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Working ‘hand in glove’ to drive innovation

Despite innovation being extremely broad, these two firms have found different ways of implementing new tech and innovative working practices to optimise business operations.

user iconLauren Croft 19 December 2022 NewLaw
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Caryn Sandler is a partner and the chief knowledge and innovation officer at Gilbert and Tobin, and Mellissa Larkin is the founder and managing director of Peripheral Blue.

Speaking on an episode of the Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and co-hosted by Daniela Pasini, national director for Professional Services at CommBank, the pair discussed innovation in the legal industry — and how each of their firms is implementing different innovation practices.

In terms of what G+T is internally implementing, Ms Sandler said that the firm developed a working model to deliver to staff, which had quadrants on how to “meaningfully lead and collaborate”.

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“Because innovation is so broad, and the ways of working are so broad as well, we’re trying to bring it under a really coherent narrative for our lawyers and for the organisation that when they actually are doing work on a day-to-day basis, it’s like is this a stop-and-plan moment for example? Should we be doing this slightly differently? Should we be leveraging technology here because we need to constantly improve? And that really resonated,” she explained.

“And obviously, there’s a huge agenda under all of those quadrants, and there has been for the last seven years, but because innovation has become so far-reaching within the organisation and more broadly, we just need to make sure that we had put it under a coherent narrative and that everyone understood what the expectations were internally. So that has been a really big focus, and obviously, underpinning a lot of that is things like hybrid working and how we do that effectively and how we use all the various technologies and the like.

“In terms of the client side, I would say we certainly, through G&T Innovate, are being engaged regularly on the internal transformation challenges within in-house functions, and that remains. And again, we see it across a number of different areas, whether it be large diagnostics that we undertake, whether it be particular technologies, there is a very big focus off the back of the pandemic to make sure that matter management is done correctly, that contract management is done correctly, that document management is being done correctly,” Ms Sandler added.

Being a smaller firm, Peripheral Blue has focused more on open conversations when rolling out its innovation strategy, particularly with clients.

“We’ve always been very mindful that when we work with clients that we are always very transparent about the fact that even though we are working very closely as part of collaborative teams, that we understand that people are all doing the best they can with the circumstances they’ve got. And there are always opportunities to change things or to do things in a different way, but it’s never our role to impose that upon anyone,” Ms Larkin explained.

“I think it’s a question of whether the clients have the capacity, the means and the framework at that moment in time to implement some of the changes or innovations that you might be able to identify. And just as you know, the firms are on journeys; all of the businesses are on their own journeys and have their own priorities. So, what has been really wonderful is to see people feeling a bit more refreshed and having a willingness and a capacity and an openness to be able to look at how they might be able to streamline and optimise their operations.”

Peripheral Blue also “heavily invested” in its team, trying new tech, doing increased training courses, and pushing outside its comfort zones.

“We embraced the idea of doing things differently. I knew what I thought the clients wanted; I didn’t know how I was going to achieve that. And it’s always that constant upskilling and trying different things. And we worked with a lot of clients in the IT space. So, it was also about being prepared to learn from them and all of the different communication tools and all of the different platforms that they were using. All of those things pushed us out of our comfort zone that helped us, I think, in a lot of ways to be able to challenge the traditional status quo,” Ms Larkin added.

“I do spend a lot of my own time trying different platforms, researching different tech, and it is really time-consuming, but I am really passionate about it, and I’m happy to spend that time, and I’m really grateful that I have a team that’s willing to listen to me when I talk about all these different options that I come up with and willing to have a go themselves and then are really good at giving feedback and have the agile minds but are also open-minded.”

G+T also spends a lot of time looking at global tech and working out what the firm’s “pain points” might be and whether the solution can be tech-centric — particularly moving into 2023.  

“In terms of the development of skills, we’ve spent a lot of time doing training, and actually, we’re even reworking it at the moment as to what the innovation transformation and technology training program looks like at all levels within the organisations. So, we have that, but we are constantly changing that.

“Obviously, there’s been significant changes in technology automation up until now, [and] decision logic has been incredibly effective, but I suspect that we probably are underestimating what AI is going to be capable of in the next five years. So really getting our lawyers exposure to that, understanding that there’s obviously blockchain as well, so we do spend a lot of time. And our lawyers, actually, it’s been a really interesting evolution in the engagement with technology. They will sit with us on demonstrations as well because they want to see some of these pain points resolved, so they feel very invested in what that outcome might look like,” Ms Sandler concluded.

“We work hand in glove. We’ve just launched just two weeks ago, our newest version of our due diligence platform; that is the 11th iteration of that platform since we put it in place in 2016. This stuff constantly moves, and you constantly need to adapt, and the law is changing as well.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Caryn Sandler, Mellissa Larkin, and Daniela Pasini, click below:

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