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Driving into a new age of dispute resolution

Aaron Wenner

The Canadian Legal Innovation Forum (CANLIF) recently held a webinar on delivering better litigation results with legal expertise, enhanced process management, and technology. I had the wonderful opportunity to chair the panel and gained many important insights.

This webinar covered our speakers’ evolving approaches when it comes to technology utilization in dispute resolution. I was joined by some whip-smart people within the legal industry, including:

Brent Arnold, Partner at Gowling WLG

Jennifer Thompson Head of Osler Works – Disputes

Kelly Friedman, Senior Counsel and National Leader, Beyond eDiscovery, Borden Ladner Gervais

Mark Doble, CEO & Founder of Alexsei

The webinar gave insight into how each speaker is uniquely incorporating technology into dispute resolution. Hearing perspectives from the vendor side and from the client-informed legal professionals provided for rich discussion and highlighted the symbiotic relationship between product providers and product users. This underlined the fact that we need legal technology that is strong, efficient, and focused on the Canadian market. However, having these intelligent tech tools is only half of the battle: we must also find a way to get lawyers interested through ongoing positive messaging and demonstrate the value of these tools to clients.   

Success looks like good vendor—client relationships

As vendors, our job is to constantly innovate, improve, and invent in a cost-effective way that satisfies the customer. This means that vendors shouldn’t solely rely completely on customers for feedback to improve. However, it does mean that vendors should seek feedback in order to better understand the problems their technology can solve and then implement that feedback. Jennifer Thompson pointed to CiteRight’s relationship with Osler as an example of this. CiteRight and Osler’s relationship began while our features were still developing. This allowed us to directly tinker with our product in response to the feedback we received in a way that had a direct impact on the way that Osler’s staff use CiteRight. 

Maintaining a positive relationship with customers and being attentive to what is being asked really pays off. People often jump to legal tech without understanding the problem. Thus, a lot of the technology offered is focused on efficiency rather than making the job easier. If we as innovators aren’t listening to what the customer’s problems are and not working together to reach a solution, how can we be successful? 

Market Dynamics for Legal Tech are Diverse

Lawyers want cheaper, faster technology all the time, and price pressure often falls on the lawyers to be competitive. Some clients don’t want to pay for legal technology. Because the era of legal technology is still young, some clients are in an infant stage and don’t know much about the technology out there or its full value while, on the other hand, some know exactly what they want. 

The importance of getting clients to recognize the utility of legal tech is paramount. Kelly Friedman explained that the proliferation of data means that there is a need to remove humans from the loop in order to streamline work processes and improve efficiency. Doing this, and thereby lowering the costs associated with billable hours for clients, may cost more up front in the technology implementation stage. Keeping lines of communication open with clients is essential to ensure that costs are fairly distributed amongst parties.

“If we’re going to get a ferrari, drive it like a ferrari!” 

Selecting technologies can be a challenge.. Once technologies are accepted, adopting legal technology can be a challenge for firms even when users are enthusiastic and malleable. Kelly Friedman suggested that these challenges are alleviated by leadership support for new tools and by consistent user-focused messaging about when and how to use technology effectively. Using technologies to the fullest of their capabilities is an important aspect of ensuring user satisfaction. Kelly Friedman explained that her team at Borden Ladner Gervais strives to do this by “driving Ferraris like Ferraris”. In other words, if you’re going to invest in a cutting-edge, high-powered piece of tech, utilize the aspects of it that make it cutting edge! At BLG, this means using all the potential capabilities of their ediscovery platform, including analytics. 

Driving into the new age of legal technology

A common misconception is that the legal sector is hesitant to adopt new technology. Brent Arnold explained that the contemporary reality is that leaders in the legal sector have been thinking about how technology can help manage data proliferation for twenty years. Now that exciting tools are rapidly emerging, judges and lawyers have been open to adopting electronic resources. This is especially true considering how the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the legal sector into a new landscape of accelerated technologization and digitization, but the long-term discussions that have been ongoing about new technology bode well for the future of legal technology. 

The need for affordable and efficient legal services will always be there. Brent Arnold emphasized the importance of consistently asking how we can economize legal services and legal technology to keep pricing competitive. On the vendor side, Mark Doble pointed to the vitality of focusing on the quality of your product and solving problems for lawyers. What we as innovators must continue to do is come up with new ways to push the innovation agenda, because our limits extend far beyond what our clients can envision. Better litigation results require a marriage between legal knowledge and efficient execution. As innovators, we can contribute to this by enhancing processes and providing effective technology tools. 

This webinar was brimming with insights about taking full advantage of the burgeoning legal technology landscape to optimize and improve litigation workflows. These kinds of exchanges of ideas between vendors and customers are incredibly fruitful. I look forward to opportunities to have valuable conversations like this one in the future. 

Watch the webinar here.

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