Monet Fauntleroy caught the tech bug back when she was at school. She got into coding and ‘fell in love with tech and its potential’ she tells Artificial Lawyer.
As a former lawyer she’s able to oversee issues pertaining to both legal and tech matters, and innovation in particular. So, it makes sense to ask her: what is your definition of innovation?
Fauntleroy has plenty of insights into this area, which are based on experience. Most recently she worked at White & Case as a Senior Manager for Practice Innovation. The New York-based expert will also soon be announcing a new role at another major law firm.
‘The goal of innovation is to determine a significant lead in improving the way we do things. Certainly there is the idea of continuous improvement and the goal of process improvement. We continuously look for ways to make incremental changes. [But] innovation in itself indicates that there’s a notion of gravitas or significance in the change,’ she explains.
‘Often we, or people who are looking to innovate, have a notion that small changes are sufficient, but I think the reason why innovation is [noteworthy] is because of the weight and the significance of the change,’ she adds.
Asked what she considers to be some of the really innovative stuff she has come across while working inside law firms, she says: ‘The ability to leverage some of the point solutions that allow us to create AI models to discover patterns [in contracts] has been a real innovation.’
“Innovation in itself indicates that there’s a notion of gravitas or significance in the change.”
Working With Start-Ups
Although the legal tech industry has made great strides, there are still issues that need ironing out on the tech adoption front. For one, Fauntleroy believes it would be useful for legal tech start-ups to be better prepared to work with law firms on matters such as data security.
‘There are certainly lots of start-ups who are able to develop their products quite quickly through the use of cloud technologies, but don’t quite anticipate the challenges of integrating that cloud technology into a large law firm infrastructure and how they might need – to be frank – to up their game when it comes to security, in order to be positioned for us to be able to use that technology with our clients’ data,’ she explains.
‘I think more and more people are becoming aware of how to mature their products and their own processes to accommodate a large law firm…, but that is still a challenge we face.’
The start-ups are ‘not all terrible at it’ she stresses, but there are certainly things they may not realise are not flexible on the law firms’ end, she says.
‘It’s not necessarily the law firm trying to be difficult, it’s just us trying to make sure that we’ve adhered to the most strict constraints [that are] reasonable, and I think as the market matures that will become less and less of a challenge. But certainly it is a non-trivial one right now.’
Creating, or introducing, a new tech product or service can be an exciting aspect of innovation. But once that’s achieved, the other factor to consider is sustaining innovation.
Fauntleroy recommends setting up a system staffed with dedicated individuals geared to keep driving things forward.
‘In order to sustain innovation, you need a dedicated set of people whose focus is solely on the next thing.
‘[You have] people who are focused on maintaining the status quo of the things that you’ve made. And then [you need] a separate group of people who are not concerned with the way things are right now, but are fully focused on: ‘Right, that thing we made was great, but what does that thing we made need to look like in three years?’’
And that’s a great way of looking at managing change, i.e. a law firm should have one team to maintain those new applications or processes that have been implemented, and another team who are focused on what’s next and how things can be improved. In short, these are two different jobs. So, you need two different teams to do this work.
People, Process & Technology
People often mention the trinity of ‘People, Process and Technology’ when they explain how innovation works – but is that all there is to it?
‘I think there is also the idea that innovation may upend one of those three things,’ she says.
‘There may be a way of doing something right now that requires all three, [but then] some innovation might take just two of those things and make the same process possible, or change the process, [and so] you’ve actually turned it on its head,’ she said.
‘So, certainly innovation touches those three things, but we have seen points where the innovation is just technology and in some ways has removed people, [and] removed the process.
‘It is fair to recognise that there have been points in the past 10 years, certainly outside of law firms, where technology subsumes all three things. Those three things are certainly what we consider, but it’s likely that the innovation may not necessarily bring all three things to the next stage,’ she concludes.
Wherever Fauntleroy is going next, it sounds like they will be lucky to have her there.
By Irene Madongo.
If you’re interested in the field of innovation in the legal world, then come along to the Legal Innovators conference in London on 11 October, where you will hear from a range of leading experts, across a wide range of law firms and companies.