Legal Innovators Speaker Profiles: Shilpa Bhandarkar, Linklaters

Previously we looked at what Linklaters is doing with generative AI, today we hear from Shilpa Bhandarkar, who is co-head of the Client Solutions and Innovation team at the global law firm, about her role and how legal innovation is taking shape there, ranging from the importance of KM and completing foundational work processes first, to how to handle change management – and of course some more about the power of AI.

Shilpa is also one of many great speakers attending the Legal Innovators conference in London on Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th November. The interview is below. For more information about the event and tickets, please see here.

What is your role and how did you get into this field?

I co-head the Client Solutions and Innovation team at Linklaters. I’m also responsible for CreateiQ, our proprietary contracting platform, and I co-chair our Generative AI Steering Group.

In plain English, I lead all the teams dedicated to looking at new and innovative ways of working that will enable us to deliver legal services in a more powerful, client-centric way. Much of this involves leveraging technology – ‘old’ and emerging – and the rest is good old-fashioned change management. 

I got into this field by typing ‘legal tech’ into circa January 2017 and then taking a punt on a role that caught my eye. Much of my journey since then has been about being open to new opportunities, doing work I feel passionately about and find intellectually interesting with people I enjoy working with.

How much do you think your role will change in the next five years?

Safe to say that while I have no idea what my role will be in 5 years, I know it will be different to what I’m doing today – and in a good way. I love that I work in a firm that is constantly moving forward and that gives me new and interesting opportunities to grow with it.

Do you think that we have reached a ’new era’ for legal innovation, with forces such as generative AI, standardisation, and rethinking legal work catalysing real change?

In some very specific ways, yes. This ‘new’ era has brought legal innovation into the spotlight. For the first time that I can remember, literally everyone is talking about it (generative AI in particular) – clients, management, lawyers in private practice and inhouse, and business teams.

The slight irony is that all the attention has highlighted (finally!?) that to make the best use of any new technology or innovation we have to invest in foundational work that many would consider ‘boring’. For example, process mapping transactions and workflows, standardising templates, and aggregating precedents in a single space. These are the foundations of innovation, but tend to get little attention because they’re not particularly new or ‘shiny’.

Standardisation is a good example. It has been around for decades (ISDA Create has been built on standardised derivatives contracts; Bonterms and the oneNDA are more recent examples of standardised commercial contracts).

I guess the ‘new’ era is giving those of us who’ve been in the space for a while the freedom and resources we need to get the ‘old’ boring stuff done – and that’s where the real change will happen.

How much has improving KM and data analytics inside the business helped the firm to perform better?

Hugely. As is true of any professional services firm, our real differentiators are our people and our institutional knowledge base. As the legal technology and AI ecosystem become increasingly democratised, data – whether that is contractual, knowhow or business intelligence data – becomes the only proprietary and protected ‘asset’ we have.

We started on that journey many years ago when we launched Matter Explorer, and what Sophie Mathur said then, still applies: ‘It’s all about getting our arms around the knowledge that we possess, which, next to our people, is the greatest asset that we have. Our aim is to access our expertise and deliver it to our clients with greater efficiency in an era when the world is demanding a much more empirical approach to data. The individual experience of one lawyer is no longer enough. Matter Explorer allows us to be rigorous in the way in which we exploit what we know.’

Figuring out how to meaningfully leverage our own knowhow and data using newer technologies like generative AI is where the future is.

And finally, if you had one message you’d like to share about how to achieve successful change management in relation to legal innovation, what would it be?

‘This is a game of implementation. Only 15% of the job is figuring out what to do. Making it happen-that is where the action is.’ Prof. F. Warren McFarlan is quoted as having said this and I couldn’t agree more.

We should be spending 15% of our time, energy and resources on the idea generating side of innovation and 85% on the change management side of things. I think when we get that balance right, initiatives succeed – but very rarely have I seen that happen.

Thanks Shilpa, looking forward to hearing you speak at Legal Innovators on 8 and 9 November next week!

Legal Innovators Conference – London – Nov 8 and 9

The Legal Innovators conference will be a landmark event exploring a range of key issues with high-level speakers from across the legal innovation ecosystem. The event will take place on 8 + 9 November in London. Day One: law firms and ALSPs, Day Two: inhouse and legal ops. 

For tickets, please see here.

Here is a list of our great speakers so far: please see here

And here are the wonderful group of sponsors: please see here.

While for general information: please see here.

The two-day event comes at a time of significant change for the legal market and we will be bringing you engaging panels and presentations where leading experts really dig into the issues of the day, from generative AI, to the evolution of ALSPs, to law firm innovation teams in this new era for legal tech, to how empowered legal ops groups and pioneering GCs are making a real impact. And as always, I’ll be there and chairing the event. 

See you on November 8 & 9 !