Guest-blog: Nathan Evans discusses challenges in the legal profession and technology is the catalyst for disruption.

Nathan Evans

In an increasingly technological world, how can law firms use technology to facilitate human interaction?

Many firms are experiencing national and international growth, but are uncertain how to manage a firm spanning hundreds or thousands of miles and sometimes even time zones.

Some would argue that the use of technology in a more “human” manner is necessary to keep modern firms connected and unified.

The importance of the legal profession to the UK economy continues to grow as the economic fortunes of world economies stabilise and the velocity of global trade and capital flows begin to show modest signs of accelerating.

The global legal services market size was valued at USD 794.50 billion in 2018 and is expected to register a CAGR exceeding 4.1% from 2019 to 2025.

Despite recent challenges confronting the general economy, the legal sector in the UK has again demonstrated its resilience and ability to withstand adverse business conditions, and emerge stronger for the challenges presented by that experience. The UK and London in particular, continue to be a magnet for increasing investment in the legal sector.

When we describe being bold and with disruption, it was Clayton Christensen – American Academic, who once said;
“The reason why it is so difficult for existing firms to capitalize on disruptive innovations is that their processes and their business model that make them good at the existing business actually make them bad at competing for the disruption.”

The legal profession is presented with challenges today, infinitely more difficult than ever before experienced.

Information technology will be a major focus of investment for law firms in the year ahead and is seen as a significant source of competitive advantage by a majority of law firms.

New entrants to the legal sector will be a feature of the market in the year ahead. Many technologies enable lower-cost delivery, budgeting, fee analysis, rapid communication, and understanding companies and industries.

The adoption of legal technology and AI in law firms and legal agencies can go on a long way in improving their efficiency and also brings with it the promise of new clients. It creates flexible legal services, increases transparency, reduces the chance of errors in documentation, and also puts your firm on the global map

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Nathan Evans, who is a partner and head of technology at Memery Crystal LLP

Nathan is a specialist IT lawyer with expertise in complex strategic projects including systems/platform/apps builds, networking contracts, integration services, support and maintenance arrangements, agile delivery, technology consultancy, blockchain-enabled platforms and material outsourcing arrangements in financial services.

Nathan joined Memery Crystal in May 2020 from the technology and intellectual property rights specialist firm Bristows LLP.

Nathan is going to talk to us the importance of technology in today’s fast-paced world and in the legal profession.

The oldest continually operating firm of solicitors in England was founded four hundred and fifty years ago and, perhaps, the business of law has changed little since.

Lawyers are, or so it is generally thought, resistant to change, reliant on precedents, stubborn and expensive. But is this an unfair description of the modern lawyer?

The answer is, as always, “it depends”.

In my experience (in large and small firms alike), Lawyers are not pathologically resistant to change and must embrace new ways of working if it means winning more business or operating in a smarter and more efficient way.

It’s also a fact that we in the UK are lucky to have one of the world’s most innovative and progressive judiciaries and a thriving law-tech sector.

The challenge is not, therefore, deploying or challenging resistance to deploying technology in law but rather showcasing and actually benefitting from using it.

Listing tech solutions/products/innovations as line items in pitch documents isn’t always that convincing and can be quite transparent to clients:

What the Lawyer says…, but what the client thinks…
L: We have a data room
C: I’d be worried if you didn’t

L: We have a client portal
C: We already have a CRM, how does your portal work with that?

L: We have cross-referencing tools
C: Great, but we’re not paying for proof-reading

L: We have a due diligence AI
C: Is it trained to our risk profile? Supervised?

Clients are savvy and, before talking to them about law-tech, lawyers would be well-advised to consider the following questions and not to just focus on the clever stuff that their solution does:
• What positive change does the tech bring to the table?
• Are there any cost benefits directly passed through to the client?
• Can this tech help the in-house team in its day-to-day functions?
• How does this tech relieve pressure on the general counsel?
• Can this tech integrate with the client’s existing systems?
• What problem is actually being solved?
• What limitations are there (be honest about them)?
• Is the solution tailorable to the client’s specific needs?
• Does the tech require much client-effort to implement?

Bad use of legal tech is easily spotted and, with all of that in mind, what do I do? Our most valuable use of legal tech is in contract construction.

By heavily investing in the contract drafting process and coding each contract for automation we’ve been able to prepare a tool kit of tech-related contracts (large and small) for rapid and bespoke deployment to clients of all sizes and complexity.

Once up and running, the tool-kit is tailored to the client’s need and fully automated for use by their in-house teams.

What’s more, using the tech allows us to move away from an hourly model for certain types of work.

We actively manage document production, storage, and maintenance through technology. Vastly improving our (and our client’s) quality assurance controls and the overall productivity of our internal legal function and the client’s in-house team.

Our solution eradicates repeated spend for first draft documents to support busy and pressured in-house teams and delivers the following benefits:
• increased document production
• continuously updated documents
• thoroughly proof-read and tested documents
• compatibility with well-known electronic signature platforms
• inbuilt quality assurance
• eradicated repeated legal spend
• standardised risk notes and reports
• executive approvals and decision trees built-in
• in-house capacity is increased

The result is a thoughtful and appropriate use of legal tech for clients but also for lawyers.

We cannot forget that most, if not all lawyers work hard. Very hard. It’s a typical and sometimes utterly self-destructive personality trait common to the vast majority of colleagues I know.

Helping clients is, of course, a key driver but technology, adopted mindfully and with care, can bring about genuine improvements to the working life of legal professionals and that’s to be embraced!

You can contact Nathan Evans via LinkedIn or by email:
Nathan dot Evans AT memerycrystal DOT com (removing all the spaces)
linkedin.com/in/nathanmevans
website: memerycrystal.com
Tel: +44 (0) 207400 3256

One Reply to “Guest-blog: Nathan Evans discusses challenges in the legal profession and technology is the catalyst for disruption.”

  1. A great read thank you Geoff and Nathan. I presume the challenge for all of us is not only transforming the current clients “jobs to be done”, but really transforming using the assets and capabilities of law firms to solve for new client “jobs to be done” or pain points that don’t exist at this point. This requires a different model and approach to the H1 and H2 horizon work. Some fantastic innovation.

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