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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Innovation Insights

Insights from London Law Expo 2019

Recently I attended the London Law Expo 2019 and gained a fascinating insight into how the legal industry thinks innovation will impact us in the next few years.

The London Law Expo is Europe's largest legal 'trade show'. It explores a wide array of topics, issues and opportunities to assist law firms and legal businesses increase their overall performance, profitability and competitive edge.

The first thing that struck me was the astonishing number of law firms, clients, tech start-ups and new market entrants (like the Big Four consulting firms) all obsessed with legal innovation. There are so many different stakeholders now involved with and / or impacted by innovation that it's clear that the pace of change is only going to get faster.

I listened to the managing partner of another large law firm talk about how they had set up a change programme involving 80 people from across their business, either dedicated to change or generating new ideas on how they can do things differently.

One of the most interesting presentations was from a professor at a London law school. As a former banking lawyer turned academic, he had dedicated the past three years to researching the 'law firm of the future' concept. His well-argued opinion is that, increasingly, the critical success factor for law firms in the future will be the capability of associates, not just to work with new technology quickly and effectively, but also to understand and practice more diverse, more commercial skills in areas such as project management, process improvement and business strategy. With these capabilities, he saw technology as an enabler for law firms to be more creative in problem-solving, which could be a true competitive advantage for any legal service provider that manages to embed this capability. He also envisaged new types of client-facing roles, including dedicasted project managers, technology advisors and an increasing role for paralegals appearing in the industry, something we fully recognise here at Clifford Chance.

My takeaway from his talk was that the organisations who 'win' in innovation will be the ones who enable their people to embrace new technology more effectively than others and make sure that client benefit is at the heart of their innovation strategy.

This point became only more evident when I sat in a panel presentation from the 'Big Four' consulting firms. They all talked about the scale and breadth of service and of the significant investment in people and technology they are making. It wasn’t entirely clear if they saw themselves as competitors to the current line-up of top international law firms, but they certainly have more presence in the legal industry and with our clients than they ever have done before.

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