Move fast and break glass: Q&A with Tom Kaldor, Head of Growth and Innovation at LegalVision

Wenee Yap from McCarthyFinch (and founder of Survive Law) interviews Tom Kaldor, Head of Growth and Innovation at LegalVision, on his journey from corporate law and High Court associate to NewLaw.

From top tier to judge’s associate to NewLaw – Survive Law gets the inside track on the enviable career of Tom Kaldor. In this interview, Tom tells us what it’s like to work in the 2017 NewLaw Firm of the Year, how he ended up there, and what advice he would have for law students and young lawyers looking to thrive in amidst the digital disruption.

What does your role involve as Head of Growth and Innovation?

This response will probably go out of date as soon as it’s published because my role shifts and changes pretty quickly – which is one of the things I enjoy most about life at LegalVision. Right now, “Head of Legal Transformation” would probably be a better description of my role than “Head of Growth and Innovation”. For me, transformation is about using innovation to deliver new ways of working that drive better outcomes for clients and for lawyers.

I’m focused on two main types of transformation projects at the moment. On one hand, I’m working with large corporate clients to help their in-house teams transform how they deliver legal support for their businesses. On the other hand, I’m collaborating with LegalVision’s team of lawyers as we continue to evolve the way we deliver legal services. On both sides of the fence, the objective of my role is to bring together LegalVision’s three core capabilities: legal expertise, tech development and process design.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

The variety is a big part of it. Before coming to LegalVision, I hadn’t been in the same job for much more than one year. Now, I’m about to celebrate my third anniversary at LegalVision (I know, that’s a big deal for Gen Y-ers!). I think a big part of why I’ve stuck it out at LegalVision is because my role has genuinely evolved (and often changed dramatically) over the last three years. But what I enjoy most here is that, as a business, we are committed to the mission of transforming the delivery of legal services. That’s a pretty ambitious mission – but we’re a group of people who are driven to make it happen

How did you go from lawyer at Allens to this role?

There was actually one job in between: I spent a year as an associate to a High Court judge (Allens generously gave me a leave of absence to do the associateship). Spending time in a top-tier law firm and in Australia’s highest court were amazing experiences and I learnt a huge amount from working in those environments. But, lurking below the surface, I always had a strong desire to do something different from the standard legal career path. The only issue was, I probably wasn’t brave enough to do something so different that I completely moved out of the legal industry. Then I came across a job ad for a disputes lawyer at LegalVision. As soon as I walked into the warehouse, open-plan office in Surry Hills for the interview, I knew this place would have the mix of “legal” and “different” that I was looking for.

What are your top 3 predictions for the legal profession in the next 5-10 years?

There are plenty of commentators talking about the future of the law at the moment. I think it’s much more important to talk about how, right now, lawyers can deliver new ways of responding to the genuine needs of their clients. But, I won’t dodge the question. So here are my musings about the future.

First, something to allay everyone’s fears: (human) lawyers will still be around and thriving. Despite the hype, I’ve convinced there will continue to be a big place for the lawyer’s skill-set well into the future. But, how that skill-set is applied will change: technology will continue to make a significant impact on the way lawyers work. My final prediction flows from the first two: in 5-10 years, the “lawyers” in highest demand will not be those focused on the delivery of stand-alone matters or projects (as is the case in the currently prevailing model). Instead, the most valuable lawyers will be those who can join the dots between legal expertise and process design, to build efficient and streamlined workflows for delivering high-quality, consistent and cost-effective legal products. These talented “legal designers” will draw on technology – but only where it actually helps achieve the desired outcome, not just for its own sake.

What advice do you have for law students and young lawyers looking to stay relevant amidst digital disruption?

I now have a standard response for when uni students ask me about whether to start their careers in a traditional law firm or a NewLaw business like LegalVision. I say that, at this juncture, both options are pretty evenly matched. If it were five years ago, NewLaw careers were probably only for the crazy, the brave or the inspired (and perhaps, more often than not, people that met all three descriptions). By contrast, five years from now, I’m confident that a significant portion of law graduates will start in roles with alternative legal service providers – and NewLaw will be part of the mainstream. But for now, both options are on the table and each has its own benefits. The main advice I’d give is, whether you go with a traditional firm or a new operator, try to work with a business that you believe in.

Also, be willing to break glass. There is (almost) always a better way of doing things – and more lawyers need to be willing to ask the difficult questions to uncover the new opportunities to solve problems for our clients.

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