Partnering with Technology
By Mitch Owens, CTO, Gilbert+Tobin
Mitch Owens is the Chief Technology Officer at Gilbert + Tobin. He is an accomplished senior technology management professional with extensive experience in the global banking and professional services industry. His focus has been on the delivery of application and infrastructure services that enables the business. In a candid interview, Owens walked us through the technological landscape in the legal space. Following are his insightful thoughts.
What are the technological trends and challenges in the legal space?
The biggest challenge in the legal industry today is the rapid development and introduction of technology in the space. Technologies that have long been delivering advantages to other industries are just beginning to gain traction in the legal land which is ripe for disruption. Thereby, to extract the maximum benefit from these new entrants it requires a lot of collaboration between the lawyers and technologists. We also assist the firm’s clients in accessing the best technology for them or in performing thorough research around technology.
We also do solution provisioning for our client like creating toolsets, hosting environments, running hackathons and design jams as well as undertaking process improvement workshops. A large number of our clients come from the highly regulated industries like government, banking, and insurance where security concerns are a top-notch priority. We perform an extensive review of the products we utilize to ensure they adhere to their cyber security and risk requirements.
With the surge of AWS, Microsoft Azure, and other PaaS and SaaS services, today, firms have started to accept cloud as a host that secures confidential data professionally and cost efficiently.
How do you choose your solution providers?
The company uses an approach that starts with internally identifying the existing problems, while also analyzing the best possible solutions for it.
We are in the process of migrating our existing document management system to a new platform. For that, we first mapped all the user issues and feedback before conducting a product comparison session to select a product that would deliver benefits around mobility and agility as well as resolving the issues.
We research our requirements and opt for technologies that fulfill our needs before approaching a specific partner.
I do not necessarily go with the biggest or most well-known names and brands in the market.
Technology should be an enabler for users to do their job better, easier, and faster
Could you highlight on few projects or initiatives that you are currently overseeing or implementing?
There are a couple of projects at the moment, of which the major one is around the migration of the document management system from an on premise solution to future cloud service. This brings massive user change management, unlocking the users from their desk and delivering them the capability to access documents from anywhere, at anytime. Platforms like this and Office 365 provides users a real end-to-end workflow around being able to collaborate with internal peers or clients, enabling them to do constant e-mails, back and forth, and receiving responses more instantaneously.
With the move to cloud based services there are risks around identity management and other security aspects. For that we looked at what we see as the market leading identity management platform that gives our users a seamless login experience but with the enhanced policy capabilities that we can control what applications are accessed on what devices—we allow the cloud to be used by staff on devices we trust.
We are doing a lot of work inartificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. We are looking at repeatable legal processes and engaging with legal process solution providers to drive cost down and deliver services more efficiently and freeing our lawyer community up for higher value work.
How do you think technologies like AI, machine learning, and big data would shape up the legal space?
Some think machine learning and AI will create the Terminator scenario – robots rule the world. We know it is going to change some aspects of some jobs dramatically. However, in the legal space, these advancements can enable lawyers to cut down on their repetitive works like documental reviews so that we can lift the lawyer into high value work. These lawyers can actually do more important legal thinking around what the client needs when implemented in these processes and create the efficiencies we seek. That is where we see the immediate return on AI.
Please share your thoughts around security and risk.
Law firms are a consolidator of data. In the last couple of years, law firms have been susceptible to hacking through internal and external vectors which has the potential to disrupt and destroy operations in a legal firm.
We have to be vigilant while running transactions and make use of technology to safeguard the business.
Could you talk a little about your leadership traits and your principals that influence your employees and team?
My approach is that we get the most out of people through information sharing and giving them some control of their destiny. I give people the responsibility to do their jobs, and I expect them to do that. It allows them to go and seek the work they want to do. Unlike the traditional technology shop where people might be assigned a specific function, I encourage people to perform cross functions and help them influence the business.
We try to make technology partner with the business. I do not spend on technology to be implemented unless it showcases a fundamental user aspect d benefit. Technology should be an enabler for users to do their job better, easier, and faster. We are trying to give users the technology across multiple platforms that is user-friendly. It opens the door for cloud adoption. Around our innovation space, we are breaking down lawyers’ workloads and processing mapping it to inject technology wherever required.