Tech, Transformation & Talent – BCLP’s Business Academy

By Nick Pryor, Regional Innovation Solutions Director EMEA & Asia at global law firm BCLP

Regular readers of Artificial Lawyer will be familiar with the challenge of accurate positioning of new technologies. How can we, as advocates of LegalTech, ensure that our colleagues don’t expect any panaceas, nor dismiss new technologies as a distracting hype bubble?

How do we efficiently identify, evaluate, and pursue rich opportunities for effective deployment of new technology; and establish frameworks to execute around a balanced application of technology, people, and process?

That was the overriding objective of BCLP’s 2019 Business Academy, the firm’s award-winning technology and innovation programme. The two-day event, held at the Tanner Warehouse in Bermondsey, London, was developed for Associates around the 2-4PQE level and peers from across the firm’s Business Services divisions. External contributors included Thomson Reuters, Richard Susskind, and in-house colleagues from Deliveroo, FleetCorp and What3Words.

The agenda was structured around a careful sequence of open and closed thinking phases.  The early sessions discussed the transformative impact of technology on legal services to date.  It also looked at the mid- to long-term disruptive implications for the legal professions resulting from the relentless improvement in transformative technologies – including those in the machine learning, workflow, expert systems, and analytics spaces.

This ‘big picture’ session opened up the conversation for the attendees, to reflect on how the role of a lawyer has been and continues to evolve; and to consider the broader skillsets – or multidisciplinary team structures – that are essential to modern and future legal service provision.

It also contributed to a rich discussion on the value of low code platforms such as Fliplet, HighQ, Bryter, Neota Logic, Mendix and others as a flexible toolkit for service design projects; as well as the strategic role of BCLP’s own proprietary CrossLite platform.

This divergent thinking stage was immediately followed with a more closed-thinking session, trying to put the technological ‘art of the possible’ into the context of the participants’ practice groups.  The attendees were taken through the core principles and frameworks underpinning an MBA programme, from Porter’s Five Forces to the development of a Strategy Canvas to preparation of a Key Asset Map.

This session was immediately followed by a client panel session giving insights into the broader perspectives of an in-house lawyer and the ways in which their requirements and expectations for their external counsel are expanding, in part as a result of the proliferation of data. The participants were then invited to reflect on those workstreams within their own expertise that might be most receptive to redesign or which could be most heavily impacted through application of technology.

Whilst technology was a core theme of the programme, the lawyers were actively encouraged to focus less on the individual tools on offer and more on improving their ability to identify client problems which are amenable to fresh, innovative approaches (of which technology may be part of the solution).

To that end, the centrepiece for Day Two was a Design Thinking workshop facilitated by Thomson Reuters’ Labs team. The lawyers were invited to review a series of common workstreams and processes, to identify and prioritise widespread pain points and to explore ways in which we can not only improve efficiency, but also elevate the quality and value proposition of that process.  

To close the workshop, each team pitched their favoured idea back to the group.  Every pitch focused on meeting the needs of their clients, re-thinking the current realities of how to get things done in their firm and deliver a better experience through better use of technology and process.  

The greatest challenges for the LegalTech community often lie in mapping capable technologies against compelling use cases and in driving the change to process required in order to capitalise on those opportunities.  The Business Academy has proven a keynote event in BCLP’s efforts to address those challenges.  The ideas pitched by this year’s participants have already sparked several new initiatives across the firm and established a richer contextual appreciation for the value of machine learning, workflow and automation tools in legal service delivery.  

Ironically, part of the reason this programme has been so successful is because of a conscious effort to talk less about technology in specific terms.  By re-focussing the conversation around client problems and encouraging lateral thinking it makes it much easier to establish the true contextual utility of innovative new technologies and, paradoxically, to increase the number of well-defined use cases.

About the Author

Nick Pryor, Regional Innovation Solutions Director – EMEA & Asia at global law firm BCLP, responsible for driving strategic transformation of BCLP’s legal services in the region through innovative use of technology, people and process.

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