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The Wired Wig Podcast: Innovating Legal In Unison

The Wired Wig Podcast: Innovating Legal In Unison

Summize
March 17, 2021

Transcript

Eimear McCann:

If from academia upwards, we had permission to be creative, that words like innovation would just be embedded, we wouldn't need this kind of external rhetoric on innovation that feels as if it's forced upon legal, it would probably happen a lot more naturally.

Annabel Pemberton:

Welcome to the Wired Wig, demystifying tech law trends, and educating about law in tomorrow's society.

Annabel Pemberton:

Hello and welcome back to the Wired Wig. My name is Annabel Pemberton, and this week I was joined by Eimear McCann. Eimear is a creative and strategic thinker and leader who brings together knowledge of law with a passion for identifying new and innovative ways of working. She's currently the Head of Strategy at Summize and a visiting lecturer for the University of Law. In this episode, we discussed and explored how email got into a role in the strategy, how the legal industry has room to, and should, embrace creativity and how businesses can further consider innovation. I really enjoyed talking to Eimear about these topics and it was a really nice natural conversation. So I hope you enjoy this conversation too.

So Eimear, thank you for joining me today on the Wired Wig. Maybe let's start off with your journey up til today. So how and why are you now working in strategy after practising as a lawyer previously?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it's great to chat to you today, Annabel. Yeah, I suppose I was a bit of an accidental lawyer and if I'm honest, I did law in Spanish many years ago at Queens and I didn't particularly enjoy the academic side of law. And when I graduated, I actually worked for a magazine for a couple of years, and then I worked as a freelance writer. But I think I'd always kind of felt that I wanted to know whether I would have enjoyed the practice of law, so I did go back. I did the LPC in Newcastle, really enjoyed the practical aspect of law a lot more than the kind of the undergrad and the very academic aspect of it. And then I... Well, when I said it was an accident lawyer, once I actually started the practice of law, I found kind of my niche and what I really enjoyed, which was immigration, human rights, and public law.

And probably the happiest that I've ever been in my legal career was when I worked for a law centre in Belfast. And I think it was because it was a very diverse multi-faceted role. There was a real kind of creative element to it because we were looking at strategic cases before the ECJ, but we were also doing training, policy advice, and also writing both internally and externally. And it was just a fantastic place to work. I was just getting this feeling really that law was changing. It needed to change from academia upwards. And it was probably a few years ago that we did start to see a bit more momentum around legal tech and actually hearing those kinds of words, like innovation, transformation within legal. I got a role setting up kind of the Northern office of a fantastic legal tech company called Flex Legal.

And then I actually met Tom, who's the founder of Summize, actually helping them out on a project. And I kind of felt this is really the future of where we're going and we can't really avoid the fact that we're in a digital world and that legal has been a wee bit slower, I suppose, to catch up for lots of reasons. The strategy side of things, I think it's quite a multifaceted role in itself because you're kind of getting that understanding of where we are at the minute, that kind of notion of reinvention, the reinvention of legal, which is a massive task. And we're the tech slots into that. So yeah, that's kind of where I've ended up at the moment. I'm Head of Strategy for Summize.

Annabel Pemberton:

Fantastic. So there's quite a lot to unpack there. So maybe let's first look at Flex. So what is Flex? And you already briefly mentioned how you got involved, but what is Flex doing now because I can definitely see synergies with your previous work with what you were doing till when you were actually helping and working with Flex.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. So Flex is a legal tech company that matches up law students and paralegals for kind of temporary roles, temporary projects within in-house legal and law firms. But the real kind of focus of Flex was, as the name suggests, about flexible and agile working. And I mean this year has kind of taught us I suppose a massive lesson really in terms of what flexibility really means because I think that like a lot of things at the minute, you've got a lot of buzzwords. And I think flexible working, that term itself, had become a bit of a buzz phrase, but I think we've really understood what that means. With Flex, obviously, that was our kind of focus, which was placing paralegals and law students. But now they're also placing lawyers for projects and kind of temporary work.

Annabel Pemberton:

I suppose, that in itself is also an innovation to the legal sector, how we're actually recruiting future lawyers, that they're not necessarily going through the traditional routes, but there's also that freelance aspect to the law as well.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, completely and obviously there's been massive changes in terms of the SKE. And I think that the rethink and the reset that has to happen within legal has to come from that kind of generation because there's a lot of external changes. But I just believe that if the change and the innovation is to become embedded, it has to come from within. And I believe that it is kind of the generation of the future lawyers who really do want to see change.

Annabel Pemberton:

Talking about future lawyers as well. What do you feel the profession could do at the moment to maybe even encourage future lawyers to take on these roles and strategy and innovation and not see innovation as this separate office within a law firm, but actually an integral part of it?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it's a really, really big question because... And it's one that I asked myself quite a lot, and I think that there is an overlap between an awful lot of different strands in terms of education within legal that lots of people are trying to combat separately, whether it is education or on technology innovation, trying to encourage lawyers and future lawyers to be more creative. And then also paralegals and law students always being told, you need to be more commercially aware. And then this focus on soft skills and emotional intelligence and you look at fantastic groups like the O Shape lawyer which has a focus on the ladder. But I think what's interesting to me is how do we find a way to put all of those strands together?

And I think that if legal is to be truly reinvented, there has to be a cohesion between all of those. And in order to see kind of proper change and in order to actually prepare paralegals and students for the future of law, there has to be far more knowledge sharing because everyone kind of operating in their own narrow worlds means that we won't see that diversity. And I think that diversity and inclusion is such an important topic.

But I kind of worry that it's a bit of a tick box exercise and once again, that it's not dissected properly and therefore that the change won't happen because it's not being examined properly and the education isn't around the different issues. So for me, diversity is as much about diversity of skillset, different backgrounds as it is anything else. And I think that we need to encourage that properly within legal so that it doesn't feel like such a kind of, I suppose, elite at times, and also kind of area where it only attracts perhaps a certain type of person that we need more discussion around it. And we also need more, as I said, information and knowledge sharing. And it may not between universities, law firms, corporates.

If we keep getting lawyers, advising lawyers, are we also going to see real change? And we need to open it up a bit more, but all of that comes from the... They have to want the change, but there has to be a massive shift in mindset, which I believe can only happen if people are properly educated about what it is that we're even looking at in the first place.

Annabel Pemberton:

So today all these contracts that are there on practical law, for example, and they're all proprietary knowledge, that it should be more open source. And of course, there's other examples as well. So I'm really glad you raised that point because I don't think it's discussed enough this accessibility and that diversity side of different skill sets because you've already said yourself as well, that you don't have a straight law background in the way that your initial studies went in law. You went back to university. And we've already previously discussed as well about creativity and how that's really important in the profession. So maybe you could tell us a bit more about that.

Eimear McCann:

Once again, I think it's understanding what it means so that... I just believe that we're all wired to create. And from a neuroscientific point of view, we are. The sciences are... It's not just a concept. It's not just a theory. But you can increase your creative faults and your creative thinking and by doing lots of different things. But I feel that that's not really encouraged within legal. And what's interesting to me is the way that someone like Margaret Hagan and I don't know whether you've come across her stuff or not. I know we talked about this before, but I absolutely love what she's doing at Stanford. It's about the diversity of learning, really. We all learn in different ways. I'm very much a visual thinker. And even whenever I did my undergrad, I used to draw everything out because it was the only way that I could really get the information into my head.

And we can't just whitewash learning. We have to appreciate that some people learn better by audio and by visual, by reading, whatever it might be. And you see that in other sectors. And I feel as though the creative aspect is forgotten about within law, because you've got an awful lot of information that you have to absorb and you have to learn it, but there are different ways that it can be learned. And I also wonder, and this is slightly tangential, but I do wonder when I think of my four-year law degree, whether that could have been condensed into perhaps three years and I could have done more practical, more creative stuff.

And on that notion of creativity, we did a really interesting video series where we asked lawyers what they kind of thought about creativity. And what was interesting was that they felt that actually their work was very creative as much from the problem-solving aspect as the art of persuasion if you're an advocate. But also a lot of the time you're creating whether it's an argument or you're creating documents, you become a bit of an architect in a sense, which to me is creative at its very core. So I am really passionate about creativity. And I would love to see more discussion around that because I think that from academia upwards, we had permission to be creative, that words like innovation would just be embedded. We wouldn't need this kind of external rhetoric on innovation, that feels as if it's forced upon me, then it would probably happen a lot more naturally.

Annabel Pemberton:

Creative skills come in different ways. And I think there definitely needs to be more awareness about how these do mesh into careers such as being a lawyer. And that it's really important to make sure you keep your creativity alive during your studies. As a by-product of that, innovation would come more naturally in firms.

Emma Pemberton:

Definitely. And I think, yeah, I couldn't agree with you any more with that. I think that we're labelled at such a young age and we do it all the time and I have two kids and I have to stop myself from going, "Oh, he's actually more... He just seems like a poet or he really loves words." You do it really early on. And obviously, as part of our evolution, we have to judge very quickly and we do label things for survival, but law would never be considered a creative profession, whereas as you said, like literature and the arts. My mom was a designer and an art teacher, and she went to art college in the sixties. So you're not going to get much more of a creative depiction than that, but it was kind of, for me, that whole creative world, was part of my kind of upbringing.

And you don't realize, I suppose it's maybe by osmosis, but going into rooms with all these books on the history of art and design and there were just paintings and there was charcoal and it was just everywhere. And I just grew up without any... You have that assumption then I think, which is, and I recognize that, but sometimes you have an assumption dependent on your upbringing as well. So I had just assumed that that was that world and it had its place. And it was nearly like in the same way that you give kids a creative corner in nursery or in school, it's stuck in a corner and it shouldn't be. But it's just about changing mindsets again, which is quite a big task, but not impossible.

Annabel Pemberton:

We shouldn't as lawyers, see ourselves with a fixed mindset. We should be approaching it, that we can learn new skills and creativity comes in all different forms. And that's a really good trait to have as a lawyer. It's not this fluffy thing. It's really important to be creative, to actually be competitive as well. And it's important for business. And that's definitely something I don't feel is a very strong message in the industry at the moment. So it's really great that through Surmise, you did that series because I think it's the start of that message really spreading.

Eimear McCann:

That's the key point that you hit on there, I think is that aside from all of the giving permission and labels and all that, which I still think is true, it's kind of still perceived as a bit fluffy and a bit, "Well, that's all very well, but why do we even need to be creative? Why is it important for the business?"

And I think that's the key, isn't it? If you can persuade people that... Well, first of all, if you can persuade them that they are, but that's really up to them, isn't it, to reach that. But I think from a business perspective, and obviously, all legal teams are concerned about the business from whatever angle it might be, it's about, well, why is that important for the business? And it's only whenever you speak to GCs, for example, and you see the creative processes that they've implemented or fostered within a business and how that has made such a big difference and not just in terms of happiness within teams, but in terms of efficiencies. And obviously, then save and revenue as well as time. So I think that's a really important issue, is emphasizing why it is important in the first place.

Annabel Pemberton:

Yes, absolutely. And I was just going to ask you, why is innovation important for the legal sector? But I feel you've really hit it on the head there with those points, how it's very tied to revenue. It's not just about standing out. It's also from the business side as well. But do you feel there's any other points that make innovation and being creative really important for the business of a firm?

Eimear McCann:

There's a book actually that someone, a very kind person sent to me, it's called the Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley. He talks a lot about keeping it simple and also about how you cannot drive a business forward based on assumptions, particularly if the assumptions were made maybe 10 years ago, five years ago, because historic assumptions can't really feed into what a client wants now or in the future. And you look at the most successful businesses in the world, and I hate this expression, but I can't think of another term right now, but it's all about future-proofing. They've already kind of had the vision as to where people will be, whether it's somebody saying people are always going to want things faster than they want now, next day delivery, delivery within an hour, that kind of thing.

And so aside from creating happier workplaces, driving efficiencies, et cetera, it's kind of longer-term. And I think businesses that would be myopic to not see that other firms will push ahead and will essentially overtake them if they don't kind of stay on top of what the client really wants. And to me, that's what innovation is really about. It's about what does... If you're providing services and that's obviously what legal is, it's within the services industry. And so if you're not looking at what the client wants and the client needs are changing so fast at the minute, I think then they will fall behind.

Annabel Pemberton:

Keeping that in mind, what do you predict will be the main changes, say in the next three to five years in the legal profession that lawyers will need to respond to and make sure that they are innovating and they are considering how they're providing legal services?

Eimear McCann:

I'd love to have a really good answer for that one, but I do feel that because we're all feeling a little bit overwhelmed at the minute that we need a very simple message. And I think that clients are demanding a lot more from lawyers and legal teams, but in the sense that they just want a simple message. They want the language to be simpler. If people are going to use technology, that they're using it to remove friction so that it's a more kind of seamless process.

And I think as well, that we keep hearing about interoperability and different platforms talking to each other. But on a very simple level, it's still the same thing. It's people wanting simplicity so that whenever you log onto one platform, you don't need to keep jumping around from different things. And I think that we are living in a subscription economy. We are all very used to the fact that you can just sign up and you can pay 10 pounds a month or whatever it might be. And I think that legal services is kind of catching up with that. And I think keeping things simple, also just being much more aligned with where we are in the world more generally is what's kind of very much needed within legal at the minute and in the future.

Annabel Pemberton:

Yes. I couldn't agree more, just not over-complicating the service and also communication with the client as well, especially given the times right now when best teams that... Okay, they've been remote for nearly a year now, but it's still very new and they want to move fast and get things done. If it doesn't need to be complicated, then it shouldn't be.

Eimear McCann:

I mean, what I find interesting is going back to that diversity point, if we will reach the point where within the kind of the near legal entities that you see designers, developers, experts in different fields that are all very much becoming an intrinsic part of a law firm. And I'd love to see that. And I think that if that happens, then you will see all of these fantastic, innovative law firms and businesses that have very much kind of caught up with the world that we're in at the minute.

Annabel Pemberton:

I really hope that is the case that in the future and from now, we can really move in that direction because it would just be amazing the service that could be provided if all these skills and different backgrounds came together.

Eimear McCann: Definitely. And I think as well for law students and paralegals, what an interesting world to enter into instead of just having a very set trajectory of, I'm going to be a trainee and then junior and work your way up to partner level. I just think there's just so many really interesting roles that are already out there. So within the next kind of five, 10 years, it would be so interesting to see what kind of roles are available.

Annabel Pemberton:

I suppose, just as one final question, I know you've already given one book recommendation, but at the moment, are you reading anything or is there another book that you would recommend to our listeners?

Eimear McCann:

That's only probably the second nonfiction book I've read in a very long time. Someone did recommend a book that I haven't yet started called Tribe of Mentors, which is supposed to be an excellent read. And I did, after being told by so many people to read it, I did read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which I suppose was useful from the perspective of changing mindsets. And if there's anything at all that can help anyone to change mindsets for the better, I'm always going to promote it. So I thought it was just really interesting because it kind of goes back to what we talked about at the start in terms of the more that you kind of believe all those labels that were given from childhood upwards, that you start to kind of behave and conform to them. So it's very much about making changes, but in very small ways, which I think is something that's actually digestible and also realistic given that we have lived through quite a very strange year that's been a bit overwhelming. So I'd also think it's a pretty good rate as well.

Annabel Pemberton:

Thank you for sharing those, absolutely. Atomic Habits has been on my list for a while. I looked into summaries online actually of the book. I haven't read the book. So it's something I do need to look into, definitely. Well, Emma thank you for coming onto the Wired Week today and for answering these questions. It was a lovely conversation to have with you.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it was fantastic talking to you, Annabel. Thank you.

Annabel Pemberton:

I'm Annabel Pemberton, and you have just listened to the Wired Week podcast available on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Podcasts.

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The Wired Wig Podcast: Innovating Legal In Unison

By
Summize
March 17, 2021

Transcript

Eimear McCann:

If from academia upwards, we had permission to be creative, that words like innovation would just be embedded, we wouldn't need this kind of external rhetoric on innovation that feels as if it's forced upon legal, it would probably happen a lot more naturally.

Annabel Pemberton:

Welcome to the Wired Wig, demystifying tech law trends, and educating about law in tomorrow's society.

Annabel Pemberton:

Hello and welcome back to the Wired Wig. My name is Annabel Pemberton, and this week I was joined by Eimear McCann. Eimear is a creative and strategic thinker and leader who brings together knowledge of law with a passion for identifying new and innovative ways of working. She's currently the Head of Strategy at Summize and a visiting lecturer for the University of Law. In this episode, we discussed and explored how email got into a role in the strategy, how the legal industry has room to, and should, embrace creativity and how businesses can further consider innovation. I really enjoyed talking to Eimear about these topics and it was a really nice natural conversation. So I hope you enjoy this conversation too.

So Eimear, thank you for joining me today on the Wired Wig. Maybe let's start off with your journey up til today. So how and why are you now working in strategy after practising as a lawyer previously?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it's great to chat to you today, Annabel. Yeah, I suppose I was a bit of an accidental lawyer and if I'm honest, I did law in Spanish many years ago at Queens and I didn't particularly enjoy the academic side of law. And when I graduated, I actually worked for a magazine for a couple of years, and then I worked as a freelance writer. But I think I'd always kind of felt that I wanted to know whether I would have enjoyed the practice of law, so I did go back. I did the LPC in Newcastle, really enjoyed the practical aspect of law a lot more than the kind of the undergrad and the very academic aspect of it. And then I... Well, when I said it was an accident lawyer, once I actually started the practice of law, I found kind of my niche and what I really enjoyed, which was immigration, human rights, and public law.

And probably the happiest that I've ever been in my legal career was when I worked for a law centre in Belfast. And I think it was because it was a very diverse multi-faceted role. There was a real kind of creative element to it because we were looking at strategic cases before the ECJ, but we were also doing training, policy advice, and also writing both internally and externally. And it was just a fantastic place to work. I was just getting this feeling really that law was changing. It needed to change from academia upwards. And it was probably a few years ago that we did start to see a bit more momentum around legal tech and actually hearing those kinds of words, like innovation, transformation within legal. I got a role setting up kind of the Northern office of a fantastic legal tech company called Flex Legal.

And then I actually met Tom, who's the founder of Summize, actually helping them out on a project. And I kind of felt this is really the future of where we're going and we can't really avoid the fact that we're in a digital world and that legal has been a wee bit slower, I suppose, to catch up for lots of reasons. The strategy side of things, I think it's quite a multifaceted role in itself because you're kind of getting that understanding of where we are at the minute, that kind of notion of reinvention, the reinvention of legal, which is a massive task. And we're the tech slots into that. So yeah, that's kind of where I've ended up at the moment. I'm Head of Strategy for Summize.

Annabel Pemberton:

Fantastic. So there's quite a lot to unpack there. So maybe let's first look at Flex. So what is Flex? And you already briefly mentioned how you got involved, but what is Flex doing now because I can definitely see synergies with your previous work with what you were doing till when you were actually helping and working with Flex.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah. So Flex is a legal tech company that matches up law students and paralegals for kind of temporary roles, temporary projects within in-house legal and law firms. But the real kind of focus of Flex was, as the name suggests, about flexible and agile working. And I mean this year has kind of taught us I suppose a massive lesson really in terms of what flexibility really means because I think that like a lot of things at the minute, you've got a lot of buzzwords. And I think flexible working, that term itself, had become a bit of a buzz phrase, but I think we've really understood what that means. With Flex, obviously, that was our kind of focus, which was placing paralegals and law students. But now they're also placing lawyers for projects and kind of temporary work.

Annabel Pemberton:

I suppose, that in itself is also an innovation to the legal sector, how we're actually recruiting future lawyers, that they're not necessarily going through the traditional routes, but there's also that freelance aspect to the law as well.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, completely and obviously there's been massive changes in terms of the SKE. And I think that the rethink and the reset that has to happen within legal has to come from that kind of generation because there's a lot of external changes. But I just believe that if the change and the innovation is to become embedded, it has to come from within. And I believe that it is kind of the generation of the future lawyers who really do want to see change.

Annabel Pemberton:

Talking about future lawyers as well. What do you feel the profession could do at the moment to maybe even encourage future lawyers to take on these roles and strategy and innovation and not see innovation as this separate office within a law firm, but actually an integral part of it?

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it's a really, really big question because... And it's one that I asked myself quite a lot, and I think that there is an overlap between an awful lot of different strands in terms of education within legal that lots of people are trying to combat separately, whether it is education or on technology innovation, trying to encourage lawyers and future lawyers to be more creative. And then also paralegals and law students always being told, you need to be more commercially aware. And then this focus on soft skills and emotional intelligence and you look at fantastic groups like the O Shape lawyer which has a focus on the ladder. But I think what's interesting to me is how do we find a way to put all of those strands together?

And I think that if legal is to be truly reinvented, there has to be a cohesion between all of those. And in order to see kind of proper change and in order to actually prepare paralegals and students for the future of law, there has to be far more knowledge sharing because everyone kind of operating in their own narrow worlds means that we won't see that diversity. And I think that diversity and inclusion is such an important topic.

But I kind of worry that it's a bit of a tick box exercise and once again, that it's not dissected properly and therefore that the change won't happen because it's not being examined properly and the education isn't around the different issues. So for me, diversity is as much about diversity of skillset, different backgrounds as it is anything else. And I think that we need to encourage that properly within legal so that it doesn't feel like such a kind of, I suppose, elite at times, and also kind of area where it only attracts perhaps a certain type of person that we need more discussion around it. And we also need more, as I said, information and knowledge sharing. And it may not between universities, law firms, corporates.

If we keep getting lawyers, advising lawyers, are we also going to see real change? And we need to open it up a bit more, but all of that comes from the... They have to want the change, but there has to be a massive shift in mindset, which I believe can only happen if people are properly educated about what it is that we're even looking at in the first place.

Annabel Pemberton:

So today all these contracts that are there on practical law, for example, and they're all proprietary knowledge, that it should be more open source. And of course, there's other examples as well. So I'm really glad you raised that point because I don't think it's discussed enough this accessibility and that diversity side of different skill sets because you've already said yourself as well, that you don't have a straight law background in the way that your initial studies went in law. You went back to university. And we've already previously discussed as well about creativity and how that's really important in the profession. So maybe you could tell us a bit more about that.

Eimear McCann:

Once again, I think it's understanding what it means so that... I just believe that we're all wired to create. And from a neuroscientific point of view, we are. The sciences are... It's not just a concept. It's not just a theory. But you can increase your creative faults and your creative thinking and by doing lots of different things. But I feel that that's not really encouraged within legal. And what's interesting to me is the way that someone like Margaret Hagan and I don't know whether you've come across her stuff or not. I know we talked about this before, but I absolutely love what she's doing at Stanford. It's about the diversity of learning, really. We all learn in different ways. I'm very much a visual thinker. And even whenever I did my undergrad, I used to draw everything out because it was the only way that I could really get the information into my head.

And we can't just whitewash learning. We have to appreciate that some people learn better by audio and by visual, by reading, whatever it might be. And you see that in other sectors. And I feel as though the creative aspect is forgotten about within law, because you've got an awful lot of information that you have to absorb and you have to learn it, but there are different ways that it can be learned. And I also wonder, and this is slightly tangential, but I do wonder when I think of my four-year law degree, whether that could have been condensed into perhaps three years and I could have done more practical, more creative stuff.

And on that notion of creativity, we did a really interesting video series where we asked lawyers what they kind of thought about creativity. And what was interesting was that they felt that actually their work was very creative as much from the problem-solving aspect as the art of persuasion if you're an advocate. But also a lot of the time you're creating whether it's an argument or you're creating documents, you become a bit of an architect in a sense, which to me is creative at its very core. So I am really passionate about creativity. And I would love to see more discussion around that because I think that from academia upwards, we had permission to be creative, that words like innovation would just be embedded. We wouldn't need this kind of external rhetoric on innovation, that feels as if it's forced upon me, then it would probably happen a lot more naturally.

Annabel Pemberton:

Creative skills come in different ways. And I think there definitely needs to be more awareness about how these do mesh into careers such as being a lawyer. And that it's really important to make sure you keep your creativity alive during your studies. As a by-product of that, innovation would come more naturally in firms.

Emma Pemberton:

Definitely. And I think, yeah, I couldn't agree with you any more with that. I think that we're labelled at such a young age and we do it all the time and I have two kids and I have to stop myself from going, "Oh, he's actually more... He just seems like a poet or he really loves words." You do it really early on. And obviously, as part of our evolution, we have to judge very quickly and we do label things for survival, but law would never be considered a creative profession, whereas as you said, like literature and the arts. My mom was a designer and an art teacher, and she went to art college in the sixties. So you're not going to get much more of a creative depiction than that, but it was kind of, for me, that whole creative world, was part of my kind of upbringing.

And you don't realize, I suppose it's maybe by osmosis, but going into rooms with all these books on the history of art and design and there were just paintings and there was charcoal and it was just everywhere. And I just grew up without any... You have that assumption then I think, which is, and I recognize that, but sometimes you have an assumption dependent on your upbringing as well. So I had just assumed that that was that world and it had its place. And it was nearly like in the same way that you give kids a creative corner in nursery or in school, it's stuck in a corner and it shouldn't be. But it's just about changing mindsets again, which is quite a big task, but not impossible.

Annabel Pemberton:

We shouldn't as lawyers, see ourselves with a fixed mindset. We should be approaching it, that we can learn new skills and creativity comes in all different forms. And that's a really good trait to have as a lawyer. It's not this fluffy thing. It's really important to be creative, to actually be competitive as well. And it's important for business. And that's definitely something I don't feel is a very strong message in the industry at the moment. So it's really great that through Surmise, you did that series because I think it's the start of that message really spreading.

Eimear McCann:

That's the key point that you hit on there, I think is that aside from all of the giving permission and labels and all that, which I still think is true, it's kind of still perceived as a bit fluffy and a bit, "Well, that's all very well, but why do we even need to be creative? Why is it important for the business?"

And I think that's the key, isn't it? If you can persuade people that... Well, first of all, if you can persuade them that they are, but that's really up to them, isn't it, to reach that. But I think from a business perspective, and obviously, all legal teams are concerned about the business from whatever angle it might be, it's about, well, why is that important for the business? And it's only whenever you speak to GCs, for example, and you see the creative processes that they've implemented or fostered within a business and how that has made such a big difference and not just in terms of happiness within teams, but in terms of efficiencies. And obviously, then save and revenue as well as time. So I think that's a really important issue, is emphasizing why it is important in the first place.

Annabel Pemberton:

Yes, absolutely. And I was just going to ask you, why is innovation important for the legal sector? But I feel you've really hit it on the head there with those points, how it's very tied to revenue. It's not just about standing out. It's also from the business side as well. But do you feel there's any other points that make innovation and being creative really important for the business of a firm?

Eimear McCann:

There's a book actually that someone, a very kind person sent to me, it's called the Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley. He talks a lot about keeping it simple and also about how you cannot drive a business forward based on assumptions, particularly if the assumptions were made maybe 10 years ago, five years ago, because historic assumptions can't really feed into what a client wants now or in the future. And you look at the most successful businesses in the world, and I hate this expression, but I can't think of another term right now, but it's all about future-proofing. They've already kind of had the vision as to where people will be, whether it's somebody saying people are always going to want things faster than they want now, next day delivery, delivery within an hour, that kind of thing.

And so aside from creating happier workplaces, driving efficiencies, et cetera, it's kind of longer-term. And I think businesses that would be myopic to not see that other firms will push ahead and will essentially overtake them if they don't kind of stay on top of what the client really wants. And to me, that's what innovation is really about. It's about what does... If you're providing services and that's obviously what legal is, it's within the services industry. And so if you're not looking at what the client wants and the client needs are changing so fast at the minute, I think then they will fall behind.

Annabel Pemberton:

Keeping that in mind, what do you predict will be the main changes, say in the next three to five years in the legal profession that lawyers will need to respond to and make sure that they are innovating and they are considering how they're providing legal services?

Eimear McCann:

I'd love to have a really good answer for that one, but I do feel that because we're all feeling a little bit overwhelmed at the minute that we need a very simple message. And I think that clients are demanding a lot more from lawyers and legal teams, but in the sense that they just want a simple message. They want the language to be simpler. If people are going to use technology, that they're using it to remove friction so that it's a more kind of seamless process.

And I think as well, that we keep hearing about interoperability and different platforms talking to each other. But on a very simple level, it's still the same thing. It's people wanting simplicity so that whenever you log onto one platform, you don't need to keep jumping around from different things. And I think that we are living in a subscription economy. We are all very used to the fact that you can just sign up and you can pay 10 pounds a month or whatever it might be. And I think that legal services is kind of catching up with that. And I think keeping things simple, also just being much more aligned with where we are in the world more generally is what's kind of very much needed within legal at the minute and in the future.

Annabel Pemberton:

Yes. I couldn't agree more, just not over-complicating the service and also communication with the client as well, especially given the times right now when best teams that... Okay, they've been remote for nearly a year now, but it's still very new and they want to move fast and get things done. If it doesn't need to be complicated, then it shouldn't be.

Eimear McCann:

I mean, what I find interesting is going back to that diversity point, if we will reach the point where within the kind of the near legal entities that you see designers, developers, experts in different fields that are all very much becoming an intrinsic part of a law firm. And I'd love to see that. And I think that if that happens, then you will see all of these fantastic, innovative law firms and businesses that have very much kind of caught up with the world that we're in at the minute.

Annabel Pemberton:

I really hope that is the case that in the future and from now, we can really move in that direction because it would just be amazing the service that could be provided if all these skills and different backgrounds came together.

Eimear McCann: Definitely. And I think as well for law students and paralegals, what an interesting world to enter into instead of just having a very set trajectory of, I'm going to be a trainee and then junior and work your way up to partner level. I just think there's just so many really interesting roles that are already out there. So within the next kind of five, 10 years, it would be so interesting to see what kind of roles are available.

Annabel Pemberton:

I suppose, just as one final question, I know you've already given one book recommendation, but at the moment, are you reading anything or is there another book that you would recommend to our listeners?

Eimear McCann:

That's only probably the second nonfiction book I've read in a very long time. Someone did recommend a book that I haven't yet started called Tribe of Mentors, which is supposed to be an excellent read. And I did, after being told by so many people to read it, I did read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which I suppose was useful from the perspective of changing mindsets. And if there's anything at all that can help anyone to change mindsets for the better, I'm always going to promote it. So I thought it was just really interesting because it kind of goes back to what we talked about at the start in terms of the more that you kind of believe all those labels that were given from childhood upwards, that you start to kind of behave and conform to them. So it's very much about making changes, but in very small ways, which I think is something that's actually digestible and also realistic given that we have lived through quite a very strange year that's been a bit overwhelming. So I'd also think it's a pretty good rate as well.

Annabel Pemberton:

Thank you for sharing those, absolutely. Atomic Habits has been on my list for a while. I looked into summaries online actually of the book. I haven't read the book. So it's something I do need to look into, definitely. Well, Emma thank you for coming onto the Wired Week today and for answering these questions. It was a lovely conversation to have with you.

Eimear McCann:

Yeah, it was fantastic talking to you, Annabel. Thank you.

Annabel Pemberton:

I'm Annabel Pemberton, and you have just listened to the Wired Week podcast available on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Podcasts.

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