Talent spotters from Webber Wentzel, charged with bringing new ideas into the law firm, are casting their net beyond lawyers into the wider pool of technology experts with expertise in delivering innovative legal solutions.
It’s not that one of South Africa’s respected legal firm wants to compete with innovators such as Google, Microsoft, tech startups, etc.
Rather, the company’s vision seems to be based on harnessing technology as a means of delivering efficient and innovative legal solutions to its clients.
In short, the legal firm is seeking fresh ways to service its customers in the digital world and embracing its new solutions.
Christo Els, Senior Partner at Webber Wentzel, says the company recognizes that the future of South Africa requires an ecosystem of innovation and growth and “we want to make a meaningful contribution towards this”.
The innovative legal firm has already taken tentative steps to this, in April, Webber Wentzel was the first South African law firm to announce the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) software, Luminance, to supplement its existing due diligence and document review processes.
In May, the firm also launched coding training to introduce its lawyers to the fundamentals of coding and technology concepts
The firm recently launched its Ignite legal incubation programme for tech start-ups, which involved the selection of 10 successful start-ups and scale-ups to receive tailored legal services, mentoring and training support and targeted networking and profile-raising opportunities.
Its ambitions, however, stretch a lot further.
The law firm announced today the appointment of Warren Hero into the newly created role of chief information officer.
He joins Webber Wentzel from Microsoft where he was Chief Technology Officer for the South African operations.
The company said this signals it’s heightened commitment to harnessing technology as a means of delivering efficient and innovative legal solutions to its clients.
“Warren’s appointment follows the launch of a number of technology related initiatives to improve efficiencies, stimulate innovative thinking across the firm and reimagine the future of legal service delivery to our clients.” Says Webber Wentzel’s managing partner, Sally Hutton.
The legal fraternity is increasingly seeing an intersection between law and technology.
“We need look no further than smart contracts, the use of blockchain and artificial intelligence. While we do not intend for our lawyers to become technologists, there is a natural synergy between coding and the practice of law as both apply logic to solve problems but in different ways,” Alexia Christie, a partner and technology law expert at Webber Wentzel says.
Lawyers Who Love Coding
A number of Webber Wentzel’s lawyers with an interest in technology are keen to acquire coding skills, which the law firm support.
“This is part of a broader focus on creating awareness firm-wide about disruptive technology, legal technology trends and legal services innovation. Blockchain, smart contracts, AI, cryptocurrencies and the internet of things are a few of the topics on the firm’s skills development agenda,” says Christie.
“We believe that lawyers who understand technology concepts will be better placed to assist their clients into the future”