The new professional roles in digital legal services

In current times, no business can survive without some form of digitization. Even the most traditional sectors, like the legal profession, are adapting and creating new roles.

Author: Ana Burbano,  IE Law School alumni and specialist in legal tech, blockchain and digital transformation of legal services.

Digital transformation in legal services involves a change in the way that people involved in providing these services see things. Without this change in our mentality, which is as essential as the air we breathe, it becomes impossible to create change in business. Evidently, we can equip ourselves with technology, teach our users how to use it and even develop our own software, but without proper training or new and professional digital media approaches, they will logically try to apply the only method they know: traditional service provision. This becomes a problem because, when applying technology to traditional processes, the technological tools don’t usually fit, and trying to forcefully apply them is very exhausting and frustrating.

It’s time to evolve! Transforming legal business involves accepting moving from traditional practice to digital practice, and therefore, we must create and manage software that we can interact with when providing our services and that make us owners of our clients’ user experiences with our applications. For this purpose, we have to assume that the skills that lawyers have traditionally relied on are no longer enough. Legal service providers should not only be able to provide good technical and legal assistance, but also develop a caring customer approach, e.g. through good software as a means of service provision.

Legal service providers should not only be able to provide good technical and legal assistance, but also develop a caring customer approach.

The indispensability of software development and user experience

So what are these key competencies and profiles needed in digital legal services? From my point of view, they are those which combine lawyers’ expertise with the technological “know-how.” I will now address some roles or profiles that I would like to comment on in more depth and which are related to software creation and management: agile methodology promoters and design thinking; scrum masters; product owners and user experience designers (UX/UI).

Agile methodology roles

Agile methodologies are part of the foundations of digital transformation and are primarily focused on software or digital product development. However, they also have an impact on product implementation. They were born as an alternative to the classic system of cascading software development that, although widely used in traditional companies, is actually not as effective for digital businesses that are trying to adapt quickly to technological market changes. The first required profile or aptitude is that of agile methodology promoters. They promote agile management, provide consultation and support in the subject of agile methodologies and train other professionals in the use of these methodologies within the organization.

The new professional roles in digital legal services | IE Lawhead

Scrum master

The next skill, or more specifically, profile, is that of a scrum master. The scrum master is a fundamental component in developing the “scrum” agile methodology. This role consists, in very basic terms, of achieving frequent deliveries of small development advances in a short period of time, verifying phase by phase that the development and/or implementation is being carried out correctly. Scrum masters are responsible for ensuring the use of the best way of exchanging information and coordinating methodology implementation. They are characterized by very deep technical and service knowledge. In the case of legal services, the scrum master figure would have to be a hybrid profile that can work in legal terms, as well as having a substantial knowledge of the required technologies for service provision. For example, this would mean that they possess both legal knowledge and specific knowledge and expertise with regards to the latest sector trends (e.g. the problems that are being resolved by other law firms or new Legal Tech companies). As we can assume, the working groups in these cases would no longer be exclusively made up of lawyers or legal professionals, but would have to be opened up to new professionals too. Both agile methodology promoters and scrum masters would work for and in all the services and legal divisions in organizations.

In all these new profiles and roles, it is necessary to combine both legal knowledge and technological expertise.

Product owner

Assuming the above roles have been implemented, there is also the position of the product owner. In the legal world, we are not used to viewing our services as products. However, in the “Age of Digitization,” the standardization of the processes associated to these services will allow us to package and consider our services as more transposable to different contexts, as well as more user friendly. In addition, our legal services can be categorized by areas of expertise. Therefore, we could talk about product owners in terms of subject matter or department. The product owner sets the vision of service in the business, tracks and evaluates the results of this service, and ensures value in the provision of the service. In the case of the legal world, we may wish to appoint partners or associates with extensive experience in service provision, or, in the case of advice, we could discuss legal department heads or heads of areas of responsibility.

User Experience Designers (UX/UI)

Lastly, to top it all off, since user experience is a central aspect of providing today’s software, user experience design skills are required as well. User experience designers optimize user experiences, whether they are internal or external clients. These are technical people who, in turn, have the ability to meet and empathize with users. User experience designers develop user category identification, as well as improving “the customer journey” and making constant service adjustments. However, this profile is still quite uncommon in digitized legal services, and even less so in traditional businesses.

Much remains to be done

As it can be seen, in all these new profiles and roles, it is necessary to combine both legal knowledge and technological expertise. However, this proposal is neither a closed list nor does it exactly define types of professionals, as other skills can also be used in different roles or be combined with others in one single person or role.

Ana Burbano is IE Law School alumni and specialist in legal tech, blockchain and digital transformation of legal services. She is Head of Legal en Akaven Ventures. She has degrees in Law and Political and Administrative Sciences from Complutense University of Madrid, a masters in Entrepreneurship and Startups from the Garrigues Center of Studies, a masters in Ethereum, blockchain technology and crypto-economics from the University of Alcalá, and a masters in International Relations and African studies from the Autonomous University of Madrid.

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