The Smart Law Panel Event held at The Law Society of South Australia on 23 August was an eye-opening insight into how South Australia's lawyers are thinking about technology and its place in their practice.
As content strategists who specialise in law, Brutal Pixie was there to get a feeling for where the local industry is sitting. It very quickly became clear that the challenges that law is facing are not technological challenges. The technology is simply the tool that is going to force change on a highly conservative industry.
In fact, one of the key insights that we gained from the event was that law is inherently self-focused. Where many other professional services industries are really moving forwards in terms of thinking about end-value to customers, law is still very much focused on itself: Efficiency, cost, impact. They are necessary considerations, but they are ultimately what is going to cause the demise of many firms where others just take off.
The real challenge for law is not technology. The challenges for law are:
- Reorienting its attitude away from the machinations of law, and law firms, and into a customer-focused state
- Adaptability and flow
- Software that doesn't help firms to become experimentally minded.
Many of the issues that were raised during the event came back to the core skill of adaptability. It's not that lawyers aren't technologically capable (although certainly, many are not); it's not that the tech keeps changing, and that it's hard to keep up; it's adapability driven by the best outcomes for a firm that is missing. Regardless of how technology changes, if your firm has a clear, solid intention - and the strategic thinking to support decision-making - then you can better assess what's going to move you forwards. More importantly, this also helps you to assess what's going to improve your customers' lives.
Ultimately, discussions about legal tech will only benefit law when it becomes a customer-focused, and strategic discussion, rather than a discussion about the fears in the industry. Anxiety about infrastructure costs are one thing; but a fear of adapting doesn't help.
Of course, this is just one view. And certainly the proprietary nature and enormous costs of legal technology don't help. For the industry to evolve, it's not just the lawyers who have to adapt, but also the software companies. If they don't, then a startup will solve the problem easier, faster, and more cheaply - and enable forward-looking firms to streak away from the competition - before everybody else has time to think.
Below is our Storify story from the event. As usual, the Pixies were in force tweeting and sharing like mad.