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The new legal revolution

Íñigo Rodríguez Lopategui


Ganador al mejor relato sobre los retos del sector legal en inglés

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The evolution of the legal industry is unstoppable. Globalization, internalization, advanced technology, different legal systems; there is no other alternative besides accepting it and the first to accept and adapt will be the first to have considerable advantages. We stand before a momentous and historical era with huge opportunities in the law firms. Is the legal sector ready to tackle these challenges adequately? Does the legal sector truly want to be part of this change, and are we really taking action? Or, are we going to comfortably stand back with our arms crossed facing the inevitable? 

Every day we see hundreds of articles on the internet with the same title: “Skills of a Lawyer in the 21st Century”, which is indicative of the fact that the new law scene forces lawyers to possess knowledge and skills. Otherwise, he would not be able to survive in the law industry without them, or at least recognizing them, and doing what is necessary to train himself to acquire them.

What are clients asking for?

Clients demand the optimization of the provision process of legal services and new invoice patterns always tending to fixes prices beforehand. These changes regarding purchase habits together with the drop in professional fees of legal services will entail the eruption of new firms (Newlaw), which already exist in other countries such as UK, and the disappearance of the smallest law firms. Carlos Guerrero, Head of the area of Innovation and Venture in Fornesa Abogados, was extremely cutting in an interview for Global Legal Challenges “Other corporations, which have nothing to do with legal profession, will take over the work of small law firms”

What will be the most important skills of the future lawyer?

To make a closed list would be impossible. However, I will pinpoint what I consider to be the most important:

A future lawyer will need to have an executive profile and will have to be able to accompany certain business decisions. What I mean is that he will not only have to take into account the legal part, but also he will need to deeply understand the industry and the markets in which his client operates. In this way, he will need to adapt to work in an environment of uncertainty. It will be essential to have a global vision to adapt to international areas, and understand social and political aspects in a specific set-up.  

Furthermore, law firms look for skills; commercial profiles that show motivated individuals and who can speak multiple languages. A purely technical profile won’t be much match and definitely will not stand out. Future lawyers have to highlight these specific point in their profiles: practical approach, languages, conflict management, good technological skills, personal branding methods, developed skills/attributes (i.e. negotiation, flexibility to client demand, communication skills, ability to generate business, results orientations, etc.). 

How can we start to acquire these skills?

Universities and schools of law have an important role in the training and education of future lawyers. The traditional systems of law in the education platform, have lagged behind and should be constantly updating. They are quite behind what law firms are doing.

I believe mentor figures and teachers play key roles in the schooling process as they transmit much more than just knowledge of law, but demonstrate real passion for the profession. However, they should leave behind long lectures which contain only one-sided protagonism on the part of the teacher, and look to develop the competencies of the students, thus forcing them, the pupils, to be the real protagonists. They should encourage the creativity and innovation in the marketplace, yet teach them to anticipate risks.

The impact of technology and modernization of the justice system has pushed large changes in the way the judicial system operates and moves. The university and education system must then invest in training students in these technological advancements to give them the necessary skills to incorporate appropriately in the job market. We should call to attention universities who still have not introduced internet and digital law into their class material and syllabi.

The investment in multimedia is important, an example being IE Law School who has pushed large amounts of money into e-learning platforms. With these platforms, their lawyers can enter, create an “unlimited society”, receive consults from clients and force them to face real momentary situations. And, the more real, the more fun, and the more engaging it all becomes.

To conclude, even though it is self-evident, it is interesting to remember that it is the client that is really marking the future of the law industry and is his needs where we should be putting forth all of our focus. Fortunately, technology will help us understand our client better and in this way be able to offer them a much greater, over-the-top service.


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