Macfarlanes’ chief knowledge and innovation officer Chris Tart-Roberts speaks to The Lawyer about the legal profession of tomorrow, as part of the Business Leadership Series.

Who do you envision being the next big revenue generators in law firms after lawyers?

We’re already seeing diversification within firms in terms of the range of professionals who contribute to revenue generation. Expertise in legal technology, data science and analytics, product design and development, and project management, among others, is becoming increasingly important, and that is only going to continue and that diversification increase further. I believe it will become more and more common to see teams with a blend of skills – not just purely “legal” – being fielded to meet particular client needs.

Chris Tart-Roberts
Chris Tart-Roberts

How can firms attract and retain diverse and progressive minds into the fold?

The legal professional of tomorrow won’t necessarily look exactly the same as the lawyer of today and the success of a modern law firm will likely depend on a range of complementary expertise contributed by a variety of business professionals. We need to reflect that in the way that we recruit and train our lawyers, to ensure that they develop the right skills and expertise, and to offer compelling opportunities, recognition and structured career progression to those other professionals.

What will be the main lesson that firms take from the current climate?

The legal profession is often – and with some justification – characterised as change averse. However, as a result of recent circumstances, we’ve had to accommodate significant change really quickly and, on the whole, with considerable success. On a general level, I’d hope that, as a result of those positive experiences, some of those who might previously have been more reluctant to embrace change might be more receptive going forward. More specifically, I suspect that some of the flexibility we now have in terms of where we do our work from will persist, so it’ll be interesting to see how we rebalance time spent in the office and time spent working remotely as things settle.

What other profession could you see yourself working within?

Probably something to do with property development. I love everything to do with buying and selling houses, moving house and renovating – there’s nothing I enjoy more after a hard day at the office than rolling my sleeves up and getting my hands dirty with a bit of DIY. Much to my partner’s dismay, we’re currently in our 11th home in 19 years (although I must admit it’s getting harder now as our 5 and 7 year olds are always eager to “help” – with varying degrees of success!).