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Lisa Kozaris, AI Visionary, on Leading the Charge on Innovation in the Practice of Law

Stuart Hall

Allens Chief Innovation & Legal Solutions Officer Lisa Kozaris makes no bones about it: for her firm, AI is business as usual. Without it, she says, “it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for our clients to fulfil their discovery obligations or meet regulator deadlines in a cost effective and timely way.” Her team lights the path for identifying, developing, and educating on new applications for AI in their firm, and she is excited about the current and future potential the technology has to offer.

Stuart Hall: Please describe your role in your organization and how technology plays a part in it.

Lisa Kozaris: I am the chief innovation and legal solutions officer at Allens. At its core, my role is to lead the firm's innovation and digital team to transform our 200-year-old law firm into a digitally enabled legal advisor of the future.

Technology plays a key role in this context.

Whether it’s developing legal practice efficiency solutions to improve and add value to the work of our lawyers, leveraging machine learning and data analytics in delivering our dispute and investigation services, or building legal products for our clients, technology underpins much of the work that we do.

What were your interests early on and what drew you to your line of work?

I studied law at university and have always had an interest in technology as well as collaborating with people with diverse skills and interests. While completing my law degree I worked part-time at a large law firm in Australia, in a group which was focused on managing documents and data for large-scale disputes. I loved the work and could see that it was likely to be a growing field in the legal profession, so decided very early on to focus my career in this area.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Two professional accomplishments stand out for me.

I am most proud of the part that I have played in growing and developing one of the largest and most accomplished legal technology teams in the Asia Pacific region. Our team is made up of professionals from a range of disciplines—law, computer science, data science, product development, and project management to name a few—and I take great satisfaction from working with our people to develop their skills and grow their careers.

I am also particularly proud of Allens being recognised as one of Australia and New Zealand’s Most Innovative Companies in 2022 by The Australian Financial Review and Boss Magazine, which marks it five consecutive years on the list for our firm. It’s great recognition of the work that we have been doing for many years to solve our client's problems in new and innovative ways.

Why does AI matter for what you do?

AI plays a critical role in the work that we do at Allens. It is an essential element in ensuring that our clients obtain maximum value from the expertise and judgment of our lawyers whilst helping to reduce the cost of our work.

We actively use AI in a range of legal practice areas across the firm.

In our disputes and investigations practice, we use machine learning (both supervised and unsupervised) on hundreds of matters each year, and it is very much business as usual for us now. With ever-increasing volumes of data, AI is one of several tools in our toolkit which we use to augment the work of our lawyers. Without it, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for our clients to fulfil their discovery obligations or meet regulator deadlines in a cost effective and timely way.

AI is also an important tool in our transactions practices. One example is in the context of contract review and due diligence, where it helps us to review contracts more efficiently and consistently. While it certainly doesn’t eliminate the work of our lawyers, it delivers huge value when we need to analyse and advise on key clauses, quickly highlight areas of non-compliance within contracts, as well as supports the work of our lawyers when drafting and negotiating contracts.

Looking to the future, as a firm we are really excited about the value that some of the more emerging technologies may bring to our practice over time. Once such example is generative AI, such as ChatGPT and, while it's still early days, the potential is enormous.

What’s your advice for organizations hesitant to adopt AI?

Historically, resistance to change has been a significant barrier to innovation within law firms and corporate legal teams, and the pace of digital transformation and technology adoption has been relatively slow.

While every organisation is unique, some general advice for organisations hesitant to adopt AI would be:

  1. Before you even think about investing in AI, consider your broader business strategy and priorities and the challenges or opportunities that you want to address. Map out your business requirements for any solution before you start speaking with vendors.
  2. Start small. If you are just embarking on your AI journey, think about your “low hanging fruit” and seek to tackle one or two discrete areas initially, as opposed to embarking on a major, transformational change. For us at Allens, it has been less about the value that a single, transformative change has delivered, and more about continuous improvement and the collective impact of many incremental changes across our practices.
  3. Don't forget about change management! In my experience, it's one thing to develop an innovative solution or procure a new piece of technology, and quite another to get to the point where the solution is being widely adopted and people are using it as part of their standard way of working.

In my view, here are some of the essential elements:

  • People need to genuinely understand the need for change. Not only what's in it for the organisation, but how will it make their own lives easier. Empathy and putting ourselves in the shoes of our lawyers, clients, or other business users is key.
  • Advocates and champions are incredibly valuable; leverage the “connectors” and “sales people” within your teams.
  • As is transparency and honesty—about the commitment that will be required from people as well as the capabilities of AI. Don't promise unrealistic outcomes!
  • Leaders need to show support through their actions, not only their words.

To enable AI adoption, people need to genuinely understand the need for change. Not only what's in it for the organisation, but how will it make their own lives easier. Empathy and putting ourselves in the shoes of our lawyers, clients, or other business users is key.

Are you seeing an AI skills gap in your industry or organization, and if so, what will help close it?

We have been working to develop the skills and competencies that our lawyers need to be effective in their roles now and into the future.

A key focus for us has been on business and technical competencies—from project, matter, and cost management, to design thinking and digital literacy skills.

In the digital domain, a key objective has been to provide lawyers with the skills to understand how data and technology, including AI, can be used to inform their decisions or help to solve their clients' problems.

We do this in a number of ways, including formal training, on-the-job training, and by creating opportunities for our people to obtain first-hand experience in applying these skills.

As an example, over the recent years a number of our lawyers have joined a program that Allens sponsors—the LawTech Challenge for Social Justice—where they are embedded within a team that works with a not-for-profit organisation to develop apps to solve a specific business problem.

Through that, they're very much able to experience, first-hand, how their legal knowledge can be applied in quite a different way, how to work with multi-disciplinary teams, and how technology and automation can be used to solve a variety of business problems.