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What is the future of the legal profession?

"In-house teams must develop a more-for-less dynamic"
Bjarne P. Tellmann

"We need to re-imagine what it means to be a lawyer’"
Mark A. Cohen

Business is increasingly global, ever more complex and subject to proliferating regulatory frameworks. How do in-house legal teams keep up?

To get the best possible insight, The Centre for Legal Leadership hosted a livestream webinar, Disruption and innovation in the legal industry - what is the future for the profession? on 17 June.

On the panel were Bjarne P. Tellmann, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel at the global learning business, Pearson and Mark A. Cohen, CEO of legal consultancy firm Legal Mosaic and co-Founder and Executive Chairman of not-for-profit organisation, The Digital Legal Exchange. The event was hosted and moderated by The Digital Legal Exchange’s Deputy Executive Director, Meredith Brown.

Bjarne presented his vision of a three stage journey the in-house legal profession must take if it is to remain relevant and aligned with the modern business:

  • Stage 1: Adopt new technologies across the entire legal function. Use them to improve the quality and depth of research, make collaboration more effective, streamline processes and much more.
  • Stage 2: Transform your organisational structures. Update your behaviours, culture and approach to legal services to take advantages of the efficiencies that technology provides.
  • Stage 3: Harvest the data you now have access to. Rationalise decision-making and add value to your organisation by analysing what happened and why – and what’s going to happen and what you’re going to do about it.

Bjarne urges in-house law functions to operate like a ‘gazellephant’ – deliberate and stable in their back-office functions, yet agile and quick to act on data in their dealings with clients.

Mark underlined the importance of the need for in-house law to embrace change. He highlighted how the slow pace of law and lawyers in general is way behind the phenomenal rate of change in business, society and the world in general.

Organisations, he said, were not just exposed to legal risk but financial, reputational and other risks too. Many lawyers in senior positions today are unlikely to have covered these themes at law school. For this reason, in-house law must evolve from a defender of the organisation’s position into a provider of value. Through the technologies and insights available today, law function can navigate the ethical challenges of this transition to become both predictive and proactive.

With this in mind, both panellists agreed that teaching at law schools needs to widen its scope accordingly. For the modern in-house lawyer, legal knowledge is baseline. Just as critical are financial literacy and skills in project management, technology operations, process optimisation and change management.