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The Evolution of the Lawyer – moving beyond traditional delivery

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Nitish Upadhyaya

Senior Innovation Manager

London

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02 December 2020

Nitish Upadhyaya, Senior Innovation Manager, leads A&O’s innovation team, i2. The team prototypes solutions to problems raised by A&O staff and clients alike, exploring issues from new viewpoints. He discusses how people and culture push forward innovation.  

Nitish Upadhyaya

Over the last decade, as technology has improved, people are used to day-to-day activities being easier to undertake. This is naturally also true of our clients when they reflect on how their legal services are delivered. They come to us with an expectation that our lawyers will work as efficiently as possible, as well as use lateral thinking that reflects the innovation that our clients put into their own business models. As clients look to grow, our aim is to adapt to meet, anticipate, and better their expectations.

Part of my work involves building a bridge between legal teams and technologists inside A&O. As a former litigator and now someone who is very much embedded in the world of innovation, I am always curious to know why people do what they do. I combine the lenses of user-centred design and behavioural science to help analyse areas for improvement. Potential solutions can then be explored using a mix of approaches which can include behaviour change, process improvement, and product development.

It can be enlightening to look at challenges in different ways

Nitish Upadhyaya, Senior Innovation Manager

When I engage with lawyers, my aim is to get them to critically examine what they do and how they go about it. By breaking down their work and processes, the lawyers I work with identify new opportunities, creating changes that can be implemented across their activities to better serve our clients.

In i2, we frequently collaborate with vendors and are always learning from other sources. Just because we are in the legal sector, it doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to techniques used in other industries - indeed, many of our clients are leaders in those same sectors.

Using inspiration from marketing companies for example, we have run highly structured A/B style testing against internal benchmarks with a series of vendors around the creation of structure charts. StructureFlow, now resident in Fuse, came out top with their ability to help lawyers to model complex legal structures and we are the first firm to have worked with them to test their product in this way.

Our approach to and the depth of testing and data collection across different areas of A&O is what sets us apart from other firms. Companies resident in Fuse have the chance to build on this collaborative approach, interacting with and educating our lawyers, and receiving valuable ideas in return.

It’s important to me that our lawyers realise that technology is an enabler not the end of a process. It can be enlightening to look at challenges in different ways and it is vital to truly understand them before trying to create the solution. Crucially, for lawyers going through this development journey they learn that it is OK to fail when you are trying to create a tool for change.

Trial and error helps us all to learn from things that do not go well, and continuously improve the way things are done. Using our workshop approach which allows everyone to express their creativity, there’s plenty of fun to be had along the way too.

Creating a new product or tool in response to a specific challenge helps our lawyers to connect more deeply with their client’s perspective and business. Ultimately, the culture of an organisation helps to power people forward, and I believe that our user-centred approach to developing technology is why clients trust us to create solutions for them. It’s up to each of our lawyers to be innovators and it is a challenge I am glad to say that many of them are taking up across the network.