We've launched a new series called 5 Questions with... where we interview people who are working in the legal technology and information management industry to learn more about their personal contributions, biggest challenges and ideas for the future.
Andrew Bowyer is the founder of ADB Insights — a Vancouver-based media and consulting company. ADB Insights convenes forums, workshops and digitally-based platforms focused on change in the professional services sector, including the Canadian Legal Innovation Forum which Ricoh is a proud sponsor of.
Andrew spoke to us about his international media career, why he started Canada’s first legal innovation conference, and the biggest challenges he's observed in the Canadian legal sector, which he breaks down into five categories.
1. Tell us about how you got to where you are now.
I moved to London in 2005 after finishing my undergrad at the University of British Columbia and was hired by the Financial Times where I worked for five years. Early on, I had a great opportunity at a young age to run a group called Strategic Publishing that focused on how the newspaper was going to connect with new audiences (lawyers being one of them) through content as well as generating new revenue streams for the business. This was during the time that the newspaper business was going through a fundamental shift of moving from print to online. I learned a lot about how the media business works and about working in a sector that was experiencing a lot of disruption.
Next, I did something completely different and joined Bloomberg in London who then moved me to New York and then back to London again. The great thing about Bloomberg is that it is a very innovative, collaborative and global company and culture. I learned an enormous amount working there through the years all over the world. I ended up working in a number of different roles, all of which required close collaboration with the firm’s in-house legal teams, and I learned a lot on the front line about how the interaction between the business and lawyers works. After seven years at Bloomberg, I joined a consulting firm that focused on innovation in the global legal sector.
In 2018, I decided it was time to come back to Canada and set up my own company. During my travels, I had met people who told me there was a lot of innovation happening in the Canadian legal industry, but there wasn’t a definitive conference about it. I decided to make it happen, and that’s how I started the Canadian Legal Innovation Forum and my company, ADB Insights.
2. What are the biggest challenges for your clients?
The purpose of what my company does is to provide networking platforms underpinned by top line content for professionals — both in person and now virtually. In terms of the content, the primary focus is on covering what’s contemporary, relevant and reflective of the changes underway in the professional services sector. When it comes to opportunities and challenges specific to the Canadian legal sector, I’d break them into five categories:
- Process: How are the challenges being identified in the first place? And then, what are potential approaches to solving them and what processes can be put in place to support these solutions? The way people define what the problem is in the first place is key to creating and implementing successful innovation processes.
- Mindsets: Lawyers advise their clients on mitigating risk — it’s a core competency of what they do. Once you add in the requirement to be innovative — which requires a risk on approach — it can create a certain kind of dissonance. To overcome this, holding a flexible mindset is key. You need to inhabit two different personas which is not always easy: one that mitigates risk and one that embraces it when it comes to innovative delivery of legal services.
- Technology: Many view technology as a panacea and synonymous with innovation. That’s not necessarily true. You don’t always have to adopt a complex piece of technology to enable innovation. Instead, technology is something that supports innovation and process. Defining the challenges that need to be solved in the first place, determining a realistic strategy to address these challenges and then considering what technology will help you achieve success is a sound approach.
- Culture: There’s a generational shift underway in the legal sector. Being comfortable using technology and seeing it as an opportunity rather than a threat is an example of one of the fault lines that exists on the contours of this shift. The notion of purpose being important in one’s career is another area where there are often contrasts. Awareness and working to bridge these divides (perceived and actual) is important in terms of pursuing a successful innovation strategy.
- The new paradigm: The way we work is going to be different — over the past few months we’ve all seen this accelerate — and that’s cross-sectoral. For the legal sector, increased digitization, a new competitive landscape in terms of providers of legal services and the generational shift underway in terms of who’s making the decisions on all sides will all have tangible impacts. With all of these variables driving change, amongst others, I believe that the structure of the Canadian legal sector will look quite different in 2025.
3. What technology or solution excites you the most about the future?
Technology that enables collaboration is an interesting area. There are a lot of silos within the legal sector. Solutions that allow you to cross-pollinate ideas and collaborate in terms of workflow both internally and externally is a space to watch. There’s also a lot of opportunity around using data, analytics and machine learning/ artificial intelligence and applying them to help approach both specific legal matters as well as business problems facing law firms and legal departments. It will be interesting to see where data analytics and AI go next.
4. What's next for you in supporting the success of the industry?
The digital shift has been on my radar for a while. In fact, I had planned the 2020 Webinar Series preceding COVID-19. Being able to pivot between being a successful digital and analog business is a great feeling. It gives me the opportunity to expand my vision and also develop and test my own innovative approaches in terms of doing things differently in my business.
5. What advice would you have for someone working in the field?
The expertise required from lawyers isn’t going anywhere. Complexity is increasing, which means legal expertise will be even more in demand. The key will be adjusting to the shift in how legal content and expertise is delivered. Because the structure of the legal sector is changing, it will mean many new and fulfilling opportunities will emerge. Being able to embrace it both professionally and personally is important. We’re entering a dynamic period of time where adapting mindsets and approaches to solve challenges in new ways will be critical in order to succeed.
Stay tuned for more content from Andrew, including an exclusive series.