The shift in today’s working world is pushing corporate law to find a new normal. Corporate lawyers need to move seamlessly with this shift and take on the new profile of a liquid lawyer.
Author: Carlos de la Pedraja García-Cosío, Former Vice Dean and General Manager of IE Law School
The last few years has seen a radical change in the profile of the corporate lawyer. There are many factors behind this, including technology, globalization, new generations of lawyers, innovative business models and new players and competitors.
Legal knowledge must be complemented with business and technological competencies, forcing corporate lawyers to become experts in multiple fields. In addition to having a technical skill set, corporate lawyers need to update and fully develop their soft skills, including cross-collaboration, creativity, lateral thinking, solving complex problems, emotional intelligence and flexibility.
In my pre-pandemic travels, I lectured about hybrid talent and how lawyers can become the mermaids or centaurs of law by developing and combining the soft skills described above. But what residual effects will be felt after COVID-19? Will this new reality have an impact on the skills needed to succeed in law?
The “new normal” and its reinvention of corporate law practice
Recently, Mark A. Cohen, a consultant and international legal expert, wrote that this situation “will turbocharge legal industry transformation,” and I wholeheartedly agree. The new situation is accelerating changes in the current business model. In the “new normal,” the virtual world prevails over the physical one, remote meetings replace face-to-face contact, and technology and new communication tools for clients, suppliers, agencies and lawyers are the main focus. Even though many of us knew that law was undergoing a tectonic shift, the pandemic has confirmed that other ways of working, advising and collaborating are all possible.
However, let’s not get our hopes up just yet. Although how we work is changing, the business model has remained the same. A transformation in business models will undoubtedly be the next step in the evolution of the new legal world.
The client will be the absolute center of the corporate legal universe, and the realities with which we will work will become increasingly complex and multidisciplinary.
The future of the corporate legal universe
Who will best thrive in our new reality? We know that in the world of corporate law, there will still be a great deal of work, but previous crises have shown us that the type of work will be different. The industry needs flexible lawyers who are capable of dedicating themselves at all times to the precise “surgery” that is law.
M&A lawyers will now be dedicated to restructuring or reviewing contract clauses, while also applying different legal knowledge. Litigation lawyers will be committed to bankruptcy, labor legislation or arbitration and mediation. In short, the areas in which there will be more work will change and lawyers will have to quickly become experts in new disciplines. However, this is nothing new to lawyers, as they have had to face these situations in the past.
New skills, new leadership, new innovation
The great challenge for corporate law upskilling: the ability to learn entirely new lawyer competencies that reflect the new reality. This new reality is more liquid, more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, more digital and above all, more ambiguous. It is the VUCA environment elevated to the nth degree. It’s evermore challenging to make decisions, get them right and foresee what tomorrow will bring. Now is the moment for leadership with a capital L, not for management deployed as a quick fix to save the business. It is the moment when technology, data analysis and metrics will become paramount. Leadership must be combined with creativity and imagination, and only lawyers capable of imagining the future of the profession will survive.
Without a doubt, one of the differentials of this new era will be interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. Collaboration with clients, suppliers, competitors, partners, public bodies and multidisciplinary teams will be pivotal points of the profession. The client will be the absolute center of the corporate legal universe, and the realities with which we will work will become increasingly complex and multidisciplinary. For this reason, the development of critical thinking and problem solving, combined with decision making, will be the most in-demand skills.
In short, the new legal world requires a new profile: the “liquid lawyer.” This is a flexible professional capable of adapting to changing realities and environments, who can work in person and remotely, and is comfortable working with multiple legal systems. The liquid lawyer understands the immense technological possibilities at their disposal and is able to work with data and metrics. In a world that is constantly changing, they are able to make decisions with creativity, and lead their team on an unprecedented adventure.
Carlos is the Former General Manager and Vice Dean of IE Law School. With an expert knowledge of the legal industry, Carlos has worked for over 20 years transforming the sector, exploring new ways of offering legal services, and developing new professional skills. Carlos teaches Talent Management courses for several executive programs, as well as Human Resources courses at IE Business School. Carlos holds a law degree from the University of Oviedo, and completed a Master in Human Resources and a Master in Legal Consultancy at IE Business School.
Note: The views expressed by the author of this paper are completely personal and do not represent the position of any affiliated institution.