I am very lucky in the panels I am asked to moderate. The speakers are either people I know already, or are experts whose reputation has gone before them so that I know to expect interesting things from them. Dera J Nevin was known to me by reputation and from her very useful Twitter feed, but it was not until this year that we presented anything together.
Dera Nevin is a lawyer and legal technologist. At Legaltech in New York she was an articulate speaker on a panel which I moderated for Relativity called Discovery, security, and business considerations.
One of her subjects on the panel was the questions lawyers should ask and have answered before moving to the cloud. Afterwards, I interviewed her about wider subjects arising in her work helping lawyers to choose and use legal technology.
Dera Nevin said that implementation runs more smoothly when the lawyers have been involved in its selection and understood why it was to be used. It works best if they have been involved in articulating the need for a technology solution, and see some examples.
Sometimes the lawyers have a pre-existing process and want to know how they can do it better. Dera Nevin can draw their attention to things beyond this – not just showing them better ways of performing existing functions but asking “Did you know you could do this?”
It is sometimes necessary to address lawyers’ fears that they will be displaced by technology. There will, Dera Nevin said, always be a role for lawyers, but some of the specific tasks which occupy their days are ripe for disruption.
The lawyers may in fact be happy to be rid of some of these tasks. It is necessary sometimes to ask what is actually being displaced. Is it a low value task (and by implication one which is unfulfilling as well as unprofitable)? The majority prefer to move into higher value activities which improve their working lives as well as their practices.
I asked Dera Nevin if things are getting better in this regard. The conversations are getting faster, she said, and one can get more quickly to the things which matter. Many younger lawyers are more willing to experiment, but are not necessarily more knowledgeable than the older ones. In their everyday lives they are used to beautiful technology which just works – they don’t know how it works, but just know that it works. Most legal technology is not like that.