Traditional law firms face two-pronged challenge

by Sol Dolor10 May 2017
Traditional law firms in New Zealand have to be ready for a two-pronged challenge in the coming years, as the legal business world becomes increasingly connected and technology significantly changes the legal landscape, a top lawyer says.

Katie Carson, who was recently appointed by DLA Piper as its newest financial services partner, says that firms in the country will face competition from well-resourced global firms and at the same time compete with legaltech solutions. In her area of expertise, she expects ongoing developments in the regulatory landscape, as well as capital and liquidity issues, to pose the biggest challenges in the NZ legal space.

In this interview, Carson also talks about why young lawyers should be more concerned about finding great mentors and teams than working for a certain firm or a specific field.

What made you choose a career in law?

I like solving hard problems, so a legal career has always appealed to me in that sense.

What has been your proudest accomplishment to date?

Encouraging younger members of the team to develop and flourish - that moment when it "clicks" for them and they realise the extent of their value and capabilities for clients, that's a huge accomplishment.

What do you love the most about your job?

The privilege of being able to work with smart people every day. In private practice, there is a fantastic opportunity to get to know and understand a range of client businesses. 

If you could change anything about your job – or in general, about being a lawyer ¬– what would it be?

The lack of willingness of lawyers to be positive about fresh ideas, or get out of our comfort zones. 

What do you love doing outside of work and why?

Outside work, I spend as much time as possible with my family – we're currently getting the kids into mountain biking. And I read a lot – a great way to unwind.

With your arrival, are there any new plans for the DLA Piper’s banking & finance practice?

Yes, absolutely – clients can expect to see us continuing to join up DLA Piper's full range of banking and finance services with the firm's experience across financial services regulatory work, litigation, corporate transactions and governance, both locally and globally.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

You will most regret the things you don't do, not the things you do.

What is your advice to young lawyers just getting their start in the industry?

Make sure you find a boss, a mentor or a team who will look after you and your career. It's likely to be much more important than which firm or company you work for, or even the type of work you do.

What do you think is the single biggest issue facing the NZ legal space this year? Also, what are the issues affecting your area of expertise this year?

In the NZ legal space generally, traditional law firms will be grappling with the competition from well-resourced global firms at one end and legaltech solutions at the other end. In banking, the ongoing development of the regulatory landscape will continue to be a challenge, together with capital and liquidity issues.

Alternately, what excites you about the NZ legal space and your area of expertise this year and beyond?

I'm very excited about the potential of technology and innovative thinking to improve the way we provide services. A real advantage of being with a firm like DLA Piper, when you're working in fintech and banking, is the ability to tap into global knowhow.  Because DLA Piper is truly international, it is seeing trends all round the world.  We're able to access documents and thinking that firms that practise only in New Zealand simply can't match.  That brings enormous benefit to clients.

Katie Carson

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