The appointment by Webber Wentzel of Warren Hero into the newly created role of Chief Information Officer signals the firm’s heightened commitment to harnessing technology as a means of delivering efficient and innovative legal solutions to its clients. Warren joins Webber Wentzel from Microsoft where he was Chief Technology Officer for the South African operations. “Warren’s appointment follows the launch of a number of technology related initiatives to improve efficiencies, stimulate innovative thinking across the firm and reimagine the future of legal service delivery to our clients.” says Managing Partner, Sally Hutton.
The firm recently launched its Ignite legal incubation programme for tech start-ups, which involved the selection of 10 successful start-ups and scale-ups to receive tailored legal services, mentoring and training support and targeted networking and profile-raising opportunities. “The #Ignite10 are all highly innovative businesses who are disrupting their respective industries and as a firm, we have a long history of supporting entrepreneurship. We recognise that the future of South Africa requires an ecosystem of innovation and growth and we want to make a meaningful contribution towards this.” says Senior Partner, Christo Els.
In April, Webber Wentzel was the first South African law firm to announce the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) software, Luminance, to supplement its existing due diligence and document review processes. “The use of appropriate technology complements the legal project management, legal process improvement and alternative resourcing services offered by our Legal Services Centre and ensures that we are able to provide our clients with flexible, high quality, end-to-end solutions at the right price” says Hutton.
In May, the firm also launched coding training to introduce its lawyers to the fundamentals of coding and technology concepts. Alexia Christie, a partner and technology law expert at Webber Wentzel and the programme sponsor says: “We are increasingly seeing an intersection between law and technology. We need look no further than smart contracts, the use of blockchain and artificial intelligence. While we do not intend for our lawyers to become technologists, there is a natural synergy between coding and the practice of law as both apply logic to solve problems but in different ways. A number of our lawyers with an interest in technology are keen to acquire coding skills, which we support.”
This is part of a broader focus on creating awareness firm-wide about disruptive technology, legal technology trends and legal services innovation. Blockchain, smart contracts, AI, cryptocurrencies and the internet of things are a few of the topics on the firm’s skills development agenda. “We believe that lawyers who understand technology concepts will be better placed to assist their clients into the future” says Christie.