Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Out-Law Analysis 2 min. read

Legal innovation has to be about more than technology

Innovative lightbulb collection

It can be tempting for in-house legal teams – facing pressures to take on more responsibility and exercise their functions more efficiently – to look to technology for new ways of doing things. Rarely will technology on its own be a ‘silver bullet’, however.

Technology will often form part of the solution, but first it is important to understand the problem it is supposed to solve. Only then will innovation be possible and deliver meaningful change. Managed legal services offer legal teams a route through which to achieve this innovation.

Unpicking what ‘innovation’ means

Innovation’ is often a buzz word and a byword for ‘technology’. The rhetoric around the benefits of lawtech has been so great in recent years that many assume it is the best, and only, solution – especially if they want to take an innovative approach. Though lawtech has a huge range of benefits when implemented and used correctly, it is only a small part of what innovation is.

In many instances, innovation could and should simply mean doing the day-to-day things better. This can often be missed in favour of the new shiny thing – especially as pressure mounts for businesses to do things differently.

The past two years have created a unique environment which demanded innovation like never before: new risks had to be managed; teams shifted to working from home; decision-making hierarchies were flattened; and teams interacted and collaborated like never before. As the economic and global political landscape continues to shift, there is no doubt that this pressure to do things differently will continue for legal teams, especially as the role has grown and expanded in recent years, touching all corners of a business. Assessing operational efficiencies to free up senior lawyers to engage with the business on top-level priorities, managing a team smartly and employing a range of innovations to assist in achieving these efficiencies, will continue to be priorities post-pandemic.

Innovation can simply mean taking a process and re-examining it. So often we see clients tempted to jump to technology solutions without first assessing the context of the problem – whether that is high staff turnover or trying to do more work with a reduced budget and headcount. Understanding what the problem is, why it is happening and what the overall objectives are should always be the first vital step. Taking innovation toits broadest definition – as discovering and implementing a new way to do things – is the answer.

The ubiquity of technology as a solution to all life’s problems is not the only reason it is perceived as encompassing innovation – it is also because, sometimes, it is superficially easier than the alternative.

Often processes are one of the core problems for a struggling legal team, and changing behaviours and attitudes can radically alter how things are done, creating efficiencies and removing waste. However, changing how a human approaches a task, which may have been done the same way for a long time and often for good reasons, is difficult. Where to even start can feel almost impossible. The neuroscience behind how we react to change is complex, and introducing meaningful and positive change to a team can take a long time.

The role for managed legal services

Whilst technology was a great help throughout the pandemic it was really the people who innovated the most, shifting priorities and changing how things were done overnight. Keeping up the momentum and appetite for doing things differently when so many of us want to go ‘back to normal’ and find comfort in the way things have always been done is likely to be the next challenge for legal teams.

Pinsent Masons offers managed legal services. We take clients through a careful process of identifying all facets of their problem and what they want to achieve before suggesting an innovative solution. This often involves technology but rarely is this the only solution, and we use our Lean Six Sigma approach to identify process and resource improvements too. Forgetting about the broadest definition of innovation could be to the detriment of finding a truly pioneering, workable solution.

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