Willingness to embrace future is the force behind companies getting work, writes Kerry Westland

The legal sector continues to undergo seismic changes. Technology is transforming the way firms deliver their legal services, and savvier clients are demanding more efficiencies, leading to firms exploring how they can challenge and reinvent the traditional law firm model.

Kerry Westland, Head of Innovation & Legal Technology at Addleshaw Goddard

A sector which has always been slow or reluctant to change is now one which is embracing and arguably driving a technology revolution. Responding to clients in a different way isn’t enough in today’s world, innovation and new technologies are the force behind firms winning work and also how they better manage workflow internally.

Addleshaw Goddard is one of a number of firms harnessing the innovative use of technology. It’s imperative for us as a business to keep up-to-date with the changes technology presents the sector and ensure we’re using platforms and solutions that set us apart.

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Today, technology is an essential component in the efficient and cost-effective delivery of quality legal services. AG has invested significantly in this area, and has established a seven-person-strong legal technology team to drive innovation by focusing on developing and deploying existing and new technologies to add value, quality and efficiencies to our legal services, whilst delivering cost savings and mitigating risk.

One of the solutions we draw upon is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is becoming a key component in the delivery of legal services at AG and brings huge benefits to tasks that were once performed by teams of paralegals. What used to take weeks or months, such as sifting through and documenting reams of legal paperwork can now be done more efficiently and with more consistency. However, we believe what will set firms apart is their ability to apply it sensibly to legal projects and also understand how they can offer new service lines and greater certainty for clients.

We use an AI platform called Kira. We chose Kira because of the quality of the information it extracts and its flexibility, enabling us to build our own legal expertise into the system, helping us deliver work accurately, quickly and efficiently whilst assisting us in managing risk.

However, we believe it’s important that AI isn’t used in isolation but as one tool that enhances procedures when it’s integrated with our approach to people, process and technology. This method means legal work can be delivered in a better, more streamlined way – after all, there’s no point in implementing technology platforms for the sake of it, nor not utilising the platforms properly.

As technology and AI continue to develop, so too will client expectations, creating an even greater need for the training of junior lawyers. But many questions are raised as to what a firm’s adoption of AI and technology means for staff, particularly those at the beginning of their legal careers.

When trainees and junior lawyers learn to cut their teeth on reviewing contracts and carrying out other due diligence tasks but AI and paralegals are now used to do that, how will they learn about the construction of the contracts?

If they are using automation tools to produce documents by answering questionnaires, will they understand why they are answering questions in a particular way, and how clauses can be interdependent on each other, leading to litigation if not considered carefully enough?

If they become people who process transactions or matters using technology that has the law built into them how do they become the experts in black letter law that everyone agrees is still needed?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers right now – but it’s something we as a firm is trying to address through a number of training and innovative initiatives, and something the sector as a whole needs to focus on. The legal world is changing and what is expected of tomorrow’s lawyers will also have to shift.

Kerry Westland, head of innovation & legal technology at Addleshaw Goddard