Interview: Tracey McDermott joins Pinsent Masons as CTO 

We ask Tracey McDermott what her role at Pinsent Masons will entail, why legal, what the focus will be for the global tech programmes she leads, and what the next steps are for the Microsoft Copilot pilot.

UK top 20 law firm Pinsent Masons announced in January that it has hired Tracey McDermott as its new chief technology officer to lead the delivery of the firm’s global technology programmes, including the development and implementation of client-facing products and solutions. 

McDermott joins from retirement property development business McCarthy Stone, where she has been chief technology officer since 2019. Before that she was the longstanding chief information officer at BMI Healthcare. 

Pinsents’ global chief operating officer, Matt Peers, said at the time of the hire announcement: “Having worked across a number of industries including property and healthcare, Tracey brings a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the value and impact that a progressive and creative approach to technology can have on a business. 

“Pinsent Masons has long been a leader in tech innovation, and we’re excited to see how we can further embed technologies, such as AI, into our business. Tracey’s knowledge and expertise in tech-enabled change management will be an asset to the firm.” 

We asked McDermott why legal, why now, and  

Tracey, you’ve worked in different sectors but why legal and why now? 

“I think it’s the start of a real transformation in the sector and tech is right at the heart of that. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to get involved in something really new and ground breaking, so the legal sector for me is right at the front of that. 

There is an emphasis on AI in the press release, and it says that you’re going to be helping with AI solutions, is that something that you’ve been working on or with in your previous roles? 

In previous roles it was more AI that’s built into software and applications. So using technology to support analysis and insights and next best actions, those are really the types of focus I’ve had in the past. 

From a gen AI perspective, before I joined Pinsent Masons it was  really about being a user of that technology, so what the experience feels like, what it looks like, and the real opportunities there. So I think understanding it from a from an end user point of view is absolutely critical. 

Do you think the challenges in legal will differ from the two previous industries you’ve worked in? 

I think there are some similarities. I think lots of organisations have similar tech challenges. You know, the journey of moving to the cloud; how we deal with legacy technology; how we build change into what we’re doing from a from a tech transformation perspective. So, I think those elements are very similar across different sectors and I’ve got lots of experience in those areas.  

We’re always told that the legal sector is far behind in terms of development, how do you feel we compare to your previous sectors? 

I think that’s hard to say so early on, so I’ll reserve judgment on that, but from a very high level there are areas where the sector is keeping up with others. Pinsent Masons in particular have invested in technology, and they’ve used AI in the past. I can look at some of the business solutions that we’re using and we’re very up there with other sectors. 

I suspect there are differences in terms of the more legal specific technologies but I need to get into that in a bit more detail, I think every sector has their legacy solutions. I need to look at the market to see where we are with some of our legacy solutions.  

You’re going to be leading delivery of the global tech programmes including the development and implementation of client facing products and solutions wide world. Tell me a bit more about what that means and what you’re going to be doing. 

There are four areas where the main focus is going to be. The first one is around building on our existing transformation programme. So that is about continuing that move to the cloud and looking at what our options are with our legacy solutions and our legacy estate. The other area is around focusing on the client facing products and services. So how do we improve our customer experience and how do we deliver our services to our customers in a more efficient and effective way? And a lot of that is looking at how can technology help with the services we’re providing and how do we how do we set ourselves up for success in this sector? The sector is ripe for disruption, so how do we deal with that? What’s our strategy? What are our opportunities? And similarly, what are our risks and and threats in that in that space as well. So, it’s quite a fully rounded role. 

If I think about the transformation opportunities that we’ve got from tech and the business change implications of that, that’s really important and completely front and centre of my focus.  

Then there is a question of how do we deliver that highly efficient and effective service out to our internal customers and our external customers. 

Where are you at with Microsoft Copilot and what are the next steps?

We’ve got about 300 users on an earlier adopter Copilot programme and there are 11 practice groups across 11 communities across the organisation that have been specifically tasked with looking at various different areas and what those use cases could be; how we build those use cases and test them; and what the pros and cons are. There is a lot of focus on trialling some of the technology and really understanding it and understanding what opportunities there are. 

The purpose of the pilot is to really understand where we can get value. So from a technology point of view, for me it’s really key to understand what the outcomes are going to be from anything that we implement. So where is the business value and what are the outcomes we’re striving for? Through that pilot we are hoping to be really clear on where we can get that value and the pilot is still pretty early days. So we’re hoping to to crystallise that through the pilot and then make a decision.