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The annual Legal Geek conference is always interesting, energetic, and a great event to get a real feel for the evolving mindset and sentiment driving technology, change, and innovation in the sector.

From the standpoint of data management and artificial intelligence (AI), it’s heartening to see that the sector’s approach to the technology is slowly, but surely maturing.

Excitement over core, early-stage gains such as efficiency and productivity (under the garb of innovation) is giving way to a realisation that the technology can genuinely be used to solve real‐world, seriously wicked business problems. My conversations with law firms and in‐house legal departments at the event centered around issues like using the technology for service delivery and tangible cost savings, change management, realistic long-term project timeframes, and so on.

Hashtag ‘bring back boring’ some might say, but when a concept or technology is discussed for adoption at scale, you know it’s coming into its own!

Differences in adoption of AI between the UK and the US came to the fore too. Aside from litigation analytics where the US sector is ahead, the UK market feels considerably more advanced in its adoption of technology (with some notable exceptions) for service delivery, intelligent contract management and repapering. Or maybe that’s just the British vibe …

While LIBOR is the poster child for contract repapering today, corporate legal departments are adopting a similar approach to understanding their business portfolios using AI to determine things like revenue leakage, factors driving risk, and areas for cost reduction. Many of these organisations have had to restructure due to innovation, regulation, or indeed broader disruption in their sectors and hence are using these concepts of repapering and intelligent contract management with AI to initiate cultural transformation in the business.

There’s also a great deal of interest among organisations to completely revamp their knowledge management programmes, starting right from defining what the term practically represents for the business – as AI-based knowledge, process, and business metrics collide.

The legal sector also will do well to study how trailblazing industries such as banking, insurance, shipping and transportation have successfully undertaken data/AI and more broad technology‐led business innovation programmes at scale. Interestingly, at one of the presentations at Legal Geek, the speaker put up a slide with at least 60 titles of project terminologies in the legal sector – e.g. legal innovation, legal project management, legal contract management and so on.

For innovation success, it’s time the legal industry stepped outside its silo to take a more holistic and best practice approach from outside the industry – i.e. the client industries they serve.

To illustrate, in the banking industry, the bankers aren’t driving transformation projects, specialist professionals have been brought in to lead and resource the specific programmes. Then why are lawyers/ex lawyers in law firms recruited as project leads to drive IT transformation agendas? Projects must be resourced with the right expertise and skills, and such innovation projects need sector agnostic IT professionals to lead them, including data architects, service designers, user experience specialists, change management experts, and AI specialists.

All food for thought and improvement, but it’s encouraging to see that the needle is definitely moving in the legal sector when it comes to IT and more specifically AI.

iManage RAVN provides an AI platform that firms can use to unlock knowledge across their documents so they can realize such benefits and continue to move that needle.

About the author

Alex Smith

Alex is the Global Product Management Lead for iManage RAVN. He has over 20 years of experience in product management and service design, including new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, semantic search and linked data, as well as content management. Prior to iManage, Alex has held positions at Reed Smith LLP and LexisNexis UK.