Kevin Clem of HBR Consulting LLC sees in-house law departments driving change with legal technology and dragging law firms reluctantly behind them.
Trevor Faure, former global chief legal officer at Ernst & Young and now CEO at consultancy Smarter Law Solutions in London, agreed, saying many corporations are at the cutting edge of using technology to drive the business. Law firms, Faure said, are more conservative.
But Mark Yacano of Major, Lindsey & Africa begs to differ. Yacano believes major law firms are actually leading the way on artificial intelligence, while in-house counsel avoid risk and await the benefit of a law firm shake out.
“It’s popular to say that law firms are too wedded to the billable hour,” Yacano said in a recent interview. “I don’t think that means law firms aren’t going to find a way to deliver legal services more efficiently and faster.”
As global leader of managed legal services at his recruiting and advisory company, Yacano works with both law firms and in-house departments. He said law firms are becoming very aggressive about technology adoption and experimentation.
He cited law firms that are sponsoring hackathons. Others, he said, are creating legal apps that their clients can use, such as one that allows clients to question whether certain conduct might violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or another that answers managers’ questions about whether an employee in specific circumstances must be paid overtime.
“Law firms are spending investment dollars to innovate and service clients more effectively,” he argued. “You are seeing firm leaders coming in with adaptive mentalities, and it will create a safer, riper environment for corporate law departments because [new technology] will be battle-tested by the law firms.”