Special Guest Interview: Steve Glaveski (Collective Campus)

Special Guest Interview with Collective Campus CEO and co-founder: Steve Glaveski

Collective Campus is an innovation hub, school and consultancy established in Melbourne, Australia. They work with large organisations and law firms from London to New York including Clifford Chance, Microsoft and King & Wood Mallesons to help them find and adopt the mindsets, methods and tools they need to successfully navigate uncertainty in an era of rapid change.

Steve is the author of the bestselling Innovation Manager’s Handbook, keynote speaker, host of the award-winning Podcast Future Squared, and founder of Lemonade Stand, a program that teaches children the fundamentals of entrepreneurial thinking.

Keen to learn as much as possible about innovation, legal technology and the challenges faced by law firms is the wannabe intrapreneur and law graduate from the University of Plymouth, Ben Mears, who is currently working remotely as their Legal Innovation Consultant from the UK. Earlier in the summer he took a moment in his internship with Collective Campus to sit down with Steve in CC’s Melbourne office to pick his brain on some key themes and hot topics impacting the legal sector…

BM: What technology would you say is having the biggest impact on the sector at the moment and going forward?

SG: I think at the moment, automation is having the biggest impact on the field just based on what I’ve seen, and that is around automating contracts, execution, negotiation, and review. Automating precedents as well, rather than having to manually find them and everything else and that can ultimately save people a lot of time. One thing I’ve seen though with our work with law firms is that many firms aren’t investing in it because they’re “too busy”, and the fact is that if you make time to invest in these things and if you prioritise the important over the urgent then you actually create a hell of a lot more time to do a lot more work and make more money and put yourself forward as a top law firm. But if you’re constantly fighting fires and focusing on so-called “urgent” all the time then you’re ultimately going to fall behind firms who do embrace these technologies. And that applies beyond legal services, to basically any profession.

BM: Should lawyers or law students be concerned about the growing impact of tech in the sector?

SG: The way I see it there’s a key distinction. Threats are simply opportunities that you don’t respond to in a timely manner. So I wouldn’t be concerned, unless I wasn’t responding or I wasn’t taking it seriously or I was just lazy. Now, if you are proactive, you’ll see this as an opportunity to differentiate yourself, and gain an edge over everyone else who falls into one of those categories.

BM: That’s encouraging, but how can legal graduates and lawyers seek to educate themselves about the tech affecting the legal sector?

SG: The reason why roughly one third of our income exists is because people are too lazy to Google things. If you want to learn about legal technology and what’s happening in this space there are countless websites online; Lawyers Weekly and Legal Geek, and then there’s publications by law firms like Ashurst and Allens and numerous others have released on things like blockchain. Collective Campus have published a white paper on innovation and legal services, there’s no shortage of free material out there, law firm website blogs, there’s podcasts as well on legal tech.

On the flip side of that, innovation and intrapreneurship is not just about focusing on your industry it’s about connecting the dots across different disciplines. So getting out there and reading broadly, not just what’s happening in legal tech, but what’s happening in technology and innovation across the board, going to meet-ups, going to the occasional conference, and just reading books on the topic.

Today we publish more content or information in a few days than what we did in the entire twentieth century and most of that content is freely available at the click of a button so there’s no excuse for people not to be learning, it’s more of a question of what you want to be learning. But then also, what mechanisms are we applying to absorb that content? Like learning how to learn, because it’s all well and good to read something, remember it for seven seconds and then forget all about it. But what are you doing to actually remember and aid recall? Are you writing things down and keeping notes and then are you teaching someone else what you’ve learnt so you can recall that later?

BM: Why should legal graduates or lawyers care about innovation?

SG: Graduates and lawyers should be concerned about innovation because if they’re not, then the technology that is posing a threat to their profession may leave them blind sighted, and ultimately left behind. If they understand what’s coming, then they will be in a better position to respond to those changes and adapt and like the late Stephen Hawking defined it… “intelligence is the ability to adapt to a changing environment”.

If students in the space upskill themselves around emerging technologies particularly blockchain, that can have an immediate impact in the legal world, for example as far as smart contracts are concerned. Then they can have more informed conversations not just with fellow lawyers but with clients and that makes them more valuable, and if they’re more valuable, then they’ll be far more likely to be employable and stay employable.

The conversation I had with Alec Ross who was Barack Obama’s advisor for innovation, he also wrote a book called Industries of the Future and one thing he said is that in the future, in the next 10 to 15 years, there will be “no room for mediocrity”. So if you’re a law student today who wants to carve out a career in this space you need to be at the top of your field. In order to do that you need to be moving to where the puck is and not just focusing on the way you’ve always been practising until today.

BM: Does that mean getting the best grades possible?

SG: I don’t think it means getting the best grades, I think it means becoming a good problem solver, critical thinker. The thing about getting the best grades, is that often it’s just a manifestation of how good you are at remembering and reciting things in an exam situation. But law is more about so much more, understanding people and influencing people, and some of the skills that they also need as leaders as they make their way up those firms.

BM: How do you think the client will be affected by innovation and the changes brought about by increasingly efficient systems?

SG: Law firms have been criticised for a long time for boilerplate services and charging an arm and a leg for it, and I think over the next few years, there will be less room for them to do that. And only firms that provide real value will be given a license to operate because there will be lots of legal tech solutions out there that do most of these things for a much lower price. Firms can expect a higher quality of service and not so much boilerplate activities.

There’s a question in that for firms in terms of their current business models, are they sustainable, do they need to cut their workforce down, do they need to switch (and many firms already have) from hourly pricing to fixed pricing, how can they sustain what they are currently charging when technology will be able to do what they are currently doing for a much lower price?

BM: Do you think innovation and these developments in legal tech could result in more sophisticated pro-bono services? Allowing for better access to justice?

SG: Yes. What we are seeing initially is legal tech start-ups are focusing on unlocking non-consumption. In Australia 90% of people cannot afford access to legal services except for the most basic things like getting a will done or something to that affect. Now that market is being unlocked slowly but surely but as the technology gets better and these legal tech firms move from early adopters to late adopters which would be your larger organisations. There is the possibility that perhaps technology will drive commoditisation of many legal services, in which case it becomes something that doesn’t have that much value.

Ultimately, there is something to be said about technology doing a lot of these things, for example there’s that classic case study from about a year ago, where rather than go to court AI would crunch the data on whether or not you are likely to win at court based on past experience and therefore, tell you whether or not you should even contest a particular case. In that case, you’ve made the whole process redundant and to not even pursue it if say, there’s a 78% probability of losing.

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