Our good friend April Brousseau joins us to discuss her role as Director of Research and Development at Clifford Chance’s R&D Hub. The fact that a law firm has a dedicated R&D group shows how innovation cannot simply be a part-time task that someone at the firm takes on. April’s diverse background as a law librarian, lawyer, and knowledge management leader paved the path to her current role in the R&D Hub and the innovation program. She discusses how they’ve adapted the Three Horizons Strategy from the likes of Gartner and McKinsey, and how they are transforming the core of their operations to complementing services and business assets at the firm, and looking at the future of legal services to stay ahead of the disruption curve. We also learn what a HiPPO is inside a firm.

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Information Inspirations
Electronic filing of court documents was supposed to speed up the process of getting court information accessible. But according to this opinion piece from Courthouse News’ Bill Girdner, it’s actually hampered access, specifically to the Press.
Just when you thought there couldn’t be anything new under the sun, Twitter conversations uncovered there is a 3rd Amendment Lawyers Association. And they are raising #3A arguments with the CDC’s new eviction moratorium.
The First Edition of Introduction to Law Librarianship is out. This free e-textbook, open access publication is designed to help those considering entering the law library profession, as well as those teaching others entering the profession.
Legal tech is definitely a part of practicing in the legal profession. Some think it is so much a part of the profession that it should be tested on the Bar Exam.
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Twitter: @gebauerm or @glambert.

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Email: geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com.

As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca who has a new album coming out in October!

Marlene Gebauer  0:17

Welcome to The Geek in Review. The podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.

Greg Lambert  0:24

And I’m Greg Lambert. Well, this week Marlene, we talk with a friend of ours, April Brusseau from Clifford Chance’s Research and Development Hub in London. So I find it really exciting that a law firm would actually have a dedicated R&D function. And April talks to us about the Three Horizons Strategy that they’re taking on at the R&D Hub, from transforming the core of their operations, to complementing services and business assets at the firm. And my favorite of looking at the future of legal services and staying ahead of the disruption curve. And of course, our favorite thing that we learned was what a HiPPO was inside a firm. So you’ll have to just kind of hang on for that one. So, but it was it was great catching up with April.

Marlene Gebauer  1:12

Yes, it was. And so stick around to find out what a HiPPO is inside of law firm. But now let’s get to this week’s information inspirations.

Greg Lambert  1:25

So Marlene, my first inspiration is a self-published commentary that Bill Girdner of Courthouse News did, which asks New Mexico courts to give back public access. One might think that electronic court filings would help kind of speed up the process of getting information out to the community. But one would be wrong in New Mexico’s case, according to Girdner.

Marlene Gebauer  1:50


Greg Lambert  1:51

Yeah. So he says that in the old days before electronic filing, the press, which included CNS staff, would be allowed to access the documents filed at the courts right after the clerk had accepted the documents. So they would like literally like pass it over the counter, and they would have two stacks, they would have the process stack and the getting ready to process stack. And the apparently the press were allowed to look at the the new filings. However, the courts there are now waiting until the documents have actually been entered into the docketing system, which usually means a delay probably about a day, according to this article. And CNS is bringing a First Amendment case to restore the old model of allowing reporters to see the documents as soon as the clerk’s office accepts them. Just to have full disclosure here, my firm is actually representing CNS in this matter. So this is not CNS is first time to sue the courts for access. They’ve actually brought cases in Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio, and Texas as well. And while bill Gardner’s article is written from, obviously his point of view, on press access to the filings, there’s a lot of good points here on the importance of accessing filings by the press in order to inform the public of current legal actions which are very newsworthy.

Marlene Gebauer  3:17

So when’s the last time you heard a constitutional argument around the Third Amendment?

Greg Lambert  3:22

I’m thinking back in college,

Marlene Gebauer  3:25

maybe. I know like the first and second amendment get a lot more exposure, right. Well, the third amendment Lawyers Association, who knew there was even such a thing?

Greg Lambert  3:35

That’s crazy.

Marlene Gebauer  3:37

Yes, filed an amicus brief claiming the CDC eviction moratorium forces landlords to quarter soldiers.

Greg Lambert  3:46


Marlene Gebauer  3:46

pausing, The argument is that given the size of the population, some of the tenants are bound to be soldiers, and this violates the Third Amendment, which prohibits quartering soldiers in times of peace. Well, Law Twitter has been having a field day with this, as you can imagine. So if you hashtag third amendment, and you can see some of the responses, some are funny and some are serious. So here’s one I like, which is I guess a little bit of both. The Third Amendment says that without the owner’s consent, a landlord who is leased to a soldier has already given consent. They’re just trying to revoke it. And the third amendment does not prohibit all limitations on an owner’s ability to revoke consent after it has been given. Where my Textualists at? So if you want to see the actual brief, I put the link in the show notes.

Greg Lambert  4:36

Oh, my goodness. Well, something I thought I would never hear #ThirdAmendment. Yep. Yeah.

Marlene Gebauer  4:44

Everybody was commenting about the creativity of JDs.

Greg Lambert  4:49

Yeah. Well, you know, if you look hard enough, there’s an association for everything.

Marlene Gebauer  4:54

That’s true.

Greg Lambert  4:57

My second inspiration is about the New First Edition of the Introduction of Law Librarianship and this book is out and it is crazy amazing. Awesome. So editors Zanada Joyner and Cas Laskowski, along with a diverse group of law librarians bring this first open access ebook to focus completely on the law library profession. And you may remember Cas was one of our very few, I think she was actually on a third episode is

Marlene Gebauer  5:27

like second or third. Yeah,

Greg Lambert  5:29

it was, or it was early. So the book covers the philosophy behind a career that bridges the two professions of legal and libraries. And it addresses the questions that many consider when considering law librarianship as a career, you know, such as Do I need a law degree? What’s the type of libraries that are out there? What specialization if any, do I need to take on? And a lot more, and it looks at the academic, the government, and the private areas of all librarianship, it covers marketing and the outreach to the profession. And again, my favorite the future of the profession. So the book is free to download and use. The chapters are written by those of us in the profession who actually are doing the work. And I applaud their commitment for just making this book happen. So I’ve placed a link on the show notes where you can go and download the book.

Marlene Gebauer  6:22

That is super cool. That is really good. I’d like to I can’t wait to take a look at that. So here’s another burning question from Twitter. Should legal tech be tested on the bar exam? Well, some people think so. But there seem to be some cons as well as pros. While tech is a large part of the life of an attorney and in the words of retired us magistrate judge and Georgetown, adjunct professor of law, John M. Facciola. Not testing a gigantic part of a lawyers life seems strange, our very own geek Casey Flaherty notes that it would be hard for examiner’s and questioners to keep up with technological advancements. And I think the guy on Twitter that said, No, [you can bleep that] would agree here. And let’s not consider how we would test tech knowledge. Would it be multiple choice or hands on? Some are saying CLE is the right course. But if you’ve never taken a CLE, I can assure you, you’re not going to learn technology that way. I think certification sounds like a good option, though. But whatever your position, if you want to catch the Twitter chat on this search on #legaltech and #barexam.

Greg Lambert  7:38

Yeah, that’s interesting. I just can’t wrap my mind around how you would test them on a bar exam?

Marlene Gebauer  7:44

Yeah, I that’s a lot of thought that would need to go into how that would work.

Greg Lambert  7:49

Yeah. Well, that wraps up this week’s information inspirations.

Marlene Gebauer  7:58

Today’s guest understands that success isn’t just about talking about innovation, but rather about delivering value to the law firm and its clients. Whether it is iterative improvements on the core business practices, continual improvements and adjustments over time, or anticipating understanding and adapting to disruptions in the future, Innovation is a constant process and not just a side gig.

Greg Lambert  8:23

We would like to welcome April Brousseau, Director of Research and Development at Clifford chance in London. April. Welcome to The Geek in Review.

April Brousseau  8:31

Thanks, Greg. Nice to be here.

Marlene Gebauer  8:34

So April, we’ve all known one another for a while, but please tell our listeners about your professional journey and how it’s prepared you for your current role over at Clifford Chance’s R&D Hub.

April Brousseau  8:45

hanks, Marlene. So yeah, I’ve had a bit of a roundabout journey I’ve had about every job there is that isn’t just being a lawyer. So

Marlene Gebauer  8:52

we like we like roundabout journeys. So that’s good.

April Brousseau  8:55

I started out as a librarian. So before I qualified as a librarian, and I worked in libraries all through university and was really passionate about librarianship. But I also thought maybe I wanted to be a lawyer, mostly because I worked with lawyers in a law library and wanted to prove to them that I could do what they did so wrote the LSAT, and then suddenly ended up at law school. And you know, after my first year, I still really wanted I was still really passionate about librarianship and I was working in the library. So I converted my law degree to a combined masters of library science together with law. And I did that and then wasn’t sure still what I wanted to be when I grew up, when I left Bosch, the pressure of law school to get called to the bar, you know, you sort of feel it. So I did, I did article and ended up doing litigation, I thought I was going to be a research lawyer. And today, I’m actually quite introverted. And I thought I’ll just be in the stacks researching people’s memos. And then it turns out, I actually really like to argue, more. Like, it’s more that I really like to win. And it was the one job I ever had, where like, somebody is wrong, and I’m right. And you know, I get paid for that. So I did that for a few years. But you know, like, being a lawyer has a lot of requires a lot of sacrifice. And I didn’t really know that the balance was right for me. And the firm that I had actually been working in the library at before law school called me up and said, Have you heard of knowledge management? Like, do you know what that is? Because we’ve got a knowledge management team were setting up and would you like to come and join it? And I thought, Oh, my gosh, it’s the best of both worlds. So I did that. And that was at stake when le in Toronto and I did that for about four years. Then. Norton, Rose Fulbright, in the UK, had a job for one year, it was meant to be a one year contract to come across and help them implement search, everyone’s favorite. And the global search project,

Greg Lambert  10:58

enterprise search, the thing that keeps no one up at night.

April Brousseau  11:03

Right. And I actually am like, oddly obsessed with taxonomy. And so it was kind of like a dream job. So yeah, I moved to London for a year, I sold my car, you know, rented my house in Toronto, and seven years later, still here. After finishing enterprise search, that project actually moved into information architecture for a few years. And that was kind of trying to bring together a lot of the skills from librarianship together with the legal background. And some sort of, you know, some of the business skills I learned along the way. Turns out, I hated that. It was a little bit too in the detail for me. And so I was like, What can I do with this random skill set that I have. And I moved to another firm, Simmons and Simmons, where I was the head of innovation and new business. And in that role, I was kind of like using my different skills to build digital products to sell to clients. I actually really liked that. That was really cool. I didn’t love the sales part. So much. Turns out, yeah, not the best salesperson. But I liked engaging with clients, and I liked solving problems. And it was really interesting. And I learned a loss. And then again, was sort of like, do I want to do this forever? Who do I want to be when I grow up? And Clifford Chance calls and said, You know, we’ve got this new function, we call it create, and it is, you know, research into the future of legal services. And it was a quite an open job description. And to be fair, I didn’t really understand it at the time, but I was like, whatever, I’ll give it a shot.

Greg Lambert  12:42

That’s probably okay. They probably didn’t understand what they wanted, either. So

Marlene Gebauer  12:45

sometimes those are the best ones, you know,

April Brousseau  12:47

Yeah. And I will say this, like Clifford Chance is a really open firm in terms of their mentality and the way that they think about innovation, and they’ve been investing in it for a really long time. And so, you know, they kind of were like, it is a bit of a blank page for you. And, you know, where do you want to take this and it’s now a year and two months later, I’m I’m the Director of Research and Development. I go for chance, which is cool. Possibly my dream job, but we’ll see.

Greg Lambert  13:16

Good. So you’ve been in in the R&D Hub since May. So Just tell us a little bit had this idea of research and development lab come to be? You know, it’s one thing to think about it, it’s another thing to make it a reality. So how did you in the firm come together and make it a reality?

April Brousseau  13:37

Yeah, it’s I mean, it’s interesting story, like the firm’s quite iterative, like I said, and flexible in their approach. And so they started their innovation journey probably about 10 years ago. But at that time, it was really focused on operational improvements. So it was continuous improvement, legal project management. And internally, we call that Best Delivery. So that function has been around for almost a decade, and it’s over 180 professionals strong all over the world, legal project managers, resource managers, delivery centers, legal technology advisors. And then in 2018, they said, you know what, we want to spin out a separate business unit to build and sell digital products to clients. And they called that Clifford Chance, Applied Solutions. And then they created the third pillar, which I was working in, which was called Create. When I joined, you know, one of the things I quickly noticed was that because of the way the function had developed, some things were a little bit siloed. So there were some missed opportunities. And there was some talent, you know, across the firm, that maybe wasn’t being utilized, you know, to its greatest potential, because it was in one team in one region, and they didn’t necessarily know what another person in another region was doing. And so we sort of sat back and said, maybe it’s time for a refresh of the strategy. And we looked at who was doing what, and realize that everybody was kind of trying to build these digital solutions. And it was difficult to do when you sometimes are doing it alongside your day job or with priorities from a local clients, local practice area. And we thought it would be much more effective to scale it by moving the sort of build capability out of that applied solutions entity back into the firm, which I mean, I will say that, you know, in retrospect, was pretty bold. Most firms are currently spinning their research their development capability out, and we actually spun it back in. But we actually looked at the McKinsey model, and you know, with McKinsey digital business, and they they did something similar, we just thought it would work better this way, because it allows us and I have to find a better way to describe it, but almost become like the engine room to really effectively execute things from start to finish, we kept our applied solutions and to T because it’s still relevant to the market, customer care, sales, marketing of our digital solutions. But this research and development function is meant to really sort of harness or capabilities that were spread out before. The research part is the interesting one. And that was kind of one of my babies in a way. Because you can’t develop effectively without a strong research capability. Maybe that’s the library and in me, I don’t know, but and the firm, I sort of thought about what they had said to me in my initial interview that they’re really committed to leading from the future not leading for the future. And so they’re committed to research into what disruption might look like, not two years down the line, but 15 years down the line. And you know, how can we not just be prepared to react? But how do we lead that and the only way to do that is to really uncover some of our blind spots, because we don’t know what we don’t know. compared to some of the other places I’ve worked, it wasn’t hard, you know, to convince anybody. It was a couple of, you know, I think meetings and some analysis of some data. And they just said, Yeah, we’re willing to invest in this, the great thing is that they’re willing to invest in it. But they’re also willing to iterate it. So they’re quite in terms of sort of the firm and its style, they do really appreciate the ability to fail fast, or succeed fast, right? They know that sometimes things take a long time. But if you don’t try, you won’t learn. So lessons learned are helpful.

Greg Lambert  17:29

So what I’m hearing, and tell me if I’m wrong here, is that if you’re going to do an R&D Lab like this, it can’t be a side gig. It has to be a focus for that department to work on that. And am I right on that?

April Brousseau  17:45

Yeah, that’s right. Like everybody does research right on the side of their desks. Everybody isn’t reading all the news articles, but without sort of a dedicated capability, like focused on it. It’s like all things. You know, I’m a firm believer that lawyers don’t make good coders, right? The same way coders don’t make good lawyers. I think it’s important to have a breadth of skills across your team. But specialisms are really important. And I’m sure you guys have seen this as well as lots people think they’re good at research until they see a researcher or a library and do research.

Greg Lambert  18:18

Right, right. And the second thing is you’d previously said you hate selling the products that you develop? Are you going to have to do that here as well?

April Brousseau  18:28

No, because we have our Clifford Chance Applied Solutions entity still, and it’s got a fully stocked, well equipped sales and marketing team are much better at it than me.

Greg Lambert  18:39

Sounds like a win win.

April Brousseau  18:41

Yeah, and we work really closely with the best delivery team to write because they’re the ones who are sort of doing the matters day to day with the lawyers. So we’re responsible in the r&d hub for developing not just digital solutions for the clients, but also for the lawyers to improve productivity. We’re not like a shadow IT teams so we don’t do you know, the business improvements, like, you know, enterprise search, SharePoint, we leave those to the experts like our knowledge teams. But if it comes down to like using technology to be a better lawyer and deliver your legal services in a better way, that’s with us.

Marlene Gebauer  19:17

So April, I heard you say on legito, legal disruptors, that firms must have a strategy in terms of innovation. Now, this can be challenging in a multi practice firm with demanding clients, you know, how have you approached setting a strategy?

April Brousseau  19:34

I mean, it’s a really good question, because we’ve just actually refreshed the strategy. And we looked at a couple of different things. But we’re primarily focused on the three horizon model. So we’ve taken sort of a version of the McKinsey Three Horizon Model that Gartner then you know, adapted, and we’ve adapted a bit ourselves. And we are looking at specific client sectors and work types, but we’re looking at them in the context of three horizons. So in the first horizon, our strategy is about transforming the core and how much we’re going to invest our resources in transforming our core work types. So Clifford Chance has a really clear client strategy. We know what kind of work that we want to do and the clients that we’re looking at. And so our innovation strategy has to support that. So it helps us really know which client sectors we should be focusing on and which ones we aren’t focusing on. And that’s for the core delivery of legal services. The second horizon is about complimentary services and business areas that complement the core, which the core is legal advice. So this is the digital solutions we build to sell to clients. And in that context, it is also driven by our clients strategy of the firm. So for example, let’s just say my should be careful about this. But you know, we don’t do personal injury law in any sort of imagine that somebody came to me and said, I’ve got great idea for like a personal injury product that we could sell with lots of clients, you know, that wouldn’t be aligned to our core practice areas. And we would say, No, thank you very much. So we really always tie it back to what I call viability. So it’s a combination of desirability viability and feasibility, but from a viability perspective is does it align to the firm’s core objectives, and each of our practices have their own strategy, their own sort of metrics, and we’re helping them to deliver on those. And then horizon three, where we also invest is around that future of legal services and the you know, what ifs, but again, we do tie it back to our core product, which is legal advice, and our core client and work type base. We do, you know, sometimes get questions or ideas generated that aren’t directly related to us, or the work that we do. And in that case, I mean, we say no, but we usually say, Can I introduce you to somebody who might be able to help you with that? When I was talking at the legal disruptors conference, I thought it was important to emphasize strategy because you can’t do innovation in a vacuum. And I really believe innovation is action. And it’s not theater, if you’re doing it right. And therefore, to do it, right, you have to have a strategy. Like, you really need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve. And you have to keep coming back to that. Otherwise, I mean, you guys know lots of innovation professionals. It’s sometimes like a cat with a string, right? Like, it’s this idea, that idea, and it’s great to have that creative sensibility, and you need that kind of energy. But to harness it, you need to focus it. And so our focus is really aligned to how our firm operates and the strategy that it has.

Marlene Gebauer  22:50

You make it sound so easy. It’s just like, yes, you know, here’s the strategy, and here are the points and we just follow this. You know, do you do you ever find it kind of gets murky, you know, your example of the personal injury solution. Right now, that is something that it’s like, No, we don’t do that now. 15 years out, maybe that’s something that you do. So, you know, is that something that’s taken into account? Using that example, if it’s someone who’s coming to you, that’s, you know, a very powerful person in the firm and you know, saying, you know, I really think we should do this. Are they in line with, you know, hearing the, the know, and, you know, being able to sort of understand what, you know what the overall strategy is and how that doesn’t fit?

April Brousseau  23:33

Yeah, so, um, an answer to your first question, we review that strategy every quarter, because it can quickly become redundant. You need to sort of stay, you know, things shift. You know, I could, I could identify tomorrow, a potential technology application, which could fundamentally disrupt a practice area. And maybe that practice area wasn’t on my original agenda, but it is core to us, we would need to shift we need to pivot. And so to do that quickly, we have to keep going back to that strategy, and updating it and revising it. And we do that across the whole innovation program. Bas Boris Visser, our Global Head of innovation and business change. And he is where he leads the whole innovation program. And he’s really, he’s really in touch with our clients. He’s close to the partnership, he is a partner and was the managing partner of one of our offices. And so he’s also constantly coming back to our strategy, aligning it to the firm’s practices and the shift, you know, that our clients have in their needs. With respect to the second question, you’re referring to what I call the HiPPOs, the highest paid person’s opinion.

Greg Lambert  24:53

I’m taking that down.

Marlene Gebauer  24:55

All right, we’re stealing it.

April Brousseau  24:56

Yeah. They of course. There are HiPPOs in all law firms. And I will say it has been a blessing here to, to not work in a Swiss vereine. So Swiss firms have a lot more hippos. But Clifford chance is into verein. And so there is a governance structure that we have. So currently, the way that governance works is all i initial ideas get triage by the r&d hub, and we assess it really quickly. And we can say no, but usually what we do is we refer for more exploration, and then we build almost like a rationale to say yes or no, or to dig deeper into what is the actual problem that we’re trying to solve? And should we be the ones to solve it? I have not yet experienced any partner, lawyer or professional I Clifford chance, who doesn’t appreciate a rational explanation, a highest paid opinion or not? And they’re like all people, you know, you can say no to someone, if you explain why you’re saying no to them, but just saying no, you know, because he say things like, no, there’s no budget, or no, it’s not aligned to the strategy, you have to actually kind of explain it in a little bit more detail, and sometimes present a viable alternative. But there will always be, you know, senior people whose brothers, cousins, neighbors, dog walker, has a new piece of technology that, you know, we absolutely have to have. I mean, in a way, it’s good, right? Because then you get visibility of all of these different things. But having the strategy and a clear governance process to fall back on, really helps to kind of kick things to the curb that maybe belong on the curb.

Greg Lambert  26:49

So April, you’re talking about the HiPPO with the internal pressures from important people? What about on the opposite side, when, you know, what are you hearing from the clients on what they deem are most important to deliver? And are there times where there may be an idea coming in from the client, but that doesn’t necessarily fit? In your three horizon strategy that you mentioned before? How do you get to say no to a client?

April Brousseau  27:18

Yeah, obviously, those are sometimes a bit harder. Especially, I mean, sometimes clients don’t necessarily appreciate the investment required to solve some problems, which to them seem like they’re really easily solvable. And so it can become a challenging conversation. But again, most clients are pretty rational. If you explain to them, you know, why this is not what we do. We are not a tech shop, we are not trying to be a development house. Right? What we are trying to do is to create solutions to problems that make a meaningful difference to our clients. But I hear a lot for example, clients talking about contract Lifecycle Management, are we Clifford Chance is going to go out and build a contract Lifecycle Management Platform. No, I mean, all you got to do is Google it and you can see that the market is awash with options. So what we have been doing is focusing on strategic partners. ships with legal tech and other tech vendors. Because we recognize that we’re not a development house. And so if the solution involves the delivery of legal advice, and we think that it could be scalable and deliver real value to clients, even if you know if one asks for it, what we will do is quickly prototype. And we will test it with multiple clients to see if there is a market. And then we will either build or we will buy and build with somebody else. In terms of what I’m hearing on the ground from clients most recently, it’s really interesting. And this might be unique to the market over here. But open law, so quite a quite a few clients are really focused on the concept of open sourcing. And I think that comes down to what many people have talked about around the integration challenge. So lots of clients have asked for lots of solutions of many people. And as a result, there is you know, a plethora of point solutions on the market. And they are not consolidating fast enough. And they’re not dying fast enough, either. And so you end up with this sort of toolbox of multiple tools that you have to connect them all together. And clients are facing that challenge, especially some of the bigger ones. And so we’ve seen quite a bit of focus recently on questions around open sourcing some of the code to embed solutions directly into platforms they already had. And there’s lots of, you know, challenges with that. But I think, you know, if you look at things like the open banking standards, I think there is room in law for much more openness. And that that might resolve also some of the challenges and, you know, coming back to the original question, but around what do you do when a client, you know, has a request that you can’t resolve or you don’t want to resolve? What we tried to do is, rationalize what the real problem is, because often, they’re trying to solve like, it’s always a word add in, right, like, please, can you get a word added? to Mike? We try we do we do what lots of firms? Do we do design thinking workshops to really understand what is the problem? What is the job to be done? And is there a way to solve it that maybe doesn’t involve technology or doesn’t involve us maybe it’s a people issue, maybe it’s a process issue. But also, maybe there is something off the shelf that you could buy from somebody else. We’re always scanning the market for emerging tech, and not just for our own purposes, to know what the competitive landscape looks like, but also, so we can add value even just by connecting people together.

Marlene Gebauer  31:04

That was actually really the whole open. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy source is really quite interesting. Because Yeah, I just there’s because you can’t open source legal advice. I’m surprised there’s not more backlash on that, that that there’s it’s really something that people are looking for.

Greg Lambert  31:23

Well, I’m just curious, are there certain open standards that you’re working with to expand this?

April Brousseau  31:30

Yeah, well, I mean, we’re looking at we’re working with organizations like SALI, you know, to try to do some start there, we’ve been speaking with some of like, SRA, for example, they should be putting out a report shortly, if not soon. LawtechUK is also looking at data and sort of standardization as a key pillar of the work that they’re researching. And so what we just want to do is we just want to come around the table with others who are looking at this challenge. When it comes to legal advice. Obviously, there are specific challenges around open sourcing, we can’t open source legal advice. But you know, is it possible to create platforms that using open source code could integrate more effectively into the way that clients work? Yes, I think that that’s possible.

Marlene Gebauer  32:19

So you’ve mentioned that you have strong relationships with clients who have, you know, your ear to the ground in order for people to, you know, in order for clients to buy into innovation, but you also mentioned, you know, failing fast as part of the strategy. And you have to have trust in your vision, right? So how do you do that when you know, you you do, you know, embrace failing fast? And when you’re actually steps removed from your clients?

April Brousseau  32:50

Yeah, that’s a good question, Marlene, because, you know, we like the clients are clients of the firm. And so their relationships rest with the partners and the lawyers. And so really, it’s their trust, and it’s the credibility that I need to have with them. They have to also believe in the vision, and be willing to share that and be able to communicate that effectively to clients. We also speak to clients one to one, but that wouldn’t happen but for our partners, creating those relationships for us, and the credibility it comes from, I use prototypes a lot, and wireframes a lot. So it’s easy to fail fast, if you haven’t invested 100,000 pounds in something. But even you know, you leveraging prototypes and wireframes with clients is such an effective way to demonstrate that you’re listening, and that you hear them and that you understand their business. It’s also a really quick way to determine whether a solution has legs or not. And you haven’t invested anything. But often what I find is that, you know, when you go to a client, and they say I’ve got this problem, and I need a solution that does XYZ, you dig a bit deeper, you sort of prototype something up and you take it and you say, okay, walk me through how you do your job. Where does this fit in? You know, and then they start to realize that, Oh, well, no, like, I need to do this and this system, or this person needs to engage. And then you just start a conversation, and from a conversation comes a relationship. So it’s not something that’s just done overnight. You know, I can give partners cards describing what innovation is, little speaking notes. That’s not what’s gonna build the relationship or the credibility. It’s proving oneself that you’re hearing them even if you don’t solve their problem, at least listening and understanding what it is I think is kind of half the battle.

Greg Lambert  34:51

Now you’d mentioned earlier about the need for disruptive change in speaking on that And we talk a lot about that with our guest here on the podcast. And so I’m gonna, I’m actually going to borrow from our blog side of things from Casey Flaherty who wrote something last week. And so are you talking about, are these kind of these moonshot products? Or projects that you’re working on? Or are you looking at improvements and incremental change?

April Brousseau  35:25

So coming back to the horizons, like horizon one is all about sort of incremental operational improvement and making lawyers more effective. There’s no moonshots in there. It is consistent, ongoing application of people process and technology to the way that our lawyers deliver legal services. And I would say that, you know, if you look at the overall innovation function, the bulk of our investment has been in that space, which is, I think, pretty consistent. And I think the right thing. The second horizon is around the complimentary services. Could some of those be moon shots? Possibly. But the moon shots are really in horizon three, like that’s where we see the disruption. And we are not looking to be the disrupter necessarily. We’re looking to identify the opportunities where disruption is needed, and then help to bring people to the table. Who should maybe be the disruptors. It’s possible that we could be the disrupter. You know, I always give people so when I’m explaining three horizons, I give them the whole, like, Apple Computer example, right? Like, Apple still builds really good computers, and they’re going to keep building really good computers, and I’m going to still buy really good computers from them. And that’s all horizon one. That’s all core. That’s just operational improvements on their existing product. Complimentary services, iTunes, iBooks. Yeah, I use all of those things, too. You know, the iPhone, the iPod, that was all horizon three at one point. And when you think about horizon three in the context of professional services, it’s really difficult to imagine what might exist in there. You might have said 10-15 years ago that ALSPs were in horizon three, but they’re not anymore. And so I don’t I mean, I have some, I do think that open law, and the open sourcing concept could potentially be a significant disrupter. I also see, you know, some potential disruption around some other concepts around standardizing language and digitization of negotiation. Sorry,

Greg Lambert  37:28

One of the things I’m seeing with you having these three horizons, and with horizon three being this long term outlook on things, it’s almost like the the boiling of the of the frog, you know, it’s a you’re not causing, or you’re looking far out enough that when the disruption hits, it’s not like a shock to the system. Is that is that kind of what I’m hearing on on this third horizon?

April Brousseau  37:56

Yeah, in it in a way. I mean, what we’re trying to do is not have to react to the disruption, we want to see that it’s coming, and we want to be part of it, right? Like, we want to be part of the solution rather than having to react to it. What we aren’t doing is going out and seeking to disrupt. But we are just really conscious of what could disrupt us. And unblinding the blind spots is how I refer to it. And just keeping everybody you know, really informed about the art of the possible, and how we might actually lead that. So lead from the future is how I always sort of, whenever I write it, people are always like, Oh, you made a typo, you mean lead for the future? And I don’t like I really don’t. I mean, like, what is the art of the possible? And what would we need to do to be part of that conversation and to help shape shape that?

Marlene Gebauer  38:55

I really liked that the art of the possible? You know, how do you actually present that to clients or to attorneys?

April Brousseau  39:02

Yeah, it often ends up in a PowerPoint deck. Yep. So still, you know, not that innovative on that side. We tend to just sort of, we do some thought leadership internally and with clients. We have I work with, you know, a genius is probably the best way to describe him. His name is Anthony Vigneron, and he’s our Director of legal technology solutions. And he’s really, really great at sort of spotting these emerging trends. And he often goes to clients and he just talks to them about it. Yes, often with a PowerPoint deck. And it’s not presented as like this is coming you know, get your boots on because it’s the you know, you better get ready to run. It is just like did you know this, you know, you have a blind spot here, and so do we. And so we’re sharing this information with you, so that neither one of us are blind. And it’s just it’s a knowledge-sharing exercise, right? It’s just about knowledge sharing and collaboration. And it’s not even just necessarily for our clients and our lawyers. But there are communities of people, you know, like Legal Geeks, for example, the 3 Geeks, which are more than three, but it’s the sharing of information with each other. I think across the industry, we need more collaboration and more openness, if we’re actually going to move forward as a collective, because we can’t really affect change on our own, like not one single firm. So I do think it’s important, like organizations like LawtechUK, for example, and some of the work that they’re doing, to bring communities together just to have like, frank, open conversations.

Marlene Gebauer  40:47

Well, amen. to that. I agree. wholeheartedly. You mentioned earlier, April, that there are situations where you know, your hub or firm is not the right entity to solve a client problem. But, you know, who can. Have you actually partnered with, with those entities to solve a problem? Or you just refer? You know, and if you’ve partnered, how does that work?

April Brousseau  41:11

I can’t say give the details on some of that. But yes, we have, we have, and we are looking to partner with some entities. I mean, it’s not a secret, we have a very close relationship with Thomson Reuters. So we partner quite effectively with Thomson Reuters, and some of the products that they have. But there are also, you know, we do connect technology companies together sometime. Where we say, you know, you guys have this really great thing. But there is this other thing that is equally great, and is just missing this piece. Are you guys friends? Because maybe you should be we ourselves don’t generally, like invest in tech companies. That’s not what we do. But we look for opportunities where we can propose joint solutions with strategic technology partners. And that is often a joint solution. And the nature of the engagement can be, you know, it’s it varies, but we’re really good at law, like we’re really good at providing legal advice. And there are some tech companies out there that are really good at providing tech. And when you marry those two together, you can just deliver a much more impactful solution. It also means that you have, you know, the full infrastructure of a tech company behind you, if you’re a client, you know, you want to know that there is 100 man team strong supporting this platform. And you want to know that the best lawyers in the business are the ones providing the legal advice through it, with it, to it. So the answer is, yes, we do partner. Some things I can’t talk about. But it’s something I hope to do a lot more of in the future.

Greg Lambert  42:49

Well April, I’m going to ask you a question that I’ve asked a number of other guests before. And that is, I’m gonna need you to pull out a crystal ball here and make a prediction for us. So what you’re doing there at Clifford Chance with the R&D Hub? Do you think that other law firms or even ALSPs are going to follow this example and establish an R&D strategy like you have there? Is the market set up to kind of foster this? Or do you think you’re going to have your own direction that you’re going?

Marlene Gebauer  43:22


April Brousseau  43:23

Oh, I love unicorns. It’s interesting. I, I am I’m not sure. But we design the strategy around R&D before we knew about the LawtechUK reports, I will share a link to that. And it’s all about the lack of investment in research and development in the legal profession. But we that wasn’t where our mind was at. We were like, what do we need to do for our clients? But the points being made by others now external to us. And so I think it could potentially drive that kind of change within the legal industry. That said, we on this podcast, I’ll know the specialism it takes to do research very well. And if I had a crystal ball, I might say that indeed, instead of internally developed functions, we could see new businesses popping up. There are already lots of research houses out there, but research houses dedicated to you know, emerging markets and the future of technology and legal profession or professional services. It’s a specialist talent and if I was not super happy in my job, which I am, but you know, I might go and start like i’d this would be a really interesting business opportunity. You outsource it. And you basically also then have the ability to leverage knowledge gathered. So you, you know, you do research for one client, and another client calls and asks a similar question you got this really great knowledge base already built up. Could be a very interesting business opportunity for the three geeks.

Greg Lambert  45:13

In case this blog thing doesn’t work out.

Marlene Gebauer  45:17

Yeah. All right, well, let’s, let’s end on something fun. So what are some cool things, April that you’ve been working on recently that you can share?

April Brousseau  45:28

Well, it’s really new. Yes. So I’ve only been in the role since May. So a lot of it has been finding my feet a bit. But what I can’t give some details, but we are partnering with a really interesting client and tech company on a solution, a set of solutions, depending on you know, how we pivot it that could really transform a particular practice area. Not sure I could be any more vague than that.

Marlene Gebauer  46:10

That was handled very well.

April Brousseau  46:14

We’re also, we’ve been in conversations recently with a group of clients who share a particular challenge. And we have been looking at ways to resolve that challenge, with a combination of a technology partner, and us as a legal partner. And looking at how leveraging some of that open-sourcing potentially, could resolve that challenge. So that is something else that we believe Yeah. And then we’ve also just been doing, you know, some pretty interesting stuff internally. Our data science lab that we have, you know, recently did some really interesting work around gender neutralization and all of our documents. That was super cool. And we are looking at ways to there’s a particular process that one of our practices does, and it’s been very difficult to leverage, you know, something, one of the standard machine learning platforms because the documents are not similar enough to be able to effectively leverage machine learning, but we’ve been applying some data science techniques to sort of not trick the system, but to certainly, perhaps con it in a way so to make it work. And it’s been really I mean, we’ve got some really specialist professionals who are, you know, true data scientists. And it’s been a journey for us to kind of get, you know, our data like established, but we’re able to do some really interesting things now that I, you know, I think that, I hope that you will see some really cool stuff coming out from us sooner rather than later.

Greg Lambert  48:01

We’re looking forward to it. So April Brusseau, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us today.

April Brousseau  48:09

Thanks, Greg. Thanks, Marlene.

Marlene Gebauer  48:10

Thank you.

Greg Lambert  48:15

It’s always, always good to talk with April. And you know, I’m really excited about the fact that Clifford Chance has this department that’s dedicated to research and development. And isn’t somebody side job. Because I think there’s a lot of firms that they look at r&d, but you know, it’s somebody that works on something as a primary job in r&d is his secondary job. So

Marlene Gebauer  48:41

No budget, right. Yeah. Or someone else’s budget? Yeah. Someone else’s budget. So Exactly. Yeah, I like the way they kind of had three horizons, the transforming the core, you know, complementary services, and then the future of service. And yeah, I also really liked because I know this, this is a big challenge, I think, is having someone dedicated to basically having their ear on the ground and talking to clients on a regular basis. Because I think, again, like if you don’t have a separate group dedicated to this, it’s really hard to kind of have that meaningful outreach to clients, and really sort of get what you need to know on an ongoing basis in terms of how to how to offer solutions.

Greg Lambert  48:49

Yeah. And of course, I think obviously, the biggest piece of information that we learned was the HiPPO of the highest paid person’s opinion. And whereas for us, it would be the, the the lope lopo, or at least the mod Pro, the modestly paid Pro.

Marlene Gebauer  49:51

Pros. Let’s be fair.

Greg Lambert  49:53

Exactly, exactly. So thanks again to April Brousseau from Clifford Chances R&D hub for Joining us how it was great catching up.

Marlene Gebauer  50:02

Yeah, thanks April was great to talk to you again. So normally we give you a lot of information about how to contact us and how to rate and review us, but we’ve determined that no one probably listens to this part anyway. So if you like something, tell a friend. Tell us you know where we are. And as always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca. Thank you, Jerry.

Greg Lambert  50:22

Yeah, told Jerry you’d like him to.

Marlene Gebauer  50:24

Yes, please do.

Greg Lambert  50:26

Alright, Marlene, I’ll talk with you later.

Marlene Gebauer  50:28

Okay, bye, Greg.