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How innovation is shaking up the legal sector

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By Payal Shah on

Lawyers and legal education experts share their experiences from the frontline of legal tech

At Legal Cheek’s recent event, ‘Innovation and the law – with BARBRI, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Irwin Mitchell, and Elevate‘, a group of lawyers and legal education experts came together to discuss the interplay between innovation and the law. The quartet also discussed the impending changes the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) will bring to the market and offered their top tips for the next gen of lawyers.

The speakers

Tracy Savage, academic head of UK programmes at BARBRI
Nick Pryor, regional innovation solutions director at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
John Croft, president and co-founder of Elevate
Daryna Plysak, trainee solicitor at Irwin Mitchell

Innovation and the law

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated developments in innovation and legal technology across the profession. “In the innovation space we run a lot of facilitated workshops to rethink and re-engineer existing legal processes,” explained Nick Pryor, regional innovation solutions director at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP). Aside from changes in legal processes, he told the virtual audience that he has also seen a shift in mindset at law firms. “We have learned that if we have to, we can change”, said Pryor, adding that people are a lot more receptive to new ideas and willing to experiment in the wake of COVID-19.

John Croft, president and co-founder of Elevate, added that the challenge lies in adopting the changes as well as identifying them. The legal industry is becoming more adept at problem-spotting and introducing new ideas to help solve them, he said.

Daryna Plysak, trainee solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, agreed. The legal industry is becoming more responsive to the change and in turn embracing prospects of what lawtech has to offer. In particular at Irwin Mitchell lawyers are able to play a key role in pitching and having new ideas implemented, said Plysak, who has co-authored a book on legal tech. She explained that all practice areas have been impacted by technology and innovation, albeit at different paces. How quickly a particular practice area reacts to innovation depends on the complexity of cases, Plysak continued, with simple cases showing a quicker turnaround in testing of new technologies.

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As tech-driven innovation continues to disrupt legal practice, it’s imperative law schools and training providers keep up with the pace of change to prepare the next gen of solicitors for the world of work.

BARBRI is ramping up its legal education offering with the launch of a new preparation course for the SQE. Tracy Savage, academic head of UK programmes at BARBRI, explained how innovation is playing an integral part in its SQE course, pointing to the algorithm used to ensure that students keep up with their workload and complete the most important tasks first, as one such example.

Savage also noted how the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled law firms to realise that there are alternatives to in-person training. “Legal training is well due a refresh — now is the time to innovate education,” Savage told the audience of over 350 students.

Find out more about SQE prep courses with BARBRI

Skills to succeed in the 2020s

In spite of the tech-focused future for firms and training providers alike there is no single skill that will be required of future cohorts, according to Croft. Pryor echoed this sentiment and said that future lawyers will require teams that are versatile and dynamic. For example, some lawyers may have narrow expertise but possess great interpersonal skills allowing them to get along well with others. The panel agreed that coding is not a necessary skill, but lawyers should be appreciative of the skills and perspective of coders.

Careers advice

Before moving into the legal education sphere, Savage worked as a solicitor specialising in commercial property. Having moved around the country in her previous job, she advised students to “be flexible with your expectations of where your career can go”.

Croft has spent the last 15 years working with technology to make traditional legal processes more efficient. He encouraged students to look beyond the traditional routes into the legal profession and explore how non-traditional law firms are shaking up the legal sector. Pryor, who joined BCLP for its ambitious approach to innovation, also stressed that there are many different paths into the legal profession, now more than ever, so remain open-minded.

When embarking on her legal career, Plysak placed great importance on firm values. She encouraged students to speak to individuals at different levels and ask yourself if you can see yourself working there. “Allow yourself to evolve, change and discover new things”, said Plysak, as there is no single formula to success.

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