mitch-about-149x300Renowned thought-leader in the area of legal service innovation, lawyer and author Mitch Kowalski* will be a guest speaker at the first Legal Inno’Tech Forum, Asia in Hong Kong on June 8.

Having spent more than 25 years in a variety of roles across the legal services industry, Mitch Kowalski argues there are better ways to deliver legal services; ways that reduce costs for law firms and clients, enhance the lawyer-client relationship and improve access to justice. Asian-mena Counsel asked Mitch Kowalski a few short questions about where the industry is going.

Among other things, your new book, will discuss ‘law as a team sport’. What do you mean by that?
Now more than ever before, successful legal service providers need to find competitive advantage in order to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. There are thousands of really smart lawyers; so many in fact that providing quality legal services is merely table stakes. It’s a given, and expected by clients – it does not differentiate.

Legal service providers who provide a unique client experience, one that cannot be easily duplicated will gain market differentiation and competitive advantage. Market leaders of the legal services industry of 2025 will be those that take an enterprise approach to legal services – those who see law as a team sport. These market leaders will deliver their services through a proprietary mix of people, process and technology, seasoned by a culture of continuous improvement. Such an enterprise approach to legal services attracts and retains clients – as well attracting and retaining talent. It also increases the number of opportunities for non-legally trained staff and will begin to dismantle lawyer-dominated hierarchies. Lawyers, in both in-house and private practice settings, will simply be one piece of the puzzle, instead of the entire puzzle.

“Market leaders of the legal services industry of 2025 will be those that take an enterprise approach to legal services – those who see Law as a Team Sport”

What are the most exciting innovations you’re seeing affecting legal practice in North America right now? Given the regional differences, do you believe that these are relevant to legal practice in Asia and the Middle East?
The hottest thing in North American legal service innovation is legal technology; such as artificial intelligence and machine learning applications like ROSS or Kira, or data analytics programs like Loom, Premonition and Lex Machina, expert systems like Neota Logic and BlueJ Legal, or even smarter document assembly programs like Contract Express. These new products are created and driven by a Millennial generation that sees legal services as broken. Over time we will see savvy lawyers augmenting their practices with these products so as to provide a better, faster and more accurate and less expensive legal services.

None of these products are jurisdiction specific (and some are not even language specific). They are globally relevant and capable of use around the world. Their successes have normalised the idea that technology has a very important role to play in legal services which will encourage more entrepreneurs around the globe to become the next big legal tech success story.

How much change is client driven and how much is technological-innovation driven?
Since, clients are the ultimate beneficiaries of technology-driven innovation, the answer is: half-half.

Traditionally legal technology companies have assumed that since they have a great product, law firms will immediately see the competitive advantage of using the product and start buying it. But that is exception, not the rule. In fact, most legal technology sales success happens on the other side of the fence – by selling to law firm clients. The client, if impressed, then demands that its law firms use the technology to provide better service and lower costs. Without an innovative product, client-driven change is glacial because, with few exceptions, neither clients, nor law firms know what that change would look like.

“Without an innovative product, client-driven change is glacial because, with few exceptions, neither clients, nor law firms know what that change would look like”

Are you seeing any other innovations in legal services which are not technology driven?
Process, Process, Process. There are a very small number of firms that understand the value of continuous process improvement; a disciplined approach to critically assess what is being done and why, based on the methods of Lean and Six Sigma. These firms have reduced timelines and errors to provide cost-effective quality legal services for clients. Even fewer firms have applied Lean thinking to their processes in combination with workflow that allows non-legally trained team members to work on higher value work.

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There will be limited seats available at the inaugural Legal Inno’Tech Forum, Asia on June 8 in Hong Kong. For more information on the gathering, please contact Rahul Prakash at rahul.prakash@inhousecommunity.com

See also: Is your legal team ready for Change 3.0?

mitch-about-149x300*Mitch Kowalski is the Gowling WLG Visiting Professor in Legal Innovation at the University of Calgary Law School, a Fastcase 50 Global Legal Innovator, the Legal Innovation Columnist for The National Post, and Principal Consultant at Cross Pollen Advisory where he advises in-house legal departments and law firms on the redesign of legal service delivery. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed book, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century. His new book, The Great Legal Reformation: Notes from the Field will be published in September 2017.

Follow him on Twitter @mekowalski or visit his website www.kowalski.ca

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Tags: Innovation, Management, Technology
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