Technology in the legal sector: Interview with Dera Nevin (Part 2)
In the first part of our interview with lawyer and legal tech expert Dera Nevin, Dera discussed three major challenges that contribute to why lawyers are slow to adopt legal technology. Dera also discussed the advantage to those lawyers who see legal tech as an opportunity. She also shared her insights on what makes legal tech good and what makes it bad. This week, Dera goes in depth about how technology is changing the legal profession and shares her passion about the industry, as well as her future plans. Here’s the second part of our interview with Dera Nevin.
DEALCLOSER: Given that the market has already been introduced to legal tech companies like Clio and fresh faces like dealcloser, what is it exactly that people want from legal technology that you cannot already get?
DERA J. NEVIN: Clio has been around for 10 years, so I think that's important. We now hear a lot about Clio, but 10 years ago, no one had ever heard about it. They had a persistence in the market, and a very sensible go to market strategy. And they incorporated customer feedback into their development process, and the result of the feedback is that it serves Clio’s users very well. That is a great example of a technology that has listened to its customer base and delivered on what customers want. A lot of the time you need to give the customer what it wants, even if what the customer wants isn't what what you’d like to develop. In terms of looking for where technology can help lawyers: find the lawyers’ pain points. That takes actually sitting down and talking to lawyers. Learn about their pressing concerns. The technology solution may not be obvious at first, but the more you start to listen to where lawyers are frustrated or feel that they're not as effective as they want to be in delivering outcomes to clients, the closer to a solution you can get. Investigate whether there is an aspect of technology that can help.
DC: Technology is transforming every segment of the legal ecosystem, how do you think it’s changing career trajectories?
DJN: So, law exists within culture, generally, and technology is just transforming our culture, right? That’s why it’s also transforming the way that lawyers are delivering practice. In some ways, the technology is going to adapt to lawyers. At the same time, technology will become pervasive. It will be just endemic to the practice of law. It’s going to take some time, because law requires so much interface with regulators and court systems and police systems, filing agencies. There’s disconnected frameworks, this might be a generational project, but that is definitely happening. What lawyers are going to have to do is going to have to change. A lot of the time lawyers have been doing very task-based work, and administrative processing and a lot of that will change because of automation, machine learning and other types of technology. A lot of that task-based work is going to disappear. This will free up lawyers to really engage with clients and talk with clients and give them outcomes and advice, what I call the ‘higher order’ soft skills. A lot of people say we need to train lawyers on technology, and I say, okay that's true, we need to train the lawyers on the use of technology. But what we really need to make sure is that lawyers are highly empathetic and can relate to other human beings, because when they are no longer heads down, deep in contract and actually interacting with a person, we need to make sure lawyers can appropriately engage with their clients to deliver the right kind of service. So ‘soft skills’ are going to become very important as more and more lawyers spend more of their time actually interacting with their clients.
DC: Just to add to that, so a lot of lawyers actually think that there will be a loss of jobs with the emergence of legal tech.
DJN: Well, it will change the way that jobs happen. There are definitely certain tasks that will disappear. I think instead of jobs, people should really be focussing on tasks, there will absolutely be tasks that will disappear. With the rise of automation, document processing management, and machine learning, a lot of tasks lawyers may have had to do manually before are going to be gone. Lawyers should welcome these opportunities to spend more time with clients, develop deeper and stronger relationships and trust with their clients. And move to analysis faster, so they may not spend as many hours, their revenue might go down on an hourly basis, but if the work they're doing is valuable, there may be other ways they can recuperate that revenue. Either because they have more clients, or because their pricing at a fixed fee and their margins are higher.
DC: :Legal tech is booming right now, what does that mean for firms that are not embracing technology?
DJN: There's a lot of money pouring into the segment, as a lot of people have noted, it is questionable what the adoption rate is. But certainly there is a big attention on whether or not technology can improve outcomes and reduce the cost of buying legal services. So I think firms that are not paying attention to this discussion risk not understanding their clients' perspectives on the discussion, becoming out of sync with their clients' expectations. And they may risk identifying technology that could really be a market differentiator with them that could help clients. At the end of the day it's about clients. You could be the best lawyer in the world, but if you have no clients and nobody is giving you work it doesn't matter.
DC: You have recently coined the title: “Global Ambassador for Legal Technology”, what would you like to accomplish over the next 5 years?
DJN: So that was in relation to the Global Legal Hackathon. So the GLH occurred, and in connection with that event, I went around the world looking at various technologies and just really helping members of that particular community become more acquainted together. So that title refers specifically to that function with that organization. But I’m very much in the legal technology space, and I would just like to improve buying and selling outcome. So one thing that I'm trying to do is in my own professional consulting practice is helping lawyers understand technology options that are available to them and help them make more informed buying decisions. And what I’d like to help sellers do is make more informed go-to market decisions and more informed product decisions. So effectively act as a broker between those two markets so that buyers are actually finding technology that's useful to them, and sellers are able to identify prospects that may be interested in the technology. I want to be in some respects, technology-neutral but just help those two sides communicate more effectively to each other. And to encourage people to adopt technology in their practice where it makes sense for them to do it. It’s not always going to make sense. But overall, it will really help lawyers. It will improve their quality of life, it will improve their accuracy, it will reduce their risk and it will reduce their cost. There’s a lot of benefits to lawyers in buying the proper technology to help them and I like lawyers and I want to help them. I can help them by making more informed and effective decisions about buying technology for their practice and then implementing it and using it.