01 November 2019

Training and client needs under the spotlight

Disruption came to the fore at the ITechLaw Dublin conference, with experts highlighting the need for change from legal education and why clients don't want lawyers writing code.

In a session entitled “The Move From Pen and Paper to Bits and Bytes “, an International Technology Law Association (ITechLaw) panel examined how technology is disrupting the legal world, with a focus on developing young lawyers and giving value to the business.

Who trains?

Panellists discussed how clients are increasingly looking to their legal advisors for greater cost management and transparency, efficiency in service delivery and proof of value. However, questions remain over how technology is the solution to meeting those needs, and challenges law firms face in applying and adapting to the technology. On the point of developing young lawyers, with the impact of technology on many repetitive and basic tasks, session moderator Diego Fernández, IP, IT & privacy partner at  Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal in Argentina, asked panellists “who’s going to train these guys?” Chris Lepp, chief commercial counsel, UK and Europe at Mercer, said “I don’t buy that argument. There are other ways of training, it’s not just about masses of document reviews and going through lots of contracts.” He explained, “Law firms will lose if they don’t change this. Clients won’t pay for juniors to do tasks which are low level and inefficient.” Alex Kelly, co-founder and coo at Brightflag, said “Law schools which move fast will be more successful. Those who forego the opportunity, or are too slow in taking the lead, will have a job on their hands, but I think the law schools can do it.”

“Robot overlords”

Turning to technology and business impact, panellists agreed that the focus of legal needs to be on the business and working proactively. Mr Kelly said, “identify the legal operations role, seek out productivity gains and get senior buy-in. You need the people, processes and strategy to drive the change.” Discussing to what extent lawyers need to develop legal technology solution themselves, Mr Lepp argued, “For legal professionals evaluating software is not their gig. They don’t understand it, they are experts on the legal side.” Claire Fitzpatrick, strategic operations director at ConsenSys, explained that revenue, costs, compliance and services are what clients are looking for, explaining “If you can’t tick those boxes you’re in trouble.” Mr Lepp concluded, “Change is coming. In-house are desperate for it. I welcome our new robot overlords.”