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A Coffee with... Linklaters!

In the third episode of our video series featuring brilliant minds of the Legal and Technology world, we got to chat with the capable ladies, Sophie Mathur and Lena Müller from Linklaters!

Linklaters has taught us that innovation can happen anywhere, and anyone across all functions can be the mastermind to great ideas. Hear from them as they share how the law firm build an innovative culture amongst diverse personalities from multi-disciplinary teams.

1) Tell us a little about LinkLaters and what you do.

Sophie: I’m Sophie Mathur, I’m a partner at Linklaters, and also one of the Global Co-heads of Innovation. Linklaters is a global law firm. We have over 5000 staff globally and we’ve been in Singapore for about 26 years now.

Lena: My name is Lena, I’m a Legal Project Manager here in the Singapore office and I form part of the Global Business Improvement team. I support our lawyers by providing project management services to enhance the efficient delivery of our client matters and I support them in a way so that they can focus on what they do best – delivering excellent legal advice.

Sophie: Because Lena is good at lots of things we are not good at.

2) What does ‘Innovation’ mean at Linklaters?

Sophie: At Linklaters, innovation is really about empowering our people. This way, people can think about ‘is there a better way of doing this?’ and if there is, go ahead and do it. It’s really about letting everyone have a voice and working together with each other; lawyers, legal project managers, coders, so that we can get the best results for our clients.

3) How does Linklaters support and encourage innovation in the workplace?

Lena: At Linklaters, we focus on breaking down the silos and delivering the entire firm to your clients and enhancing that experience, because people have different strengths and they play to their talents. It really is about multidisciplinary teams, having lawyers, coders, designers, legal project managers forming part of that team. And we believe that if we have the right people on that team, the solutions will follow. A couple of examples that showcase how we live innovation, or how our innovative culture looks like, is for example, our technology and equipment enable us to work from anywhere, at any time. We can practise agile working and we can make use of flexible working arrangements if we want. We have various committees in the firm so there could be a diversity inclusion team making sure that everyone feels valuable. Furthermore, we have innovative ways of working webinars. A recent initiative was our Linklaters Coding Club where anyone in the firm can subscribe to and learn the Python coding language as we believe coding becomes a more important business skill.

Sophie: And I just want to jump in about the coding club because I love the fact that the coding club was suggested by a first-seat trainee, which in our world means she’s been in the firm for less than six months. And she said, wouldn’t this be a great thing for lawyers to try because coding is not so different from legal drafting, there’s a real logic to it. We thought about it and we said that’s brilliant, and we made it happen. This is a great example of how the best ideas can really come from anywhere.

4) How important is technology in your innovation initiative?

Lena: Of course, technology is important. It dominates us inside and outside of our work environment, but technology itself is not really the innovative solution. It should rather be the mindset and the intellectual curiosity that should equip us with adapting to these always ever-coming digital transformations. And within Linklaters we do make use of legal technology. One example being Artificial Intelligence, document automation which saves us a lot of time, and we’re also working together with ISDA to create an online contracting tool.

Sophie: When I was asked to be one of the Global Co-heads for Innovation, I almost said no. First of all, because I am rubbish at technology. I have our IT team on speed dial because my stuff is always not working. It’s not me, it’s the stuff. I had to think about, I had to reflect on what could my contribution be on the innovation side. That’s when it hit me, it’s the cultural piece that’s creating the fertile ground where people are going to accept and embrace the use of technology to help us do our jobs better. Not necessarily the technology itself.

5) Why did you join FLIP? How has your experience been like?

Sophie: We joined FLIP for two reasons – collaboration and ecosystem. We’ve discovered in our own innovation journey that innovation is just impossible without collaboration. You know, we’ve talked about that ourselves, in terms of breaking the silos, internally in the firm, across practices, across different job roles, but FLIP really takes it to another level, so you can collaborate with people outside the firm, lawyers, legal tech, coders. And I think there’s a real magic when you put people together. There’s a reason why the FLIP headquarters is in Collision 8, right? It’s where ideas collide, and FLIP really gives you the opportunity and gives our people the opportunity to do that. One of the things that really drew us to FLIP is the ability to contribute to the creation of an ecosystem. I think it’s terrific how Singapore is really committed to be a legal tech hub and there’s an understanding that for there to be a real hub, there needs to be the suppliers (i.e. the law firms), the builders meaning the people who are the legal tech startups, as well as the customers. Because you don’t really want a product that has nowhere to go.

Lena: I think we can pride ourselves really being called part of the FLIP family, because this is how the emails are being sent out: “Hello FLIP family,”! It is great to not only know the different stakeholders from the legal sector here in Singapore, but the events are being made fun, we can contribute, we can learn. And the entire experience is just very pleasant, and as Sophie said, fun.

6) Any exciting things coming up at Linklaters?

Sophie: We are really exciting about our ongoing project which we call Matter Explorer project or data exploitation project, and we were delighted that just a couple of days ago, we won at the FT Innovative Lawyers Award for that project. And what it is, is really about helping us exploit our data better. Like most law firms, we sit on a huge amount of data, and the question is, how can we use that data more efficiently for the benefit of our clients. For example, if we are going to go and visit a client, we want to be able to just pull out at a touch of a button what is the client interested in, what are the last few deals the clients have done, what’s on their radar. Of course, right now, we can do that, but it is a little bit of work to pull all that information together whereas with our data exploitation project, we want to be able to do it at a click of a button. Imagine if you are a junior lawyer, how empowering this is because it really enables you to deliver the firm to the client, deliver the expertise of the firm to a client. Consider this scenario, you want to know what the provisions are relevant to a power project in Ecuador. You don’t have to run around the firm looking for the last person who did a power project in Ecuador, you can use the system which will have machine learning elements to help get the right answer to pull out the last five deals that the firm has done on power project in Ecuador. And voila! you become the expert on power project in Ecuador!

7) Any advice for those who wish to make an innovative change to the legal industry?

Sophie: To make the change in the industry, I would have two things for people to think about. One, is understanding that it’s a commercial imperative to embrace innovation. It is not a ‘nice to have’. It’s something that really will make a difference into how you deliver your products to your clients, as well as the quality of life for your people. And the second thing is that, the older lawyers really don’t have monopoly of wisdom in this. It’s about letting people have a say and listening to the digital natives who know so much more about what’s going on, and letting them lead the way.

Lena: I think I would say also two things, one is that innovation does not happen overnight. It takes time and it takes endurance. It’s hard, and it takes people thinking, or makes people think differently. The second one would probably be to make it a team sport. To really valuing the different talents and skills that any firm or any company has and bringing that to the table. Then, the rest will hopefully happen by itself.

Thank you Linklaters!

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