Stephen Allen is a highly experienced operational and transformational business leader and is internationally recognised as a leading market expert and innovator. At Hogan Lovells, Stephen is responsible for working with lawyers and finding solutions on how to improve efficiency, service quality and embrace innovation.
In this episode of Innovation Insights from Idea Drop, he also speaks about ways to foster an innovative culture in big enterprises and the importance of challenging everyone around the board table as well as celebrating innovation.
Below you can find a transcript of this episode of Innovation Insights with Stephen Allen.
Charlie: Stephen, great to see you again, would you tell us a bit about yourself?
Stephen: My name is Stephen Allan and I am the global head of legal service delivery at Hogan Lovells. My role is to work with what I call our front office, our lawyers, and really help us to do three things for clients. One is to improve our efficiency, the second is to improve our service quality, not our legal quality but the quality of our service delivery, while the third thing is to improve and embrace new innovation.
C: Stephen, we’ve met before and some of the things that you have told me, you are personally interested in, but the firm is also very interested in, is cyber security and of course the big thing on everyone’s mind at the moment… Brexit. Can you tell us about how the firm is innovating in those particular areas for clients?
S: I think they are two good examples as they give us examples on both sides of the pond, which I think we would argue was one of the benefits of Hogan Lovells. If I think about cyber security, whilst it’s a global issue, we have a particularly strong practice in the US. This is led by Harriet Pearson who we hired from IBM, who herself is an innovation award winner. What we’ve realised is that clients don’t just want legal advice, they want help in implementing and testing the system, so in addition to an advisory practice we also have a consulting business that helps our clients to do dawn raids or deal with urgent rapid response requests.
In terms of Brexit, whilst it feels a very UK, well certainly living here it feels a very UK centric issue, it is increasingly an issue for our global clients. I would suggest we were ahead of the curve and whilst I think we were all surprised by the result, we had prepared for it. We had ready-made advice so that the day after the Brexit vote when we all woke up slightly bleary-eyed and surprised, we actually had ready-made materials that we could supply our clients. This is unlike a number of firms that were left standing and shocked. Whilst we were surprised, we were able to give clients advice on how this might impact them immediately. Going forward, because we’ve been there and we’re ahead of that curve, our ability to advise on the impact of Brexit across a range of industries, such as banking and data as the two biggest areas that people probably think about, is increased. Also we can consider what it means for our overseas clients, clients outside of the EU, so what does it mean if you are an American company and you are providing into Europe and used to be headquartered in London, what does that now mean for you?
C: I am fascinated with how a huge firm like yours fosters an entrepreneurial culture. Can you tell us more about it?
S: I think it is in our workplace culture. When Steve Imult, our current CEO, came into his position, there were a number of things that changed. First of all, we went from having joint CEO’s from the old legacy firms to a single CEO. I think that did a number of things, firstly that globalised everybody as everybody immediately became global as we were all part of one thing.
I think that the second thing is that Steve is an absolutely voracious reader and incredibly interested in innovation. Due to this, he constantly challenged those around the board table and as a result of which you’ve seen a number of projects that have snowballed and created innovation. The other thing is that we actually celebrate innovation, for example we have our own internal innovation award of which we are just going through a round now, whereby people make innovation submissions. I think we had over 80 submissions this year and we then go through these submissions, verify them and celebrate them. I think that the fact that people realise that this is not just being watched but also celebrated, actually encourages two things, one is to be able to think innovatively and the second is to actually talk about innovation. If you are trying to share something globally, it’s all very well doing innovation in one pocket of the firm, but actually if you want to drive value for our clients across the globe it has to be shared.
C: How does the firm currently socialise and collaborate on the knowledge that they gain? What tools do you guys use to do that?
S: Sharing is always difficult because of client confidentiality, sometimes this makes things difficult. People don’t like sharing because knowledge is power, that’s not a law firm thing, that’s a human thing and that is a barrier that you have to break down. Obviously, you are left with legacy technology, so we have the common stuff that you would expect such as a SharePoint site, intranets and regular videos that talk about stuff internally. I think what we are interested in is how can we have a better way of capturing knowledge. Emails are incredibly useful, but at the same time is email the best way of sharing this kind of information? We are now starting to think how else do we disseminate that? If someone is getting two hundred to three hundred emails a day and they need to be addressing client need first and foremost, how do we disseminate this information in a different way? We are constantly looking at videos and different ways of doing that.
C: If you fast forward ten years, what do you think we are going to see law firms looking like?
S: I think not all law firms that exist today will exist in five years or ten years time. I think that some firms will become bigger and you will see what you have seen in the accountancy market, whereby certain firms will increase their capacity to produce and consequently will become super firms. I also think that you’ll also see smaller innovative startups that provide a particular service.
The idea of bundling service providers, as you would with IT at the moment, is also going to become increasingly interesting, either with big firms producing some of the facets itself and buying in or partnering in with other organisations for other parts of the facets. Or you may see clients doing it themselves and clients buying from individual providers and only going to the big firms when they really need it. For that to happen, I think there needs to be a much greater commonality of a platform. Too many of the solutions at the moment are singularly focused, so you are either going to need platforms that do a multitude of things, or you are going to need a much more tangible set of APIs where stuff can work together. You will also need a lot of non-lawyers who help stitch this thing together in an effective way. I think the big change that you will see in big law is that the model of having lawyers in the only the front-office will change increasingly. In the future there will be data scientists, there will be surface architects, there will be project managers. There will be a whole source of different innovations and different kinds of talent that help bringing tech people and alternative delivery solutions together.
C: Steven, as always it has been an absolute pleasure to see you and to interview you.
S: Thank you very much.
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