As they emerge from their cofee break, taking their seats one by one, the camera man adjusts the sound and angles the camera.
A panelist of five, meets and greets some of the attendees and then the crowd grows. Whispers, clicking of pens, reading of emails. The lawyers are settling in.
Allowing for another 5 minutes grace period. The Chair is ready to start, with introductions I get called to start first.
I take my phone, open my PowerPoint and begin. Then I take them on a journey – to Matrix to the very scene where we see Neil fighting Morpheous. Recalling the conversation that was had – ‘Is that the best you’ve got?’ asks Morpheous as Neil is losing the game, then suddenly something clicks and Neil bounces back defeating Morpheous. What happened within those seconds that made Neil come back. More importantly, how is this important to the topic of ‘Law, AI and Knowledge management?’
The purpose of my talk was to light a bolt into the audience. Or better yet, to question what exactly is the purpose of what we are doing, and what we are about to embark on. If one were to say, that technology is not limited by our technical skills or understanding, but rather our imagination then that changes the game. It changes how we perceive the role of technology and what value or cost we put to it.
For those sitting in the audience, some are curious, others are interested, others possibly uncertain. However, when one engages in conversation in asking, what do you want for your firm? How much are you willing to spend and invest in your firm? What are your ideal processes? The project manager within the lawyer comes out.
They no longer see it as a small investment, they see how technology can provide the infrastructure which becomes the backbone within the organisation they are trying to build. It becomes an empire within itself to master the many departments within which they head a central command and control system. They see a cloud, with a tree that bears fruit from each branch. 5% of investment becomes more like 75%. They see value in what they initially thought did not require that much.
How do you decide what to invest in? What systems would you buy into? What if you don’t know until you try? What if trying is going to cost to much?
Does it matter if you use a Mac or Desktop? Does the tool really matter?
Interestingly, as discussions from the IBA roundtable starts, it becomes apparently clear that what is a ‘right fit’ depends very much on what kind of firm you are, what values you have and what you aspire too.
Not one is the same, and no size fits all. A brave Finnish lawyer servicing a Russian client showed us his project management system with his tablet, describing how efficient it works for him. Another lawyer across the pond has a very fixed, rigid system of billing and relentless accountability with regards to hours. The choices are overwhelming.
If it is of any relief, try before you buy -rings true. As technology and systems get upgraded, new hardware, software is introduced it makes no sense to just settle for one.
But rather to move with the trends, to remain flexible and with an open mind- to learning new systems and to upgrade accordingly. If it makes no sense to have a phone that is 5 years old, then how is that not the system with systems within firms?
If the phone is at the heart of your emails, contact lists, documents, photos, recordings and so forth, then the heart of the firm – if it were a technical system binding all parts together – does it make sense to disadvantage oneself by not upgrading?
It makes sense, but let’s accept it- it can be overwhelming.
The decisions we make can either propel us or bring us down. Making the right decisions for your firm can mean being leaner, more efficient and cost effective, making the wrong decision can result in inefficiencies, lost opportunity costs, disgruntled clients and added stress. Focusing on the heart of the problem of who we are, what are we about and why we do what we do sheds light as to what technologies can better assist us in that process.
For the next generation of lawyers, technology is going to shape the way we work as lawyers. It will no longer be a last agenda item, but rather at the very forefront of any tech savy decision maker, leader or advisor. Learning by trial and error is also likely to be part of that process, and finding out what works is going be part of the journey.
As consultants busy themselves in figuring out what kind of creature is this ‘lawyer’ – a by majority vote a non-risk taking, adverse to confrontation-figure comes to light- tackling the insecurities of not knowing where this technology is going to take us is probably just as useful and helpful.
By being open to the trends, curious to the developments, the profession can take an active part in shaping how technology impacts the profession as oppose to the other way around.
You can listen to my talk on ‘Law, AI and Knowledge Management’ here of the IBA 2017 Law Firm Management committee session.
Recording from Soundcloud here
You can also sign up to the Regional Law Firm Management Forum (Singapore) here held at the Mandarin Oriental on 3 November in Singapore.
Look forward to seeing you there.
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