The ‘liquid lawyer’ or ‘fluid lawyer’ are exciting words to personify successful individuals in today’s services industry. The basic idea behind their introduction was that lawyers should become adaptable individuals to succeed in today’s fast-paced world. What sets Da Vinci apart from his peers is that he was a jack of all trades, and likewise, our professionals today must be jacks of all trades, even if they are not masters of any. Some may call the analogy of Leonardo Da Vinci rather far-fetched, and we would be inclined to agree, but the simple truth is that the crux of the analogy still holds for a successful lawyer.
The fundamental demand for lawyers to diversify their roles within corporations is very relevant in the modern legal services industry. Basically, it requires them to gain expertise in more areas. In this regard, a lawyer’s polymathic skills include understanding how businesses work, being tech-savvy, and having an intuitive experience of the use of modern technology. In addition, the lawyers should gain impeccable soft skills such as in communications and marketing and develop greater adaptability to adjust according to conditions that have been changing due to the extensive application of legal tech solutions within the practice of law. This concept is defined with ‘the fluid lawyer’ terminology. So the lawyers essentially are asked to be fluid in fulfilling the demands of their role. This basic idea sets up the ops philosophy.
While the fluid lawyer concept lines up perfectly with the legal ops movement, it was conceived to be a conception of an ideal lawyer without any thought paid to the legal ops philosophy. However, as in the current landscape, legal ops is changing how we perceive various companies’ legal departments and asking us to reimagine the roles of lawyers for their respective companies. Therefore, to sum up the legal ops philosophy in one sentence, all legal departments should be value-creators instead of cost-centers and lawyers should augment the commercial aims of their businesses to help them become more profitable.
The Fluid Lawyer does not just line up perfectly with the legal oops movement – it also defines what skills a lawyer would need to be successful in a world where the legal ops mentality characterized the legal departments.
The New Skills Of Legal Ops
Let us contextualize the changing world for a moment. Twenty to twenty-five years ago, computers were essentially a luxury, owned only by the most successful companies. Even in those companies, the computers were slow and largely inefficient. Working without computers was the norm all over the world in every profession. Contrast this with the world of today. Computers have digitized almost every function of our day-to-day lives. Thanks to the tech that has transferred much of our manual labor to the use of technology. A lawyer twenty-five years ago could be excused for not having a basic understanding of computer science, but what about now? With how information technology has intertwined with life, today’s lawyers have an additional skill to learn to succeed.
These new changes are far too valuable for us to revert to the old ways. For example, tech has made it easy for lawyers to do their basic tasks hustle-free. Moreover, it has also made access to counsel cheaper for a layperson. Nowadays, even small businesses that do not have the luxury of having their legal department can manage themselves fine through online tech providers. Another consequence of this digital revolution has been the shift in power from the business to the consumer. Today’s consumers are empowered far more than the consumers of twenty-five years ago, and they constantly drive their respective industries towards innovation. To list a few areas where innovation is continuously happening include transparency of communication, better service, and an increase in efficiency using tech. This progress cannot reverse so service providers would adapt to this changing world, and the lawyers must pick up the relevant skills.
All of this emphasizes the need for the operations movement. In this changing world, services are not just a boring costly department that had no role in the businesses of the past other than mitigating risks and avoiding lawsuits. New key performance indicators or KPIs are being developed only to define a business’s needs. With the efficient use of technology, the mundane works of operations get automated. With the time this automation frees employees of tedious tasks, they have more time to support their businesses.
To sum up this subject, the three skills people need to succeed in legal ops include an excellent grasp of the law, being tech-savvy, and understanding how businesses work.
Legal Knowledge Is Still The Hardest Skill Required For Success
A good grasp of the law is the first and foremost thing that any individual involved in services should develop. It is improbable that anybody would like to work in a team without sound knowledge. While tech automates most routine and mundane tasks, this does not mean that individuals can get away from the need to have proper legal knowledge in their fields of law. In fact, with the time they save from legal tech solutions, the job of the legal teams becomes one where they have to strategize their digging into the legal matters, and they should come up with innovative solutions to advance their business. It requires a more solid grasp, not less, of legal knowledge.
So the fluid lawyer concept gets clear. The day-to-day tasks should leave to the machines, while areas that require a more profound understanding of the law are still in the domain of humans, and lawyers should discover creative solutions to cater to the client’s needs. The legal ops philosophy, therefore, does not seek to undermine legal knowledge; it just seeks to augment it with a superstructure of other skills.
Let’s face the reality – the legal ops moment cannot be separated from the increasing use of tech within the field of legal operations. So to have the departments work on creative and challenging areas, you should free lawyers from boring and monotonous work, and here comes the legal tech.
There needs to be some clarification – the ops movement does not seek to convert lawyers into computer scientists. The lawyers need not learn to code or design intricate hardware. So they only need to harness the existing solutions into something that makes their jobs easy, and for this, the general idea is that individuals working in ops have to be tech-savvy.
So, in a nutshell, what we require from a lawyer is a few things. First, a lawyer must know how to delegate some of his work to machines. Second, he should see the efficiency of his team. Third, he needs a basic understanding of APIs and algorithms behind making if-then statements. Finally, but most importantly, he needs to understand the efficiency of the specific characteristics of automated work-life balance. Finally, he should know how much his data is future-proof and how the user experience improves from his use of tech.
And let’s not forget that the end goal of being tech-savvy is optimizing your work so you can ponder over problems in need of creative solutions.
Let us stop here and think about the end goal of ops. What does it seek to change, exactly?
The legal ops movement aims to increase the legal team’s role in offering their support for the commercial aims of a business. Hence business success is always significant to succeed in the legal ops. So a good legal ops-oriented individual would grasp how businesses operate, how they generate profit, how innovation works in companies, what an organizational structure should look like, and how projects are managed. A fundamental understanding of how the markets work is also crucial for someone involved in legal ops philosophy.
As previously mentioned, the legal ops movement is characterized by a one-stop-shop concept. It demands cross-service collaboration that results in a synergistic service to present to the clients at reasonable prices. Then, through expanding the services, they cover a range of offerings, including accounting and compliance, legal services, management consultation, and business strategies. As a result, businesses can supply a whole range of professional services, giving the consumers a holistic service at low prices.
Businesses in the current world do not want their departments to be a cost center, for just mitigating risks and avoiding lawsuits. Instead, what they need is a multidisciplinary approach that results in counsel that helps them innovate, market themselves, and become more profitable. In short, legal ops seeks to turn the lawyers hired by a company into strategic advisors, giving them an active role in the company’s business instead of a passive risk-mitigation one.
What Kind Of Mentality Is Needed To Succeed In Legal Ops?
Other skills you need to succeed in ops include a paradigm shift in your mentality and improved soft skills.
In an exciting turn of events, lawyers need to be willing to take some risks to succeed in the legal ops, whereas before, they were encouraged to be highly risk-averse. This is because the legal department’s role has gone through a major shift as well. Previously, risk mitigation was the only role of the lawyers. As such, lawyers were supposed to be very cautious and back away from risk-prone decisions, focusing only on reducing risk for the business. However, the ops philosophy is working to change this, and lawyers have to get involved in the business’s strategic commercialization. This new role comes with some willingness to take risks. If a lawyer is too risk-averse, it might be difficult for him to succeed in the ops world.
Another shift to succeed in legal ops is to be more liberal and open-minded. function leans on the conservative side most of the time. For most instances, lawyers rely on a tried and tested approach, which is fine, but this mentality is not likely to get you miles in the legal ops, where innovation is becoming more critical. Legal ops are all about learning and changing, being curious about new things, and showing adaptability. The process is simple – you test a strategy, and it may not work. Then, you tinker around and come up with a better approach. So, this is the type of mindset sought by the legal ops in these days and times. You have to be dynamic to succeed in this new model.
Another thing affecting the soft skills in the legal ops and the mentality required is the boom in artificial intelligence and information technology. These valuable technologies seek to optimize legal work by taking over most of the mundane roles that teams have had to fill. While lawyers tend to view these industries with suspicion, to succeed in legal ops requires embracing these technologies to boost efficiency.
The simple lesson in the story is that adaptability is the key to survival in the legal ops world that may or may not get dominated by A.I.
Good communication skills have always been necessary for every lawyer. However, they have combined good collaboration skills and your abilities to take on tasks effectively, and no one can hide from these needs when they aim to take a front seat in the legal ops movement. Furthermore, data literacy is essential because no more will succeed at making decisions based on their gut feeling. So, every decision you take has to be backed by data and justifiable. As the KPIs of legal ops are more performance-driven, they need more data literacy.
Furthermore, ops are not a one-person’s job. To analyze data effectively and develop genius business strategies, you have to work in teams. So this is where communication and collaboration skills come in handy. To cooperate with people who may have a different philosophy than your skill set can be a complicated task. However, good cooperation in such circumstances is a valuable skill if you want to succeed in ops.
Of course, this sounds rather challenging and tiresome – and it is certainly demanding. Succeeding in legal ops may mean changing your mentality and being more flexible and adaptable. However, legal ops increase your importance in the company hierarchy because you are not part of the business’s core commercial team but a leader making strategic decisions.
Sounds fun, right?