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Trainee turned Technologist

12 November 2021

Natalie Tunstall-Jackman completed her training contract in September 2021. In her final seat before qualifying, Natalie was the first DWF trainee to undertake a seat in Legal Technology. Natalie shares what she learnt and how this seat will benefit her legal career. 

During my final training seat at DWF, I had the exciting opportunity of becoming the first trainee in the business' Legal Technology Team.

Legal tech is a term to describe a group of technologies which directly impact on the delivery of legal services to our clients.

Legal tech and innovation has gained traction within both DWF and the legal sector as a whole. Legal tech isn't new, but its importance has grown rapidly over the last 5 years, with investment in legal tech growing 713% between 2017 and 2019. This huge growth highlights the reality that legal tech is no longer a 'nice to have' or reserved for a few specialist areas but an essential component of a law firm and a must-have for our clients. 91% of legal departments now ask or plan to ask firms they are considering to describe the technology they use to be more productive and efficient.

My legal journey was fairly traditional: LLB/LLM, vacation scheme, LPC - so I didn't have a science or tech background. However, I am interested in emerging tech and its legal regulation so I was delighted when the opportunity arose during my training contract to gain practical experience of legal tech.

During the seat I have gained experience of various legal tech tools ranging from collaboration platforms such as HighQ, to coding contracts in DWF Draft and even AI extraction with iManage Extract. My role has involved implementing standard and bespoke solutions using differing combinations of the above technologies. Highlights include taking part in a Ventures sprint with one of our international offices where we designed an application for clients to test employment status and building a platform linked with document automation to bulk generate documents on a large transaction, saving huge amounts of time.

Day-to-day the team works with Mindcrest, Legal Advisory, Central Services and clients to help them to leverage tech in their projects. This helped me to understand how the three offerings (Legal Advisory, Mindcrest and Connected Services) fit together and how tech can assist to join them together, as well as allowing me to get to know people and areas of the business I wouldn't typically encounter as a trainee. Being within the transformation team gives exposure to other areas of tech such as e-Discovery and the role of transformation and Alternative Legal Service Provider's (ALSP's) in the legal industry.

The seat provides fantastic opportunities for networking and learning through online webinars and conferences hosted by tech providers and syndicates. Recently the team attended a great networking event with the University of Manchester, which helped me to appreciate the wider tech industry and how other firms are utilising tech.

Another huge benefit has been learning about tech’s impact on pricing, billing and client pitches - which the legal tech team can help to advise on. A combination of all the above factors develops strategic and commercial awareness in a unique way and, now I've qualified into the Construction team, I intend to use these skills to help my team to streamline their processes, work more efficiently and enhance client propositions.

In short, the seat presents a unique opportunity to develop legal tech skills and knowledge, which are essential for the role of a modern lawyer. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable seat and the range of experiences in the tech and transformation team I believe have provided me a well-rounded appreciation of the provision of legal services, which I've taken into my NQ role. Legal tech is here to stay and to any future trainees interested in this topic, I'd encourage you to consider this as a seat option during your training contract.  

Natalie Tunstall-Jackman, Trainee Solicitor

Further Reading