Stephen Allen: Head of Legal Services Delivery, Hogan Lovells International
#BakersDozen is a series of interviews with leading professionals in the fields of law, consulting, finance, tech, and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in (or a customer of) the legal business?
Like many, I fell into law looking for a career of challenge. A more interesting question would be why I came back to law after going into industry. The reason I did is that the people are really smart, they genuinely have great integrity and they need help from people that understand them and their world.
What do you do for a living right now?
My role is to (continuously) improve the efficiency, service quality and innovation of our legal work.
What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest success in the legal services field and what did you learn from each?
I’ve been really lucky, I worked on many landmark innovations including creating Managed Legal Services, developing a maturity model for in-house legal teams and delivering the LOD tie up with DLA Piper. From this I’ve learnt two things – change can happen and that nothing is impossible if you’re willing to back your ideas.
Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
The right direction – but slowly. Change is hard and it requires stakeholders to agree on what is needed. I think there is a genuine willingness to innovate but where I have seen this work best is when both law firms and clients have collaborated.
Who – or what – inspires you – and why?
Danny Kahnemann – his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ is the single most amazing piece of original thought, ever.
What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
Do a law degree – and then decide the role you want: lawyer; coder; product developer.
How ready for change do you think the legal industry is?
It really depends on the ‘who’. As a whole, I think change is anticipated but not everyone is ready for it. Those firms or clients that have invested in focused teams to help develop and deliver change will be so much better placed.
Is more – or different – leadership required? In what ways?
I think law firms need to diversify its management – those that have are flourishing. Professional and gender diversity are key.
How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
Technology is an enabler for change not a change itself. Legal is not a ‘linear’ process, it will always require people and would benefit from IA (intelligent assistants) rather than AI.
In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
There will be a panoply of service providers and technology solutions. Clients and law firms can package these together, as needs be. I also think there will be a role for the effective ‘aggregator’ of services as we’ve seen in the tech industry – one throat to choke is a very compelling model.
Are consultants and lawyers looking increasingly similar? Should the distinction continue?
Lawyers can learn a lot (and have) from consultants around client service and presentation. However there are very distinct legal disciplines that are essential to the business of law and can’t be simplified. Lawyers need to wrap process around these to improve efficiency without impact on the efficacy of ‘lawyering’.
What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
Data is always good as a tool for enlightenment. If used in this way to find mutually beneficial outcomes, then I am all for it.
Lawyers have typically regulated to keep non-lawyer investors out but that’s a two-edged sword these days. What are your thoughts?
Outside investment, for investment sake has always struck me as a bit of a fad. I think that for distinct ventures however, where lawyers look to complement of diversify – it does offer opportunity.
What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
Cultural change. It always starts and ends with the people. Everything else is an enabler.
Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
Political events over the last few years have only gone to demonstrate the need for an agile and effective legal profession. The ‘business’ of law is key to supporting this.
What do you consider is the greatest challenge facing the industry?
Hype. There is so much good stuff we can do but are diverted by the seductive allure of headline. You can never move forward if you don’t start with the basics.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the sector looking forward?
Better leverage of knowledge. Law firms see so many instances of any given challenge, that to be able to capture and derive lessons from this will enhance client value.
Do you think law can improve its track record on diversity and inclusion? How?
Yes, absolutely it can, it is and it will. However it does require a commitment from firms to ensure that it walks the walk. I’m very lucky to be in an organisation that does and I think everyone benefits, lawyers, partners and clients.
Will the current regulatory framework around law help or hinder it in the future
Law firms should be able to give regulated advice but also, when clearly agreed and understood, unregulated guidance. Until this happens, law firms will be at a disadvantage to those not regulated.
Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
The next generation.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Or what would you do differently?
Yes I would but I would have done a psychology degree as well as. Helping people to change is key.
If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
Yes, but I’d want a seat on the board!
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Psychologist or neuroscientist.
What would you like to be known for?
‘Getting it’ – I mean really getting it.
What would surprise everyone if they knew?
I am a big fan of Rom Coms.
What’s your favorite hobby or activity outside of law?
Cooking. Can spend all weekend doing it.
What’s your favorite sports team?
Non-league Ebbsfleet United Football Club.
Whats your favorite city?
What’s your favorite food?
Whats your nickname – and why?
Woody. Its kinda obvious.
At Hogan Lovells, Stephen is responsible for delivering quality, efficiency and innovation to Legal Service Delivery, globally.
Stephen worked as a lawyer both in private practice and in-house during his early career, before crossing the board table to become Managing Director of two divisions of Orange-France Télécom in the UK and Continental Europe. Stephen uniquely combines deep business and legal understanding to address the demands of the current legal market – notably being the architect and implementer of the multi-award winning Managed Legal Service℠ for Thames Water – the first ever multi-year, fixed price deal for legal services. Stephen is the author of the widely read and followed lexfuturus.com blog and has a long track record of making the complex simple and the simple effective. He was recognised by FastCase50™ as one of the most courageous legal market innovators of 2013 and highly commended as Legal Innovator of the Year 2016.