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Legal Innovators spotlight: Giovanni Spiller from ARGeo

Welcome back to the Legal Innovators Spotlight, your “How-to” guide for Legal Innovation.

Dear TechnoLawgists, it’s been a tough year, but we made it so far, and now more than ever we can all appreciate the importance of building resilience through our best weapon: an innovation oriented mindset to overcome difficulties ahead and get better day by day.

Therefore, to kickstart this new year the best way possible, we have interviewed Giovanni Spiller, who combines he’s legal knowledge with entrepreneurial expertise to lead digital companies through the innovation path. Giovanni is a lawyer and co-founder & Legal Affairs manager of ARGeo, a company providing augmented reality services for proximity marketing and DATAZ, a digital company focused on advertising, digital marketing and IT solutions development.

TL: According to Bob Ambrogi, “The best way to be future ready is to not wait until the future to prepare”, what do you think in-house legal teams should be doing, right now, to prepare for being future ready?

GS: In-house legal teams should start to build an internal culture where they proactively contribute to company objectives, driving and impacting strategic direction. In my perspective, in house legal might be called to become a kind of “commercial” players, as well as enablers which informs key business decisions. Moreover, I really support that idea that in-house teams should abandon the base assumption that every member must be a fully qualified lawyer or even have a strong legal background. As we can see in the current legaltech trend, most of the legal innovators did not even attend law schools. I guess that integrating new members with different knowledge and expertise can add a lot of value into an in-house team, as well as take into account the opportunity of opening a door for ALSP professionals.

The in-house counsel is a strategic player

TL: The recent disruption caused by the global pandemic has boosted the transformation process which the legal sector was undergoing driven by changes in the economic landscape and technology shifts. As the legal industry moves forward, the focus will be on the capabilities that can help organization thrive in the new legal landscape, what are the top skills or knowledge that will be essential in order to enable efficient end effective innovation within the legal sector?

A lean legal innovation process is needed

GS: In my opinion, the legal industry should start to adopt a lean attitude for bringing innovation in law firms or in-house practices. With lean method I mean a process of innovation based on frequent and quick test to validate a possible solution. In this way, we can verify if a new tool or approach actually solve a current problem or not. Of course, the crucial point is to collect as much feedback as you can from the final beneficiary, which can be identified with classical client or other department colleagues (in case of in-house scenario). I retain the lean approach very effective both in terms of quickness of results as well as impact on cost bottom line.

TL: The ability to use technology to optimize performance will be essential to cope with the increasing volume and complexity of information and improve efficiency to enable internal resources to focus on critical activities which require intellectual reasoning. What are the main legal technologies you have used/are planning to use in the future and what is the best way to introduce a new legaltech tool in a legal department?

legal innovators spotlight
legal tech tools will not replace intellectual work

GS: In my working experience, I used an automatic tool that creates a first advanced draft of a specific agreement. Then, we worked on that draft to refine and customize all the critical aspects. This process allowed us to cut down cost and time in a first phase, then, of course, the reviewing of some clauses where made by a (human) professional. I think that maybe the best way to introduce legaltech tools in general is make clear to everybody that the professional/intellectual contribute is not dead, but now it is going to be integrated with an automatic workflow process which can gives better outcome in an efficient way.  

TL: One of the hardest challenges brought by the GDPR, is making sure that compliance procedures are well known and efficiently applied at all levels. Delivering training courses and running simulations and tests, may not bring the expected results. Imagine having a tool which enables each employee to easily access the information they need and helps them to rapidly understand how to apply the appropriate piece of knowledge to their specific situation. Do you think that such tool would benefit the effective implementation of organizational measures within an organization? What feature would be the most important?

GS: Indeed, such a tool will be very useful in make people more comfortable while handling GDPR relevant information. In my opinion, we have to focus our analysis more on the tool’s process design, rather than the functions included, which can be at any time added or removed. This means that if we aim to deliver a real effective tool, we have to proceed by involving all the final users in the design process as well as during the pilot test of each version released. The relevant functions, and their structure, will come out during the test phases

TL: Changing the way the legal business is conducted, upgrading the processes and introducing new technology, can be quite of a challenge. What are the biggest barriers to innovation and what is the best approach to win the inner resistance to change?

GS: I think that the legal business is one of the hardest to change basically due to the long historical tradition which surrounds this profession. That is why, I retain that the first barrier in changing law firm is the big legacy they bear, which informs a forma mentis that, unlucky, most of the time forces to look at the past rather than the future and, as a result, it does not allow (sometimes really obstacles) a natural progress flow.

legal innovation

Secondly, I feel like that most lawyers are quite afraid of a broad use of technology in general, as they perceived it as something out of their control, which can end up in a job replacing scenario. Honestly, is not clear to me how to inner the natural resistance to change in this particular field nor I have a quick solution in my pocket.

Maybe, but just maybe, the major law firms and company should seriously start adopting a so called “innovation unit” within their offices, which through a series of activities and little-by-little changes, could revise the general approach in the next, hopefully, few years

If you enjoyed this episode of Legal Innovators Spotlight, share it and come back for another insightful post on TechnoLawgy. You may also like our previous interview with Matteo Colonna from Lavazza

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Legal Innovators spotlight: Matteo Colonna from Lavazza

Welcome to the Legal Innovators Spotlight, your “How-to” guide for Legal Innovation.

In this first episode we have interviewed Matteo Colonna, Corporate Business Junior Counsel working in the Legal & Corporate Affairs department of Lavazza, the world’s seventh ranking coffee roaster, operating in over 90 countries with more than 20 offices and manufacturing plants in Italy and in the rest of the world.

1: According to Bob Ambrogi, “The best way to be future ready is to not wait until the future to prepare”, what do you think in-house legal teams should be doing, right now, to prepare for the future ready?

MC: Lawyers (and especially in-house lawyers) have often been process-followers. Today (particularly in 2020) considering both the technological and the legal environments and their fast-changing pace, lawyers should become process-leaders.

I believe this is exactly what Ambrogi said, the technological changes in every industry is so quick and disruptive that in order to be efficient and effective (and maybe to exist) in-house lawyers have no chance other than take the lead. A recent Gartner study highlighted that executive General Counsels have a significant impact (89%) on the strategical decisions and processes of their companies.

How to do so? Acting in the present as it was already the future: always being updated on the new trends and approaches in the tech environment, going through the main features of new technologies for understanding their fitting to the legal practices.

In practice, legal departments should set both short-term and mid-long term goals for their technological transformation: adoption of new tools, changing their operations, education of a selected number of internal resources dedicated to spreading knowledge across the team and, most important, fighting conservative approaches and mindsets that may harm the technological transformation.

2: The recent disruption caused by the global pandemic has boosted the transformation process which the legal sector was undergoing driven by changes in the economic landscape and technology shifts. As the legal industry moves forward, the focus will be on the capabilities that can help organization thrive in the new legal landscape, what are the top skills or knowledge that will be essential in order to enable efficient end effective innovation within the legal sector?

MC: I truly believe that today and for the next years, lawyers should restlessly improve knowledge of new technologies moving it from being considered as a soft skill to a core hard skill.

In 2019 University Statale of Milano introduced a new course on “Legal Tech, Coding for lawyer, artificial intelligence and blockchain legal issue” which is quite a interesting news in order to achieve that goal we were talking earlier “leading the processes”. In recent years legal education at universities and law schools has not focused as much as it was necessary on providing law students with proper skills and knowledge about new technologies and the relevant legal issues, as well as their capability to support legal practice and change the legal environment.

Though, tomorrow’s lawyers (including in-house lawyers) will be supposed to handle brand new issues related to new technologies and the digital media and business like in recent years they have had to acquire and improve their complementary cross functional skills such as in finance, marketing or commercial matters.
For instance, if until the early 2000’s lawyers would have been asked to advise their clients on how to start a physical business (e.g. a new retail store), today and especially as consequence of the 2020 pandemic, they would more likely be appointed by new kind of clients in supporting them to start new kind of business (e.g. innovative start-ups willing to open an e-commerce website or develop a blockchain platform for fintech services).

Therefore, lawyers will be called, on the one hand, to develop their knowledge on new legal issues related to the rise of new technologies (which by the way are frequently not specifically regulated); on the other hand, they must become sort of IT experts as they cannot provide good legal services if they do not deeply understand the subject matter.

3: The ability to use technology to optimize performance will be essential to cope with the increasing volume and complexity of information and improve efficiency to enable internal resources to focus on critical activities which require intellectual reasoning. What are the main legal technologies you have used/are planning to use in the future and what is the best way to introduce a new legaltech tool in a legal department?

MC: Focusing on the experience of the Lavazza Group Legal Team, the last decade has brought major innovation to the way we approach our work. The fast-international growth of the Lavazza Group and the massive increase of the data that Lavazza called to process led to the introduction of disruptive technologies on our daily routine.

We moved to a new headquarter (the Nuvola Lavazza) designed to embrace new way of working and equipped with high-end technologies that have deeply impacted the everyday worklife and increased our efficiency. We switched from on premise datacenters to cloud systems, we adopted up to date communication tools and software suites that improve our capacity to work in team on drafting, reviewing and sharing documents, contracts, presentation and legal papers of any sort.

These evolutions enabled the entire team to keep constantly connected and provide legal advice to our internal clients and support the Business at anytime from anywhere. We believe this was not very common in the legal sector even in the most recent years.

We introduced new software and applications which help us to manage corporate governance matters, creating a well-structured worldwide digital repository for properly collecting and storing a huge amount of corporate documents that, in the past, were filed in physical folders stored at the premises of each company belonging to the Group, making them easily available and searchable thanks to OCR and AI systems. Moreover, we dedicated a resource to legal project management (LPMO) which we expect will improve the internal workflows supporting the legal resources conducting their activities during complex projects monitoring the effort required to the legal team, the time needed and the main takeout (Knowledge Management). In order to implement LPMO we are introducing dedicated software and applications allowing us to have a constant, tangible and accurate control over the operations and the efforts required for each project.

In the next future we are planning to increase the level of automation and standardization of the internal practices. For instance, we are working on the scouting and selection of a contract life cycle management application that will facilitate the following activities of negotiation and workflow highlighting the modifications in the document and the different activities carried out by who will take part in the negotiation and creation of the documents also through a useful report of the status of the on-going activities. Through AI and Machine Learning modules, the tool should facilitate the drafting, editing and exchange of documents learning the most common changes in certain cases and proposing solution arising out from preceding documents.

4: Law firms are leveraging technology to better advise and serve their clients, both using and developing ad hoc LegalTech tools tailor made on the specific business needs. Do you think the law firm’s legal technology approach is important and should be taken into consideration when choosing an external advisor?

MC: Basing on our experience and considering the current scenario, some law firms have already understood the huge value the technologies have for their business and in particular to successfully match the requests and expectations from their clients. Law firms that are going to do so will be market-leaders in the next future and we, as client, will address our decision preferring advisors that will bring to our attention their own technological platform, tool or solution able to help us in most of our internal practices.

Richard Susskind – in his book “Tomorrow’s lawyers” – said few years ago: “Lawyers must change the way they provide legal services, they must start selling standard services to clients willing to receive concrete and tangible results with less time and less money”.

This was not exactly true in the past, where the so-called “tailor made” approach adopted by law firms was successful as it meant dedication and focus on the requests made by the single client. Today, both law firms
and in-house departments aim to implement standardized and automated systems in order to focus more on critical activities and bring to their clients (including internal clients) the added-value they are looking for.

More in general, external lawyers (but also in-house lawyers) should increasingly act both as interpreters and translators. Interpreters, as they should be able to communicate with the “digital world” and understand the guiding principles of it. Translators, as they should translate what they have accrued from the “digital world” and make it comprehensible by other lawyers so to bring the legal practices into the next level, embrace the widespread digital transformation and be part of it.

5: Changing the way the legal business is conducted, upgrading the processes and introducing new technology, can be quite of a challenge. What are the biggest barriers to innovation and what is the best approach to win the inner resistance to change?

MC: Lawyers – as any other professional – are naturally skeptical regarding innovation and changes, and this is truer as these changes may jeopardize their job, future or career. But this is not just a psychological issue:
most of the time IT and digital matters seem to be so complex and hard to understand that they turn out to be real barriers, preventing their use in our everyday work-life.
Considering the logics and the policies governing complex organizations, the costs and the general efforts required to implement and adopt large number of new tools and platforms or to implement innovative workflows,
could result in other critical barriers to the digital transformation.

legal innovators spotlight

In the Lavazza Legal department, we started from the goal of superseding the existing digital knowledge-divide among our team.
To do so,
we set up monthly “classes” (so-called “Legal Tech Happy Hour”) during which we introduced and covered topics as IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Legal Tech, Legal Design and so on and so forth.

We also asked for the help of our digital marketing colleagues to briefly introduce digital marketing’s strategies and principles to the legal team. This was amazingly successful, and we realized that all our colleagues were really interested in those matters, they were willing to understand a little bit more about Legal Tech or Artificial Intelligence and that it was not just simple curiosity, it was something they perceived as helpful for improving the way they manage the legal practice.

More in general, we consider spreading the knowledge of new technologies and digital transformation as the starting point on the path getting us to build a legal team that is actually prepared for the challenges of the
digital era, able to understand the new languages and translate all of that into the traditional legal language (that after all still governs our practice).

At the end of the day, we envisage a legal team able to look at the
future with less worries and more skills.

If lawyers really want to write the future of the legal practice and they don’t want to leave the full floor to technicians, coders, programmers etc., they have (all of them have, in-house lawyers, law firms, law schools,
professors etc.) to start developing a new legal culture, grounded also on the understanding of digital and technological matters.

If you enjoyed this episode of Legal Innovators Spotlight, share it and come back for another insightful post on TechnoLawgy.