The Key To Innovation Is People, Not Technology

"Professional services firms are facing unprecedented disruption, and many are being negatively impacted. Over the past decade, I have found the opportunity in these changes by being an enthusiastic early adopter (and adaptor) of multiple new technologies, platforms and mindsets."

So says Kim Trajer - Lawyer, Technology Innovator, Leader, and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of leading Australian independent law firm McCullough Robertson Lawyers.

"At McCullough Robertson, we truly believe it is our business to understand our clients and give them the support they need when they need it, because unlocking success for our clients is what drives us. We embed initiatives and outcomes which allow our people to bring their whole self to work, every day," says Kim.

During her 25 year career at McCullough Robertson, Kim has worn many hats. She spent the first 15 years as a client-facing lawyer; and therefore has a unique understanding of the challenges facing clients and lawyers, and insights into how law firms operate.

Kim transitioned into knowledge and risk management, and then into her current role as COO, focusing on governance and strategy, and leading the firm's innovation, community and sustainability programs.

Officially, Kim is responsible "for management and coordination of the Business Support Services functions, implementing initiatives of the Executive and Business Unit Leaders, identifying business improvement opportunities, overseeing and driving firm initiatives such as the innovation program and community partnerships program, working with the senior leaders of the legal groups and sector group leads to drive performance, coordination of partnership matters and company secretary for numerous entities in the McCullough Robertson group".

For the past ten years Kim has managed innovation projects across McCullough Robertson's offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Newcastle, and driven cultural change aligned to strategy.

"Whilst this transition wasn't planned, through it I discovered I enjoy the business of law more than the practice of law," states Kim.

In her role as COO, Kim has successfully developed and implemented innovation strategies to enhance the client experience, improve financial performance, and increase people's productivity and engagement. Her achievements are based on her own first-hand experience as a legal service professional. Also from her philosophy of staying connected to people at all levels, to understand their needs, and to better communicate the vision we are all striving for - embracing change as an opportunity.

"For example, I've led the automation of multiple processes to reduce costs, errors and duplication, as well as improve efficiency and information sharing. I've also led profound cultural change to reflect the emergence of new priorities and values. This has enabled the firm to leverage issues like diversity (of thought, not just gender), sustainability and social responsibility, to drive our growth, and respond to our clients' needs," Kim says.

"New ideas and new ways of thinking are important to law firms to remain competitive in an evolving marketplace. McCullough Robertson recently launched McR Changemakers, an interactive learning program for our lawyers. Throughout the structured program, participants are empowered to contribute new ideas and then work together to transform these into solutions that can be readily implemented and are aligned to the strategic objectives of the firm. The program identifies that innovation is a broader concept than just technology. It is a process and way of thinking that can be taught."

Kim performs many public speaking engagements. Recently, she and Milan Gandhi (McCullough Robertson’s Innovation Ambassador and Founder of The Legal Forecast) presented at the University of Queensland - Faculty of Business, Economics and Law event exploring "the basics of how and why modern day law firms are pushing to innovate, and what this actually means in practice, particularly for those seeking to enter the profession within the next few years".

Kim's demonstrable success has not been without certain challenges. She has had to overcome juggling legal practice and family commitments (she has three children) - without the current benefits of technology and approaches to flexible working.

Her personal and professional growth has seen her appreciate the importance of connecting with people to motivate and challenge them, and provide opportunities for growth in the innovation space and generally.

"Like many other aspects of life, the way we work and deliver legal services has changed, as have our clients' expectations. We need to fundamentally change how we are doing things to help us cope with a different and challenging market environment. In my role, I get to focus on understanding pain points for both our clients and our lawyers, and work with diverse teams to solve those problems - always asking 'is there a better way?' Sometimes the solution involves technology, but it always involves people, so staying connected and communicating are critical”.

The CEO Institute has provided Kim with the opportunity to meet with like-minded people from diverse backgrounds and industries to talk to and act as a sounding board for ideas. This group provides different perspectives on matters from people outside her immediate environment.

Apart from The CEO Institute, Kim is a member of a number of organisations such as: Centre for Legal Innovation, Queensland Law Society, Australian Legal Sector Alliance, International Bar Association: Regulation of Lawyers Compliance Committee, McCullough Robertson Foundation Limited, Australian Gender Equity Council, UN Women and UQ Law Alumni Association.

Kim is committed to helping the legal sector navigate disruption and solve the challenge of building a sustainable future.

Final words from Kim on innovation - "Disruptive ideas rarely come when everyone in the room is from the same background and point of view. It's important that people understand that there is opportunity for innovation from every role - it just requires curiosity and an open mind".

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