Colin Hewitt

Colin Hewitt

Emerging lawyers and developing technology

As law firm Ward Hadaway celebrate a special milestone, Colin Hewitt reflects on how data and technology has evolved in that time.

2018 is a special year for our firm as we celebrate 30 years since the establishment of Ward Hadaway in Newcastle.
Before we get out the party poppers and take a slice of birthday cake, it’s an ideal time to reflect on the developments in technology that are shaping every aspect of our lives today and how life has changed since that auspicious day.

A lot has changed in three decades from businesses adopting mobile working, cybersecurity, cloud working, social media to the media revolution that is about to see BQ magazine become a digital-focused publishing platform from April. Not to mention the various devices we have become so familiar with over the years. It’s hard to believe that, around 30 years ago, a mobile phone was the size of a small suitcase and was voice-only. For many, it’s also hard to believe a time when email and social media did not exist, they have become so integral to our business and personal lives.

As technology becomes all pervading, it leaves every industry having to embrace the new technologically-savvy generation as sitting on the sidelines is not an option. Law firms, like those in the service and finance sectors, are now operating in an era of the greatest technological developments we’ve seen since the industrial revolution.

Data is without doubt the currency that now underpins the digital economy and the upcoming general data protection regulation (GDPR) in May recognises today’s data-driven world and the advances in technology.

For businesses already familiar with the current data protection regime under the 1988 Data Protection Act, GDPR represents an evolution rather than a revolution but it brings with it major challenges for many businesses that need to think again about the data they hold and how they use it.

The legal sector is constantly battling stereotypes, but with tech-savvy millennials making up nearly half (47%) of our workforce here at Ward Hadaway, our people can switch between media platforms and devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones with ease.

Think technology-first
Like our clients, our people have embraced technology because as lawyers we have an obligation to keep up with the digital era and are working more efficiently as a result. We communicate with clients in the manner they prefer, with greater client satisfaction as a result.

Our lawyers are used to working flexibly on a broad range of systems and devices and they have access to the information needed at their fingertips at all times. This means that they can connect with clients and prospective clients and share documents and information much more easily than before and so deliver advice more quickly and clearly than ever before.

Adapting to change
Every business has its own digital needs, but there are core areas that all companies need to put in place to remain competitive. They should maintain a web presence to communicate with clients, stakeholders and suppliers and use the cloud for business continuity and more collaborative working. It’s now vital to digitise back office functions too such as payroll, asset data and logistics.

New technologies continue to emerge to which we will need to adapt, with the advent of artificial intelligence within professional services removing some of the more routine tasks and allowing lawyers to focus on adding value to the advice they give.

As we at Ward Hadaway look towards our next decade, our objective remains the same – to continue to be a truly Northern law firm for national business. However a data-led future is one we are already embracing because we know it’s going to lead to us understanding more about our clients than ever before in order to connect with them.