Earlier this summer, I was in conversation with the phenomenal Olga V. Mack, VP and CEO of Parley Pro at LexisNexis and she said something that really stuck with me - “...the future belongs to builders…”. Growing up, I always admired lawyers. I was always fascinated with how coupled with their knowledge of the law, their voices could be such powerful tools to make an impact in different sectors of life. So when I finally went to law school, I was thrilled to finally be able to learn and understand laws like attorneys that I wished to emulate. Soon enough however, I realized that as powerful as it is, legal language is also a barrier to those who did not go to law school. A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how legalese and other jargon are not conducive to efficiency in business transactions. Thinking along those lines, raised some other questions for me. In daily parlance, what do non-lawyer team members think about when their lawyer colleagues use jargon in discussions? Does it affect how well lawyers and their non-lawyer team members work together? Where does tech fit in? Has someone built a tech solution that can help people work better with their lawyer counterparts?
From a lawyer’s perspective, technology is mostly about automation and efficiency. It can help lawyers do their jobs more quickly and efficiently. But from a business perspective, this is also true – technology can empower other team members to understand legal documents better instead of having to refer every small question to legal which tends to be overburdened already or incurring considerable expenditure on outside counsel.
Legaltech For Non-lawyers
Legaltech is not a new name for old technology. It's not just legal software, and it doesn't mean that lawyers are out of work. Legaltech does allow non-lawyers to do tasks that the more straightforward routine tasks used to be done by lawyers—and at much lower cost and time burdens than they'd have otherwise been able to afford. For example, you might have an experienced developer who has built a website for your business and want to add legal information about what you sell on the site (e.g., product descriptions). Or maybe you've been working with a client who needs help filling out forms for their immigration case or other immigration matters—but don't want any legal advice from an attorney because they're uncomfortable asking questions about their case directly or don’t want to have to pay exorbitant legal fees?
This reminds me of another wonderful conversation I had with Kevin Keller, General Counsel at Snapcommerse and ex-Head of Product Legal at Instacart who also has a technical background in engineering. While speaking with Kevin, I asked him how much of his work as a lawyer is influenced by his technical background. He talked about how it helps him in making connections with engineering teams and, and understanding what they're doing and maybe how challenging the things that they're trying to accomplish are. This made me think of all the wonderful opportunities that exist for lawyers and other professionals to join their unique skills in crafting innovative solutions together rather than working separately in their own spheres.
The future is multidisciplinary
Another insightful conversation I had on our podcast Rethinking Legal Ops with Tara Trantham, Founder and CEO of TJ44 Consulting helped me understand how the role of an In-house counsel has evolved and how important it is from them to innovatively craft legal solutions that support business. When lawyers work as strategic business partners with their non-lawyer counterparts business runs more smoothly. This is why several law firms are now looking to make their teams more interdisciplinary although the progress in this regard has been slow. Multidisciplinary teams can help with business development, growth and attracting talented team members. For example, non-lawyer team members from other disciplines may be able to analyze the company's current state of affairs and identify areas where some improvement could be made. They could also suggest ways in which legal issues might arise from those changes and how best to address them (for example by drafting contracts). Helping with communication between different departments within an organization by providing clarity on which information belongs where—for example: Which department receives which document? Where does each file go when it's ready? What happens if there's an error in one document? Who needs access privileges after reviewing all these documents together later this week at lunchtime." Finally, they could provide an objective view on why certain changes were made or why certain other ones weren't - this will help you make better decisions in the future.
As the industry moves away from its traditional focus on law and toward technology and business development, it's critical that non-lawyers are able to work well with their lawyer counterparts.
The future belongs to builders
Personally, I am very excited with the vast opportunities for reimagining how we approach legal work where we leverage the knowledge from other disciplines to create innovative legal solutions. There are plenty of tools out there that make it possible for multidisciplinary teams to get the most out of each other’s skill-sets and make great things happen! Some examples include matter management solutions like Lupl that make it seamless for teams to collaborate and manage projects. Parley Pro is another great tool that can help you collaborate with team members and business partners in negotiating your transactions. I am also very proud of the work that we have been doing at SpeedLegal where we are working to make contracts accessible to everyone by making them easy, simple, and fast so non-lawyer team members can take control of their documents, and close deals faster without overburdening their In-house team or incurring significant outside-counsel fees.