An Enthusiastic Early Adopter
Kim Trajer knows first-hand what disruption means for lawyers; her own career has evolved to take advantage of the opportunities created by disruption in the legal profession. Having started her career as a lawyer, Kim has transitioned to legal operations and management. As Chief Operating Officer of McCullough Robertson, Kim oversees and manages the firm’s innovation program to stay ahead of the curve in the current disrupted legal industry.
Pushing for a better way
“Professional services firms are facing unprecedented disruption, and many are being negatively impacted,” said Kim. “Like many other aspects of life, the way we work and deliver legal services has changed, as have our clients’ expectations. We need to fundamentally change how we are doing things to help us cope with a different and challenging market environment.”
As her career has evolved, Kim has advocated for change within the firm.
“I have found the opportunity in the changing profession by being an enthusiastic early adopter (and adapter) of new technologies, platforms and mindsets,” said Kim. “In my current role, I get to focus on understanding pain points for both our clients and our lawyers, and work with diverse teams to solve those problems – always asking ‘is there a better way’. Sometimes the solution involves technology, but it always involves people so staying connected and communicating are critical.”
Creating value through innovation
“I think of innovation as ‘executing new ideas to create value,’” said Kim. “That ranges from simplifying and automating processes to create efficiencies and remain competitive, right through to identifying new and different services to deliver to new markets, and everything in between. There are endless opportunities to evolve how we do things and the services we deliver, and that means prioritising is critical.”
For lawyers worried about the implication of new technologies on their job prospects, Kim thinks it is more important than ever to possess strong people and communication skills.
“Like many other roles, the role of a lawyer is changing, but tech tools do not practice law and are not a substitute for legal judgment. They also don’t have empathy and cannot nurture relationships. Clients are people and we know that ‘people buy people,’” said Kim.
“Rather than innovation and technology posing threats, I see tools like automation as enablers that provide opportunities - to create time and space for lawyers to do more interesting things. This could include thinking about a legal problem and working out a commercial solution, building deeper relationships with clients by truly understanding their challenges and what they are trying to achieve, and focussing on business development.”
Kim acknowledges that with machines doing some of the work previously done by early career lawyers, it is imperative that the profession accommodates early career learning and development in other ways.
Determine needs before technology
“Technology has changed the way we live and work, and it will continue to evolve,” said Kim. “Some tools like AI are in their infancy in terms of what they can do because we are still in the training phase with relatively small data sets. These tools and their functionality will continue to grow, and the use of this technology will also broaden across more aspects of legal matters, and into other aspects of legal practice and how law firms are managed.”
However, Kim felt the profession needs to understand why tasks are done before they rush to find a technological way to complete the task.
“The future is not just about replacing every task with a technological solution – we need to first think about whether the task needs to be done at all, and whether it adds any value,” said Kim.
Be open to uncertainty and exploration
“Most lawyers are high achieving perfectionists,” said Kim. “They are taught to think critically and identify risk. They are also taught to use precedents and do things as they have been done before. To survive and thrive in a changing environment, people need to be open to uncertainty and to change and be willing to explore new and different approaches.”
It is essential for senior leaders and management to embrace a culture of continuous improvement and support all lawyers to adopt this perspective.
“Providing training and developing a culture of continuous improvement based on growth mindset concepts is key,” said Kim. “As is creating an environment where accepting failure and learning to leverage that experience, which can be foreign and uncomfortable for most lawyers. Concepts like design thinking and legal project management will provide a platform, as will involving lawyers in projects to develop solutions as well as then delivering and implementing the change. This experience will also build resilience which is critical for everyone in the legal profession.”
Learn, collaborate and connect
“This is an exciting time in the legal profession,” said Kim. “There will always be a need for lawyers with excellent technical skills, however the career paths and opportunities open to new lawyers will look different to previous generations.”
Kim noted that some universities are introducing legal tech majors to help prepare graduates for a rapidly evolving legal profession.
“Understanding technology and how to use and leverage it will be critical for everyone, rather than that skill being a differentiator for a few.”
“The Centre for Legal Innovation provides an important platform and forum for collaboration, learning and sharing, connecting people who are working in and interested in this space,” said Kim. “The CLI is good at facilitating conversations and connections to support people who think differently and want to test and leverage ideas.”