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‘We need different capabilities to future-proof our firms’

The executive director for the Centre for Legal Innovation recently discussed why adapting to new technology is unavoidable, the role legal professionals must play, and the importance of recognising intrapreneurs to ensure firm innovation. 

user iconJess Feyder 28 February 2023 Big Law
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“How could we possibly be thinking that we can effectively and efficiently deliver legal services and products today, the same way that we did even on the 29th of November last year, before chat GPT got launched?” Terri Mottershead, executive director for the Centre for Legal Innovation, asked the audience at the recent Smokeball Spark 2023 conference. 

“Our legal ecosystem is changing and will continue to change,” she said.

“It has to.”

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In the adoption of technologies, “we need to show up as lawyers in terms of thought leadership around things like ethics and bias and privacy — and our voice needs to be heard like never before,” she asserted. 

We’re also looking at very, very different work skills now,” she said, “and there’s a need to develop those skills and bring people onboard”.

“We need different capabilities to future-proof our firms,” she explained, “recruiting for empathy, curiosity and relationship-building skills, these are the things AI can’t do and won’t ever be able to do”. 

“Humanity will increasingly be a differentiator in a technology and data-driven industry.”

Ms Mottershead also discussed the importance of encouraging intrapreneurship, as a key to bringing innovation into a firm.

“The thing that always interested me about law firms is that they often hire from the same universities, sometimes the same high schools, and then they wonder why it is that they’re not particularly innovative.

“Could it be [that] they’ve all been trained in exactly the same way and think the same way?” Ms Mottershead posed the question. 

“If your firm is focusing on innovation, how are you bringing in different ways of thinking to your firm?

“And how are you identifying, listening to and resourcing intrapreneurs?” she asked.

“Intrapreneurs are really annoying,” she explained, “and the reason they’re annoying is they’re always prodding you to do something differently”.

“They’re looking at things a different way; they’re saying: why are we using paper when we could have automated this?

“They’re the sort of people that were so annoying, you might not have considered them for partnership or even retained them in the past, but they are the very people that you need to be retaining now,” she stated. 

“If you don’t identify them, if you’re not giving them the opportunity for an outlet of those ideas, then they’ll go somewhere else, or they’ll leave your firm, and worse, there’ll become an entrepreneur and one of your competitors.

“You want them to ask those questions, to see things differently, to find solutions to problems and contribute in ways they want to,” she said. “Finding those intrapreneurs and retaining them absolutely critical.”

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