“Issues and trends shaping the global legal ecosystem” by Professor María José Esteban

IE University Law School professor and experienced corporate lawyer María José Esteban presented at the Rethinking Law Series, findings from her recent research project “Issues Shaping the Global Legal System,” commissioned by the International Bar Association.

Author: María José Esteban, Adjunct Professor at IE University Law School, a Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, and a partner at the Spanish law firm Escura.

Rethinking Law: María José Esteban explains the issues and trends shaping the global legal ecosystem

Law students and practicing lawyers alike are struggling to navigate a sector undergoing seismic shifts. The overwhelming volume and dispersion of information makes it difficult to know what’s true and what’s not regarding the future of legal services. With this in mind, the International Bar Association commissioned María José Esteban to research the topic and synthesize her findings.

On February 23, IE University Law School had the pleasure to welcome María José at the “Rethinking Law” series” where she presented findings from her research paper, entitled “Issues Shaping the Global Legal Ecosystem.”

Here’s what we learned from María José about the current state of the legal industry and where the sector is headed in the near future.

The issues disrupting legal services

María José began her talk by outlining the six issues she found to be most disruptive to the future of legal services. She mapped these issues by looking at the topics that were most talked about (in existing legal research) while also being the most challenging (areas where the sector is struggling to keep up).

The number-one issue was Discrimination, Employability, and Career Path Issues (28%). This refers to the growing awareness of inequality in the legal profession. In response to this increased awareness, firms are scrambling to develop plans to become more inclusive—for example, making a concerted effort to hire more women and people of color.

The second issue, coming in at 24%, is the Redesign of Legal Services. This ties into the third topic, Expansion of Legal Tech Solutions (12%). Between a demand for easier, more streamlined services and the wave of legal tech innovations that’s washing over the industry, firms are realizing that their ways of working may be outdated—and a refresh is in order.

Taking up 12% of the pie, the fourth topic is Pervasive Internationalization of Legal Services. With the growing globalization of business and the interconnectedness that technology has afforded us, law is no longer confined to the borders of one jurisdiction. Lawyers and firms must take on a global mindset and expand their toolkit.

Speaking of toolkits, at 11%, the fifth issue María José identifies as a major disruptor is Additional Skills & Training Solutions.

“On the one hand, you need lawyering skills. You need to be an expert. But on the other hand, there are other skills that are increasingly important, like business, tech and negotiation. Many law schools aren’t teaching students the latter.”

Last but not least, we have Controversial Approaches to Regulation (10%). Regulation is quickly becoming a trending topic in the industry, and some are even saying we’re in “an era of regulatory reform.” How law firms approach regulation in the years to come will be crucial to their success.

Issues and trends shaping the global legal ecosystem

How are these drivers shaping today’s legal ecosystem?

According to María José, “The emerging drivers of change in the legal sector are changing it in a way that makes the sector function similar to the way other industries already work. Collaboration, multidisciplinary skills, new business models, AI and a focus on well-being are all key elements to a successful business model.”

This can only be a good thing for the legal services sector. However, it won’t come easy. On the one hand, firms and organizations need to invest in research, training and HR. On the other hand, universities must overhaul their curriculums and design their content in response to these changing needs.

“It’s important that we put money into research in the legal industry,” says María José.

“Public-backed universities are regulated by the government, so it’s hard to get funding and support for innovative, new legal training.”

Legal innovation at IE University Law School

At IE Law School, events such as this talk by María José Esteban are just one part of a much bigger effort to rethink everything we know about law. All of our programs, from our bachelors to masters and executive degrees, are constantly reformulated and redesigned to respond to new changes and challenges in the legal industry.

To learn more about innovation at IE University Law School, visit our official webpage.

María José EstebanMaría José Esteban is an Adjunct Professor at IE University Law School, a Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, and a partner at the Spanish law firm Escura. With over 20 years’ experience in corporate law, María José is widely respected as one of the best lawyers in Spain.