GCs are changing, so what about law firms?
General Counsel increasingly find themselves in the role of drivers of innovation. They are being asked to deliver services better, faster, and cheaper – often with fewer resources. And they are being told to use technology to do it. To complicate matters further, there is an increased regulatory scrutiny and a rising compliance burden.
As Graeme Wood said, “Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again.”
The role of innovator does not always come easy. According to Marien Glerum, Chief Managing Officer of Dentons Boekel, “As companies evolve faster and faster, many of our clients are struggling with the tension between building the legal department of the future and stimulating innovation, while upholding their core mission of managing risk.”
External legal advisers are also having difficulty delivering on the change imperative. According to Altman Weil’s 2016 Chief Legal Officer Survey, when asked to assess how serious their law firms were about change, in-house counsel rated them a disappointing 3 out of 10.
This unprecedented pace of change is the driver of Dentons’ vision to create “the law firm of the future” and to establish Nextlaw Labs – a legal technology incubator and innovation consultancy – and Nextlaw In-house Solutions – a global strategic consultancy for in-house counsel.
Chris Pinnington, CEO of Nextlaw In-house Solutions, explains, “Building the in-house legal department of the future is a daunting task, and most law firms have failed to provide the needed support. We created Nextlaw In-house Solutions to bridge that gap and get on same side of the table as our clients.”
Nextlaw In-house Solutions has assembled more than 50 former GCs, legal technology specialists and process management professionals to provide advisory services, market insights and experienced perspectives to in-house counsel.
“We are seeing a fundamental shift: It’s no longer enough for lawyers to provide reactive legal advice, we need to be strategic business partners,” said Chris Pinnington. “This requires a new mindset – both on the part of general counsel and their legal advisers – to shift the focus from cost to value, and demonstrate our value to the business in new ways.”
Technology is seen both as a driver of transformation and a solution to the myriad challenges facing the legal profession. But if technology will revolutionize the practice of law, it’s hard to get a straight answer on what this really means.
Marie Bernard, CEO of Nextlaw Labs, explains, “Some GCs already have a clear innovation roadmap, but that’s the exception, not the rule. We are often invited to client events to help decode the buzzwords and explain how these can be applied to their business.”
There are literally hundreds of legal tech startups vying to disrupt the practice of law, so how can GCs find the right technology for their needs?
Marie Bernard recommends starting with the basics, “Consider your staffing model and how you process information, and then ask yourself ‘what are the incremental steps we can take to deliver our goals?’ It might be enough to implement a new project management system or a better way to track legal expenditure, and then consider more sophisticated artificial intelligence as a next step.”
In this time of change, the relationship between GCs and their legal advisers will also need to change. So what will this relationship look like?
“GCs and their external counsel will have a common mission to deliver enhanced value and protect the interests of our ultimate, shared client. This shared interest will necessitate a new era of collaboration and partnership,” says Chris Pinnington. “Law firms need to think differently and engage with clients to co-create solutions. We need to engage in active listening – not pitching – while being more entrepreneurial and innovative.”
Combining his key experience both as a law firm leader and former General Counsel, Chris serves as Dentons Canada Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Nextlaw In-House Solutions. In his roles, Chris is firmly focused on anticipating, understanding and exceeding our clients’ expectations of value, service, innovation, collaboration and efficiency and delivering business solutions to business challenges in today’s increasingly demanding, complex and rapidly evolving business and legal environment.
Chris plays a key role in fostering client relationships and representing Dentons and Nextlaw In-House Solutions with other strategic partners, aligning and implementing our “in and of the community” approach wherever clients do – or want to do – business across the globe.
As CEO of Nextlaw Labs, Marie seeks out and develops internal and external ideas for new products, services or startups with potential applications in the legal sector. She works closely with Dentons, clients and industry leaders to help shape the future of the legal industry.
Marie was formerly Europe Director of Innovation at Dentons and Strategic Advisor to Nextlaw Labs. She is a passionate promoter of technology and innovation helping to assess partnership opportunities with startups, clients and other law firms, share information on all things innovation in the industry, helping others frame achievable service design and product development deliverables, and promote learning from other chief innovation officers of all industries across the globe. She has been recognized in the Fastcase 50 as one of the world’s leading innovators in law.
Marien Glerum joined our Amsterdam office in 2010 as Finance Manager and has been General Manager since 2013. On 1 December 2014 he joined the board, which consists of one partner and one non-partner.
Marien is now the Country Managing Officer of Dentons Boekel. In this position he is responsible for the strategic vision and office policy.