Tech’s threats and challenges for legal workplaces
Technology and managing a multigenerational workforce have been revealed to be the biggest threats to firm culture moving forward, according to a new report.
Nearly 15 years after the global financial crisis, organisational culture remains front of mind for company leaders – and a failure to consider workplace culture poses a regulatory and reputational risk, according to global research from Allen & Overy.
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The global law firm surveyed more than 500 senior leaders (covering business, risk, compliance, operations, ethics and HR) in financial services firms across the world, from small organisations to large multinationals. Sixty-two per cent of respondents believed that new and emerging technology platforms pose the biggest threat to their organisation’s culture – but only 56 per cent of respondents rated their organisations favourably when asked if employees are encouraged to speak up and voice concerns.
Following this, Lawyers Weekly spoke to Lee Alam, Asia-Pacific head of A&O Consulting, and Saranpaal Calais, technology and digital partner, on the role tech plays in the modern legal workplace – and how, if at all, it impacts workplace culture.
“Technology enables lawyers to deliver faster, more efficient, and more innovative services to their clients. Investing in legal technology is increasingly seen as a ‘must-have’ for legal organisations to maintain competitive advantage. However, emerging technology also poses significant challenges to legal organisations – it requires them to adapt to new ways of working, communicating, and managing risk, which is not always easy for organisations to do,” Mr Calais said.
“We experienced this firsthand as we were the first global law firm to roll out Harvey, an advanced legal AI platform based on GPT-4; our adoption strategy had to understand and mitigate the risks of generative AI at scale, and at the same time not limit lawyers’ ability to explore use cases.”
From legal research systems to document management systems, precedents management, conflicts checking, and encrypting client information, “technology is absolutely crucial to modern legal practice”, Mr Alam emphasised.
“New platforms and tools absolutely impact a firm’s ability to improve operational performance as well as manage risk and compliance. Technology can heighten risk – for example, by increasing unanticipated risk[s] such as system outages, cyber and AI hallucinations. In terms of culture, technology can make people feel uncertain and less accountable for the issues and risks that are now, in large part, being managed by this technology,” he said.
“A technology platform that enhances feedback and data analysis, which in turn reveals inconsistencies or biases in the organisation’s operations, governance and outcomes, may highlight cultural issues that, when actioned, lead to long-term cultural improvement.
“There are risks to creating divergences in an organisation’s culture by those who can adapt quickly and gain benefits and those who can’t. Those who can’t, may miss out on job prospects and opportunities.”
As legal tech becomes more and more commonplace within firms, leaders have to be able to leverage technology to their advantage.
According to the report, only 25 per cent of respondents rated their senior leaders favourably when role modelling expected behaviours. Although people managers have a crucial role to play in setting the behavioural tone of their direct reports, respondents considered them to be the least committed to the culture of the firm compared to other senior leadership teams (board or C-suite).
“Leaders leverage technology to their advantage by using it as a tool to strengthen their organisation’s culture. Ensuring the way employees are using technology aligns with the organisation’s values and purpose is an immediate priority, with the level of risk only rising due to AI,” Mr Alam said.
“Leaders can also use technology to foster a culture of learning by providing their employees with access to high-quality role-specific online training, resources, and feedback. We are also seeing leaders using technology to measure and monitor cultural outcomes and risks, creating increasingly sophisticated culture dashboards. Although this is a big challenge, it’s also a shared challenge.”
Further, more than half of respondents said that managing a multigenerational workforce posed a significant challenge to their firm’s culture over the next 12 months.
“A firm’s culture can influence the willingness and ability of its people to adopt new solutions, to use them in a responsible and ethical way, and to cope with the implications for their roles and skills. Technology also impacts a multigenerational workplace, as it creates different expectations and preferences among employees of different ages and backgrounds,” Mr Calais concluded.
“For example, younger employees may be more comfortable and proficient with using technology, while older employees may better appreciate the strategic value of certain technology use cases. Therefore, a firm’s culture needs to accommodate and leverage the diversity of its workforce by creating a culture of inclusion, collaboration, and mutual learning.”