eDiscovery Leaders Live: Al Hounsell of Norton Rose Fulbright

George Socha
George Socha

eDiscovery Leaders Live: Al Hounsell of Norton Rose Fulbright


Al Hounsell, Senior Innovation Lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, joins George Socha, Senior Vice President of Brand Awareness at Reveal, for ACEDS #eDiscoveryLeadersLive.‬‬‬‬‬‬ 

Al Hounsell is a senior lawyer and innovation leader responsible for leading client innovation and the NRFC innovation solutions development team. Al works at the intersection of law and innovation, directing strategic and legal advice to clients and lawyers in matters such as the drafting and automation of legal contracts for technology and financial services clients, A.I.-assisted due diligence, regulatory compliance management and architecture, artificial intelligence, and emerging technologies in the legal tech space. Leading the solutions development team – a cutting-edge team of legal engineers and full-stack developers – Al has overseen the production of numerous legal apps, leveraging innovative technologies and artificial intelligence. He has also played a significant role in developing bespoke solutions both internally and directly for clients in the areas of document automation, data analysis and visualization, and workflow process innovation. 

Al shared with us the path he took to become an innovation lawyer at NRF Canada, then moved into the topic of innovation. Starting with a look at legal technology today, he discussed what an innovation lawyer, how innovation in the law compares with innovation elsewhere, and what innovation looks like in law firms. Al talked about the process of innovation: the arc it follows, how long it takes, what makes is successful (or a failure), and what clients want. He then closed by measuring the innovation efforts at NRF Canada with those at other firms generally as well as firms in the UK and the US. 

Key Highlights

  • [2:46] How AI became an innovation lawyer at NRF Canada.
  • [5:23] The scope and impact of legal technology today.
  • [7:25] “Innovation lawyer” defined.
  • [8:07] As compared to innovation broadly.
  • [10:20] Creativity in law firms.
  • [12:09] What innovation looks like at NRF Canada, from understanding a problem to ideation and into implementation.
  • [16:38] How long the innovation process takes.
  • [17:20] How time is allocated across the innovation workflow.
  • [18:07] Figuring out how to deploy results faster, iterate quickly, pivot quickly.
  • [19:16] What the NRF Canada innovation team looks like.
  • [20:27] The dangers of moving too fast, chasing bright shiny objects.
  • [22:31] What makes for success in law firm innovation: strategic alignment and strong relationships.
  • [25:56] What clients want.
  • [27:06] How they measure up against other firms and their innovation efforts.
  • [28:22] How they compare with the UK and the US.

Key Quotes 

  • “During that year of practice, I discovered this area of legal technology and I thought, there is incredible opportunity in this industry. The legal industry in many ways is lagging behind other industries but it creates this massive opportunity for innovation and doing things in a new way and incorporating technology into the things we do. And I felt like, this is an opportunity to be an entrepreneur within an organization that’s within a broader industry that is just ripe for innovation and I haven’t looked back since.”
  • “The biggest impacts for technology are these tools that are being created to help make specifically the practice of law become more efficient….”
  • “I think the assumption of people is that maybe law firms aren’t as creative as the Googles and the Netflix and the Ubers of the world, but lawyers are actually very, very creative people.”
  • “In talking about the innovation function and our process, we really want to try and start with a problem, and start with the people that have this problem, understand everything we can about what is the problem … and really flesh out an understanding of what it is that is the pain point that the client or the internal user has.”
  • “It is very important to balance the desire to move fast with the need to fully understand the problem…. We always want to start with that problem and allow technology to facilitate the solutions to those problems.”
  • “What we are hearing is that clients want transparency…. And the second thing we are hearing, clients want business partners.”

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