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21 Nov 2016

Exploring the Path to Innovation for Legal Professionals

Simon Yeowart

As a Program Director, I often get asked how I decide on what goes into the Legal Innovation & Tech Fest program each year. While finding the people and organisations with the best stories is an important part of putting the event together, what many people don’t realise is that the research process starts long before the event planning even begins – usually 6 months out from the conference – when we get the community together in a series of roundtable discussion groups (or RTDs).

It’s in these RTDs that we uncover and unpack the most pressing issues that are facing legal professionals. The challenges that keep them up at night and often prevent them from moving their teams and businesses forward.

Each roundtable discussion group involves around 20 people who sit around a… well… a round table! These people are real practitioners in the industry – Law Firm Partners, General Counsel, Heads of Innovation, Legal Technology Specialists – we want to speak to the people in the thick of it who are managing teams, driving strategic thinking, leading transformation projects and living the complexities that come with that every day.

Getting to the Core of the Problem

Our discussion groups are facilitated by a subject matter expert who draws the pain points people are experiencing by asking probing questions and capturing the ideas that come out of the discussion.


The process works like this:

  • Participants break out into small groups to talk about their main pain points which they capture to share with the wider group
  • The group then explores the points each team raised and expands on common themes
  • The group then focuses on a few areas that are most important to the wider community and expands the conversation to help the group delve deeper into these issues- participants share their experiences and challenges they face in these areas and the group discusses ideas to enable improvement.
  • At the end of the session (usually lasting around 3 hours) our RTD participants vote on which issues are most pressing for them and their organisation.

We run different discussion groups in multiple cities around Australia and New Zealand and repeat the process above – this year we travelled to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. It’s important for us to get a good cross section of what’s happening in the industry and speak to a wide variety of professionals in different sectors across the region.

It’s also a great opportunity for our roundtable participants to network. We often hear them saying “It’s good to know we’re not the only ones experiencing these problems” (with a definite sigh of relief!).

This year, the biggest questions raised were:

  1. How do we build an effective business case for legal innovation?
  2. What skills and organisational capability do we need for successful innovation?
  3. Change management: how do we get key team members on board to help us succeed in our legal innovation projects?
  4. How can data governance become embedded in an organisation and the roles of all team members?
  5. What is the legal business of the future? is it the end of the billable hour once again?
  6. User experience: how do you design an experience which is easy, intuitive, and invisible, while integrating with all pertinent communications?
  7. How can the legal industry benefit from the practical implications of artificial intelligence, automation and augmentation?
  8. Working with vendors: how do we ensure we are embarking on the right projects and engaging the right external partners, in the right way, to make these projects a success?

What do we do with all this information?

Throughout the round table discussions, I capture all the ideas that get put forth. This information is collated into a research report. It is from this information that we can then start to find the thought leaders, innovators and organisations out there that can share their stories to help answer some of the challenges raised in these discussion groups and start to form the agenda for Legal Innovation & Tech Fest 2017.

About the Author

Simon Yeowart

Simon Yeowart is the Program Director for Legal Innovation & Tech Fest. He scours the globe for the most inspiring stories, case studies and thought leaders to showcase at the event each year.

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