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Does innovation need to be disruptive?

I recently attended two seminars on legal innovation: JD Horizons and Law Council of Australia World Masters of Law Firm Management.

Both conferences focused on how innovation is affecting law firms today, and on what it will mean for them in the future.

With the emergence of technologies such as block chain, smart contracts, machine learning and artificial intelligence, there is no doubt that the legal profession will undergo a massive transformation over the next few years.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word innovate as ‘[to] make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products’.

Firms of all sizes are having to investigate different ways of using innovative solutions to ensure they remain competitive in the digital era. Teams of legal technologists, computer scientists, junior lawyers and vendors are desperately searching for the next ‘big thing’ in legal technology.

Having worked in the legal industry for over 20 years, I’ve noticed how lawyers tend to resist any kind of change. They’re also likely to be risk averse. This is understandable. A lawyer’s life is framed by precedent and tradition. They also spend a lot of time identifying risks. While this gives them superb analytical skills, it also turns them into intellectual piranhas. Lawyers just can’t help themselves from ripping apart new ideas.

I think talking about a fear of change within the legal profession misses the point. Rather than trying to force lawyers to accept radical changes, the question everyone working with them should be asking is: Does innovation necessarily have to disrupt the way in which lawyers normally work?

After giving it some thought, I’ve concluded

that the most effective way of introducing an innovative idea into a law firm

is to consider basing the change on a process or procedure

the lawyer already uses.

Speech recognition software, when used in conjunction with BigHand Dictate, has proven very successful in increasing a legal professional’s efficiency with minimal disruption to the way they already work.

For example, a lawyer can dictate a letter or file note, just as they normally do. However, instead of adding the file to the queue of other jobs their support staff or word processing operator is slowly ploughing their way through, they can send it to the speech recognition server.

The server then ‘automagically’ returns the dictation typed and ready for review. The process involves no real change for the lawyer but is a more efficient way of creating a written version of the document.

In a recent article published in Lawyers Weekly, Mullins Lawyers estimated they have reduced the workload of their legal secretarial staff by 15–20% through the introduction of speech recognition software.

This innovative way of dealing with document production has been beneficial on two levels: their lawyers haven’t been deterred from making changes because they require too radical a step; and it has freed up the legal secretarial staff to spend time on cultivating key client relationships and improving staff morale overall.

So, as I asked back in June, when is the right time to introduce speech recognition into your firm? How about now?

This post was originally published as a LinkedIn post by James Bible on August 19, 2016.

About the author: James Bible is Sales Manager, Asia Pacific at Big Hand


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