On his way to becoming a Legal Engineer at Pinsent Masons, Simon studied a BSc in Computer Science & Law at the University of Strathclyde and undertook an accelerated LLB in Scots Law before completing the Diploma in Legal Practice. Simon works within the Pinsent Masons’ Innovation Team. We met with Simon to ask him a few questions about his role and legal tech at Pinsent Masons.
Have you ever regretted not pursuing a career as a solicitor?
While I had aspirations of being a solicitor, I found myself steering towards the route of a technologist specialising in law, and I realised it was the perfect fit for my interests and skills. I am one of those fortunate people who can claim to love what they do!
What does a Leal Engineer at Pinsent Masons do?
I’m a fairly atypical Legal Engineer! My team focuses on the configuration of technology solutions for our clients, such as document assembly tools. I’ve dabbled in several things since joining the team but am now primarily focused on data analytics within our legal analytics offering. Our offering applies the skills and techniques of a data analyst against legal problem, essentially treating legal documents as data sets and legal questions a data points. My role is a mixture of solution configuration and deployment (using the firm’s own technology solutions), and stakeholder interaction including requirements gathering, solution design and elements of business development.
A typical day can involve working directly with lawyers to identify, design and setup technology solutions, provide data analysis and reporting services, or advise on technology solutions and best practice. Although our ‘technology toolbox’ fundamentally remains the same, no two days are the same because the problem or challenge is always slightly different. This keeps things engaging and interesting!
Tell us more about the interaction between your team and the lawyers.
My team works very closely with our lawyers as an integral part of our legal client service. When working on a project we are involved in the majority of the on-going discussions from the earliest stages. We act as the technology experts on any given project whilst being a gateway to the rest of the technical expertise available in the business.
In the delivery of any professional service for a client, whether internal or otherwise, the ever-present challenge lies in communicating and understanding each other’s needs and expectations. This is especially interesting in the provision of legal services because the domains of technology and legal knowledge can seem so different to each other, when, in fact, there is logical thinking required in both fields. I think reaching a consensus regarding the requirements and creating a solution which satisfies everyone involved is probably the most fulfilling part of our projects. Our lawyers see and appreciate the inherent value in what we do to transform their work, making it easier, so there is always a healthy exchange of ideas.
How can having a team of Legal Engineers benefit our clients?
The work we do enables us to deliver services to our clients with greater efficiency and accuracy than would be possible with manpower alone. For example information which historically might take time to compile and therefore become out of date during the extended preparation period can now be gathered far more quickly using our technology, therefore solving this type of problem.
Technology solutions mean that projects that would otherwise be impossible to resource are actually feasible, so our legal engineering capabilities can be critical in determining whether it is realistic to compete for an provide a particular legal service
What do you like about working at Pinsent Masons?
It’s a pleasure working with some very skilled, knowledgeable and likeminded, friendly people, especially in the sphere of legal technology. I think many firms are still in the infancy of their journey into this growing field and it is a delight to work with a firm that is structurally and culturally advanced in the delivery of what it does. I think there is a huge educational and awareness drive required in a law firm before legal teams can effectively utilise legal technology solutions, and it’s inspiring to know that legal teams already have a great understanding of how we can help.
The team is always growing as the demand for legal technology services increases. We’re looking to further enhance our existing technology tools given their track record in transforming legal work so far and their future potential. Good things are definitely in store for the future!
In your opinion, what is the most innovative piece of technology that Pinsent Masons is currently using to help our clients?
Legal technology solutions aren’t technology solutions; they are people solutions. As part of our ‘TermFrame ERA’ service offering, we currently use state of the art natural language processing (NLP) and machine based decision-making tools to process huge amounts of legal data and documentation. Our tools enable our legal teams, working closely with our technical experts, to compete for and undertake legal work that would otherwise be humanly impossible to complete within reasonable timescales. This flexible service is backed by our team of data analysts and developers. The application of NLP and machine learning concepts has existed since the latter half of the 20th century. Therefore, in some sense, the technology isn’t the novelty; it’s our innovative business application of technology.
What skillset should one have if they want to be a Legal Engineer?
If you have a passion for using technology to solve peoples’ problems, there is a very real prospect that you will enjoy being a Legal Engineer. An analytical, commercially-focused ability to break down and understand problems before coming up with technically creative solutions will serve you well.
At the beginning of your career, you may find yourself being the junior person present in a meeting, and yet highly valued as a technical expert. A high level of conscientiousness and the ability to explain a combination of legal and technical detail in an easy-to-understand way is invaluable.
Any tips on how to become more tech savvy and stand out?
The market for legal tech is primarily comprised of legal graduates as opposed to technical graduates. If you really want to differentiate yourself, seriously consider learning foundational computer science subjects such as databases, programming, coding and system design. There is plenty of free material on the web to get you started.
The problem solving skills of a programmer will greatly enhance your understanding of why technical problems need to be broken down into small details and why technical solutions can be painstaking to create. You will naturally learn to analyse problems this way. Being able to write code scripts to perform admin tasks is also a sought-after skillset in legal tech.
Alternatively, if you come from a non-legal technical background, consider learning about how legal businesses work and what different lawyers do. Research some of the current technologies being used in the legal market. An awareness of the state of play of the commercial application of legal tech will be very impressive. Taking the initiative to develop these skills shows a genuine interest, shows that you have the right mind set and will set you apart from others.