This post was originally published on High Performance Counsel and has been republished here with permission.
Jennifer Johnson, Vice President of Commonwealth Legal, a Division of Ricoh Canada, discusses the evolving legal technology landscape and shares her thoughts on how human-driven technology is the future of eDiscovery in the latest High Performance Counsel "Baker's Dozen" Interview.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU CAME TO BE IN THE LEGAL BUSINESS?
I was an educator in my former life. I then started in this industry 16 years ago, as a trainer educating legal teams on how to leverage technology in their practice. My passion for learning and organizational development has carried forward in my career with the emphasis we place on education around eDiscovery and related technology in the marketplace. To this day, I leverage my educational background to find ways to bring services to market in a meaningful way, always trying to bridge the gap between thought leadership and practical entry points for our clients. You have to meet people where they are at, to ignite change.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING RIGHT NOW?
run the Canadian division of Ricoh eDiscovery (aka Commonwealth Legal) and am responsible for driving our business strategy, introducing innovative new solutions, and contributing to the evolution of Ricoh’s emerging Service offerings.
After years of trying to explain what I do for a living, I am grateful for my new elevator speech using “Hillary Clinton’s Emails” as my example, which has made what we do in our niche industry more mainstream. As eDiscovery matures into more of a business process, I believe this niche industry has much to offer in solving broader business challenges around information management.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION CONTEMPLATING LAW AS A CAREER?
I have a lot of empathy for people starting their careers in any field at this time. While it is exciting that there are so many emerging opportunities and possibilities at hand, it can also be overwhelming. The path ahead is not as predictable as it once was. There is a push for increased specialization in today’s economy (which means making choices early in your career), but there is also an increasing call for legal professionals to be more well-rounded – particularly around people and technology skills. This is a tall order and speaks to the critical challenges and level of change at hand in the industry.
I would also highlight that times of change require stewardship at every turn, so leadership and innovation skills are increasingly important. Lawyers of the future will also need to be business-minded, adaptive and even entrepreneurial to truly thrive in an evolving landscape.
HOW READY FOR CHANGE DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS AND WHO ARE THE GREATEST INFLUENCERS OF THAT CHANGE?
I don’t think it is a question of how ready for change the industry is, so much as whether its constituents want to lead that change and create the future, or be at the effect of it. Unless the legal industry creates a renewed vision for its practice, the greatest influencers will come from outside. Industry disruption is not about how ready the participants are, but rather how ready the disruptors are to seize the opportunity at hand.
I really believe that we are on the cusp of an “Uber-esque” transformation in the industry. This is a time where the small disrupts the large. Converging trends change the landscape overnight, and it can only be understood in hindsight. What was once considered absurd can soon become the norm. A small example: I believe it was Richard Susskind who predicted long ago that email would become the predominant method of communication with clients, and his comments were considered disparaging and offensive at the time.
Some wait for change to happen, but the problem is there isn’t a memo or even a moment when you know a revolutionary change has occurred. Most of the time, it just seeps in and is suddenly part of the landscape – and that landscape has changed irreversibly. From this perspective, I don’t think the industry is ready as they aren’t putting their minds to these environmental factors.