Edward Andrew is a former barrister, headhunter and entrepreneur. He is the founder of The Human Consultancy. For over 20 years he has worked with law firms around the globe and helping lawyers manage their careers. He states on his LinkedIn profile, he has been “an entrepreneur since 2001 I have built, owned and operated legal recruitment businesses in London, Sydney and Delhi including agency and technology (Saas).” 

What prompted you to do what you do?

It is not really a question of what prompted me but more that as a former barrister both law and justice have always been in my blood. While I have not practised law for over two decades I have been around the industry for most of my life. As an entrepreneur my legal training has often been invaluable. I have been both a consumer of legal advice and law firms have been clients of mine in a variety of my businesses. For example, this past weekend I was a judge in the Sydney event of the Global Legal Hackathon and I immensely enjoyed the energy, camaraderie and passion of trying to solve some of the world’s problems in a very broad legal context.

Law draws me back in from time to time and once you have a deep understanding of an industry it only makes sense to help where I can in its development, not just for the sake of the profession but for everyone whose lives it touches.

What do you think law firms and in-house departments are doing well to adapt to the changing world of law and what are they currently not doing well?

Well now you have firmly put me on the spot! This also depends on which country we are talking about as changes to practice and in-house in the UK, Australia and North America are happening at different speeds and in a different regulatory environment. I love what the UK’s SRA has done to change the admission process to being qualified, I have long been a fan of the apprenticeship model rather than the old fashioned rote learning of law schools.  To learn on the job is a very powerful mechanism to developing real world expertise, which law school graduates rarely possess, and which is instrumental to providing your clients with the solutions they pay you for.

Both law firms and in-house departments are embracing technology, but they have vastly different drivers and the businesses which are forward looking are address real change and innovation, relevant to them, will be the most successful. Change for the sake of it is unhelpful but I do not believe the traditional partnership system is sustainable in its current guise, the model is outdated and no longer aspirational. From a cultural and leadership perspective it simply requires too much energy and creates too many pain points as be an efficient corporate structure in 2018.

In-house department have to get to grips with career planning and in very flat structures there is little room for movement expect into the business side which should be widely encouraged and promoted with adequate training.

What is the biggest misconception you think practicing lawyers have about technology?

I really think machine learning and artificial intelligence are some of the most widely abused and misunderstood phrases. How many click-bait headlines use the words AI without any real knowledge as to what it means and how much application it has. I am a huge fan of technology and I would love to see the day that machine learning develops ‘true’ intelligence but we are not there yet. Technology is an enabler when properly used and implemented, and a massive disabler when poorly used, both in terms of wasted cost and inefficiency.

Find out what you need first and then work what systems are best suited to that problem, don’t follow the pack with the latest and greatest bit of Ai.

What top skills do lawyers need now to effectively do their jobs that they didn’t need 10 years ago?

This is a good one. There are certainly skills today which give lawyers the edge and are evolving such as project management, customer engagement, true business development and marketing. Understanding of technologies is also going to be become the norm. Lawyers will become more like financial advisers and accountants, they will be more embedded with client’s businesses rather than being a one-off expert, though that will absolutely have its place at the very top end of town.

There are skills which every lawyer should possess but have been mainly neglected for a long time and they involve everything around emotional intelligence. Collaborating, trusting, understanding your colleagues, suppliers and clients at a deeply human level has never really evolved in law firms because there was never really a need above a superficial level, they were after all brain factories. That is not to be disparaging but more of the skills and expertise that were highly prized by BigLaw.  EI was never one and even where it was those skills were never really invested in. Brain always ruled over the heart and that is possibly one of the biggest changes that we will see in lawyers coming through the ranks, with wider interests in social impact, human dialogue and interaction at an emotional level.

What is the biggest current difference you see between those practicing law in the US versus Australia?

I would say that in BigLaw and transactional matters there is not the depth and intensity of deal flow in Australia and to that end many lawyers who return to Australia become frustrated with the supposedly slower pace but if you had never left you would still feel overworked!