Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Firms must continue to evolve to remain relevant

Law firms of all shapes and sizes must continue to reinvent themselves beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, according to two senior leaders at Piper Alderman.

user iconEmma Musgrave 15 January 2024 Big Law
expand image

Speaking on a recent episode of LawTech Talks, Piper Alderman managing partner Tony Britten-Jones and chief operating officer Chris McLean shared why it’s so important for law firms to look beyond the changes they implemented in the pandemic and continue to evolve.

“They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I think it’s a necessity, whether law firms like it or not, they are having to continue to evolve,” Mr Britten-Jones said.

“I think what we’re seeing with AI is just an extension of a number of technologies that have impacted law firms over the years. And I think law firms have generally shown we’re quite good at adapting and moving forward. We saw that very effectively over the COVID period. And I’m hopeful and confident that we’ll see law firms engaging with AI in a positive way that helps us and helps our clients as we move into the future.


“Exactly how that happens is a little bit of a ‘wait and see’, but we are looking pretty intensely at it because clearly there’s going to be a level of change that we have not experienced before. And if you don’t keep up with it, you’re going to miss out.”

Mr Britten-Jones also recently spoke with Lawyers Weekly following his 20th anniversary with Piper Alderman – nine of which have been spent as managing partner of the BigLaw practice – reflecting on achievements made and lessons learnt.

The introduction of generative AI, particularly things like ChatGPT, is an area for law firms to watch, according to Mr McLean, who said that the firm is slowly starting to see more people experiment with such technology.

“There’s a lot of noise coming from the large law firms as to what they’re doing around technology change in AI. I think everyone feels like they have to make an announcement that they’re doing something with AI at the moment. So, we’re seeing some of the big firms saying that they’ve developed their own version of ChatGPT,” he said.

“We’ve got a few of them saying that they’re allowing all of their lawyers to use generative AI to do different things. But from talking to the senior people at some of these firms, no one really has a clear reason for using it right now at the moment. They’re just really tinkering and trying a few different things such as summarising cases [or] using it to generate some content.”

With such technology, it’s important to run test environments to find out what’s worth the investment and what’s not, Mr McLean said.

“So [it’s] not saying, ‘We’re going to roll out ChatGPT across the board and use that’; it’s finding some particular cases that might be useful,” he explained.

“We’ve had, for example, [instances] where lawyers have said, ‘We’ve got a bunch of documents we use on a regular basis or a bunch of devices we use on a regular basis. Can we put these into ChatGPT and see if we can [find a] better way of pulling data out of things?’ And so use cases like that where people are coming up with ideas and trying them out and seeing how they go and [questioning whether] we roll this out more widely? I think that’s the approach that seems to be the best.”

Looking ahead, Mr Britten-Jones said that while technology might seem as though it’s taking away vital aspects of development, especially among junior lawyers, we needn’t shy away from it.

“I do think the concerns that have been expressed about the learning for younger lawyers and the training that they go through doing some of the less complex tasks, they are unlikely to get the benefit of being able to do that going forward. So, we as law firms are going to need to be pretty innovative, I think, in terms of how we train our lawyers going forward because it won’t be done in the same way,” he said.

“There’s been pressure for some time to ensure that clients are not paying for young lawyers learning on the job, although I’ve been practising for 35 years and I’m still learning on the job, so I don’t necessarily shy away from that. But in terms of doing work that can be done more efficiently by whether it’s AI or some other technology, lawyers are going to have to be out in front of that.”

In mid-December, Piper Alderman promoted 16 lawyers to more senior roles, including three to its partnership.

NB: This transcript has been edited slightly for publishing purposes. You can listen to the full episode here:

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member for free today!