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Myth-busting in-house legal tech: tips to avoid tech for tech’s sake

In a time of constant change (COVID-19, Brexit … ), legal tech should never be about tech for tech’s sake. It needs to serve your business’ needs, so you can tackle the challenges you face head on smarter, faster and better.

Remember the wearable tech fail of Google Glass?

In April 2012, Google revealed the prototype smart glasses to an excited public, but the excitement didn’t last. The wearable tech—straight out of a Sci-Fi film—divided opinion on price, privacy and design. Cinemas banned it and, in the US, one individual was pulled from the cinema and questioned by Homeland Security agents, accused of pirating a movie by recording it with the device.

More widely, many non-glass wearers didn’t like being filmed in public without their say-so. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit research centre in Washington DC, noted ‘people cannot let down their guard or lower their veneer of professionalism, for fear that their actions may be recorded, disseminated, and criticized out of context’. The questions arose: why should you be filmed, say, buying medicine at a pharmacy, looking dishevelled after a workout, or looking a bit worse for wear during a night out?

The tech worked, but ultimately people pushed back. In the end, Google admitted that it was wrong to have let expectations about the glasses overheat like it did. Of course, the tech giant has succeeded in many things. It wouldn’t be where it is today if, along the way, it hadn’t experienced, in the words of Astro Teller (Google’s so-called ‘Captain of Moonshots’) a few ‘bumps and scrapes’ along the way. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Move on.

On this occasion, it seems this tech overlooked people—not the enthusiastic tech fans using the glasses—but the other less enthusiastic people in their fields of vision. In tech, it turns out, people still matter.

What does this mean in practice? Here are just a few of the many tips which we have learned through experience, with the legal tech solutions we’ve developed:

  • Engage with your team and take a people-focused approach. As US law firm consultant, Debbie Foster says ‘this is more psychology than technology at the end of the day’. Listen to your team about what they want and need. The former UK Government Digital Service Director General, Kevin Cunnington, agrees: ‘it’s all too easy to think that developments in technology make people less important. With every year and every job I’ve had in digital, I become more and more convinced that the reverse is true’. The upshot? Focus on your team and other stakeholders when implementing tech. Tech is best when it’s about people and tech, not people or tech.
  • Do a trial run: when introducing new tech, consider running it on a trial basis before you commit to it. How does your team get on with it? What did they like? What weren’t they so keen on? How can your vendors help you hit the ground running so its implementation is as seamless as possible?
  • Don’t focus on tech for tech’s sake. Make the tech work for your business where it is needed. Your business has countless needs. If some can be fixed without tech, great! But if not, don’t rule out a tech solution just because it doesn’t do everything you want: 80% better is much better than 0% better.

Earlier in the summer, we launched the New How, our long-term strategic project, to build a smarter, better, faster new normal through innovation. The New How is how your business could—and should—be doing things now. Over the past few years we have been working hard developing innovative products, processes and working practices at Shoosmiths like matters+, Live Working and now Cia (our new AI contract review platform), to name a few. These exciting products don’t change what is done, but they radically change how it is done.

Let us help you with your #NewHow. so you can be smarter, faster and better.


This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2021.

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