We caught up Emma, Knowledge & Innovation Manager at Slaughter and May, to find out more about what Innovation means at Slaughter and May.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to join Slaughter and May in your current role?
I currently work as a Knowledge & Innovation Manager at Slaughter and May. Had you told me I would be doing this role when I was studying law at university I would have been surprised as I had grand plans of becoming a partner (probably in the tax department) and I had my sights set on eventually making Managing Partner. (Though, perhaps the latter is still possible!)
My career up until this role had been pretty traditional. I studied Law at the University of Nottingham followed by the LPC at BPP. I did my training contract with King & Wood Mallesons (then called SJ Berwin) and subsequently qualified as an Employee Incentives lawyer at Travers Smith. I worked there for a couple of years before realising throughout my whole career I had been trying to come up with new (read: better) ways of working for. I was creating checklists, trying to simplify processes into flow charts and I was intrigued about the possibility of AI or automation taking away some of my workload.
Slaughter and May were a few years into their relationship with Luminance (AI powered contract review tool); they were looking to expand their legal tech portfolio and work on more innovation related projects. I was thrilled when they offered me a job to join the team on that journey.
Could you give an overview of Innovation at Slaughter and May?
Whilst we have a central knowledge and innovation team, innovation is happening all around the firm. It’s a key topic on the minds of the partners and we have a huge network of people across the firm who have joined our Innovation Network. Through the network they they can learn new skills, share ideas and create real change.
We have a large number of innovation work streams underway at any one time. These fall into areas such as thought leadership, legal technology, service design / process improvement, legal design and increasing skills in the areas of creativity, digital literacy and productivity.
Broadly, the focus for us is on using new approaches to complement our traditional strengths while improving the lives of our employees.
How has this approach shaped the culture at the firm?
Slaughter and May has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and our innovation strategy complements this really well! It’s encouraged our employees to keep questioning and iterating in their pursuit of excellence (the firm’s motto is excellence in everything we do!)
Open-mindedness, diversity and creativity are core pillars of the firm’s culture and have really influenced the way in which we service our clients and the overall wellbeing of the firm. Innovation at Slaughter and May is evidence of those attributes in practice!
What is the best part of working in the Knowledge and Innovation department?
I like to think we’re quite a fun bunch, full of personality and getting along with the people you work with makes all the difference! As a group we have quite a diverse set of skills and personalities which means it’s quite a dynamic working environment. I love that the people and projects I work with are never the same. “Variety is the spice of life” so they say!
How does your approach to Innovation make Slaughter and May stand out against other law firms?
Slaughter and May has a unique culture and our approach to innovation is unique too! It’s not a side project that happens in one corner of the firm, it’s embedded in our firm’s history and is something that the firm was doing long before it became a buzzword. It means that we might not always be shouting the loudest about it, but it’s something that we do every day without even thinking.
Everyone at the firm is encouraged to question and challenge so that we can find the best possible ways to service our clients. Our approach is holistic and recognises that change can come from anywhere within the firm (or even outside of it). We work really closely with our clients to identify the areas of change they care about most. This might happen on a granular level as part of a matter or more broadly, for example, through our Collaborate programme. We recognise that there’s no point innovating for our clients if they haven’t had the opportunity to shape what that innovation looks like.
I think it’s also important to acknowledge that for us, it’s important that when we are innovating the result achieves what it was intended to do: make life better! Improved processes might, for example, mean less repetitive work or perhaps more rest!
Anything else to add?
There’s a lot of hype around innovation and, perhaps more specifically, legal tech. I think it’s important to remember that not all innovation has to be a “big bang” change and that small, incremental improvements are often some of the most impactful changes you can make. Innovation can be big or small, client facing or internal and it can come from anyone in the business! That’s what makes it so exciting.