The following is a part of a series of interviews with legal professionals and their experiences and interaction with innovation and technology in the legal sector. We hope you’ll get value from what others have learnt along the way and their recommendations.
An interview with Shaun Plant, Legal Services Lead at Waikato Regional Council.
What has been your experience or interaction with legal innovation and technology?
I had a previous career as an engineer and professional project manager which has influenced how I think and behave as a lawyer. I have a particular passion for using process improvement to deliver better legal services and for the past four years I have been hosting workshops for legal professionals on the practical application of project management, Lean and Kanban. I am also a co-founder of LawVu, legal operations software, so legal innovation and technology is already inherent in how I practice law.
What changes have you seen in your firm, team or organisation recently?
One of our organisational goals is to deliver better services for our internal and external customers and we recognise that this can only be achieved through the use of technology and innovation. We’re moving towards using cloud-based software as a standard which when combined with portable devices provides the team with immediate access to a depth of tools and information. We use a range of legal and non-legal technology, such as Promapp to design and improve our business processes, Trello for workflow and of course LawVu for managing matters and work that is outsourced to external legal providers. Not only have these changes helped us to become more efficient in delivering legal services, but they have also helped to empower our 400+ clients to find solutions to routine problems freeing the legal team up to spend more time on more important matters.
What challenges or barriers do you face when innovating or looking to use new tech?
I am fortunate to work for an organisation whose culture encourages innovation and embraces change so there are few barriers towards adopting new technology or processes. However, balancing the time that is required to fully identify and assess potential technology whilst servicing the legal needs of the organisation is a huge challenge. You can’t introduce change without experiencing some discomfort so to overcome the temptation to stick with the norm, I try to build momentum by taking small steps to solve one problem at a time rather than trying to solve a larger number of problems in one go.
What opportunities do you see with legal innovation?
The biggest opportunity for me is to use process and technology to change the way that I work, by removing the parts of my role that I don’t enjoy so that I can spend more time doing the parts that I do. Key to that is providing customers with access to information so that they can make good decisions without the need for actual legal support. The use of collaborative tools will enable external legal providers to gain a better understanding of our business which should lead to improved legal services. I also see a huge opportunity in litigation which is one area where I see so much waste in terms of time and cost and I’m hopeful that the uptake of products like LawVu for transparently planning litigation process and strategy, and the online court process being driven by Judge David Harvey, will get some real traction.
With greater adoption of tech and more innovation, how do you see your role evolving in the future?
Technology and innovation are building capacity within the team so I see more work being brought back in-house, in particular being able to effectively unbundle projects will mean that only the truly specialised work will need to be outsourced. We are also starting to gather some useful and accurate data around the work that we are doing and I am sure this will lead to a stronger strategic aspect to my role.
LawFest is focused on innovation and tech in the legal profession, why do you think it’s important for legal professionals to attend an event like LawFest?
I attended the 2017 event and was impressed by the quality of speakers and exhibitors, and the wide range of attendees. It creates quality time so that you can give some real thought to new ideas, network with like-minded people and ask the exhibitors some real hard questions.