Hero Cropped

13 Dec 2018

Legal Professionals Weigh in on Innovation Discussions

Simon Yeowart

In preparation for The Legal Festival in June 2019, we’ve just returned from running our annual roundtable discussion groups across Australia. Each session was a full and frank discussion, focusing on the current challenges facing the legal profession and the enablers leading towards change.

We had a fantastic turnout to these roundtables, with over 80 legal professionals weighing in on the discussions in order to uncover pain points, challenges and ideas for improvement. This year we’ve expanded our research groups to include Marketing and HR professionals working in law firms and in-house legal teams who provided some exciting new perspectives that were invaluable for creating a holistic picture of the legal landscape.

Why Run Roundtable Discussions?

As a Program Director, I often get asked how I decide on what goes into the Legal Festival program each year. 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.

Our roundtable discussion groups are the cornerstone of our unique research methodology. For 24 years, we have specialised in developing communities of common interest for business and IT professionals. Intense research with these communities is conducted via a process known as the Circle of Customer Engagement, where both the challenges faced, and opportunities perceived are identified.

Legal Festival Roundtable Discussions

Roundtable discussion groups provide a trusting and secure setting to enable a frank discussion of both the challenges faced, and opportunities perceived. This unique research process ensures pure and accurate information is generated through debate and discussion among the community.

What Do We Do with the Insights?

We use the topics that come out of these discussions to create our annual Legal Innovation Report, a distillation of the key challenges raised in the roundtable discussions.

From there we build the agenda for The Legal Festival, looking at these key challenges and finding the case studies, industry experts and thought leaders who can provide insights into how to solve these business challenges.

The following are my broad summaries of the key themes discussed at this year’s roundtable discussion groups. You can download the full report here.

1. Making Innovation Intrinsic to Your Business

With ever-increasing pressures on time, and constraints on spend, legal professionals are asked to deliver more for less, faster. On the other hand, we recognise that the modern client and the broader business world expects us to keep up with innovative working methods and technology, while being flexible in how our services are delivered and paid for. Whose responsibility is it to foster and implement innovation? Many senior legal leaders are still not motivated enough to disrupt their business model and many clients are not pushing enough to force a change. The question still asked is ‘’why innovate and why now?’’

2. Embracing the Change Mindset

Organisations can end up drowning in innovation initiatives. Businesses must become less interested in cheaper, faster, quick fixes. To truly lead with innovation at the core, they must be able to show how the change will enable the business to do things better. Change is not forever, so we also need to demonstrate that we will remain agile, flexible and strategic. Everything we do must tell a story about how change will add value, however that may be defined.

3. Focus on Client Experience (CX) Through Innovation

Organisations are aiming to refocus initiatives in the legal services profession on client experience, client outcomes and value. As clients become increasingly sophisticated, while seeking value in an increasingly competitive market, they expect their lawyers to become strategic advisors when it comes to technology and innovative solutions. Legal services are moving from consulting to a delivery business. But how should we construct client-centred KPIs?

4. Legal Talent and the Lawyer of the Future

There is less certainty than ever what the career path of a person entering the legal profession will look like. The truth is that the legal industry of tomorrow will be significantly different to previous decades. The brightest and best future lawyers and clients see disruption as the norm and will continue to push back when faced with those unwilling to show similar agility.

5. How Are Businesses Preparing for a New Operating Model?

The rise of the gig economy, digital disruption, and agile team structures are changing the nature of work and our roles in legal organisations. New legal innovation solutions will need to reflect this modern way of working. How will technology assist in bringing the right teams together to solve cross-functional challenges? Core business behaviour becomes difficult to document as there is no standard way of working or reporting. Systems can benefit certain projects but it is harder to identify what will best service client needs.

6. Making Data-Driven Decisions and Demonstrating the Results

One of the most fundamental challenges that law firms and in-house teams face is that their world is increasingly tied to data. In addition, client expectations have changed, and data is being increasingly used as a way of justifying conversations about cost-effective services and delivery methods. How can we use this data-rich world as an opportunity for legal professionals to demonstrate their value to clients?

7. Navigating the Technology Minefield

How can we make sense of all the technology solutions and options available? The breadth and complexity of legal technologies now is staggering. Keeping up with the ongoing change of vendor solutions is difficult. How do we navigate between the confusing vendor landscape? Which products overlap? What do we have now and what do we need to replace?

8. Making True Partnerships with Vendors

We can often get too heavily influenced by vendors and their ideas on what is a priority. Instead of being sold a solution, we need to partner with third party organisations with an appetite to be a trusted partner in realising our innovation vision.

For more detailed insights into the future of legal innovation, download The Legal Innovation Report 2019.

About the Author

Simon Yeowart

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

If you’d like to be involved in next year’s roundtable discussion groups, you can get in touch with Simon at

View related articles