Focus On
Colin Stevenson 2019 sm

OBA president calls new Innovator-in-Residence, Ryerson LIZ a ‘world leader’

Thursday, October 10, 2019 @ 8:55 AM | By Amanda Jerome

The Ryerson Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) will be the Ontario Bar Association’s (OBA) next Innovator-in-Residence, helping build on OBA president Colin Stevenson’s theme for his term.

“The Innovator-in-Residence Program leads and supports the Ontario bar to, and through, innovative change with the information, education, practical advice and tools that lawyers need to succeed in a rapidly changing market,” said Stevenson on the appointment announcement on Oct. 7. 

Colin Stevenson, OBA president

“Chris Bentley and his team at the LIZ have earned a reputation as one of the world’s leading legal innovation hubs. They were an obvious choice as this year’s Innovator-in-Residence to work with the OBA in delivering essential tools and services that are tailored to a full range of practice resources and levels of technological sophistication,” he added.

According to an OBA news release, LIZ will play a “critical role as Stevenson advances his mandate of practice innovation founded on five distinct pillars of support — information services, testing, know-how, tools and advocacy — which positions every lawyer to keep pace with the speed of innovation.”

The OBA chooses an “Innovator-in-residence” each year to “help deliver practical, cutting-edge tools, services and supports that equip lawyers and law firms to better serve their clients and improve justice in Ontario.”

Stevenson told The Lawyer’s Daily that when he was researching the topic of innovation in the legal world, he kept coming across various hubs around the world, such as ones in London and Singapore. However, it became “crystal clear” to him that LIZ is a “world leader, if not in fact the world leader, in this area.”

“Apart from that of course, the people running it, Chris Bentley and Hersh Perlis, are top notch and we have a good working relationship. So, I am very excited to be working with them,” he said, noting that the opportunity to work with LIZ is a “fantastic, world-class opportunity for the OBA and Ontario lawyers.”

Stevenson said he’s “hoping, and expecting,” that many people working with LIZ will be involved in the Innovator-in-Residence program in order to “come up with innovations, to come up with ideas, [and] to come up with proposals for change.”

“Lawyers see lots of flaws in the system, but we’re hoping some of the LIZ people will come up with solutions and will work co-operatively together,” he added.

The OBA president also noted that selecting LIZ for this appointment didn’t have anything to do with Ryerson opening a new law school next year.

“The Legal Innovation Zone has been running for some years now. It has an independent existence, as I said, a world-class reputation,” he explained, adding that “it’s obviously extremely interesting to see that concurrently the new law school is going to be up and running next year. And I know, from what I’ve read, that that law school intends to be innovative, to rely also on LIZ.”

“I think there’s going to be some interesting synergies there and I look forward to working with whoever ends up being the dean of the new law school and the new professors,” he noted, stressing that the LIZ appointment happening so close to Ryerson opening its faculty of law is “a happy coincidence.”

Chris Bentley, LIZ managing director

LIZ managing director Bentley, said that “combining the breadth and depth of legal expertise and experience that the OBA’s lawyers have with the global knowledge of innovative approaches and products the LIZ brings will ensure better legal solutions for consumers, both people and businesses.”

“We are looking forward to working with the OBA to help their members continuously improve their service delivery through practice innovation, improving profitability, efficiency and access to services,” he added in a statement.

According to an OBA news release, the Innovator-in-Residence program was launched in August 2018. The first person to hold the appointment was Peter Aprile, founder of Counter Tax Lawyers.

LIZ, the “first legal tech incubator with a focus on building better legal solutions for the consumers of legal services,” will be the Innovator-in-Residence till fall 2020.  

“I would like the profession to really get excited about this opportunity,” said Stevenson, “because to some degree we lawyers have been complacent because the profession is a conservative one. Many lawyers do well and are very good at what they do, but we need to pay attention to the disruption that’s out there and we need to be innovative because the world is changing around us.”

“If we lawyers don’t focus on these changes and try to be leaders in innovation we risk being overtaken by, for example, the big four consulting firms: PwC [PricewaterhouseCoopers], Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte. Those firms, despite the so-called legal monopoly, have really expanded in the provision of legal services and I think, and LIZ thinks, that lawyers can, and should be, much more proactive in the innovation field. With our legal expertise combined with the innovative thinking from LIZ, we think this is a dynamic opportunity for lawyers to take the lead instead of falling behind,” he added.