Milan Dalal of the Brook Intelligence Centre has a long history of helping professional services firms innovate and manage change. Before creating the Brook Intelligence Centre back in 2008 he was at the helm of a number of large legal and accounting businesses.
Now, he provides large and mid-tier legal firms with insights and board level consultancy on market trends and practice heads with business intelligence. He has been a close observer of innovation and the changing technology landscape and he shares with Spiranti his thoughts.
Technology has always played a role in modern law firms, dominated historically by a small handful of firms and products. But the past 24 months have seen a real explosion in new entrants, in genuine innovation by legal businesses, and demand from clients.
The pace of change is only going to increase, says Milan Dalal of the Brook Intelligence Centre.
“I have seen, particularly in the last 12 months, more and more law firms asking us for our thoughts on legal innovation and technology,” says Dalal. “Law firms want to know what their competitors, what the Big Four accountancy firms, and the alternative legal providers are all doing.
“We have been tracking deals and data alongside the changing business models adopted by law firms, publishing a report every three months that we and our clients can use. And activity levels are really heating-up.”
One of the big themes to emerge in recent months is the use of blockchain and smart contracts, with activity driven primarily by the Big Four accountants.
“Lawyers,” says Dalal, “have been slow on the uptake of the opportunities smart contacts offer on blockchain technology. The Big Four have been creating blockchain products for a number of years and are stealing a lead and law firms should be getting in on the act with larger developers on the smart contract front. And that really does have big implications as they muscle in on the traditional law firm territory.”
But where law firms do perform well is with client facing technology utilizing AI and machine learning. Early adopters have been able to play the field and gain an advantage on their peers.
“We are seeing a wide mix of technology being explored and adopted – even chatbots to help clients navigate GDPR compliance,” says Dalal.
Law firms are also investing in start-up technology companies, with a number of firms creating dedicated incubator spaces – Mishcon de Reya and its MDR Lab and Allen & Overy’s Fuse being two examples. Even the most conservative of firms, Slaughter and May, are making moves.
“Law firms would have typically purchased off the shelf technology platforms and adapted it to their own demands or developing bespoke platforms themselves,” explains Dalal. “Investing in promising tech companies is a third way and potentially a lucrative one.”
Lawyers and law firms are often given a hard time over the take-up and use of technology. The joke about wanting a lawyer who is able to use Microsoft Word and email is wearing thin. Law firms are embracing new technology that will change their business models and in doing so will deliver better support to clients.
“It will,” says Dalal, “lead to new business models and new ways of working. Importantly, though, it will allow lawyers to move to the high value adviser role – something we have been talking about for over a decade.”
Brook Intelligence Centre
Article by Matt Baldwin
Tel: 01233 503200 / 07930 439739