There is a wall that lawyers have hidden behind for decades, in the face of radical change to other industries. We have seen these walls crumbling in neighboring ancient kingdoms, such as finance or insurance . But in the legal profession, the wall, representing doing what has always been done, remains solid.
The Watchers On The Legal Wall
The reason for lawyers’ resistance comes from the watchers on the legal wall. This guard has relied on things staying the way they are now (as they have for centuries). Behind the wall, their technological lives have not changed: lawyers are still using pens, paper, printers and faxes to do their legal work. Microsoft has even claimed that lawyers spend 90% of their day in Outlook and Word.
Legal innovators are speaking up against the wall-watchers. In the words of Netapp General Counsel Matt Fawcett: “We were the last industry to provide employees with cell phones. In 1999, I remember getting frustrated with a firm and saying, ‘Our copier repair man carries a cell phone – why not my high- priced lawyers?’ Even today, many “old school” partners still take pride in not being reachable and having their secretaries (yes, their ‘secretaries’) print their emails.”
David Burgess (editor of the Legal500 ) comments that: “A senior partner told me, to be honest, I don’t really understand all this, so I’ll focus on what I know“. Or “My law firm won an innovative award. The next day I rang it up to ask what new tech it was using. I was told – we don’t have anything, just a really good bid manager for the awards“.
The fortress mentality leads to regular slides at legal conferences and events (such as below, at Codex’s Future of Law) pointing to law as a paradigm of resistance (“The traditional law practice business model constrains innovation”, and “the legal profession’s resistance to chance hinders additional innovation”).
— Tomas van der Heijden (@tomasvd_Heijden) April 7, 2017
But legal winter is coming
But winter is coming and there will be a distinction between those shaping the future and those managing the fortress. Consulting firm McKinsey shows 69% of time is potentially automatable for paralegals and 23% of time is automatable for lawyers.
In the shift to this new world, the division between the innovators and wall-watchers will only become more stark.
The Iron Throne of Legal Innovation
Heralding a new dawn, however, we are seeing a new battle for innovation.This is being led by a new breed of lawyers, ripping up old ways of doing things simply based on the past.
One front of the battle to innovation is greater collaboration and sharing of legal and technological know how (as Jaime Lannister says: “we need allies. Stronger better allies. We cannot win this war alone”).
A second plank of the battle is a legal technological arms race. Companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Google and others are overhauling their legal departments through innovation. JP Morgan has automated contracts it apparently took lawyers 360,000 hours to achieve. LawGeex provides One Hour Contract Approval through Artificial Intelligence, compared to the weeks it takes within most organizations. Other technology is being taken advantage of by legal teams, including legal research, to IP, to prediction technology (more than 100 legaltech providers are analyzed in our free In-House Counsel‘s LegalTech Buyers Guide).
Thirdly, both the ACC and Corporate Legal Operations Institute (CLOC) have focused on Legal Operations. 26% of general counsel delegated legal operations to an ops team or department, up from 16% last year. More than 1000 professionals in Las Vegas attended the Corporate Legal Operations Institute (CLOC) institute, vowing to smash down the wall of resistance.
— Alma Asay (@AlmaAsay) May 11, 2017
In her closing address Mary Shen O’Carroll, Head of Legal Operations at Google, and head of CLOC : “It turned out that mindset, which felt so entrenched, could be changed. There’s a wall there and once you push on it, you can break through. And once broken, there’s no turning back. You realize those walls are paper thin and no one is trying to put them back up.”
Surviving the winter: moving from watchers to doers
Surviving the winter will mean leaving the wall and keeping fear at bay. In the words of Sterling Miller, former General Counsel of Travelocity and Sabre Corporation: “To be a successful in-house lawyer or general counsel you need to embrace technology and make sure your team does as well. So, if you are afraid of technology, you need to get past that.”
It is taking a new legal game plan to shift fear to strength. In the words of Arya Stark: “Fear Cuts Deeper than Swords“.
Or according to legal innovators, the path to the throne of innovation will be building bridges with technology rather than protecting walls.
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Jonathan Marciano, Communications Director at LawGeex, is originally from London. He is currently in Tel Aviv, helping to bring about the legal revolution. Follow him on Twitter. @J_Marciano