July 10 2020

Prescription for legal professionals: Work during and after COVID-19 (Part four)

Henna Tolvanen

In light of the COVID-19 situation, we have started a new format of publications named “Prescription for legal professionals”. We ask the contributors to the Legal Influencer Hub to express an opinion upon certain questions or hot topics in a brief and comprehensive way. In this fourth Prescription, we ask again: "coronavirus will most probably change everyone’s life forever. What is your prescription for legal professionals to adapt to the new reality?" Here are the answers of Legal Influencer Henna Tolvanen.

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Due to COVID-19, Legal Tech has taken giant leaps throughout these last few months. Working remotely and delivering legal services virtually have set a precedent for many lawyers. We have been talking about the necessary and inevitable change in the legal industry, and it might be easy to think that these weeks were the real “accelerator” of the change. We now have lawyers using Teams, Skype and Zoom and we can sign documents online. And as a Legal Tech enthusiast, I am thrilled about it. But to me, this is only the beginning. Legal Tech will not solve the problems our industry has. We simply cannot glue technology on top of a process or hope that our services are more understandable if they are delivered with technology. We need to put the human touch back into law.

The prescription for my colleagues is:
1. Redesign legal processes
It is safe to say that almost all the other industries have undergone a process of digitalization and learn business design and are now doing the right things right. And since a lot of our clients have gone through this, they are paying attention to how we deliver services and the old business model might not be enough. We know that legal services have been very slow to change and most of the work is still done very traditionally and it might be hard to see legal work as a process. But how do we know what to fix if we don’t even know what needs to be fixed? No one wants to waste time working on issues that don’t matter in the end.

It is easy to think that implementing technology will make a difference and magically make everything better, but from my perspective, technology is only the means, not an end. Most of the time the problem is somewhere else. So, before companies start to invest in legal technology, spend some time analyzing your legal processes. Have all the people involved in the process workshop together and make sure you have the right people in right roles, everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do and how their work affects on the final result, emphasize communication and work on collaboration skills. And when you have done all of this, see if there is a boring, time consuming, copying and pasting part on that process, that you might be able to automate and allow your legal masterminds to concentrate on more complex issues.
2. Redesign legal services and products
Legal advice is now often seen as an integral element of the commercial plan and our clients are looking for solutions to their problems and challenges. We, lawyers, like to think that we are problem solvers, but are we? Do we focus on the exact problem our client is having or do we just offer an interpretation of legislation? Do we listen to them and do we understand them?

Instead of just focusing on the legal advice, we should focus on how we might help our client solve the problem they are facing and go beyond traditional legal advice. Interpretation of legislation is just not enough anymore, and we must deliver more than just a piece of advice delivered in legalese. Our advice should support their business and help them move forward holistically.

And to be fully able to deliver solutions, we need more commercial awareness, but we also need to collaborate more with our clients to get to know them and their businesses better. We have to understand the context of our advice. We need to listen more, and we need to empathize. We must find solutions to the exact problems they might be facing, and we need to deliver our advice in a way that is right on time and accurate. We must give advice that will add value to our clients’ business and help them grow. Without having to be designers, we can learn from the design process and make sure we always put the end-user first. Finding the optimal solution for our client calls for creativity and abstract thought. Only when the legal context is understandable to the user, law and legal advice will be more usable and useful.

Article author:
Henna Tolvanen

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