CLA News / Insights from LexisNexis: What does the future hold for legal innovation?

10/02/2020
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By Hannah Thompson

In the legal profession one is often hit by the word ‘innovation’. At present, you cannot read about the future of the industry without coming across something about new ‘innovative’ practices. Many of these articles are focused around ideas such as: the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), legal tech, new business practices and many more.

But many of these articles fail to cut through the hype and explain the true meaning of innovation, and what it really means for the future of the legal profession.

What is the true definition of innovation?

Interestingly after a quick Google to find the meaning of ‘innovation’ it appears that there is no one clear definition. Some describe innovation as something new—such as a new idea, process or product and others suggest it is ‘the action or process of innovating’—which by anyone’s standards is not a very helpful definition.

At the latest Legal Futures Innovation Conference Christie Guimond, co-founder of a network for women who lead legal innovation—She Breaks the Law, highlighted the same very fact that no one really knows the true meaning of the word innovation. She noted that even academics themselves tend to disagree on the understanding of the word and concept. However, she pointed out a key factor: that the true meaning of innovation lies in the eye of the beholder.

Innovation can be something and mean something different for everyone. Something old to me, may be brand new to you. It depends on circumstance and knowledge. Innovation moves at an individual pace, which is something that should be addressed when looking at the future of legal innovation.

LexisNexis believes that innovation is not just about something new, but looking at your old practices, identifying gaps and creating something better than what came before it. For LexisNexis, the key formula for innovation is:

Innovation = experimentation = not being afraid to fail = learning from failure and advancing/progressing from it

Innovation and progress

In the legal sphere, innovation can often be understood as progression—looking at how the profession is moving forward in terms of business structures, technology and attitudes. Some of the key trends for 2020, as highlighted at the Legal Futures Innovation Conference, include:

Business models

As the legal profession moves into a new decade so does its competition. The internet has opened a new world for clients to access just the services they need and for the best price, review or deal. This has seen the power usually held by law firms completely shift into the client’s hands, causing firms to think again about their business practices.

As highlighted at the Legal Futures Conference, lawyers are not taught to be business savvy as part of their law degree. However, with corporates now clocking that the business space in the legal market has been neglected competition for the more traditional firms is growing.

For 2020, firms will be looking to gain more business based skills to help make their firms for attractive to clients. Some of those skills particularly being around efficiency, marketing and focusing further on client value.

More can be seen on these topics in the following Future of Law articles:

The recent SRA changes in 2019 also add pressure to traditional firms, as they have allowed for alternative business structures, providing more flexibility. One example being the ability for non-lawyers to gain managing partner status, therefore, providing an incentive for those with business skills to join the profession, and ensuring there is a stronger presence in areas such as business planning and employee management.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and technology

AI and technology go hand in hand when it comes to striking fear into the legal profession. But many of the fear stem from misconception on the role tech will play within the industry. From understanding that AI cannot fully replicate or replace the lawyers’ role, to embracing legal tech tools such as LexisNexis Draft to help with menial tasks, 2020 is set to be the year of understanding for the profession rather than fear.

Further information on breaking through the misconceptions of legal tech can be found in the following Future of Law articles:

Culture

As new innovative practices come into play, so will innovative cultures. The most difficult part about progressing to new methods and ways of working come from the human nature to reject change. However, as outlined at the Legal Futures Innovation Conference, people can be part of the solution rather than just the problem. LexisNexis has seen this work first hand in the creation of its Legal Tech hub—bringing employees with all different skills from product development to legal professionals to work collaboratively on LexisNexis products (read more: The benefits of closer collaboration within Legal Tech).

Cultural change does take time, and there may be barriers to overcome. However, it is key to remember that innovation is an individual experience, that can be taken at your own pace, so don’t get trapped in the ‘innovation hype’.

First published on the Future of Law blog on 17 January 2020. Read the article here.