In this series we ask lawyers and others in the legal industry what their law firms are doing with legal technology. Automio’s Claudia King caught up with Sarah Jones, director at law firm JHK Legal, who heads the commercial team at the firm’s Sydney office.
Sarah is the sort of person I want to be when I grow up. Except Sarah is younger than me, so I’m not too sure how that works. Sarah is super smart, sophisticated, successful and fabulous. She became a director at JHK Legal when she was just 27 years old and specialises in commercial law. JHK Legal was founded in 2011 and in just 6 years they’ve grown to a team of 50 people across 4 offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
Since the beginning the JHK Legal team have done innovative stuff, like their launch of online conveyancing brand MKP Conveyancing. They love cool tech. They even have a groovy firm hashtag #allthewaywithJHK to promote all their ridiculously fun team events.
Sarah tells of her views on automation and how JHK Legal is using technology to plan for growth.
What do you say to people who think automation will put lawyers out of work?
I say: that’s nuts! Automation works with lawyers: it helps us be more efficient and provide our clients with genuine value for money.
Efficiency (for the most part) often simply means lowering costs and giving more access to justice to mums and dads and SMEs.
An example is a debt recovery claim. Automation helps with the form of the document itself, and with the data entry of the names and figures. The lawyer works with the form that’s been automated and reviews the material and drafts the pleadings. The lawyer is still needed, but has been able to cut the time (mostly unskilled time) in formatting the document. If the firm is charging a fixed fee then it will usually ultimately save both the client and the firm money.
What advice do you have for lawyers to help them stay ahead of the wave of change coming to our industry?
Embrace change now. Change is difficult to adapt to, so you need time to get used to things. If you get on board and start implementing new technologies, new billing practices, or new ways of operating in the law early on: you’ll have a jump on a number of your competitors in the legal world.
It’s also important to understand that it’s not just the legal industry that is undergoing these changes but the business landscape as a whole. The business world is changing and legal industry needs to lead the way. One important suggestion I would put forward is to always be on the lookout to upskill. It’s easy to get set in your ways as a lawyer, complete the required CPD points and pat yourself on the back but those who identify and complete up-skilling opportunities will undoubtedly have an advantage on the competition.
How is JHK using technology to plan for growth?
We’ve just invested in a new system for document management and billing. It’s only just begun, but already we’re finding that our staff (professional and administrative) have been able to find ways to use it to cut down their time on administrative tasks, and move towards a “paper lite” goal.
We’ve also invested in automation of some of our administrative documents (like cost agreements) and are working to finalise those with Automio.
Finally, we’ve invested a little in our digital marketing, and we’re looking to expand on this in the coming financial year. We’ve already seen some new clients come through, and it’s something quite different to the usual referral network.
How do you think more tech-savvy lawyers can convince less tech-savvy partners in firms to invest in automation and other tech?
I think it starts out by getting them to understand it. Tech changes can often seem overwhelming, so in most cases one must simply comprehend how it works, before they are able to see the potential benefits. I believe that tech education is the key to getting lawyers to become less afraid and more understanding of how these changes can actually make their life easier.
You can invest in something small or in a smaller way and show them the results. Sometimes it won’t work out, but when it’s a small investment that’s easier to swallow. When it does work out, you can usually convince someone to move forward: a good idea is a good idea after all.