You don’t need a law degree to transform legal operations

The legal tech industry raised more than $2.5 billion in 2021, and alternative legal service providers are increasing their market share, as companies like Deloitte & EY strengthen their ranks in legal advice. This growth creates new job opportunities.

However, while people with and without law degrees are driving changes in legal operations and technology, the resulting job opportunities tend to be limited to lawyers only despite a large pool of talented professionals. without JD.

Those familiar with this space understand that you don’t have to be a lawyer to excel in this field. Having a legal background can be beneficial, but it should not be a prerequisite.

Several people changing the practice of law don’t have a law degree, including Ulf Zetterberg (Time is Ltd.), Jennifer McCarron (Netflix) and Stephanie Corey (UpLevel Ops) who have all had a huge influence on the work of most modern lawyers.

Legal Professionals Can Manage Lawyers

There are several reasons why one might want to limit a role in legal transformation or technology to lawyers.

What if the job requires setting goals and objectives for the legal department, managing a team of lawyers, or leading strategic management within the legal department? These skills do not require the active practice of law, but we must answer the question of whether someone without a legal background can manage lawyers doing legal work.

Take the example of the medical field.

Doctors are licensed professionals who specialize in their field, as are lawyers. The medical ecosystem includes, among others, nurses, technicians and administrators. Although physicians have highly technical skills and unique domain knowledge, that doesn’t mean they need to be at the top of every hierarchy in their field.

Consider the role of the medical administrator. Doctors are trained to treat and cure people. But if you want to run a hospital, you cannot only study and practice medicine, you must also study medical administration for years.

State bar associations often prevent legal professionals from holding majority ownership. Under American Bar Association ruleslaw firms are not allowed to offer ownership or other investment and revenue-sharing opportunities to legal professionals, resulting in firms where lawyers drive all decision-making despite their work in an ecosystem of legal professionals.

The legal restrictions on law firms may have created a culture that makes us think you have to be a lawyer to manage a team of lawyers, but that’s not the case. It should be noted that such restrictions do not exist in all common law jurisdictions.

For example, the United Kingdom has begun to allow legal professionals to invest in 2011.

State-of-the-art legal tech training

Legal technology continues to transform the delivery of legal services. Legal technology solutions include deep learning algorithms to automate research and data collection, and cloud-based enterprise solutions streamline collaboration between law firms and corporate legal departments.

Although attorneys are often end users of this technology, they do not necessarily have the understanding required to implement these systems or teach about them. Law schools are good at training students to spot legal issues and potential claims before signing a contract, but not so much at leading a comprehensive technology selection, deployment, and change process.

The legal profession should consider developing hands-on training around technology to better equip lawyers for these “new law” roles. In the meantime, we must recognize that some of the most talented professionals in legal innovation and technology have developed and implemented these enterprise-wide systems in some of the world’s leading organizations – and this space is multidisciplinary. .

Remember, legal tech isn’t just about legal. Implementing a contract management system, for example, often involves sales, procurement, finance, and IT teams.

The need for “JD” after someone’s name is less important than the requirements of the role. It is not because a post concerns legal pedagogy that one should prefer a lawyer to an expert in the field.

The same can be said of law school training as a prerequisite for a role that is not primarily focused on providing legal advice. Fair hiring practices should focus on the most qualified candidates.

We live in an environment where 1,800 legal tech startups received funding between 2016 and 2022. The legal tech environment is changing at breakneck speed, and legal operations professionals, many of whom don’t have JDs, are already evaluating work and deploy legal technologies on a daily basis. These skills are essential for modern lawyers to fulfill their responsibilities in business.

The need for evolution

Although the future of legal innovation remains uncertain, it is clear that law schools must evolve to meet the technological needs of students. At the very least, lawyers and legal professionals need to have more collaborative conversations about the broader educational need for legal technology.

Legal operations professionals have a unique opportunity to emphasize the importance of designing and implementing an ecosystem of business solutions to guide greater efficiency and decision-making. If the data and trends tell us anything, law firms and corporate legal departments must adapt to achieve better business results, while law schools must change the way they teach in our digital economy. modern.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

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Author Information

Mrs. Onwudiwe is executive vice president of legal and business intelligence at Evisort and a lecturer at Harvard Law School. He helped build Evisort while in law school and he lectures on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Tom Stephenson is Director of Legal Operations for Credit Karma. He focuses on driving legal operations to run smarter and faster while implementing right-sized technology solutions that deliver meaningful data on how teams are performing.

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