Q&A: Jonathan Patterson, Managing Director (Innovation and Venture), DWF


Shay Namdarian

The way that legal services are delivered is fast changing due to advances in technology and business model innovation. This is resulting in a gradual shift towards affordable, standardised services and efficiencies in how law firms deliver services.

We interviewed thought leaders on the changing legal industry, emerging technologies impacting the sector, factors holding law firms back and what the future lawyer looks like.

Here is our interview with the Managing Director (Innovation and Venture) at DWF, Jonathan Patterson


Predicating the pace of change 5 years ahead is rarely accurate but directionally I think we will see a shift from a largely singular business model for legal services (expert led, time based human service) to a mix of four main business models.

1. The legal advisory model will still be prevalent with expert human lawyers providing strategic advice, but it will likely be augmented by increased use of technology in delivery and more certainty in pricing. This won't necessarily just be traditional law firms but also a mix of platforms providing flexible 'gig economy' legal expertise.

Senior advisory lawyers will be operate in specialist teams based around clients and industries rather than generalist 'black letter' practice areas.

2. New products and services will emerge that provide legal solutions without requiring traditional legal expertise - for example risk management consulting, data insight services. (like DWF's Connected Services)

3. The ALSP model will be the dominant provider for the delivery of every day legal work – e.g. contract management, transaction support, real estate asset management, employment agreements etc.

4. The most basic of legal activities will be completed via self-service models integrated into business processes. Digital applications and platforms that combine knowledge, data and technology will make it easier for business users to complete some tasks without needing to consult or outsource to one of the other 3 models.


1. Platform technologies are really exciting even though adoption in legal has so far been slow or unsuccessful. As we have seen in other industries, if a combination of technologies can be found that enable a legal services provider to de-couple ownership of expensive assets with delivery of services, this feels like the big innovation breakthrough.

These technologies if they can generate a network effect will allow new providers not just enter the market but also scale quickly ad compete with conventional service providers.

2. Digital data technologies also open up new opportunities. So far, they have been mostly used by legal service providers to make production more efficient but they offer so much more. I would love to see the legal services equivalent of John Deere who have shifted from a traditional manufacturer of farming equipment to being a provider of high growth digital farm management services by utilising digital data technologies.

3. I am still in the unfashionable group that think SMART contracts will have their time. I totally get that there is too much hype in legal about Blockchain with very few tangible examples of meaningful success, but I think the idea of contract clauses connected to live data that can auto update and execute will fundamentally change how some services are delivered if we can get it to work at scale.


I don’t think this has changed much in the 20 years that I have been in the industry. Three barriers continue to impact innovation in most law firms:

1. Complacency that existing business models make good margins and deliver growth. This is fuelled by the fact that most buyers of services still default to traditional models despite being largely dissatisfied.

2. Professional fear of failure. Legal professionals are trained to identify and mitigate risk. The feel like they are expected to know all the answers so there is a fear of the unknown and of failing. This means the culture and core skills of law firms often discourage radical ideas.

Law firms still make up the biggest percentage of the market so this risk of failing can override the need for innovation.

3. Investment appetite. Most investments are made in a business model that wants to see in year returns and high profit per equity partner so radical innovation over a lifecycle or investment in a longer term horizon idea is incredibly difficult.


In some ways I think this is the wrong question as legal services shouldn’t just be about lawyers but a hybrid mix of roles and skills. However in a mixed model I would expect qualified lawyers to still have good empathy for clients, deep technical expertise and well rounded business acumen and commercial skills.

Alongside that I think we will see other specialisms including digital and data skills, collaboration, customer experience, technology, knowledge management, consulting expertise and leadership and management skills to name a few, forming key parts of legal services.

I don’t expert all these skills to be found in some super charged future lawyer though. It will more likely come from a team of multidisciplinary professionals working together in a team to deliver solutions to the legal elements of business problems and opportunities.

To find out what 14 other thought leaders had to say on the future of legal services, download the full 21st Century Lawyer report at www.newlawacademy.com/report

about the author

Shay Namdarian is GM of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus and the author of Stop Talking, Start Making - A Guide to Design Thinking. Shay has over ten years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience and design thinking. He is a regular speaker and facilitator on design thinking and has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture. Shay has supported global organisations to embed customer-centric culture, working closely with law firms such as Clifford Chance, Pinsent Masons and ClaytonUtz

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