When lawyers at Linklaters have a new job they try to carry out what Greg Baker, the firm’s Global Head of Practice Innovation, calls matter architecting. This means understanding all the work streams and what tech from its ‘workbench’ will be required.
‘We ask ourselves: how do we set this up? We have a tech workbench [which provides tools] for each part of a transaction. We look at what is the blueprint for this deal,’ he explained.
So, for example, there is an M&A transaction. Multiple factors may play into this. The size of the deal, how multi-national it is, and the speed requirement from the client. The firm can then tap its project management capabilities and pricing teams, perhaps its legal ops group, and naturally the main body of lawyers; but when it comes to the tech they are also organised. It’s not an ad hoc experience depending on random factors – they’ve mapped it out beforehand.
‘Naturally, we have a core tool kit, (e.g. Outlook, Word, Teams, OneNote), but we also have a toolkit of bespoke tools. So, for example, we have a menu [of legal tech tools] by transaction phase,’ Baker said.
This helps both the lawyers at Linklaters and the client. He added that by understanding up front which software applications you will need for each matter, and moreover each phase of that matter, it allows you to ‘drill down into an optimised delivery model’.
Baker noted that they are able to quickly gauge when they are going to need something like Kira, for example, and where a particular part of the matter may involve ‘just five documents but that are relevant across 30 countries’ so you need a project manager on that part of the deal more than anything else. They also may find they don’t need any of the branded legal AI doc review tools and can achieve what’s needed with the review capabilities offered by Microsoft Azure.
The key point is to take a ‘matter architecture’ perspective, where you have prior knowledge of what to apply and then how to apply it. It’s not haphazard. It’s not always just depending on how a partner feels that day. There is a plan.
This leads to another key point: standardisation. In this case, not standardising the work product itself, but rather having a blueprint in place that is detailed and flexible enough to be useful in a wide range of cases, but which is also repeatable and distinct enough to be a standard way of doing ‘X’.
‘We have shown it’s possible to get a group of lawyers to standardise around a common pain point,’ Baker said.
And this makes a lot of sense. Although there is a lot of variability and complexity in the work a firm such as Linklaters does, this does not mean you cannot bring order to the processes that produce the output.
Baker noted that this is about developing simplicity. ‘I want our lawyers to quickly and confidently make a decision about [the use of] tech,’ he noted.
‘It’s about taking something that is complex and distilling that,’ he added.
There is a lot of skill in doing this, as well as a lot of knowledge of the tools involved. After all, you cannot provide the partners with a detailed and highly useable workbench of tech tools if you just hand out a list of all the software licences you have. You need to really know which tool is best for which part of the job.
To continue the Linklaters’ analogy of the workbench, it’s like a carpenter with a range of tools clipped to the wall, and knowing how each tool – although they may look a bit similar – can improve the outcome of the work in a distinct way.
Aside from providing the lawyers at the firm with a better approach to leveraging tech, and hopefully removing some of the more tedious work from the associates, what this does is also give the client a level of predictability.
‘Clients know that they will get the same experience again,’ Baker said. ‘That said, every client is different, and that is why we have project managers. So, it’s a flexible model.’
But, overall, the goal is to make sure the client also has a good experience when working with Linklaters. That way, they keep on coming back.
We talked about a lot of other things, such as the firm’s overall tech stack, but after speaking to many other law firms over the years about how their partners pick legal tech tools this is certainly one of the more organised approaches this site has seen, e.g. to have a pre-made legal tech blueprint that covers the various parts of each transaction.
Of course, it makes total sense. When you consider how many software licences law firms have, and how much of this tech then languishes unused, or is only spun up at the random whim of a partner, or perhaps because of client curiosity, it’s clear that a properly organised approach is needed.
A law firm would never randomly throw a little-understood contract template into a client matter. Why do law firms sometimes throw legal tech tools randomly at a problem? The answer is that while lawyers rightly feel they should be totally on top of the legal product they provide the client, they don’t always feel the same way about the process of making that product.
Yet, this site would argue that ‘how’ you make something is almost as important as ‘what’ you make. In this case, Linklaters is putting its resources into truly understanding the how and then making that available to all involved in the end product. One could say that the motto here is: be prepared.