10 key takeaways from our legal innovation debate

Will the legal profession ever see genuine disruption or will it always be evolutionary? This was the question posed to our six panellists: Andrew Cheung, Dana Denis-Smith, Rob Dinning, Matthew Kellett, Kishore Sengupta and Isabel Parker. During the course of the evening, the two teams went head to head in a competitive battle of words and clever arguments, where only one would be victorious.

You can now read our full report here: Evolution v Revolution.

At the end of the debate, the evolution team won over the audience by attaining 55% of the vote. An online social media poll that we ran at the same time gave a similar response of 60% favouring the evolution argument.

Here are some of the highlights (in no particular order).

  1. Dana Denis-Smith urged us to be the radicals of today. Asserting that to be disruptive is to be brave and that right now we have an opportunity of a lifetime to reshape the profession for future generations. Radical change is what the industry needs – new delivery models, inclusivity and greater diversity within the profession.

  1. Rob Dinning put forward the argument that proactive organizations look for, and monitor, their horizons to look for signals of change and adapt accordingly. Reactive organisations, on the other hand, don’t pay attention to the signals, or simply disregard change until it is too late and, as a consequence, get disrupted.

  1. Kishore Sengupta reasoned that the development of the law itself is evolutionary by nature. Good strategy is not reactive and resorting to ‘disruptive bravery’ is not the same as showing proper foresight – and using that foresight to develop and evolve. By insisting on disruption, you risk destroying part of the DNA of the legal profession, which could lead to unhelpful ‘mutations’.
  1. Matthew Kellett suggested that law firms are ‘crushingly inefficient’, and that deep and rapid thought is required. He is optimistic radical change is coming. He also suggested that The Big Four are not going to be the big disrupters – at least not as big as the legal press would have us believe.
  1. Isabel Parker strongly asserted that the legal profession is not an inherently selfish profession. Focusing on the justice system, she suggested that the inefficiencies are not the result of a selfish judiciary but rather funding cuts – and disruption is not the way to fix this. Technology advancement such as digitisation of the justice system is not disruption – it’s assistive, it's progression, it’s evolution. And it should be welcomed.
  1. Rob Dinning maintained there is unlikely to be killer app on the horizon to replace the legal profession. We’ll eventually need fewer lawyers but this is not disruption – and nor is it a movement that’s unique to the legal profession. However, he suggested it’s a mistake to argue against disruption – there may not be ‘big bang’ level event, but there will be quiet revolution.

  1. Andrew Cheung said it’s important to appoint a group of people who can really collaborate, explore and incubate innovation within the firm– and asserted that it’s important not to develop tech if you don’t know how to do it. He also stressed the amount of time and money required to invest in innovation should not be underestimated.
  1. Following on from Andrew’s point above, Isabel gave three excellent pieces of advice: don’t buy software if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. Listen to clients – client experience is quite modish right now but very important. And get your change management strategy ready.
  1. In our warm-up questions, it turns out the majority of the room had enjoyed a good bowl of porridge that morning (although one or two seemed to think ‘breakfast is for wimps’).

  1. And last but not least, it turns out that most in the room would rather fight a bear, tiger or gorilla over a crocodile. Suggesting that there weren’t many liti-gators in the room.

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