Australia Points the Way Toward a Bright Future for Legal IT Professionals

Having spent the last 3 weeks in Australia and Hong Kong, I will be using Slaw to discuss some of the ideas and the firms that I met while out in the Wild East. *** Listen for the audible sigh of relief from everyone at the Law Society of Upper Canada as they learn that I won’t be throwing any more daggers at them – this year ***.

Australia is a beautiful country with a legal market not that dissimilar to Canada. Although with a population of about 20 million people and about 37 law schools, Australia is ripe for a glut of law students. One Australian head-hunter has publicly stated that it’s the worst time in history to be seeking a job in the legal profession. And still, students pour out of Australian law schools. In fact, I heard more than one person comment that the LL.B. is the new B.A. in Oz. This is exacerbated by the HECS program which grants student loans which are repaid once you get a job. Payments are automatically deducted and remitted from each pay cheque – somewhat like income tax. The size of the repayments depends upon your salary – persons with annual salaries of less than $50,000 are not required to make any repayment. So, why wouldn’t you get a law degree and take a chance at the market?

But enough about the lawyer-glut, which will only get worse as technology requires less bodies to do the same work. (BTW Hong Kong is also fearing a law grad glut – especially with the dreaded double-cohort pouring out of Hong Kong in about 2 years)

I was fortunate to meet with Cristina Libro (ex-real estate lawyer which automatically means she “gets it”) who is the Legal Technology Solutions Manager of HenryDavisYork (HDY) in Sydney. She also won the 2013 Legal Tech Innovator of the Year Award. I’m a huge fan!

Cristina and her team (all women by the way….) wake up each day excited about how they can make HDY more efficient and innovative. Her bio explains what she does much better than I ever could:

Cristina has been designing and implementing workflow software for over five years. [She and her team] have successfully entrenched this technology into each practice area of Henry Davis York. Through innovation and the successful application of workflow technology, Cristina and her team have developed time-saving technology solutions to improve the deliverability of legal services…..[as well as driving] internal efficiencies to manage risk, increase client satisfaction, firm profitability and staff satisfaction.

In essence, Cristina and her team are the future of Canadian and American law firms; embedded personnel charged with improving the way legal services are delivered through better use of technology. She and her team have taken Legal IT to the next level. Legal IT should not be seen as a “fix the plumbing when it’s broken” role – it’s not about simply maintaining the servers.

The future of Legal IT professionals is in designing bespoke solutions for all lawyers and all clients; solutions that don’t simply automate what lawyers do now, but rather change the way things are done.

Forward-thinking firms will go further and create integrated, client-facing IT roles that are just as important, if not more important, than lawyers – yeah, I said it.

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Comments

  1. That’s it! I’m moving to Oz!
    Though having emigrated once already I’d really just prefer it if the law firms here in Canada could have such Legal Tech Solution departments too. I’m beginning to see some interest but only at that slowly slowly rate that this industry is famous for.

  2. All power to the database, i.e., developing a centralized database that captures all of a law firm’s finished work-product can be the most important and powerful IT addition that any law firm can make. That is the foundation concept of the centralized legal research technology used by LAO LAW at Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). If properly managed, such a database can become more valuable than any lawyer in the firm. That is what happened at LAO LAW. I was its Director of Research for its first nine years. When I left, it was producing close to 5,000 legal opinions a year for Ontario lawyers in private practice who did legal aid cases. It has developed several other support services from that first legal research service. It is the best legal research facility in Canada. LAO LAW now has a 34-year history of innovation, know-how, success, popularity, and saving LAO millions of dollars that would otherwise have had to have been paid out on lawyers’ accounts for legal research.
    Note that basic engineering teaches, “bigger is better,” meaning specifically, “nothing cuts costs like scaling-up.” Therefore, the bigger the law firm, the more than proportionately greater will be the cost-savings and efficiency produced by such a database. A firm’s “star lawyers” may come and go, but they leave behind their skill, writings, insights, and contacts in that office database. So it’s much less painful to lose them by having their work-product available to quicken and improve the expertise of the work-product of the firm’s other lawyers and the training periods of new lawyers. Thus, law firms can be much more than merely the number and quality of lawyers in them. “All power to the database” should be the dominant principle of any alleged law office IT specialist. And therefore, the solution to the currently massively damaging “access to justice” problem of unaffordable legal services, is to make CanLII as good a national support-service as LAO LAW is for Ontario’s legal aid lawyers—see: (1) my Slaw blog of Oct. 24th; (2) my Comment to Monica Goyal’s Slaw post of Nov. 25th: “Access to Justice: Courts and Technology: A Twitterchat”; and, (3) my Comment to Monica Goyal’s Slaw post of Nov. 4th: “Innovation and the Legal Profession: A Twitter Chat.” – Ken Chasse, member, LSUC (Ontario) & LSBC, Canada.

  3. Kate, there is ALWAYS room for one more!! You are welcome anytime. :) Cristina