Tech-savvy legal professionals transform working habits

Law firms often deal with their clients beyond legal-specific issues. That has inspired several of the legal professionals featured here.

Others are highlighted for their efforts in encouraging their firms to embrace technology – saving time that would normally be spent on day-to-day tasks.

Caryn Sandler stood out for her success in both of these areas. Gilbert + Tobin has improved its client offering and helped its lawyers embrace design thinking and technology.

WINNER: Caryn Sandler
Partner and chief knowledge and innovation officer, Gilbert + Tobin

Caryn Sandler became a pioneer of legal innovation, helping to broaden the firm’s service offering. It has developed with new technologies, such as the firm’s legal verification software, which was bought by legal tech company Litera in 2020.

She has also created several revenue-generating teams. These include the consulting team G + T Innovate, which works with lawyers and their clients to improve technology and processes, and GTDocs, a team specializing in document review, which has helped the firm cope with the increased volume of work over the pandemic.

Hilary Goodier

Hilary Goodier
Partner and co-head of Ashurst Advance, Ashurst

With experience in senior legal and operations roles in technology and consulting companies, Hilary Goodier joined the firm’s alternative legal services business Ashurst Advance as chief operating officer in 2020, before becoming its co-head last year. Ashurst Advance’s strategy to offer a more holistic service. This combines offshore document review, digital products and services for the firm, legal operations consulting, managed legal services, and flexible resourcing for clients – all in one place.

Ashurst Advance is a practice group at the firm; it reports profits and revenues in the same way as the firm’s traditional practices. In 2021, the group’s profits doubled and headcount grew by 45 per cent.

Jim Holding

Jim Holding
Managing director, Aldersgate Holding Company

Formerly the Australian managing partner at DLA Piper, Jim Holding is managing director of Aldersgate Holding Company, the firm’s innovation incubator vehicle, and a wholly owned start-up business. Holding has overseen the development of several new, revenue-generating products for the firm, including an artificial intelligence-driven tool for managing cartel risk and an asset tokenisation platform called Toko.

Under its leadership, the business is transforming how it works. The firm says Aldersgate Holding Company is contributing millions to DLA Piper’s revenue.

Azman Jaafar

Azman Jaafar
Managing partner, RHT Law Asia

Azman Jaafar has created a niche for Singapore through a commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures, as well as developing expertise in such areas as digital assets. The greenhouse gases emitted all along its supply chains and in the use of its products. Jaafar says this move came from recognizing that the firm should provide ESG issues, both to build further expertise and to lead by example for clients.

Jaafar also helped establish a separate, complementary business called the AlDigi Group.

Michelle Mahoney

Michelle Mahoney
Executive director of innovation, King & Wood Mallesons

Michelle Mahoney leads the firm’s transformation strategy. It has been traditionally been a challenge. To encourage adoption, she has introduced a “multiplier model”, in which lawyers have been able to work internally for six hours for every four hours billed to a client. The firm records monthly increases in logged multiplier time.

Mahoney is responsible for the “legal tech belts” system, based on the Lean Six Sigma management grading technique, which certifies lawyers’ competency in legal tech. More than 75 per cent of the firm’s lawyers in Australia and Singapore have at least one belt.

Reiya Nakano

Reiya Nakano
Partner, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto

In 2017, after five years at Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, Reiya Nakano went to Columbia Law School to study for a Master of Law degree. Weil Gotshal, where he noticed how much more technology was used in his work compared to most law firms in Japan.

Return to Mori Hamada & Matsumoto in Japan in 2019, Nakano set up a group within the firm to investigate how to use technology more effectively, and work with legal tech companies to develop solutions. One example is Legalscape, a legal research service similar to Reuters-owned Westlaw, but for Japan. The firm provided access to some of its data and helped test the tool.

Hiroshi Watanabe

Hiroshi Watanabe
Associate, Nishimura & Asahi

Hiroshi Watanabe is keen to make the process of drafting legal documents less tedious. He is studying for his MBA at Stanford University in the US, while an associate at Japanese law firm Nishimura & Asahi, and is also the co-founder of BoostDraft – a tech start-up specializing in document-editing software.

BoostDraft has developed an artificial intelligence-powered legal drafting tool for Japanese-language documents.

Adopted across Nishimura & Asahi, this automates tasks such as proofreading. It is now also used by other law firms in Japan.

Phoebe Wynn-Pope

Phoebe Wynn-Pope
Head of business and human rights, Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Phoebe Wynn-Pope joined the firm in 2019 after 25 years as a humanitarian aid worker. With a PhD in human rights law, but no practical license, Wynn-Pope brought a different mindset to the firm.

It has been built on experts from across the firm’s core practice groups. She uses training programs and thought leadership to expand understanding of human rights at the firm. She has advised clients on how to apply ethical framework decision-making.

Wynn-Pope is also the chair of the firm’s responsible business working group and has expanded its pro bono efforts.

Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors; ‘Winner’ indicates the individual won the FT Innovative Lawyers 2022 award.

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