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Embedding NewLaw practices into BigLaw requires transformation, not disruption
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Embedding NewLaw practices into BigLaw requires transformation, not disruption

There are real opportunities for BigLaw firms to evolve with the times in the legal marketplace. Such change means adapting to new technologies and practice methods, rather than upending existing structures, says a senior lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, HSF director of alternative legal services Hilary Goodier said advances in technology have meant that BigLaw firms have to innovate and streamline – “particularly those information and data-intensive aspects of our matters”.

In the case of HSF setting up its alternative legal services team in its Belfast office in 2011, the firm saw it as a more efficient and cost-effective way of doing such work, and as such it was “incumbent on us to respond to that drive and really put a solution in place that resonated with our clients”.

“The disruptors are innovating from the ground up. I think the difference in BigLaw is that it’s not actually about disruption, or even necessarily innovation. It’s more about transformation,” she explained.

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“Change is hard, especially on such a large scale. It’s not easy, but we really have no choice. We have to do this, and so I think it’s actually a really exciting opportunity for [firms like ours].”

Such practice groups can do many things within the context of a larger practice, she said, with her alternative legal services team at HSF understanding “everything from e-Discovery and large-scale document review to claims assessment and remediation, due diligence, M&A and IPO transaction support, stream leasing, financing agreements and general commercial contracting”.

The shift towards practicing in more modern ways is driven, she said, by both client demand and technological advancements.

“The [legal tech] industry is just exploding, so I think the real game changer is going to be how we use the technology in the provision of those services,” she said.

And while retention of new lawyers coming through the ranks has to be a consideration for BigLaw firms, it serves as more as an added bonus of positive change rather than being a primary reason for is, Ms Goodier noted.

“I think our lawyers reasonably expect that we will be keeping pace with change in the industry, with developments in technology, and we’re definitely finding that our applicants and new graduates are showing a real interest in this space.”

The ‘big end of town’ has to continually look at how it can move the profession forward, she said, in both responding to and effecting change to legal practice methods. Incorporating NewLaw methods into the fold of a BigLaw firm is but one way for this to happen, she noted.

“It is something new and different, but we also have a responsibility with that to make sure that we’re a business, that we’re meeting the demands and needs of our clients, that we’re responding to the changes in the industry, and that we’re delivering on the promise to our grads and to our staff that we’re going to deliver really, really compelling careers in law,” she concluded.

If you want to see more of Jerome Doraisamy’s conversation with Hilary Goodier, click on the podcast link below:

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