27 September 2018

Legalpreneurs Spotlight - Maya Markovich

Published on 27 September 2018

Custom-built innovation on global scale with Nextlaw Labs

Maya Markovich knows how innovation works on a grand scale. As Head of Product at Nextlaw Labs, she delivers innovation as a service to over 8,000 attorneys in 50 countries working with Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, its clients and its broader ecosystem.

“The current disruption in the legal profession is driven by forces that include globalization, technology, and generational shifts –as well as client needs, expectations, and demands,” said Maya. “Dentons embraced the opportunity to be a force for transformation in a US$600 billion profession that has traditionally been resistant to change, and founded Nextlaw Labs in 2015 to own and shape the industry’s disruption by reinventing the business and practice of law via technology.”

Innovation isn’t theoretical, and it doesn't happen in a vacuum. It takes expertise and experience. Nextlaw Labs works closely with clients to design new solutions and execute the future of the legal profession. As a strategic and creative catalyst, Nextlaw Labs is committed to helping clients thrive in a changing world.

“Nextlaw Labs curates, pilots, and adapts leading-edge tech and processes to proactively predict client needs and address their real-world challenges,” explained Maya. “We often work in partnership with our sister company, Nextlaw Ventures, a venture capital fund focused exclusively on early-stage legal technology startups, to demonstrably improve quality and efficiency for our clients. Our user-centric, legal design approach allows us to collaboratively address pain points in current practices with the right solutions. “

It's a role that puts Maya at the intersection of law, technology, change management, and psychology, which neatly fits all her professional skills.

“After practicing law for several years, I made the leap to legaltech as it gained traction. Dentons and Nextlaw Labs’ leadership are truly future-focused big thinkers. We break new ground every day, whether formulating innovation strategy for a global practice or co-developing tech with our clients, portfolio companies, and partners.”


Liberation from “busywork”

Whatever the industry, Maya feels there will always be people who view technology and innovation as a risk.

“Some in the legal industry fear technology may replace jobs, reduce billable time, and replace or de-position firms in the legal marketplace. But my view is that innovation, if conceived and implemented effectively, can liberate attorneys from the busywork that defines many of their day-to-day tasks. By working with solutions that automate or streamline repetitive activities and leverage expert knowledge, lawyers can spend more time delivering higher value strategic and creative service to their clients.

“I’ve seen attorneys almost giddy at having the time to spend thinking deeply about an integrated approach to solving a client’s challenge rather than grinding through document review or signature page tracking. The best lawyers are fundamentally creative problem solvers. Their talent can be refined, and have greater impact, but cannot be entirely replaced by tech.“


Insourcing, NewLaw and automation

Maya predicts that certain well-known trends, such as automation, alternative fee arrangements, insourcing of legal services, legal ops, and increasing competition from nontraditional legal service providers (known in the profession as NewLaw), will continue their upward trajectory.

“I also see a shift toward more holistic backgrounds of those who make up the legal industry. Individuals who are comfortable with technology, understand the value of process and human centered design, and have a high degree of emotional intelligence are increasingly drawn to law schools that offer next-generation business and process-oriented training, like legal project management, legal problem solving, risk management, and tech primers. Once those attorneys have had some time to mature in their practice of law, that sea change will truly begin.”


Experiment without judgement

For senior lawyers and technologists, the best way to support lawyers during this disrupted period is to share knowledge and experiment.

“Be generous with your knowledge, time, and spirit,” said Maya. “Become a mentor. Share opportunities, be they to network, speak at events, or learn more about the forces of change impacting the industry. To whatever extent possible, create and cultivate safe spaces for experimentation without judgment.”

For new lawyers entering the profession, she advised taking a proactive approach to seize opportunities and skill up.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Stay curious. Take the time to connect, network, and develop relationships in a wide range of roles within the legal industry, not just attorneys. Be proactive about finding ways to differentiate yourself and add value now, rather than waiting for opportunities to come to you; almost every legal practice needs fresh thinking and approaches, and a new generation of attorneys will shape the future. Train yourself to always look at a challenge or request from the client’s point of view - this is the core of user-centered legal design. Cultivate opportunities for project management, creative problem solving, and exposure to new challenges. At this critical juncture, it’s imperative to understand early on that the practice of law is a business. And above all: remain ethical.”

Maya praised the Centre for Legal Innovation for creating a forum for legal professionals to collaborate, share ideas around legal innovation and plot a path forward.

“The CLI creates tangible opportunity for inclusive discussion around legal innovation and technology, enabling the legal industry to gain new and necessary skills to adapt to digital disruption,” said Maya. “The focus on bringing together all legal professionals to encourage collaboration, rather than just attorneys, supports the creation of truly useful, differentiated solutions. It’s a fantastic resource to keep abreast of the industry’s evolution and sustain advancement for clients, employees, and the broader community.”