How Hicksons is using Josef to improve client experience and build value

Meet Michael Barrett from Hicksons, a mid-tier law firm based out of Sydney which specializes in a variety of matters such as employment, government and cyber risk.

As the Head of Technology,  Michael is passionate about creating a frictionless experience with technology and digital tools so his team works smarter and not harder. At Hicksons, he is on a mission to improve client experience and simplify processes for lawyers so they can do what they do best.

We spoke with Michael on the importance of legaltech, his philosophies on automation and how he’s using it to improve client satisfaction and build value for the law firm.

Michael Barrett, Head of Technology

Michael Barrett, Head of Technology

What were you using prior to Josef and what made you choose Josef in the end?

Before Josef, we had a variety of legacy platforms – which at the time solved an immediate problem for us. However, it quickly became non-feasible as it was very heavy on its integrations and making changes was complex and borderline impossible for the end user, who now had to rely on IT. The risk profile began to grow quickly as we were facing bigger challenges, onboard new clients and facing new business requirements. And so, we had to look elsewhere in the market to see which solutions were out there – this is when we discovered Josef.

The utopian dream for us would be to have the tool empower the end user to complete most of the heavy lifting, and IT would be there mostly as an advisor or custodian to help and guide when needed or be third line support.

That was when we were introduced to Josef and very quickly saw that anyone, including those without any technical background could begin to use the tool to deliver results quickly and efficiently – and then IT would only need to assist with more complex development and consultation, rather than needing to scope, design, build and test the entire request from scratch. Josef helped enable that very quickly for our lawyers from day one.

“Without reading any guides, I just dove straight in because Josef was easy to understand and I could start building the bot & workflow immediately.”
– Michael Barrett, Head of Technology

What bots did you build with Josef?

We currently have four live bots at the moment that our clients are actively using – and they do everything from simple letter generation for employment law to contractor agreements, with more on the horizon.

The internal team builds the logic flow and then it is quickly tailored for the business requirements, and they are reviewed directly by a lawyer whilst it’s being built which cuts the review process down dramatically. The turnaround to get tasks done is now minutes, not days. This in turn makes for a great client experience, way better than the old school method where everything is manually reviewed and time consuming for everyone involved.

As for internal uses, I saw an immediate opportunity to automate our employment agreement process for our people & culture team. Without reading any guides, I just dove straight in because Josef was easy to understand and I could start building the bot & workflow immediately.

Within two hours, I managed to produce an initial proof of concept and presented it to our people & culture team as an interim solution to fix one of their very manual processes.

Why do you think legal automation is important for the future of the legal industry?

To maintain the old ways of working with technology now rapidly evolving would not be sustainable. Clients are now expecting more from Professional Services firms like Hicksons. We need to be able to deliver a quick, efficient and accurate on-demand experience – just like Netflix. There’ll be a growing expectation for these kinds of services and tools like Josef enables us to simply and quickly prototype and deliver a product or a service to a customer, and then scale it out to the whole business.

This gives us a considerable competitive edge over other law firms as it gives potential clients reasons to come and talk to us and potentially engage with us, in addition to showing that we are innovative and always adding value for clients.

“To maintain the old ways of working with technology now rapidly evolving would not be sustainable. We need to be able to deliver a quick, efficient and accurate on-demand experience – just like Netflix.”
– Michael Barrett, Head of Technology

Why do you think lawyers or other law firms haven’t pursued automation or legal tech to the same level that Hicksons have?

I guess it’s a tough one because we’ve been fortunate to be on the side of the fence where we have embraced legal tech and every day we try to increment that little bit more and make our differentiator a little bit sharper. But I suppose it’s a combination of having monolithic-style technology stacks that do not work with existing processes and workflows, so I need to augment that tools just as Josef. There will always be plenty of corporate governance and the mindset of “If it isn’t broken, why fix it? So why would I invest time in this when I could spend effort tackling other priorities?”.

But for us, there’s a desire and an appetite to try these things and it’s a top down approach to lean into technology, automation, AI, machine learning to ultimately make the legal team’s lives easier which means they can do more billable hours, or even spend it with friends & family and get a better work life balance.

As a law firm, generating new revenue has always been a priority – is that changing where it’s now less about the billable hours and more about building value? How has Hicksons used automation to achieve that?

Ultimately, I feel it’s about what value we can bring to the client and automating with Josef helps us meet our strategic goals for 2025 and beyond. In addition, with the state of the economy and where everything is at the moment, we are very conscious of where our budget & spend is going and where it’s allocated correctly.

Leveraging the likes of Josef and then scaling that up to solve problems using existing technologies & resources that we already have. The framework is already there, the tools and integrations are already there which allows me to prioritise my budgeting requests and still deliver impeccable value to make our customer experience even better and our lawyer’s lives a little easier.

So that looks good for the client, the business and my P&L.

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