —
Nick Long: Yeah.
Daniel Linna: Well and so that being said, what are some of your key innovation and technology initiatives right now at Reed Smith?
Lucy Dillon: So I was looking at this a little bit earlier today, because I’ve been reviewing our innovation pipeline and we split them into different categories. So what I’ve done here is just listed, just to get a sense of the proportion of the work that we’re doing.
So the majority of the projects that we’ve got on the go at the moment, they fall into four categories. So one is sort of efficiency and automation, so looking at our document automation pipeline and just pushing as many internal documents, but also documents for clients down the automation route, because that — there’s such an easy win on those documents both from an internal, oh my goodness it’s not taking me five hours to draft this document anymore, but also the clients just love the approach that we’re taking, but also the benefit for them is that brand document, the risk mitigation piece.
We’re doing a number of projects with clients and that’s increased looking at the numbers, that’s increased from last year and really working in partnership with them and having those discussions that Nick alluded to around, really understanding what their pain points are and then just working through what we can do to help. Sometimes it’s technology, sometimes it’s not, but we’re really making clients, really want to come back to Reed Smith and creating that sticky relationship is all about working through problems with them.
Increasing number of data, projects around data analytics and how we can replay that both for internal purposes but increasingly for clients and as it so happens process improvement is number four. So doing a quite a lot of work with that in terms of redefining who does what, when has been has been a really interesting exercise.
Daniel Linna: Nick anything to add to that or?
Nick Long: No, no. I’m really. One of the things that I’m most excited about is the data analytics projects we’re working on, both as Lucy indicated for, for both our clients but just internally, I mean if you can imagine with 3,000 employees around the world, the amount of just raw data that we’re sitting on is staggering and Lucy and I were just on a call this morning actually about how — what part of a firm-wide initiative that’s tackling exactly where to start with that, right, because it’s such a massive amount of data.
Nick Long: You have to figure out where to start and what the highest and best uses of that data and how we should be attacking it and where should we be attacking it. So I mean it’s going to really transform how we practice law and I’m really, really excited to see how this plays out.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. I agree with you completely on the data side as well. All these things, I mean I’m a big fan of the process improvement. I think too many people are kind of skipping that step a little bit and trying to go to the big bang, the disruption.
Nick Long: Yeah.
Daniel Linna: On the data side of it, I guess five years ago I kind of thought this is going to start taking off, people are going to start becoming more data-driven even if it’s just individual lawyers being more cognizant of capturing information and spreadsheets and so on but the uptake has really been slow.
Nick Long: It’s been shockingly slow and I agree with you. I would have thought that this would have been a sooner development and I think I don’t want to say that we’re on the cutting edge but I think we’re from what our consultant is telling us, we are fairly ahead of the curve on this analysis which was also surprising to me because we’re not unique.
Yes, I think we’re very unique but we’re not unique in the amount of data we’re sitting on. I mean if you think just assume a couple of gigs per employee and then you’ve got large firms that are 2 or 3 times the size of ours, so everyone’s got this massive pool of data. It’s just who’s going to be the one that’s going to deploy it and that’s why we’re trying to race to it first.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah exciting. Well I wanted to just take one second and kind of take a step back and take a big-picture perspective because your firm and you both have been thinking about innovation for a while and I was wondering if we kind of do like, we think of this in terms of a start-stop continued retrospective on innovation. I mean I’m kind of and Lucy I think I’ll start with you. What works you think and produces innovation that that law firm should continue doing?
Lucy Dillon: I think one of the things that we have done that’s made a big difference is that we, for the right project, we give billable credit for the time that people spend working on those projects and that has been — I mean not just it’s been great because people can use it to get to their targets, but it’s what it demonstrates in terms of the firm’s approach to these projects. These are considered to be as important as your billable work and that’s been enormous for us.
The second thing I sort of alluded to is the assessment process and making sure that we have a very rigorous opportunity assessment program to make sure that the right projects get through. Now that doesn’t mean that they’re all going to be successful because we all know that innovation does involve failure and we welcome that and we love it because you learn from everything you do, as long as you have assessed it improperly.
But at least it means that I can then look at what we’ve done and now I’m starting to see patterns in what’s being successful and not, and it’s labor-intensive to do those assessments and Nick and I have conversations about corporate projects that we want to push through, we’re going to do it and we’re not going to do it.
But I think those things really help and then I think just a huge amount of publicity around what we’re doing and what’s successful and Nick alluded to the partner meeting that we had where we talked about some of the things that we were doing though we did the same with our senior associates at their retreat and just making sure that we’re continually talking about what we’re doing and some things are big bang brand new not been done before.
And some things are very simple but equally effective and I think making sure that people understand that it covers the spectrum is really, really helpful. So those would be the three things I think that have helped us get our innovation program off the ground.
Nick Long: Two things that I would add to that are one, obviously, one of the most powerful languages for lawyers is money, right. And so, if you can get a couple of great wins under your belt and then use the metrics from those to talk to your partners and your other lawyers about just exactly what you were able to accomplish through an innovative solution, it tends to perk up yours a lot faster and get people thinking a lot more if it’s one thing to say, hey we’ve got this great new software program and it’ll help you do this, this and this versus we deployed this very innovative solution for this client and it returned a relative profit rate of X which in this — in one case X was 20 points higher than the next biggest client. That really resonates with someone. So getting those key wins under the belt and then promoting those as Lucy said, promotion of the news is fantastic.
The other thing I would add is client listening and it sounds simple and stupid but it’s listening with a certain type of ear. It’s listening for a client that says, I’ve got this problem and rather than just throwing more humans x hours at it, it’s saying, could we use technology, could we use workflow? Could we improve your process? How to tackle the problem is the most important thing but really just having the conversation with the client and making the time to listen to your clients and here as Lucy said their pain points is really how you can get innovation off the ground?
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah, and that is a really great point too. I love when people talk about lawyers tend to not talk to their clients all that much, ask how things are going and then even just taking the expanding on the listening part of it and this kind of goes to having empathy and understanding their problems and it’s not even necessarily just delivering what they ask for, but understanding where they sit and how you might be able to deliver something completely different that’s going to –
Nick Long: Exactly.
Daniel Linna: Yeah.
Nick Long: Yeah. Some of the most interesting use cases we’ve had of our corporate contract review technology have been litigators, talking to their clients about — it has nothing to do with the cases they’re working on at all. It’s just that litigator happened to have a good ear to listen to the clients’ problem, brought it to us and we said yes, there’s a solution we have for you. So it’s really exciting when we see that sort of cross pollination.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah. So, those are some of the things that we know that work. What about some of the things that thinking, start, stop continue, what are the things that we know don’t work in law firms and legal services, organizations ought to stop doing. Lucy, you want to just take that?
Lucy Dillon: I think and I’m thinking of it just in the context of our innovation program. So there are couple of things you should stop doing. But I think when I’m looking at our project list and how we keep true to that, it’s projects that aren’t moving the needle, so it’s not projects that are failing that we need to – so just they haven’t shown the difference that we thought.
And we have to be honest about that and move on and part of it is the messaging around this hasn’t worked, this isn’t right for us now which is the mantra that I used here and don’t stop thinking, don’t stop being creative, but we need to find projects that are going to make those impacts that Nick was talking about and encouraging those conversations.
Nick Long: I think one of the biggest things and I’m not a big fan of this word, but I’m going to use it anyway is ideation without proper support, and I mean that in two ways. One of which is we’ve had instances where partners will come up with what they think is a new great idea and dump it on our practice innovation team and then literally run away.
And so our practice innovation team makes a noble effort at starting on the project but then can’t really do anything because this person has run away and just assume that well these people are good at technology, they will figure it out, they will solve it and everything is going to be fine, I can just go on my business. Where we’ve had the most success is where people, the partners who come up with these ideas or anyone else are truly engaged in the development and implementation of the idea, that’s the really greatest thing.
The other thing that doesn’t work along the lines of ideation is buying something new, buying some new software product or getting a new person on board without having thought through the actual use case or the business case for that person.
One of the things that we pride ourselves on in Gravity Stack is that all of the products were rolling out our demand led. It’s not like we had someone sitting in the back of a room, pondering about the next great thing, and going off in a corner and developing, it’s we identified a need.
We heard the need over and over again and then developed a product to address that need; whereas, we’ve seen other firms go out and say, you’ll go to a CLOC or whatever conference you want to go to, you walk around the floor, you’ll see a piece of software, you’ll buy the software, it sits on the shelf and it wasn’t promoted properly, it wasn’t implemented properly, it doesn’t have enough champions.
So there’s a number of places where things can fall down and so really that proper support I think is – without the proper support is something the firms are doing wrong.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, okay all right. So one last piece in the start, stop, continue. What new things do you think legal services organizations ought to be doing in the future to be able to innovate? Lucy, you want to share your thoughts on that?
Lucy Dillon: I think we should think outside of law. I think we should look at what is happening in other industries and we’re always told your competitor doesn’t look like you, so don’t look at your competitors, look elsewhere and that feeds very nicely into the point that we’ve just been talking about around talking to your clients, looking at what they’re doing, because within their legal department or outside their legal department, there are all sorts of exciting things happening which we can learn from.
So I think encouraging and I encourage my team to look outside of law and see what’s happening elsewhere.
Daniel Linna: Nick, you have any idea?
Nick Long: I would actually second what Lucy said. I think it’s learning the law for so long has been viewed as this noble profession that it’s so unique and so different that only lawyers can do what they’re doing.
I think to think outside of the box as Lucy said, I’m actually copying her now, but to really embrace a new approach to what we’re doing because and I think we’ll talk about this in a bit, but it’s a very protected profession for the moment, but I don’t think it’s going to be like that forever.
Daniel Linna: Yeah.
Nick Long: And we’d be loathed to sit on our hands and not address the fact that the dynamic under which we’ve been operating for so long is likely going to change, and why not look to other industries that have faced tremendous change to figure out how we can be better at what we do.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, well and that’s a great teaser because I want to talk a little bit about the proposal.
Nick Long: I set you up with that.
Daniel Linna: Thank you, Nick, that was perfect. We’ll talk a little bit about some of the changes in regulation happen, I want to talk about the Summer Technology Associate Program, but before we continue our interview with Lucy Dillon, Global Chief Knowledge Officer at Reed Smith and Nick Long, Senior Director of Legal Operations at Reed Smith, we’re going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsor.
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Daniel Linna: And we’re back. Thank you for joining us. We’re with Lucy Dillon, Global Chief Knowledge Officer at Reed Smith and Nick Long, Senior Director of Legal Operations at Reed Smith.
Nick, I would like you to tell our listeners a little bit about the Summer Technology Associates Program at Reed Smith. I know you just went through the second summer of that program, just tell us a bit about the program and how it’s going?
Nick Long: It’s going fantastic. So the Summer Tech Associates Program was an idea we started in the summer of 2017 with a class of three students and the idea is that what really led to it was that, the law student of the future and the associate of the future is not going to be the same as the associates we see now. They’re going to need to be more facile with technology and with innovation and so, what we decided to do is have a small group of summer associates in addition to our normal summer associate class that would have a portion of their time devoted purely to technology and innovation.
So we didn’t have a fixed number to start with, it ended up about 60% to 70% of their time was spent on traditional legal work and the remainder of it was spent on technology and innovation.
The breakdown of their time worked out about that for both the first year and this last year and the reports that we’ve had from the associates were that they absolutely loved the experience. The people we had for our initial class actually Dan, you know two of them quite well had a significant technology background and had a demonstrated interest in legal technology and technology generally.
And so they were a great wave to introduce this program to the firm, because they were able to not only demonstrate their interest in law but also help bridge the technology understanding that I talked about earlier between the partnership and the lawyers.
Daniel Linna: Well and one of the things I really love about this program is and this relates a little bit to what we’re doing at the Institute for the Future Law Practice and sometimes there’s confusion and sometimes people think if in the law school, we’re training someone to understand project management or data analytics or technology that we’re not training them to be a lawyer and of course, what we’re trying to do first and foremost is train these law students to be better lawyers.
Nick Long: That’s exactly right. And it’s not just — it’s better lawyers now but the way Lucy and I were describing it is one of the questions we often get asked is how many people you are going to have next year, what it’s going to look like the year after that and really the long term vision for this is at some point, there’s not going to need to be the classification of summer tech legal associate, it’s just going to be summer associate. This is going to become the new normal.
Daniel Linna: Yeah.
Nick Long: I don’t think that’s next year, I don’t think that’s even five years from now, I don’t know when that’s going to be, but that is our long-term vision is that all of our associates at some point are going to be coming out with the skills that are necessary to really practice law in the 21st century like innovation, legal project management, etc.
Lucy Dillon: And the feedback we got from our students this year was that actually the other summer associates felt jealous that they weren’t able to do the same and one of the recommendations they had for us, not sure whether we’re going to implement it because it’s quite hard to do, is that we should give all our summer associates legal tech projects to do because everyone wants to be part of it which was phenomenal feedback, because you do wonder how these people are going to be integrated because they’re slightly different, have a slightly different role to the other summer associates but not only were they integrated but they were envied by their peers which for me was a great, a great badge that this is working well.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah, well and that is I mean there’s a strong pull in law school just to like take the traditional path and I mean that is one of the things I’m so excited to see some of the students of mine who’ve gone on to work with you in this. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity and I hope it’s less than five years that most law firms are saying, this is what every summer associate got to look like.
Nick Long: I hope it is too, but we’ve and so we’ve got our first class, like I said it started 2018, we’ve got the first two coming on board as full-time associates this fall and so we’re really excited to see how this plays out, because it is a new thing for — no one’s ever done this before.
So we’re kind of writing the book as we go and it’s very, it’s sometimes daunting but it’s also very exciting to be able to create out of whole cloth a new position within a law firm that no one’s ever seen before.
So they will start in oh my god, like two weeks I think. Lucy, we need to get working on that.
Lucy Dillon: Yeah.
Nick Long: But no, it’s a great time for us and it’s been interesting as with all new things, there’s a change component to it, right, and so last summer, there were a lot of partners and even other associates in the firm kind of looking at Lucy and I with a bit of a scan saying who are these people, what are they doing, what is this title. I don’t understand this.
Now, it’s this summer everyone knew what they were doing and why they were here and I think we’re going to have a little bit of that conversation again this fall, because these people are now coming online full time. But having now had two years of this under our belt I think it’s going to be — I think it’s going to be less of a challenge and I think they’re going to be embraced with open arms.
Daniel Linna: I mean one of the many things I love about this is and I mean — I have this hypothesis and this is just another data point that is hopefully providing some evidence that there are great opportunities for lawyers to learn about these technologies so they better understand the opportunities as well.
And of course, they’re still going to work with people who have even deeper expertise in those areas. It’s not like we’re training students here in these Northwestern classes to actually be the developer; although, we have some students who are developers and some computer science students who are developers, but the lawyer being in the position to really understand what the lawyers do and where the opportunities lie.
Nick Long: Yeah, it’s a different way of thinking is what we’re really looking for and that’s exactly the types of programs you’re offering and Kent is offering, another schools around here. That approach is what’s really going to make them wildly successful lawyers.
Daniel Linna: And Lucy, we were chatting a little bit earlier too about some other things you’re hearing in the marketplace kind of the demand for lawyers with these skills, can you just kind of tell us a little bit more about how you’re seeing the response from the marketplace?
Lucy Dillon: Absolutely, happy to. Yes, we were talking earlier about things that I’m hearing in the market here in London, where I have to say the education is lagging somewhat behind in terms of legal tech and other areas adjacent to it in terms of new ways of working, new ways of thinking.
Although, we have a much more open market, we may talk about later, we’re not seeing the universities embrace these courses as much as you have been in the US and we’re very envious about the students that you have coming out of schools such as yours Dan.
We’re having to do it ourselves when they join the firm and I can talk about that in a minute, but we’re hearing clients saying actually this is really critical for us. We need you to understand us better and in order to understand us better, you need to be able to ask better questions, you need to have that client listening ability that we’ve heard about earlier.
It’s not just about knowing the law, it’s about knowing how to apply it and that is a far wider issue than just being a great technical lawyer. We take that for granted but we want you to be able to ask the right questions and create solutions with us so the whole service design piece is coming to the fore and it’s our client, it’s brilliant because it’s our clients telling us that they want us to do this.
So it fits right in with what we’re doing which is great and anything that clients want we need to really address. So it’s coming right to the fore here.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, well just one follow-up question on that for both of you guys. So we’ve got a new crop of incoming 1Ls in just a month here. I mean what would you be telling those new law students as far as what specifically are some of these other skills that they ought to be thinking about developing?
Lucy Dillon: I think it is about and they will need help with this, but it’s about as they — and this is what I tell our summer, legal tech summer associates is when you’re looking at a legal problem, so you’re given a project to do or a legal issue to consider, think about how else it could be done.
You’ve been taught to approach a problem in a particular way and to draft a report or to write something out, but as you’re looking at the project you’ve been given, the work that you’ve been given, just think about technology. Now you do need a bit of background. So you need to do a bit of research into what technologies are available but these are things that people are using in their day-to-day.
Every time you buy something online, you fill out a form, well that’s automation. So it’s about applying what they’re already using in their personal life to what they’re learning at law school, and as you said, you don’t need to be a coder although so often people are these days because they want to create their own things and that’s great.
But it’s about having that wider appreciation of how we can solve problems and then communicating that and that that piece around the listening, not just speaking but the listening as well. So I think those would be my two or three.
Nick Long: Yeah I think listening is one of the most critical things. The other I would add is legal project management. That’s becoming so important as efficiency pressures are put even more importantly upon us as a law firm to understand how to do things better and just looking at process is going to be really important.
It’s becoming a very hot area and I think the more students can get behind that now the better they’re going to be equipped when they graduate in three years. And then I think as Lucy said the other thing is just a good understanding of legal technology.
One of the things that we really like about the legal tech program is Lucy and I and the firm strongly believe that you can’t really bring to bear a good technology solution unless you also have the legal skills to go with it and that’s why the hybrid approach that we’ve developed I think really works.
And so develop your skills as a lawyer by all means, but to take those classes like you’re offering Dan and other schools are offering is really important to be able to approach the problems as Lucy said and be able to think about it differently.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah. Well and I love the emphasis on the foundational skills in addition to the data and tech skills. I mean I hear too often that people think project management is just common sense, but it’s a discipline, and learning about project management and process improvement when it’s taught well and when it study as a discipline, it helps you become a more effective manager and leader as well. You learn a lot about how to lead people, build teams.
Nick Long: Yeah, I mean a litigation matter, an M&A deal, they are at their core projects and for too long, no one ever had thought about them that way and so — or in the traditional project management sense I should say so.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, and then I think my observation has been too just this skilling up is really important to seize opportunities now but we are talking about data analytics before and the technology, but I think more and more as we see these tools implemented, we’re starting to see an emphasis on what our ethical duties and to actually effectively be able to provide advice when people are giving us access to data and we’re using that in the delivery of services and we’re using AI, whether it’s rules based or statistical learning.
Don’t the lawyers providing the services need to understand a little bit about how these things work?
Nick Long: And you haven’t even hit on bias yet either. So that’s a whole another topic.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. So there’s a lot there and sometimes we think of the legal industry as a fixed pie right, but there’s so many opportunities for more things to do to serve our clients, serve society, lots, lots there.
Oh Lucy, I did really want to ask you about too and you alluded to this earlier a little bit. So we’re talking a little bit about what we’re doing in the law schools. What kind of things are you doing inside of the law firms to try to train your lawyers to be innovators and develop some of these skills as well?
Lucy Dillon: So I think and I’m going to split and be a little jurisdictional base because we’re doing some things like here in London, which I’ll talk about now actually because we’re having to make up for the fact that these skills are not being taught. So we’ve designed an innovation course which covers a whole host of things and we may change the name I have to say.
But it covers identifying problems, design thinking, a little bit of tech but more just highlighting the opportunities that the tech brings. We’re doing some client listening in the sense of having some people who’ve been on secondment because there’s the junior lawyers so you didn’t want us to bring a client in, but talking to some of our lawyers who’ve been on secondment to clients to just share what it’s like to be a client because I think some of our junior lawyers don’t know.
And so we have a five session program that we ran this summer for some of our students. It was really well received and so we’re going to run it again for a much bigger audience and we may even offer it with this is just for our trainees here in London, so for people in their first two years of practice.
But we will roll it out a little more widely and in for a wider associate program. So globally we will be looking at evolving that for our associates on a global program where we’re looking to upskill some of our more senior associates with things like approach to innovation, innovative thinking and problem-solving, legal project management is another one.
So we’re actually going to run some courses which will be very — it won’t be talk and talk as we call it here, it will be much more problems-based and working possibly with some clients to solve common problems.
So sort of evolving some of the things we’ve done here and making them more widely available, because although we’ve talked a lot about starting at the beginning and building our innovation and legal tech program from the bottom up and having our first associates joining in September, we must not forget that we have a huge audience of people who will benefit from that because they’re passed it. So we’re looking at developing some programs specifically.
Nick Long: Yeah, I am really excited about this particular aspect because it’s part of our — we just rolled out what we call Associate Life 2019, which is our new effort at improving the lives of our associates as you might guess from the title. But a core component of that is three, we’re not sure exactly what to call it yet, but it’s either a certification or accreditation program, one of which is on innovation being headed by Lucy, one of which is on legal project management and one of which is based upon legal technology.
And this is going to be open to all of our associates, so they can really get exposure and as Lucy said, it’s not just going to be talk, I was just going to recall yesterday where we were talking about developing actual metrics by which to gauge people’s performance and understanding of a material they’ve received.
So it’s going to be a very robust program and I’m really excited about not only the implementation of the program, but when we rolled this out or when we announced that we were doing it a couple of weeks ago, I was really thrilled with the number of inquiries we have received from associates saying, when is this coming out, make sure that I get in it, I really want to be in this, it sounds very exciting.
And I didn’t want to say well I haven’t — well, now I guess I am saying it out loud, but we haven’t written it yet, but the amount of enthusiasm that was generated by the just announcement of these programs was fantastic.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s great. This is exciting to hear and this is the kind of thing too I want more of our students to hear, right and so they understand that these skills are valued and being taught in the law firms.
Lucy Dillon: Absolutely.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, so great, great, great.
Lucy Dillon: Absolutely.
Daniel Linna: Well, so we’re starting to get a little short on time. I do want to talk though a little bit about again we chatted before the program about some of the proposals for re-regulation of lawyers here in the US and folks in the UK have experienced some of this.
Nick, why don’t we start with you, there have been some proposals, discussion about Utah, Arizona, California is actually has a set of proposals out now talking about liberalizing the market a little bit, and thinking about re-regulating lawyers, I mean is this something you’ve been keeping an eye on kind of an –
Nick Long: As in the legal operations side of the firm now, it’s something I’m sort of keenly interested in to see when the competition is going to come knocking at our door, because I do think it’s a matter of when not if. I don’t think I quite expected at the way California rolled it out. I would have thought it was more about the big four pushing for it, but now they’re just talking about the sort of non-lawyer technician practice role.
So I don’t fully have the scope of what that looks like, but what really interested me about the California proposal is the provision or the proposal to allow technology to provide legal services, and that frankly frightens me a little bit, because one of the things that we always talk to our clients about when we talk about using technology is technology is better than lawyers alone.
Lawyers and technology is better than technology alone. Technology alone has some inherent dangers in it, I mentioned briefly implicit bias, but without a qualified individual looking at the output from a technology solution, I fear that the — I fear that it may lead people astray or may frankly give wrong advice. I’m particularly keen to see how that particular part of it plays out.
Daniel Linna: Yeah.
Nick Long: I think it’s long-term, I think it is a great solution, because we are talking about access to justice earlier, it really has a powerful way to put access to justice in the hands of a lot of people that would not otherwise have access. So I’m really excited about that aspect, but I am very worried about it going the wrong way.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that there’s a problem that you’re presenting there that big law firms, like Reed Smith, hopefully working with places like Northwestern, we can lead the way on some of this, right and get in a one big reason why we’re talking about trying to build technology tools is the access to justice crisis we have, where it’s between 50% to 80% of the public don’t have access to legal services.
So I think and there are a lot of folks on those task force connected who have those same concerns. At Reed Smith, this goes back to the ethical concerns too, right. I mean when we’re building these tools how do we test them, how do we make sure that they’re accurate, they don’t have biases of different kind, they don’t have noise, they actually work well and I’m sure those are the kind of things you’re working on and I’d like to think the academy has something to contribute to that too.
Nick Long: Yeah, no, it is there’s a lot to think about there. But when we talk about access to justice, there are ways that technology can help very simply and I will give you one really succinct example. One of our summer tech associates in Pittsburgh who is going to be joining us full-time this fall or next fall I should say, helped to automate a form that transgender people are required to file in either county or state court in Pennsylvania in order to have their name legally changed.
And apparently it’s a somewhat complicated form, and it takes a white to fill out and he took it upon himself to automate this form so that we could handle an incredibly large volume of — it’s something that should be relatively simple, right. I don’t want — I want to be Nicole now, I don’t be Nick anymore, but it is apparently complicated and so, he’s made it that much easier for people to come in and get the help they need quickly, cheaply and efficiently.
So something is — it’s not a horribly complex use of technology, but it is technology coming to the aid of access to justice, and that is exciting.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah. Well, so many of these examples are using relatively basic technology, but someone who understands the legal process and can apply process improvement or design thinking to it to simplify things and then really leverage and then scale the solution with technology.
Nick Long: Yup.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. So Lucy, I think there’s a lot of discussion here than in the US and I heard it at this public hearing about the California proposals last weekend, people are drawing comparisons to the UK and some people seem to suggest that oh well not enough has happened in the time that we’ve had alternative business structures and a little bit looser regulation available. You kind of tell us I guess from your perspective how is this unfolded in the UK, what maybe can we learn from and look forward to in the US if we keep moving down this path?
Lucy Dillon: There are two areas really that that with the main focus of — well, three of attention. So our law changed in 2007, so if you think that was 12 years ago, I suppose it is fair to say that the world has not turned upside down here.
And I think one of the main drivers for that change in the law was to allow external investment in law firms and there was a feeling that that was going to completely revolutionize the way law firms will run, the private equity companies would rush in and there would be a huge transformation, that bit hasn’t happened.
There have been — I mean if I count them on the number – on two hands, fingers of two hands probably, the number of firms that have gone down that route, a number of firms have registered to take advantage of it, but we haven’t really seen that.
So I think that was one of the areas that we were expecting it to be a lot of change. We’ve had a lot of people start, and I think it may be the non-lawyer technician point, I’m not familiar with the terminology in California, but we have a number of — so licensed conveyancers now buying and selling property, wills, people drafting wills and not something which you can do online here, it’s not legal advice, really it’s legal information to be honest, but a lot of that has moved out of the traditional law firm and into other providers.
And then the issue of non-lawyers joining partnerships, so we can now have accountants or surveyors or other forms of legal, other service providers joining and becoming partners and sharing profit within the law firm, which allows us to — I will say us, English lawyers generally, it’s not something that we’ve done a huge amount of here or there will like all law firms were looking at it, delivering non-legal services, so non-legal advice, so doing consultancy work and offering adjacent advisory services is something which actually has taken off and there’s a lot of that happening to offer that wider service to clients.
We have the big full breathing down our neck in a very significant way in the UK, and we’re looking to how we differentiate ourselves to have a different offering, but it does — having other professional services working alongside us, does help to some extent widen the offering.
Daniel Linna: Right. Well, it’s certainly something that is helpful here is to be able to learn from others who are innovating with the way to regulate lawyers and so it just as it’s really interesting to see kind of how innovation is something that’s really happening around the globe. I mean it’s so interesting to see the stuff that’s happening in London.
What other jurisdictions do you think maybe we should be keeping our eyes on where there may be as innovation that we see popping up that, maybe people are aware of especially here in the US?
Lucy Dillon: I can offer two. One is France, which is — and they’ve just had a bit of a setback in they have been trying to use similar to some of the products in the US where their mining case law, there’s been a bit of a setback there where the courts have put a stay to that for the moment.
But a lot of and I was surprised at how active the startup industry is in France. A lot of activity there, similarly in Germany but France in particular and Singapore is a very hot market for innovation and legal tech.
Nick Long: She stole my answer. I was going to say Singapore.
Daniel Linna: Yeah okay.
Lucy Dillon: Sorry.
Daniel Linna: Well and it just really is interesting and I’ve seen that in some of the students who are coming in Northwestern but then also programs I’ve done at Bucerius Law School and IE Madrid that’s there is strong interest around the globe and law firms, legal aid organizations people want to start their own small firms so it’s really a global movement.
Well, thank you so much for your time today but before we close, I’d just like to let our listeners know how they can get in contact. Lucy, can you let us know how our listeners could reach out to you if they wanted to.
Lucy Dillon: Certainly. Well I’m on the Reed Smith website. My email address and I will spell it out because it’s slightly different to what you would expect. It is [email protected] and I am on LinkedIn, easy to find.
Daniel Linna: Okay, Nick.
Nick Long: [email protected], also on LinkedIn and make sure you use the lucy.com otherwise you’ll email a finance partner of ours in New York who will not know what you’re asking about.
Lucy Dillon: She will learn fast.
Daniel Linna: Well thank you again so much for joining us Nick Long and Lucy Dillon.
This has been another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. Please take a minute to subscribe and rate us in Apple Podcasts and Google Podcast. You can find me on Twitter @DanLinna. Please follow me, re-tweet links to this episode and join us in the legal innovation and technology discussion online. And join us next time for another edition of Law Technology Now. I am Dan Linna, signing off.
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