Digital transformation in legal goes beyond tech, it comes down to talent

The most brilliant innovations are irrelevant if lawyers lack the skills to use it. To release the potential of digital transformation in the legal sector, lawyers must think first about investing in talent and people who can make that technology useful.

Author: Renée Cortés, Content Manager at IE Law School

We have seen new business models emerge across industries and sectors that use a variety of technologies, altering pre-existing value chains and breaking down silos between sectors. We have also witnessed how unexpected competitors, such as startups and even companies from entirely different industries, have caused disruption by radically changing how “things are traditionally done.”

The same has happened in the legal sector. Disruptive technologies are presenting an opportunity for lawyers to take the lead and enable more secure, efficient, accessible, and client-centric legal services based on digital transformation solutions. Furthermore, businesses are reinventing themselves by transforming data into an asset they can leverage. 

To enter this new playing field, lawyers must comprehend the influence of technology across sectors and explore the intersection of law, business and technology.

With the efficiency and support of new technologies and operation systems, lawyers can focus more time and energy on higher-value tasks and client care.

However, grasping the concept of true disruption has been—and remains—an especially difficult exercise for those who have a long track record of succeeding by doing “what has always been done.” This is the case with most large law firms and organizations, where there’s a rift between lawyers seeking to preserve the “profession” and the needs of consumers and an industry intent on satisfying them. 

But those reluctant to change have been pushed by the pandemic to an inflection point where embracing technology is no longer an option but a necessity: companies and law firms who relied heavily on technology inputs and enablers have clearly seen the value of disruption. Smart firms have been taking steps by improving internal processes, incentivizing efficiency, and researching alternative ways of doing business that maximize client value.

In this new post-COVID context, will law firms and in-house departments have to re-evaluate and revise their long-term business models? Will professionals and leaders lean into tech, and identify and create new market opportunities, while still reacting swiftly and decisively to manage future challenges?

Getting practical with digital transformation: Talent, diversity and sustainability

Studies from Gartner show that digital disruption is the most important function for businesses, immediately followed by finding talent who can provide new ways to deliver services to clients.

A separate study from McKinsey & Co. shows that organizations that have undergone a digital transformation are “23 times more likely to acquire customers, six percent more likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable.” 

Digital transformation also has an impact on diversity, collaboration, and the organization’s ability to adapt culturally. The legal industry needs to do a much better job of being inclusive of every group—lawyers, technologists, data analysts, and people of various backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities.

The industry must be open to new paradigms regarding talent; and upskilling and re-skilling lawyers in new technologies is essential for law firms and businesses to thrive in an era of digital transformation.

Be an enabler of change

In an increasingly complex and dynamic digital economy, lawyers must develop the reputation of being enablers of change. “Lawyers have to re-engineer themselves to deliver the outcomes that clients want,” explained Professor Richard Susskind OBE, the world’s most-cited author on the future of legal services. 

The winners when it comes to disruption are the resilient professionals who find a way to adapt and are open to a wider spectrum of talent, cultures, professionals (legal and otherwise), and technologies.

In his book “Tomorrow’s Lawyers,” Susskind recommends that lawyers take active initiative in learning and updating their tech skills. “It will be as important in law as elsewhere for young aspiring professionals to be entirely familiar with the potential and the limitations of online service in their areas.”

Gaining tech savvy and analyzing alternative business models from other sectors is vital in the new world of law—something students in the Master in Legal Tech learn through the Digital Transformation Certification program, designed by IE School of Human Sciences & Technology. During this week-long module, students gain a practical understanding of digital transformation and discover how to holistically diagnose the digital maturity of an organization, how to develop a digital strategy, and how to implement and roadmap it within an organization. All insights gained will be immediately applied as students work on a digital transformation project for their own organization across all three sub-modules. 

Technology may open up a world of opportunity for the global lawyer to tap into a new market for legal services, dramatically improving quality, speed, and access of services, while cutting workplace inefficiencies and costs.

Renée Cortés is the Content & Communication Manager at IE Law School. She holds a Master in Corporate & Marketing Communication from IE School of Human Sciences & Technology. Before moving to Madrid, she designed, founded, and was Editor-in-Chief of a lifestyle magazine in Bolivia that won First Prize for New Brand/Product/Audience Development at the International News Media Association (INMA) Global Media Awards in New York. She is passionate about writing stories and is interested in the future of education, disruptive technologies,  law, entrepreneurship and its power to impact society.

Note: The views expressed by the author of this paper are completely personal and do not represent the position of any affiliated institution.