Meet Capacity, a new application built and launched by Dentons associate William Dougherty. It helps law firms allocate work and increases junior lawyer autonomy over what they do. It could also potentially reduce unconscious bias in the way partners allocate work.
Dentons is about to trial the system and Dougherty remains a lawyer at the global firm, working in the TMT group. He was a trainee when he came up with the idea, and while still working at the firm has now reached the point of hiring the company’s first employee.
Dougherty explained to Artificial Lawyer that it addresses a core challenge that young lawyers face, namely having no control over the work they take on, while for the partners it helps them to find the right associates with the right skill sets when they have availability.
As the system is keeping track of who is doing what and when, it also creates useful dashboards showing activity levels across a group of lawyers. This helps to prevent partners over-relying on whoever is most willing to work incessantly and gives insights into how the whole team is performing.
‘Many people care more about autonomy over their work than pay or flexible working,’ Dougherty added, noting that the application can empower junior associates as work allocation is no longer as random as it can sometimes appear to be.
‘This results in more efficient work delivery, a reduction in the number of overworked employees, fairer work distribution – and addresses diversity and inclusion by removing unconscious bias – and has the potential to save businesses millions of pounds in opportunity costs,’ he added.
It works like this: someone will create a task, the task will land on you if you have the right capabilities for it, and the application also shows both current and future availability. Associates are chosen for the task based on this data and the work can then commence.
There are several positives here. First, this looks to be a very useful application, especially during a time when many lawyers are out of the office and partners who are handing out work may not have detailed insights into who is available to take on new projects. It also conversely reduces the flow of work to just a handful of people, who perhaps willingly or not, get hit with project after project, while others – who may have a better skill set and more time available – are ignored.
It’s also proof that Dentons’ focus on legal tech is real, in that they will be testing out software that was created by one of their own junior lawyers and that goes to the heart of the business. So kudos to the firm for doing this.
As to what happens next with the company, Dougherty has some interesting choices ahead, but it looks like he is very serious about taking this startup onwards and upwards.
I’d love to see an article that examines (or speculates on) the potential downsides of “unbiased work allocation.”