How can lawyers integrate innovation and design thinking into their daily operations and legal advice?

Electra Japonas
Electra Japonas

Put yourself in your user’s shoes – it all starts with them. Make LUX (Legal User Experience) a priority. This should become a habit, applied to everything you do.

Let’s start with design-thinking. Ask yourself who is going to read that piece of advice, or contract, and adapt accordingly. Consider their needs and preferences before going any further. Essentially, there’s no point using language your end user can’t make sense of, or jargon they can’t read. Sometimes it’s easier to say things in legalese because that’s how we’ve been trained. But, it’s no excuse for using language that will alienate and confuse, or choosing formatting that makes documents difficult to read,  just because you’ve always done it that way.

I am always dubious about the word ‘innovation’. It’s quite a vague word that doesn’t really define anything specific. Because of this vagueness and the fact that it’s a buzzword at the moment, people need to define it in their own heads so they often think it exclusively means using tech. Although the use of tech is imperative to automate tasks and gain valuable insights,  it’s not the only form of innovation – nor will it be effective if the user isn’t at the heart of it. Innovation means doing things in a new way, and the scope for that in law is huge. I think that taking a human centric approach to the legal solutions you create is probably the best way of ‘embedding innovation’ and once you have that down to a ‘T’, you can move on to bringing in tech. Strategy before tech, always.

Taking a human-centric approach is the way forward. Put your user first and the rest will follow.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have had to navigate during the lockdown period?

Being a fast-growing business in lockdown is tough!

We’ve hired four new people (three of whom we’d never met in real life!) and had to onboard everyone remotely. Safe to say that team drinks via Google Hangouts isn’t quite the same, but we’ve made it work.

How can external providers support in-house legal teams with demonstrating their value to the business? 

Data, insights, KPIs.

External providers should spot the gaps, plug them and back it all up with data insights. Regular reports, including ROI, should be produced. No shooting from the hip or guesswork, value to the business can be proved in the numbers. Plus, the more integrated in-house legal teams are with the rest of the company, the better. A collaborative culture has countless benefits, including increased visibility on how the lawyers provide value. External legal companies should pave the way for how this is done.

If you could change one thing about the legal world, what would it be?

We reckon we’re changing it right now. The Law Boutique is leading the way in the legal optimisation revolution. We don’t just take over the day to day volume legal work, we optimise the whole legal function  while we’re at it.

We predominantly work with fast-growth tech scale ups and our goal is to build a legal function that a) uses its resources as smartly as possible and b) is scalable. People don’t often consider scalability for the legal team but if you don’t set it up properly from the outset, you’ll have a tough time making it leaner later on when there are legacy issues to remediate and behaviours that are hard (if not impossible) to change.

In a fast-growth organisation, a lean legal team is paramount, as if it’s not agile, quick and consistent, it can hinder the growth of the organisation. Important business decisions often rely on what the lawyers will say but if they don’t have the bandwidth, the resources or the ability to turn things around quickly, this can have a detrimental commercial impact on the business.

We focus on three things:

  1. What the strategy for the legal function should look like so it can best support the business strategy
  2. What work the legal function is doing now which should either be outsourced, automated or removed entirely to lighten their load and keep their lawyers motivated and engaged with interesting, important work
  3. What data we should be collecting to measure our performance and gain valuable business insights that could be used by the wider organisation.

There’s a lot of invaluable data in contracts and legal queries that remains entirely unutilised so we unlock it and report on it to drive decision making. By applying a human-centric, technology-driven approach, we maximise productivity and power business growth. We think more legal providers should be thinking more holistically about their service and diversifying their skill-sets to offer customers what they really need.

We’re about making a long-term, lasting impact through partnerships, not short-term changes.

What is the best fact you’ve learned over the past few months?

The most mind blowing fact I learned recently is that blue whales eat half a million calories in one mouthful – a bit like me in lockdown!

Electra Japonas is one of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s In-house Financial Services virtual event taking place between 30 June – 2nd July. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to register for any of the 10+ sessions available, please visit the event website.