INNOVATION has been the watch word of the legal industry for several years now, though beyond an expectation that it will involve a more extensive use of technology few seem able to articulate what it actually means.

Recent reports from accountancy firms PwC and BDO do little to shed light on the matter, with both simply making the obvious point that if firms can use technology to streamline their processes they are likely to end up with a happier bunch of clients.

It is undeniable that all firms are going to have to get to grips with technology to drastically reduce the amount of time they spend on run of the mill tasks - and hence the amount of money they charge for those tasks.

But to stand out in what remains a highly competitive marketplace, where new entrants are feeling the benefits of not carrying the baggage of decades’ old working practices, firms are still going to have to come up with models that are interesting in their own right.

Some, such as McClure Solicitors, whose entire business is built around capturing clients by first offering them something for nothing, have got this nailed.

What the firm does has not changed since the 1980s, when it first started offering free wills in order to raise a bit of cash for a local charity and hopefully land itself some additional - chargeable - work from its wills customers in the process.

What has changed is that technology has allowed it to turn that into a volume service in recent years, which has in turn allowed what was a sleepy Greenock firm to open branches right across the UK.

Technology may be an enabler, but it is never going to be an end in itself. Finding a USP, and using technology to ensure it is delivered as efficiently as possible, will be the mark of the true winners in the legal sector.