In this episode of LawTech Industry Insiders, Bryher Rose is joined by Adam Hunter, a legal tech IGNITE Trainee Solicitor at Clifford Chance, who was recently recognised as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Junior Lawyers in the UK by The Legal Technologist Magazine. During his training contract, Adam has worked in the Real Estate, TMT (Technology, Media and Telecoms) and Financial Institutions teams and he has completed a client secondment at Amazon. Fun fact – he was also an extra in ITV's Downton Abbey!
When did you first become interested in legal tech?
I became interested in legal tech in my final year of university when I had an idea to modernise the traditional legal recruitment 'milk round’ and help make it more accessible to students from under-represented backgrounds using technology. I built and launched an AI-based chatbot that provided students with free application advice and connected them to graduate recruitment teams. In its first year, the chatbot was used by over 2000 students across several universities and I had the opportunity to partner with eight international law firms.
Legal Technology and Innovation
Why is legal technology and innovation important?
There are four key reasons why I think legal technology and innovation is important:
● Being more client-centric – Legal tech provides us with an opportunity to challenge traditional methods of providing legal advice. Instead of sending advice to clients in Word documents, Excel tables and emails, we can consider whether it is more useful to communicate our advice to clients through tools such as online portals and interactive trackers.
● Creating a lower cost structure – At Clifford Chance, we are always looking to make our processes as efficient as possible, by reducing the more mundane tasks and automating or outsourcing some of these. This includes integrating tools such as document automation (e.g. CC Dr@ft), machine-learning contract review (e.g. Kira) and e-signing platforms (e.g. DocUSign). Ultimately, this allows us to offer more competitive fee arrangements to clients.
● Supporting in-house legal teams – A lot of our clients come to us with global, complex issues. By designing and offering new products and solutions, we can have closer relationships with clients, where we are more integrated into their processes and better positioned to support their in-house legal teams with their most pressing legal and commercial challenges.
● Looking to influence the future of the legal industry – Some of our ideas are best described as 'blue sky thinking'. Perhaps they aren't ready for our clients yet but as legal advisers, we want to anticipate our clients' future needs and be apart of shaping the future of the legal industry.
As an IGNITE trainee solicitor, what are you working on?
The main projects that I am working on at the minute revolve around implementing new processes to collect and analyse data. Data is really important and provides lots of opportunities for us. Collecting and analysing data is also what I would describe as the key 'bread and butter' foundations for a good legal tech strategy. Data is required to support a business case for new ideas. At a law firm, these insights also help us in various ways; for example, to identify inefficiencies, as well as predict future work patterns.
On a day to day level, I work with a lot of teams to discuss how we can make transactions more efficient and also design new products, particularly in the areas of data protection and cybersecurity. A lot of my work as an Ignite trainee is about changing perceptions of legal technology and helping colleagues and partners see the value proposition of legal tech, so they can have key conversations with clients that lead to new opportunities for us as a firm.
Training Contract Advice
What would be your advice to students who want to learn more about legal technology and innovation?
- Look to other industries for inspiration - My top tip would be to look at businesses in other industries and see how they have used technology to transform and grow. A lot of my inspiration comes from looking at tech strategies that other companies have adopted and considering if these ideas can be applied to Clifford Chance. In particular, I would recommend the Stratechery blog or Harvard Business Review's Exponential View podcast, which are accessible ways of learning about the strategy and business side of technology. It's also great if you can then test some of your ideas by signing up for a legal hackathon!
- Keep an eye out for developments in the legal tech market – I wouldn't worry too much about conducting detailed research on the legal tech market (unless you are super interested!). However, it is useful to understand what technology is out there and any general trends in the market. I would recommend blogs by Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, The Legal Technologist and The Artificial Lawyer. The biggest legal tech conference of the year is also coming up in June - Legal Geek - it is a free, online Conference with TED-style talks and workshops. I'll be attending and would recommend signing up!
What skills are important for students to learn?
- Coding is not required – A lot of students ask me if they need to be able to code to apply to the IGNITE training contract. Coding is not required. I rarely code as part of my training contract (only as a hobby) and we have IT specialists who can help build tech solutions in the firm. What I think is more important is understanding the different tools that are out there so that you can make suggestions such as "perhaps we can provide that using an app" or "maybe we can use an API" etc. There are quite a few online courses and short YouTube videos that can help get you up to speed on the latest tech that businesses are adopting.
- Learn how products are developed – Entrepreneurship is the process of turning ideas into actual products or services and when it occurs in large corporations this is often referred to as intrapreneurship. Being able to understand this process of how to turn an idea into reality (from idea, to prototype, to launch and beyond!) is super important. A great starting point is the book “The Lean Startup” which has a lot of principles you can apply as a legal tech trainee.
How should legal tech be discussed in a training contract interview?
- Remember it is a legal training contract interview first and foremost - Don't forget that legal tech is an important topic that is likely to come up in your interview but it is unlikely to be the main or sole topic for discussion. It is important that you understand the firm you are applying to, can talk about your skills and experiences and also demonstrate your interest in law and commercial awareness.
- Show you understand the implications of legal technology – Technology provides a lot of opportunities for firms and their clients. However, it also has a lot of challenges and you must be able to show that you understand the implications of legal tech when discussing your ideas. A key concern is often cybersecurity!
- Appreciate that your initial ideas may not be good ones – Often our ideas are not perfect the first time around. Your interviewer may have more experience and provide a new perspective that you had not considered. Designing legal technology is a process. It involves learning, testing and validating your ideas step by step. Be prepared to 'pivot' or redesign your ideas as the interview progresses.