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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Innovation Insights

To be future ready starts today

Amidst all the interesting conversations about 'Tomorrow' and 'The Future', it is important to take a step back and talk about 'Today'. While we see impressive development of legal tech solutions and new ways of modernising our day-to-day work, we must ask ourselves if we are doing enough to ensure that technology, lawyers, legal technologists, legal engineers, and legal operations are co-existing progressively. Are we enabling our lawyers to embrace change, or are we just endlessly harping on the benefits of using tech to lawyers?

Today, technology in the legal industry is often viewed as an additional element, something that lawyers must painstakingly cater to simply because the competition is doing it, and we do not want to be seen as remnants of old ways. Educational institutions are building legal technology and innovation into the core curriculum, and law firms are incorporating technology into their everyday work; still, without enabling the users of legal tech to take full advantage of it, it would be impossible to reap all the benefits out of such innovations. Therefore, we must focus on the actions we are taking today to enable our lawyers and how we prepare them to be future ready.

The first and foremost of these enablers must be to change the mindset of lawyers toward these transformative solutions. Technology is naturalising into a permanent resident, and the interaction between lawyers and technology is rising as technology becomes more sophisticated and capable. The ability for lawyers to optimise its use and leverage its capabilities can be best achieved when they start viewing technology not as a weighty responsibility but as an integrated tool in their arsenal. As a team, we must engage in activities that inspire our lawyers to start thinking differently, as innovators to use the available technology better.

What is Clifford Chance doing today to be future ready?

One of the ways Clifford Chance is doing this is through our Global Innovation Academy – a series of innovation modules developed by Create+65 under our Global Research & Development capability. Participants are put through several modules, including Thinking Differently and Design Thinking. Empathy plays a big part in this process as our lawyers and business professionals work in groups to empathise with our clients, understand their pain points and how to adopt the different methodologies and strategies to put solutions together. The most exciting part of the modules is a hands-on experience where our lawyers and business professionals will translate their ideas into prototypes built on a digital platform. The course culminates in a pitch panel as the groups pitch their ideas and prototypes to a panel of experts.

Apart from the obvious advantage of helping lawyers and business professionals to think outside the box, such challenges have enabled our people to participate more actively in the development of legal tech solutions whilst adopting and accepting a mindset towards embracing change. By allowing our lawyers time off work to cultivate their talent in embracing changes in our industry, we will enable them to test out the application of their skills and knowledge in an area most may not have ventured into before. Participants felt empowered, and it was not as difficult or daunting as it seemed. The Innovation Academy also allows them to tap into tech usage and engage with our Innovation and Best Delivery teams to support their work.

We also recognise the importance of cultivating this mindset change as early as possible to give our future talents the proper exposure and opportunity to embed innovation into their work right from the beginning of their legal career. With that goal in mind, we recently held our inaugural APAC Innovation Camp, explicitly targeted at graduate trainees.

During the Camp, our trainees get to challenge the status quo of existing ways in which work is done. They are encouraged to identify pain points and work out a use case around them. Our trainees have the opportunity to apply the principles of design thinking through a hands-on build of a digital solution with the end goal of solving the pain points identified. Through this journey, we invest in our trainees to think like innovators and employ a mindset of continuous improvement that is aided by adopting technology even before they are formally qualified as lawyers.

Lawyers need to harness skillsets beyond traditional legal skills to be future ready

The second aspect of ensuring that lawyers embrace change is helping them build skills beyond their traditional skillsets. Today, a lawyer's job is that of a problem-solver, which involves the ability best to understand the interests and concerns of the client. Technology has equipped lawyers with tools to provide a better client service that can cater to their specific needs, but this requires lawyers to hone their ability to use the technology to its full potential. Lawyers must be able to employ the correct legal tech tools for each matter in order to stay competitive and to be cost and time efficient. 

The responsibility for such skill-building must be shared by both legal educators, corporates, and law firms. Legal educators must ensure their curriculums are abreast with the changing nature of the legal practice, and they are simply not churning out lawyers but legal practitioners. Dedicated modules on popular legal tech solutions such as document automation tools must form a part of the core curriculum. These modules should focus on the technical aspect of such solutions to help lawyers understand how they work and accordingly be able to better interact with them.

For law firms, providing dedicated training to lawyers on legal tech solutions in their junior years can prove to be a rewarding long-term investment. Here at Clifford Chance, we have been running the IGNITE training contract, a pioneering way for law students interested in tech to qualify as lawyers. The IGNITE program allows trainees to actively participate in shaping and driving innovation within the firm and to be fully prepared for a future of digital disruption and transformation.

Additionally, a collaboration between legal educators and industry practitioners through regular seminars, workshops and discussion forums can help impart a more holistic training programme to law students. Such partnerships will help educators provide a context to the legal tech modules through unique insights from practitioners. Students can better understand the skills they are expected to hone from the practitioner's perspective. This is a crucial and necessary opportunity for collaboration to design legal tech modules in law school curriculums.

Leading the innovation journey ahead

Clifford Chance continues to lead the innovation journey ahead with our six core innovation capabilities. These capabilities are not seen as add-ons; instead, they are seamlessly integrated into how we deliver services to our clients. We believe that our lawyers must understand where technology can play a part and where other non-tech support can be a part of the process to ensure that our clients are provided with the best service.

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