Dr Catriona Wolfenden is a partner and the innovation manager at Weightmans LLP, a law firm based in Liverpool’s bustling commercial district, where she manages the development and delivery of innovation and technology projects.
Wolfenden completed her PhD in medical law in 2007 and joined Weightmans, qualifying as a solicitor before working in knowledge management, where she developed a strong interest in technology.
“Part of my job is to play with all of the fun tech and try and break it, in order to find good prob-lems to solve. We then work with internal and external clients to see if they like it,” she says.
“Innovation is the buzzword in the legal industry, and clients want to know about it, from ma-chine learning to data analytics.”
The introduction of faster, smarter technology means that our world of work must constantly evolve, and Weightmans is no exception. “We have an insurance heritage, but we’re a full ser-vice firm offering a one stop shop for clients” says Wolfenden. “The legal world is changing, and clients are under pressure to provide more for less. We collaborate with clients to help them with this, to solve real world problems and work out where the pinch points are. We are not just a legal advisor, we’re more of a business advisor.”
Today, Wolfenden’s work focuses on figuring out the way a workforce can be more efficient. How tech can be used to do some of the heavy lifting like document review, freeing up a law-yer’s time to work with clients and add value.
“I’ve been a practising lawyer; I understand how lawyers work. I can have these conversa-tions because I’ve been there myself” Wolfenden says.
“I can say, ‘These are the learning points from a similar use case, and this is how you can employ them for your clients.’ Or ‘These are some of the issues that we’ve seen and how you can fix them.’ It’s a question of stepping back and being a bit more holistic in our interactions with clients.”
The office space of the past has been overwritten by a more collaborative working environ-ment, and the modern-day legal firm can take advantage of machine learning to take over the routine and repetitive tasks such as data entry or email saving, to free up lawyer time. “We can use our problem solving skills to add real value to internal and external clients,” she says.
With a more connected, collaborative workforce, comes the opportunity for ideas and innova-tions to spread out of the traditional hubs where they would once have been confined.
“Traditionally, tech companies worked out of London, but there’s no reason why they can’t be based in the Liverpool City Region. We’ve got an amazing computer science department at the University of Liverpool and it’s great that we get to see the benefit of that academic re-search in the region and beyond. The City Region is starting to be widely recognised for those skills. We collaborate – they’ll do the academic side, while I’ll look to put their work into a real world use case and demonstrate the business benefits.”
Liverpool City Region’s friendly, welcoming culture carries on into the workforce, says Wolfen-den, and Weightmans has used this to its advantage when collaborating with the colleagues, academics and small businesses that call the LCR home.
“Liverpool inspires a lot of loyalty. People who study here often stay; and the variety of work here in the city has really transformed,” she says. “The engagement and adoption of a piece of tech is pretty similar regardless of sector – it doesn’t need to be specific – we can share ideas.”