Womble Bond Dickinson’s International Innovation Week continued on March 22 with a look at how innovation is transforming law firms and legal services.
Professor Dan Linna, a leader in the legal services and innovation fields, addressed attorneys from the US, UK, and Germany about what makes a law firm innovative, with a presentation asking “Do law firms have the discipline to continuously improve and innovate?” Womble Bond Dickinson Co-Chairs Jonathan Blair and Betty Temple led a Q&A session with Professor Linna at the conclusion of his remarks. Womble Bond Dickinson lawyer Liz Riley opened the session.
Linna said corporate legal departments are driving change in how legal services are delivered. For example, the number of in-house lawyers has increased by more than 200 percent in the last two decades. A small but growing percentage of legal work is now handled by alternative legal service providers. These changes are forcing law firms to reexamine the fundamental ways they deliver services to clients in order to provide greater value.
“Forward-thinking law firms and legal departments use technology to automate lower-level tasks,” he said. In addition to providing value, Linna said this frees up attorney and staff time to focus on new and higher-value projects.
However, he said, “Innovation is about a lot more than automating legal tasks.” Technology is just one area for innovation—others include people, processes, and data.
Linna said that increasingly, corporate clients want outside counsel to provide data about the work they are hired to undertake [or services they are hired to provide]. Clients are using that data to disaggregate legal work into discrete tasks, creating a more process-driven, measurable approach.
This runs contrary to the “Law as Art” approach some lawyers have towards their profession. Linna described that approach as “a barrier to us progressing.” But he said an increasingly complex business world, there are even more opportunities for creative, client-focused lawyers to add value for their clients.
“The pace of change will continue to accelerate,” he said. Linna mentioned several industry groups focused on corporate legal department growth, sophistication and operational enhancement including the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Legal Operations and the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC).
Womble Bond Dickinson is a leader in the innovation space. For example, the firm recently partnered with Kira to provide artificial intelligence (AI) software for document review and analysis. The firm also has a partnership with ROSS Intelligence to provide lawyers and clients with AI legal research services.
Linna is a Professor of Law in Residence and the Director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State University College of Law. Before law school, he was an information technology manager, developer, and consultant. He is the co-founder of and lead organizer for the Detroit and Chicago Legal Innovation & Technology meetup groups and was named in the 2015 Fastcase 50 as a person who has charted a new course for the delivery of legal services.
Womble Bond Dickinson will host a number of events on innovative technology, evolving business practices and new ways to engage clients during International Innovation Week, which runs from March 19-23