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Expert Q&A with Christina Blacklaws, President of the Law Society of England and Wales

2 July 2019 | Luminance

As Christina Blacklaws, the President of the Law Society of England and Wales, comes to the end of her tenure she reflects on the ways that technology is turbocharging the work of lawyers and improving mental health, but there’s still more opportunity to reap the benefits…

What is your role as President of the Law Society?

I am striving to help the legal profession to adapt by supporting technologies for the future. Companies like Luminance are instrumental in transforming the day-to-day lives of lawyers and are a key component in future-proofing the industry.

And you have other responsibilities outside of the Law Society?

Yes, I also hold a range of public appointments including member of the Family Justice Council, trustee of LawWorks, member of the Judicial Diversity Forum, chair of the Law Society’s Legal Technology Policy Commission, and chair of the government’s Lawtech Delivery Panel. I also lead on the Law Society’s relationship with Barclays to develop lawtech incubators.

Sounds like an interesting range of responsibility. From your unique perspective, what would you say to any firm looking to future proof their organisation?

Over the past decades as volumes of data have grown exponentially, our stock-in-trade as lawyers has become our ability to process information in high volumes. Now, as AI can increasingly handle low-level tasks, the profession must return to its roots. Value to the client will be once again driven by the insight and expertise of trusted advisors rather than the size and resilience of the firms’ workforce. To meet these expectations, innovation has become the key to survival for firms, and failure to modernise will inevitably lead tobeing left behind.

What do you see as the main barrier to change?

The traditional structure of law firms and legal providers has undoubtedly been a barrier to the adoption of new technologies. In order to overcome this, the benefits of machine learning and artificial intelligence must be understood. Luminance eliminates the repetitive and lengthy drudge work of manual document review which has become an increasing strain on the profession.

What danger is there if firms do not modernise?

The burnout of young lawyers poses a real threat to the future of our industry and therefore, technologies like Luminance need to be used to improve the mental health and wellbeing of lawyers.

What do you think needs to be done to support this process?

It is time for the British government to support and nurture legal technology to ensure our industry does not fall victim to disruption. Legal tech has the ability to support economic growth and drive opportunity within the United Kingdom if it is harnessed swiftly and efficiently.

Apart from the role of the government, is there anything else we should we be doing to ensure revolution not disruption?

We should be training the lawyers of the future in twenty-first century practice methods, rather than simply recycling the traditions of their forebears. The entirety of the legal industry must now turn their eyes to the future, from the smallest firm to multinational companies, and make a concerted effort to adapt to the changing nature of the industry. Private practice especially needs to embrace and embed the tools of this new technological age, and subsequently enjoy the benefits that the technology behind Luminance can provide.