top of page

Leading Legal Innovation Towards Tomorrow with Dr. Catriona Wolfenden

As a finalist for the 'Rising Star' Legal Week Innovation Awards in 2019, Dr. Catriona Wolfenden, Product and Innovation Director at Weightmans, is a leader within the legal tech arena. With an extensive background in civil litigation, she possesses a comprehensive understanding of client attitudes and expectations. Under her leadership, her team has been shortlisted as finalists for over 20 National Innovation Awards.

Beyond her role and work at Weightmans, she serves on the Liverpool Enterprise Partnership Professional and Business Services Board and is a member of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Panel College. Overall, Dr. Catriona is the go-to person for insights into the latest legal tech trends and navigating them.

Dr. Catriona will be joining our 'Rethinking the Role of Legal Innovation: Innovation, Consulting, and Meeting New Expectations' Panel on Private Practice Day (16th of April).

We were thrilled that she sat down with us and thoroughly enjoyed the discussion!

1- What aspects of Future Lawyer Week are you most excited about? Are there specific sessions, discussions, or networking opportunities that you are looking forward to participating in or learning from during the event?

Although there seems to be a new legal tech conference every year, FLW remains a constant in my calendar as I think the format works really well. The sessions are longer in length and on practical topics. This means that there is a more in depth discussion so that you hear about some of the real life challenges such as change management or adoption. For those tasked with innovation in firms, this practical discussion is invaluable.  Innovation is predominantly a people game and FLW provides great opportunities to catch up with peers informally.


2 - From your perspective, why do you believe conferences focused on legal innovation, like this one, are crucial for the advancement of the industry?

Conferences like FLUK are useful to demonstrate the breadth of innovation going on in law firms and to introduce people who may be thinking of stepping into legal innovation to the types of career opportunities that are available in this area. Innovation leaders often have chaos pilot skills (that is they can lead through uncertainty and ambiguity, take action and create structures in chaos) – this can be quite a lonely role so for those of us tasked with leading innovation, the ability to connect with our peers and have those in person conversations about what is working and what isn’t is really important.


3 - Looking ahead, what do you envision as the future of legal innovation? Are there emerging technologies or cultural shifts that you believe will have a profound impact on the legal industry?

Innovation (in the board sense including people, process and tech) will continue to be central to how successful law firms solve their client’s problems. A greater focus on a wider lawyer skill set, such as the O shaped lawyer is likely to help embed this from a cultural perspective as it becomes second nature to new entrants to the legal profession.  

At the moment, it feels like you can’t move for talk of GenAI. This poses, at an almost philosophical level, some interesting conundrums that we are all grappling with.  How do we, or should we, attempt to tame probabilistic technology where the very reason it exists is to create new content, learning and adapting from new data and how does it fit into our workplaces? How do we rethink this and provide guardrails?


4 - How can innovation leaders encourage collaboration with professionals from other fields, such as technology, design, or business, to foster a more holistic approach to legal transformation?

Transformation is largely the same regardless of industry – legal just likes to have ‘legal’ in front of everything! Transformation is a people game – you can have whatever new shiny tech or enhanced process you like, but if you can’t bring people with you so that they use the tech or process, then you may as well not have bothered. A lot can be learnt from other industries that have perhaps grappled with these issues a little longer than ‘legal’ and they can offer some interesting perspectives and things to try. Take every opportunity to attend events not aimed at legal and network, read different books, speak with academics and experts in other industries and write plenty of notes – you never know when your scribbles will help you with a particular problem.


5 - What metrics or indicators do you find most valuable in assessing the success and effectiveness of newly implemented technology within legal organisations?

Firstly, there do need to be metrics and these need to be thought about before you attempt to pilot or implement new technology! The metrics will vary depending on the type of project, but a quote from the Law Society 2023 survey into attitudes towards lawtech adoption always sticks in my mind – “[a] strong business case is necessary but not sufficient for the adoption of lawtech. Senior leaders need to develop a compelling case for the personal benefits of adoption for legal professionals.”. If you can’t explain the ‘why’ that resonates on an individual user level, then you are going to struggle with adoption. This also helps explain why all of this is hard –  you are trying to satisfy many different whys! In the context of metrics, these more subjective, qualitative pieces of feedback are therefore really important. If they are positive you then need to tie them into quantitative measures such as time savings which impact profitability or revenue generation.


6 - How do you suggest law firms can address and overcome resistance to innovation, both at an individual and organisational level?

Without a board level mandate, it is hard to attempt innovation. This has to be put into action to be effective. This means that the behaviours required for successful innovation are rewarded, blockers such as lack of time are removed and fast failure is accepted. This then gives you a remit to push innovation and deal with resistance at an organisational level. As with all things change related, at an individual level people often have very different attitudes to any given change and the impact it will have on them. Accepting this and realising you are unlikely to get everyone on board (and that this isn’t personal) is a useful point to get to.


94 views0 comments


bottom of page