What could a career in legaltech look like? What skills and activities are required and undertaken in legaltech, legal ops and legal innovation roles?
In this part 4 to our 8 part careers guide we will summarize a representative, but in-exhaustive, list of typical legaltech, legal ops and innovation skills and activities.
In part 5 we will explain specific roles that embody these skills and activities.
By the end of this part 4 you should have an understanding of what people in those legaltech, legal ops and innovation roles actually do, and by reading part 5 you will understand how they apply to specific roles!
Let’s dive in!
As with any categorisation effort, some generalisation is necessary. A lot of the roles in legaltech, operations and innovation overlap even if their titles are different, and equally can vary where their titles are the same or similar. Teams in this space remain relatively small, so a lot also depends on the individuals.
Please bear all of this in mind when reading the below, and also part 5 where we describe popular roles.
Notwithstanding these caveats, the below and part 5 provide a roadmap to the most common skills, activities and common roles.
The skills and activities we describe below are common to different types of organisations with legaltech, legal ops or innovation teams or roles, including the below:
- Law firms
- In-house legal teams
The ability to gather information about a topic, review that information and analyze, interpret and present the information in a manner that helps reach a decision or solve a problem.
Research problems and questions in legaltech might include:
- Competitive analysis, e.g. what are my competitors doing and why?
- Process analysis, e.g. how does this process happen and how can it be improved?
- Vendor comparison and selection, e.g. what document review vendors exist? How to select them? How will we measure success? Who uses them? Do we need them?
- User experience and acceptance, e.g. how do users experience our product? What bugs or blockers did they encounter? What features are we missing?
Scoping is about the identification, qualification, quantification and prioritisation of opportunities for innovation or problem solving generally.
Scoping may also be useful in a sales cycle (see part 5 regarding sales roles) to qualify whether or not a prospective customer is a fit for your product or service. If so, great; if not, you need to bow out of the relationship to avoid mismanaged expectations and potential reputational damage (and to save you time and resource).
Scoping is often undertaken by interviewing and / or surveying stakeholders to understand the product or service in solution to a problem that is to be created, improved or bought, including the business case for taking action.
Sometimes these interactions may be run as a focused workshop, aimed at delivering a collaborative exploration of a problem, together with ideas for its solution. In other scenarios, this may be a more casual conversation, e.g. in a sales context to find out whether a prospective customer’s problem fits your product, and whether they are ready to buy (e.g. do they have a business case signed off? Are they the decision-maker? Etc).
Whatever the means, the aim is to understand, what is X, how does X happen, why does X happen, who is involved with X, when and where does X transpire? Can X be solved and is X worth solving? If X only affects 1 person and marginally so, it may not be worth solving X, or certainly suggests X has a lower priority than Y which impacts a larger number of stakeholders, or a similar number of higher value stakeholders.
X in this scenario is the user’s problem, or need. If you don’t ask these questions you won’t understand X and may end up trying to solve the wrong problem, or worse, the right problem with the wrong solution.
Scoping is also critical to ensure that what you agree to provide aligns with what the receiving party expected and ultimately receives.
Scoping is therefore necessary to define and agree the expectations on both sides.
- In a sales context, this might be the specific products, services or configurations of those items that the customer intends to buy.
- In a process improvement context, it might be the number and type of processes to be examined and improved.
- In a product scenario, it might be the ambit of features or use cases to be tackled in a particular sprint or roadmap epoch.
Scoping can also be useful to divide and conquer problems.
For instance, you can map out the entirety of a problem or set of interrelated problems, and then break these into chunks or phases, making it easier and more manageable to tackle. You can also add breaks between phases, e.g. if phase 1 is to test the viability of a solution to a problem, and it fails, then phase 2+ may fall away. If you had simply agreed to deliver everything, without agreeing to test the viability of an initial solution at the end of phase 1, you might waste considerable resources ploughing through later phases only to realise the solution is a flop.
If you don’t define and agree on scope, the result is usually differing views as to what was in or out of scope, resulting in scope creep.
Scope creep is the continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, at any point after the project begins. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered harmful! Define your scope, and stick to it, and by doing so you’ll avoid this issue.
In our opinion, scoping early and often – and holding people to an agreed scope – is one of the most important skills in legaltech, legal ops and innovation (and any project generally)!
Enforcing constraints on activities through scoping – e.g. controlling what is and is not in scope – isn’t easy, and often uncomfortable, but well worth the effort to avoid storing up larger problems, especially scope creep and mismanaged expectations, which are each very hard to reset once they arise!
03. Process Mapping & Measurement
A process map is a planning and management tool.
A process map visually describes the flow of work in a system.
Process maps show a series of inputs, teams and / or individuals, and events that produce an end result.
A process map is also called a flowchart, process flowchart, process chart, functional process chart, functional flowchart, process model, workflow diagram, business flow diagram or process flow diagram.
Still confused? Here’s one we made earlier for a typical NDA process:
In a nutshell it shows who does what, how, where, with whom, when and why in a process and can be used in any business or organization.
Process maps are ideally mapped collaboratively among the relevant stakeholders to a process, which helps align everyone’s understanding of the process, which may otherwise differ if developed in silos.
You’d be surprised about how differently stakeholders to a single process can view a shared process!
Processes should also be measured to understand key metrics about their performance, and to provide insights about the flow of inputs, processes and outputs.
Measured process maps are sometimes known as value stream maps.
Value stream maps display all critical steps in a specific process and quantify the time and volume at each stage. This can be a great way to understand the flow of both materials, people and information as they progress through the process… and by further analysis, whether the flow is efficient or inefficient, and in turn how this might be improved!
Returning to the above NDA example, to transform that process map into a value stream map you might measure things like:
- The number of NDAs processed by the workflow in a given period, e.g. a day, week, month, quarter, or year.
- The time it takes for an NDA to pass through each step in the process, and the overall time it takes for the process to complete per NDA.
- The number of people involved in aggregate, or at specific steps.
- The number and type of steps involved, e.g. handovers between individuals, document versions, negotiation back and forths, escalations and so on.
Process maps, whether measured or not, provide a way to identify areas for improvement, usually parts in the process where the flow gets snarled up, aka bottlenecks, or could be sped up.
These opportunities to improve the process often present as the 7Rs, i.e. opportunities to:
This usually leads to a redesigned process, or desired state (aka to be) process.
Going through this exercise of first mapping the current state and using that to develop a desired state process makes it easier to plan and prioritise what and how to improve the process.
There are many related methodologies that prescribe different process mapping exercises, purposes and visual elements to represent systems.
Rather than being too focused on these at first, it’s best to get a general understanding of the business purpose of process mapping and to start doing it!
A great way to do this is to map a simple process you work with every day and analyse it for improvements. Don’t get too fixated on the exact flowchart elements to use – just start mapping! You will have much more understanding of your own process so long as you clearly capture the order of who does what, when, how, where, with whom and why.
For a primer on a related topic, that of Lean – a famous set of techniques and principles (including process mapping and measurement) devised by Toyota to optimise its processes, we recommend This is Lean or, for a more in-depth guide, The Toyota Way.
04. Business Analysis
Business analysis is a wide ranging activity intended to understand the current state of an organization or process. This will be used to understand how this differs from a desired, or future, state that the business strategy is seeking, or may simply be considering.
Often using the above activities (scoping, process mapping and measurement), business analysis will dive deeper into an existing or desired process (or an entire organisation’s operating model) to understand the inputs, processes and outputs and answer basic questions like who is doing what with whom, when, where, how and why.
They may also attach detailed financial costs and calculations to all of the components in the overall business system to understand its economics.
At a high level, there are usually at least 3 key questions to answer, which will be:
- What is the “as is” state of the process or organisation, and is it effective at achieving its objective(s)?
- What “to be” state might improve things (assuming the current state is suboptimal)?
- What steps successfully transition the process or organisation from (1) to (2)?
From this, the person performing business analysis will build a detailed picture of the current state of the business and use this, through stakeholder engagement and alignment with the business strategy, to develop a desired state of the business, or measure the current state against a predefined desired state.
To understand the steps between current state and desired state a gap analysis may be performed to assess the specific differences between the two.
Understanding the difference between current and desired state (i.e. the gap) will inform what steps (and action plan) are needed to bridge the gap and transition the process or wider organisation from current to desired state.
This will invariably require significant change management (see below), especially if – as is often the case – the necessary changes impact jobs, roles, reporting lines and responsibilities.
Business analysis in legaltech, ops and innovation crops up where an organisation is seeking to improve its legal function, or advise a client on how to do the same.
05. Service Design & Design Thinking
Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its users.
The previously described activities (scoping, process mapping / measurement and business analysis) often form a part of this overall activity of service design, along with design thinking.
Design thinking typically involves facilitating and managing the following set of steps when identifying both: (a) problems to solve; and (b) ideas for solving those problems:
- Empathize. Directly observing what users do, how they think, and what they want, asking yourself things like ‘what motivates or discourages users?’ or ‘where do they experience frustration?’ The goal is to gather sufficient observations that you can empathize with your users and their perspectives and drivers. If you can’t understand, you can’t help!
- Define. Combining research (see above) to identify where your users’ problems exist. In pinpointing your users’ needs, you can begin to highlight opportunities for innovation. In this phase, you will be looking for common pain points and opportunities to solve unmet needs.
- Ideate. Brainstorming a range of creative ideas that address the unmet user needs identified in the define phase. No idea is too far fetched at this stage. Quantity supersedes quality. Mixing and remixing of ideas is encouraged. The aim is to be creative, and think outside the box.
- Prototype. Build real, tactile representations for a subset of your ideas. The goal is understanding what components of your ideas work, and which do not. In this phase you begin to weigh the impact vs. feasibility of your ideas through user feedback on your prototypes.
- Test. Return to your users for feedback. Ask ‘Does this solution meet users’ needs?’ and ‘Has it improved how they feel, think, or do their tasks?’. Get your prototype testing with real customers and verify it achieves their goals and yours. Does it improve their experience?
- Implement. Put the vision into effect. Ensure that your solution is enacted and touches the lives of your end users. This may require that you build out user training, marketing, and case studies to drive adoption. With a few exceptionally rare exceptions, great products don’t always sell themselves. You will need to sell (see below)!
Service design and design thinking skills and activities can be a great way to surface unheard voices within teams or organisations. The collaborative elements, particularly in the earlier stages of such processes can democratise ideas, and the means for surfacing and actioning them. That said, this feature of such activities can be a reason for resistance, i.e. people not wanting to share decision making influence with others. It’s not a deal breaker, but something to be mindful of when trying to introduce these concepts to legal organizations! Recognising this is actually part of change management (see below), i.e. pre-empting and navigating objections to drive change.
For a great resource on service design, we recommend the book This is Service Design Doing.
06. Product Management
Product management overlaps a lot with the above activities, which are often necessary tools in a product manager’s arsenal, both to identify unmet needs but also to test and develop new ideas for products.
Product management is about:
- Identifying the customer need and the larger business objectives that a product or feature will fulfil, articulating what success looks like for a product, and rallying a team to turn that vision into a reality.
- Representing and articulating those user needs to other stakeholders, e.g. sales, developers, marketing etc, and aligning stakeholders around the product vision. Getting their buy-in is often crucial to progress product in the right way.
- Monitoring the market and developing competitive analyses; whilst you shouldn’t slavishly follow competitors, ignorance of their activities is not to be encouraged.
- Prioritizing product features and capabilities, often involving the creation of a shared brain across larger teams to empower independent decision making. Tools like Jira, Asana, Trello and similar may be useful.
- Defining and maintaining the product roadmap (i.e. the forward looking deadline driven list of prioritized product features), and product backlog (i.e. the to do items to address previous product roadmap objectives as well as upgrades and fixes).
For some good reads on what makes excellent products, we recommend the following:
Product Management 101
- The Product Book by Josh Anon. Based upon Product School’s curriculum, which has helped thousands of students become great product managers, The Product Book is filled with practical advice, best practices, and expert tips collected from product managers at leading companies, and the author was himself a product manager at Pixar. This is a good starting point to understand the discipline and the role.
- Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle McDowell. This is a popular choice for individuals seeking to plan and prep for product management interviews. Like the equally popular Cracking the Coding Interview (worth a read if you are preparing for developer interviews), it’s a mix of inside advice from the world’s largest tech and product companies, distilled into actionable activities and exercises to focus your skill acquisition and development as a product manager, whether or not you are preparing for a specific interview or interested in understanding the skills for this type of role and what employers look for and test.
- Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz of Google Ventures. Describes Google’s five-day process, where sprints (a type of product management methodology) are used on everything from Google Search to Google X.
- Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters by Ryan Singer, head of strategy at Basecamp. The team behind Basecamp have produced several excellent no BS books on start-ups, product management, getting finance, building teams and scaling. Shape Up is their latest. They’ve managed to create hugely successful product driven businesses whilst remaining lean and not working themselves to death. Sounds good right? Learn more by reading the book – available for free or in print.
- For some great FREE product management resources, including templates and similar, we recommend this compendium of materials as a useful resource.
Product Management Theory
- Inspired by Marty Cagan addresses the single most important question for product companies: how to create successful products and what determines success vs. fail? Filled with case studies spanning Google, Tesla, Netflix, Amazon and many more, Cagan unpicks what drives success.
- Hooked by Nir Eyal identifies why some products capture our attention while others flop. Eyal reveals what makes us engage with certain things out of sheer habit and provides a four-step process that, when embedded into products, subtly encourages customer behaviour that is habit forming. A Eyal concludes, these methods can form virtuous or vicious customer habits, so should be treated with caution. Will make you reassess your relationship with many products, especially social media!
- Jobs to be Done by Jim Kalbach examines the theory of jobs to be done, the idea that products are temporary solutions to a much more long term need, motivation or job that a customer has. This was famously described by Theodore Levittt (made popular by Clayton Christensen) as the idea that people don’t buy a drill, they buy a quarter inch hole, and that understanding the reasons behind a buying decision provides valuable insights to business and product managers.
- The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries, (in)famously associated the build fast, break things mantra of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs is – like a lot of popular books – often misunderstood and misapplied. Despite its detractors in recent years, it remains a good read for any budding product managers or founders. Its thesis is that rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup method instead offers companies of all sizes a scientific method to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late.
- The Lean Playbook by Dan Olsen is a practical guide to building products customers love aimed at product managers at big or small companies. Olsen wrote this book to close the gap he observed between The Lean Start-up and a concrete, repeatable, easy-to-follow methodology for building winning products.
- Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore is a classic. It explores how to bring cutting edge products to market and the challenges of moving from early adopters into increasingly larger and more lucrative markets without crashing and burning, i.e. crossing the chasm between those market segments. A must read for product managers and business managers trying to scale.
- The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen is the best selling read on disruptive vs. sustaining innovation and how businesses and products can do everything right, yet still fail. Christensen explores how and why this happens and provides targeted solutions.
07. Project Management
Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters (e.g. constraints such as budget, timescale, available technology or materials, available people etc).
Project management activities can include:
- Defining the reason why a project is necessary, e.g. sometimes requiring a costed business case.
- Capturing project requirements, specifying quantity and quality of the deliverables, estimating resources and timescales (i.e. scoping).
- Securing agreement and funding.
- Developing, implementing and communicating a management plan for the project (together with updates as and when they arise).
- Leading and motivating the project delivery team and their stakeholders.
- Managing the risks, issues and changes on the project.
- Monitoring progress against plan.
- Managing the project budget.
- Maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organisation.
- Provider management, e.g. managing interactions with product or service providers and interactions between those and other teams, such as procurement and so on.
- Closing the project in a controlled fashion when appropriate.
In other words, this is about being the organiser and being organised! Naturally, building a product is a type of project, so a lot of project management skills and activities form a core component of good product management.
08. Programme Management
Program management or programme management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization’s performance at a more macro level, e.g. a division’s performance or perhaps the entire organisation’s performance! Programme management might also come into play when launching into a new market, i.e. because several interrelated projects are necessary to launch and build in that market.
To be clear, here’s an example of a project vs. a programme:
- A project. Improving the NDA process for an organisation, from cradle to grave, aligned to a micro need, e.g. spending less time and money on NDAs and freeing up legal resources for higher value tasks.
- A programme. Improving all contracting and other legal processes for an organisation, aligned to a macro need, e.g. reducing legal spend through improved legal operations generally. This programme will involve projects like the above NDA project, but also others, e.g. a process improvement project for sales agreements, contract renewals, revenue assurance and so on as each relate to legal operations. The aim is to improve the entire division’s performance at their function, i.e. legal support in general.
Skilled and experienced project managers often graduate into programme management roles.
09. Stakeholder Management
As is hopefully obvious from the above activities, being able to manage a variety of stakeholders in terms of seniority, business division, incentives, politics and so on is critically important.
Being able to identify, anticipate and pre-empt objections or internal politics and deftly navigate these through influence and persuasion (see below) helps an individual or team achieve their objective. A lot of this comes down to clear, targeted, timely and empathetic communication. Often this will involve getting the right people to have the right conversations at the right time.
For example, if Susan manages NDAs and is bonused based on how many billable hours she bills how will she respond if you bluntly inform her:
You must use an AI service that can do 75% of your job in 2% of the time it takes you to do 100% of your job absent of the AI service.
Some finesse will be required to articulate the benefits, e.g.
- Being able to handle more volume such that billable hours remain static or improve and therefore bonuses remain achievable rather than decimated.
- Being able to do less repeat work, having that delegated to the AI.
- Being able to do more higher value work, e.g. handling edge cases not run of the mill etc.
If Susan is a manager of a team of reviewers, you may need to help Susan communicate these messages to her team.
You may need to rethink the wider business structure, perhaps redesigning incentives so that output is focused on prioritising the quality (i.e. efficiency) of billable hours rather than the quantity… you might even need to dispense with billable hours altogether (the horror!), designing fixed fee pricing based on value and aligning individual incentives to that new pricing model.
As technology is being introduced, you will need to help your organisation’s IT and security folk get comfortable that the technology isn’t a risk, or a burden to maintain. And because you are buying something, you will need to loop in procurement. Ideally you want procurement and IT security looped in early to avoid delays to getting Susan the tech you promised her and team.
If you get the messaging, order or combination of individuals muddled (let alone miss something or someone out), progress can get derailed or obliterated entirely, e.g. if someone is put out and decides to squash you or your project.
10. Influence & Persuasion
Getting a job done, whatever the job, will require influence and persuasion.
This is particularly relevant in legaltech, ops and innovation where you will be challenging the status quo and trying to encourage behavioural change.
This is even harder in legal where the stakeholders, culture and organisations involved bias heavily toward risk aversion and precedential incrementalism, both in the products and services they provide and how they provide them, but also in terms of how they think about internal change.
Understanding how to influence and persuade is key.
A good primer on time tested techniques, generally applicable to most situations, is Robert Cialdini’s famous book, Influence as well as his follow-up, Pre-suasion.
The key lessons from those books are summarized below:
And of course, you can’t do any of the above, nor anything that follows without excellent written, oral and visual communication skills. Communicating ideas and influencing people toward action requires mastery of good communication. We won’t spend too much on this skill as it’s well documented elsewhere.
What we would say is that lawyers in particular can and should focus on improving their visual presentation skills.
When you look around you, the world’s most impressive leaders, change agents, products and services tend to have a strong visual element.
However, most lawyers – and those working in legal – tend to overlook, and be generally poorer at visual presentation skills. You only need to attend a few legal or legaltech conferences to confirm this. Likewise, how many law firm pitch decks have you seen that look like they were made in the late 90s or early 00s, overladen with text and old school graphics?
Granted, this has improved a lot in the past 5 years or so, but truly impressive visual presentation of the type demonstrated by world leading thought leaders and product companies remains a minority ability within legal.
This presents a huge opportunity for those willing to improve their visual presentation skills.
For some ideas on where to start, we highly recommend you check out this podcast, via the Advocacy Podcast, with litigator Justin Kahn, about how he combines the visual presentation techniques of Steve Jobs and similar with the latest learnings from neuroscience and even stage magic to be a more effective litigator, both in terms of how he designs his arguments but also in how he presents them to judges and juries. Fascinating stuff, with lots of recommendations and great advice!
For those interested in selling ideas, whether their own internally or as a founder or product person, we recommend this useful compendium of pitch decks from companies that are now billion dollar unicorns.
As with any business domain, the best succeed via strong networks. Networks should be thought of in two ways:
- internal networks;
- external networks.
Internal networks are the individuals within an organisation with which you need to build relationships in order to get your job done. If you are in a legal ops or innovation role within a law firm or large legal team you can’t effect change without an internal network.
Likewise, if you are at a vendor in a sales role, you can’t be successful without having a good relationship with product (to ensure you understand the roadmap and have a voice in its development) and in-house legal (to ensure your sales contracts get reviewed in a timely manner).
Many legaltech, ops and innovation projects require a rich tapestry of individuals and teams to get sh*t done. If you don’t invest in people, you won’t have much luck at the process and technology!
External networks comprise your peers and supporting players in your domain. In legaltech, legal ops and legal innovation this might be technology vendors, innovation or ops teams at peer organisations, thought leaders, event organisers, meet-up groups and so on.
So why network externally?
Legaltech, ops and innovation is a changing field. Technologies that were all the rage today might be forgotten weeks later. There is already an increasingly crowded graveyard of legaltech. Staying on top of the latest developments and opportunities (whether jobs or otherwise) is all about networks.
If you truly find legaltech, legal ops and legal innovation interesting, building your external network will be fun, engaging and easy. It’s surprising how much more fun networking is if you actually enjoy your domain! The other thing to say is that inherently collaborative domains, – such as legaltech, legal ops and innovation – tend to engender collaborative rather than competitive networking culture and environments.
If you are a lawyer coming to legaltech and similar, you’ll be surprised at how much more collaborative, open and friendly networking events are vs. typical legal ones!
A word of warning…
Legaltech, legal ops and innovation remains a relatively small niche, so be nice and treat people with respect. You’d be surprised how small the market is and how well everyone knows each other, even globally!
13. Data Science
Data science is an interdisciplinary field. Data science combines scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems to extract knowledge and insights from structured and unstructured data, and apply that knowledge and those actionable insights from data across a broad range of application domains.
Data science will typically involve some form of data derived deliverable, e.g. any one of the following might be typical:
- Prediction, e.g. given the square footage of a house, predict its price.
- Classification, e.g. spam or not spam.
- Recommendations, e.g. Amazon and Netflix recommendations.
- Pattern detection and grouping, e.g. classification without known classes.
- Anomaly detection, e.g. fraud detection.
- Recognition, e.g. image, text, audio, video, facial, etc.
- Actionable insights, e.g. via dashboards, reports, visualizations etc.
- Automated processes and decision-making, e.g. credit card approval.
- Scoring and ranking, e.g. credit scores.
- Segmentation, e.g. demographic-based marketing.
- Optimization, e.g. risk management.
- Forecasts, e.g. sales and revenue.
Data science requires a dataset, i.e. set of data to analyse and process and thereby deliver one or more of the above.
Sometimes data scientists will be given a nice and appropriate dataset to begin with, but in most cases, this isn’t the case.
Instead, the data scientist will need to acquire, clean and organise that dataset, or help someone step through those actions. This is the most time-consuming part – sometimes as much as 70% of a data science project’s time will be spent on this part of the process.
Having the right quality of data in the right quantity is critical – without it, there’s nothing or very little to work with!
What does a typical data science project look like?
A typical data science project looks like the below:
If you want to learn more about this workflow, including who does what, how, when, where and why in a data science project, we recommend you check out the below 5 part series detailing a typical data science process.
Part 1 – High Level Introduction
Part 3 – Acquire, Understand and Prepare the Data
Part 4 – Modelling and Evaluation
Part 5 – Deployment and Feedback
Note: the above links are archived via the Wayback Machine as the original site appears to have gone offline)
It’s a great series, and absolutely accessible to anyone (no coding, maths or data science skills required)!
But hang on, why is data science relevant to legal?
Legal is fundamentally a knowledge business.
Most law firms have established knowledge management (KM) functions dedicated to the creation, capture, curation, organisation and retrieval of legal information and are starting to apply data science to that knowledge, both to create new knowledge and to drive insights and decisions based on existing data.
The growth of legal AI applications and their widening popularity, e.g. such as Kira Systems, has also thrown into sharp focus the increasing importance of data science to law, and the need for excellent information architecture.
What’s information architecture?
Information architecture is the creation of a structure for a website, application, or other information system, that allows users to understand where the information we want is located in relation to our position in that system.
In many ways, information architecture is about making information both findable and usable.
Information architecture results in the creation of interfaces, site maps, hierarchies, taxonomies, ontologies, categorizations, navigation, search algorithms and metadata.
When a content creator or curator – including a knowledge management lawyer – begins separating content and dividing it into categories, they are practicing information architecture.
When a designer sketches a top level menu for an app to help users understand where they are on a site, they are also practicing information architecture.
Regardless of what task is being accomplished, the below are typical questions that information architecture aims to ask and answer:
- What is the flow of users through our system?
- How does the application help the user catalog their information?
- How is the information organised, searched, filtered, sorted?
- How does the user know what actions to take in order to retrieve the information they require in the desired format?
- How is that information presented back to the user?
- Is that information helping the customer, and driving decisions?
- How does the system need to cater for information growth and decay (i.e. the decreasing relevance of information as it becomes older and replaced by newer information)?
- How does the information need to interoperate with other systems, users and use cases?
A lot of legaltech, ops and innovation roles therefore increasingly require some level of data science awareness, or at least a willingness to engage with it and those professionals expert in it.
14. Data Analysis
Sometimes confused with data science, partly because data science often requires data analysis, this is in fact an often separately applied skill. It’s also necessary when thinking about many of the other activities described here.
To provide a concrete example in legaltech, ops and innovation, if you are rolling out a new technology (having done the prior people, process and technology analysis beforehand), you will want to gather data about the technology and its adoption:
- Is anyone adopting?
- Who is adopting it?
- Why are they adopting it?
- Why aren’t they adopting it?
- How often are they using it?
- How many people convert from an emailed training invite to attendance at your training sessions?
- Of those who attend training, how many go on to create an account and start using the product (i.e. become activated and active users)? And so on.
If you gather, analyse and present this data well you will better understand what is or isn’t working and why.
This data analysis may also be used to solve adoption problems. An example might be to provide concrete ROI figures to persuade users to adopt X over Y, e.g. if X improves some incentive aligned metric, perhaps saving significant time, reducing costs, generating significant profit, improving top line growth, increasing client wins vs. competitors etc.
“No matter what you do in life, selling is a part of it” – Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Whatever you do, you always have to sell one thing: yourself. And by extension, your ideas, and if you work in a company, a product or service.
Sales has a bad reputation.
We often think of the cliched sleazy used car salesman, trying to sell an unsuspecting prospect a doozy of a car.
Sure that still happens. But great salespeople are so much more. Great sales people exhibit at least these abilities:
- They know their domain, whether it’s their idea(s), their team or their product.
- They listen first. Two ears and one mouth in that ratio!
- They ask questions and are curious about others; they seek to understand motivations, drivers, constraints, politics, incentives and disincentives.
- They preempt objections, foresee roadblocks and try to help customers make decisions.
- They are people focused: able and interested in building and maintaining relationships to get stuff done.
- Have a thick skin, persistence and a drive to grow and succeed. They know how to spot good partners and bad partners, and to invest in the former and avoid the latter.
Lawyers can often be quite sniffy about salespeople, and the idea of selling in general. It’s not unsurprising given that, for the most part, sales skills do not factor in legal training, whether at university, college or on the job.
But overlook sales skills at your own peril.
If you get good at sales, you’ll be better at selling yourself, your team, your idea, product or service. In legaltech, ops and innovation you’ll always be doing at least one of those things, and more often than not, most of them.
As Peter Thiel, Paypal founder and famous Silicon Valley investor, stresses in his highly recommended book Zero To One:
Even though sales is everywhere, most people underrate its importance. Silicon Valley underrates it more than most… What nerds miss is that it takes hard work to make sales look easy… Poor sales rather than bad product is the most common cause of failure.by Peter Thiel in Zero to One
And Thiel’s point is generally true of any idea: if you think it, they will not come.
You need to sell people on your idea. That idea could be your value as an individual (for a job or promotion), your team’s project or your own product or service!
Legaltech, legal ops and innovation roles involve juggling and assessing new ideas, and usually persuading others to adopt those ideas and make them their own. You won’t be effective in those activities without being able to sell.
Tied closely to sales is marketing. Marketing, like sales, is the process of understanding your customers, and building and maintaining relationships with them.
Like sales, this presents as activities undertaken to promote the buying or selling of a product, service, individual, team or idea.
Marketing often entails research to understand a market, a customer or set of customers and their needs and wants, which is then used inform decisions about product, sales and the general marketing strategy, i.e.
- Who should we target, e.g. people aged 25 – 35, single mums, fitness fanatics etc.
- How should we target them, e.g. ad copy, messaging, articulation of a problem and solution etc.
- Where do we target them, e.g. online, traditional media, viral stunts etc.
- When do we target them, e.g. before Christmas, during Superbowl breaks etc?
- Why are we marketing in X or Y manner and is it working, e.g. A/B testing?
Naturally, like sales, marketing is about influence and persuasion – getting people to buy-into something, and building and maintaining a relationship with those people in order to do so, and as a means to keep them happy and engaged with whatever that thing is.
In law firm legaltech, legal ops and innovation roles marketing can play a big part, both internally and externally.
Internally, marketing can be used to promote awareness and drive adoption of new ideas and technologies.
Externally, marketing can be used to advertise the innovation or operational excellence qualities of a firm, e.g. in RFP / RFI responses, pitches and other outward facing presentations and client interactions as a means to influence buying decisions or elevate the firm’s brand with innovation minded customers.
Operations management is about designing and controlling the means of production within a business.
Unsurprisingly, operations is about ensuring those means are, and remain, as efficient as possible, usually in the sense of delivering on their objectives, whether that is speed, quality, quantity, cost or profit.
Applied to legal, “legal operations” or simply “legal ops” as it is known, means running a legal function like a business.
The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), one of the leading industry bodies focused on legal ops for in-house legal teams, has a framework of 12 competencies.
In brief, these breakdown as follows:
- Business Intelligence. Determining the right data to collect and monitor about the legal function’s operations. Designing and rolling out metrics and dashboards to track suitable metrics and use these to inform decision-making about how to improve the legal function.
- Financial Management. Developing and maintaining a budget as a means to monitor costs and identify opportunities for savings and efficiency, including with regard to any outside legal spend.
- Firm & Vendor Management. Developing and maintaining valuable relationships with third party legal services vendors, including law firms. Designing effective RFPs and negotiating positive pricing models with third party providers.
- Information Governance. Designing and implementing clear and comprehensive policies and systems for information governance, in particular determining which physical and digital documents should be preserved or destroyed in compliance with any regulatory or other internal requirements.
- Knowledge Management. Creating systems and best practices that save the team time and improve outcomes by making it easier to find answers, best practices, precedents, templates and other knowledge.
- Organization Optimization & Health. Building teams and progression structures that attract and retain a diverse range of talent, not just lawyers.
- Practice Operations. Implementing systems and processes that free up legal resources for higher value work via elimination of lower value, work. Using specialist resources for specialist tasks, such as for eDiscovery or document automation. Using augmentation or automation of processes wherever possible, enabled by greater standardisation.
- Project/Program Management. Running department-wide and sometimes company-wide initiatives tackling complex special projects, e.g. tackling a macro repapering challenge such as the discontinuation of IBOR in a financial services business.
- Service Delivery Models. Designing service delivery models that ensure the right resource is applied to the appropriate task complexity. Creating a complementary system of vendors or alternative service providers, such as ALSPs, and thereby reducing spend on traditional outside counsel where appropriate.
- Strategic Planning. Defining the strategic vision and planning its execution, both in terms of short and long term opportunities and priorities for the legal function. Aligning these to company-wide objectives and KPIs where necessary.
- Technology. Using technology to streamline processes and time spent per task by automation the most time-consuming and overly manual tasks undertaken by the legal function. As part of this, determining selection criteria and applying these to select, test and implement appropriate vendors into your legal function. Understanding emerging technologies and staying up-to-date on the latest developments and how these can be applied to the legal function’s processes.
- Training & Development. Designing and implementing targeted training, covering hard and soft skills as well as any required compliance training.
Mastering the above competencies, and operations generally, entails a deep understanding of inputs, process outputs, incentives, culture and strategy. As such, many of the abovementioned activities, research, scoping, process mapping / measurement and data analysis in particular are used in operations, whether for legal operations or general business operations.
To bring this to life, we recommend you check out this fantastic podcast with Mary O’Carroll, Director of Operations, Technology and Strategy for the legal department at Google and President of CLOC. It provides great insight into the legal ops function, and Mary is one of the pioneers of this role and has built a world renowned legal ops function at Google.
The entire podcast series, focused on legal ops, is also well worth subscribing to for those interested in legal ops and roles in that space. It’s run by Alex Rosenrauch, a Manager in PwC’s New Law business, and Eliot Leibu, head of legal operations at Australian bank, ANZ.
Strategy is the formulation (and sometimes also implementation) of the major goals and initiatives taken by an organisation’s management, on behalf of its stakeholders, based on a consideration of available resources and an assessment of internal and external environments in which the organisation operates.
Traditional management theory usually separates strategic management and operational management. The latter being what we’ve described as operations above.
In reality, there is often some overlap between the two.
For instance, a business strategy may be to improve efficiency as part of a drive to enter new markets where the current costs of production don’t make sense economically in that new market. For those types of project, the traditional boundaries between strategic and operational management may be more blurred.
In legaltech, ops and innovation, strategy can take various forms depending on the organisation.
For a legal organisation, strategy as it relates to legaltech might mean whether or not an organization’s strategy is to be, and to be seen as, an innovative legal services provider and how to go about building that market perception and why it is important to do so.
For other legal organisations, simply being seen as innovative without actually being innovative might suffice!
It’s key your organisation has decided which it is to be, is honest about this (at least internally) and that this is communicated correctly internally and externally!
For a legaltech vendor, strategy may be about which markets to expand into, or which features or products to prioritise, which naturally dovetails into product management.
19. Change Management
Change management ecnompasses all activities to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change.
What drives change? Many things. Change may be driven by the ongoing evolution of technology, internal reviews of processes, crisis response, customer demand changes, competitive pressure, acquisitions and mergers, and organizational restructuring.
Change management activities will entail the redirection or redefinition of resources, business process, budget allocations and so on.
In legaltech, ops and innovation you will often be introducing new ideas, ways of working or technology. This change can be anxiety inducing for those involved, who may have vested interests in their current modes of working.
For example, if a technology reduces time per task for an employee who has a billable hour target, you are reducing their ability to meet their target, receive a bonus and generally earn favourable reviews and progress in their career.
Simply demanding they use said technology without more will lead to change management failure unless you understand and anticipate this concern, and provide and prepare the individual and organisation for the change, which may require a reassessment of that individual’s incentives and a cultural reset focused on efficiency operations, i.e. quality not quantity of hours etc.
Change management seeks to address these issues and clear a smooth path for change.
A popular framework is John Kotter’s change management principles:
For a deeper dive into these techniques and frameworks, we recommend Kotter’s main books, which are:
- Leading Change. The original book that popularised Kotter’s above 8 step change management framework.
- Our Iceberg is Melting. Kotter uses a charming story about a penguin colony in Antarctica to illustrate key truths about how we deal with the issue of change: handle the challenge well and you can prosper greatly; handle it poorly and you put yourself at risk. Sounds silly, but trust us, it’s very relatable and actionable!
20. Software Development
Software development is a process of writing and maintaining the source code (i.e. coding), but in a broader sense, includes all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software.
That process spans the activities of conceiving, specifying, designing, programming, documenting, testing, and bug fixing that are necessary to create and maintain software.
This unsurprisingly requires research activities, design thinking, product management, project management and scoping.
In legaltech, ops and innovation you are mostly likely to see this activity vendor side.
That said, many legal organisations – including law firms – have their own in-house development teams. However, those teams tend to focus more on enterprise applications concerns, i.e. keeping existing applications up and running and maintaining or building integrations between each system. In a minority of cases, they may design, build and implement custom software specifically for their organisation, or rarer still, a client facing SaaS product!
21. Training & Education
Legaltech, ops and innovation often involves a lot of education and training, whether that’s training users on a new technology or upskilling them into some of the activities described above and associated mindsets.
An example of the above might be a workshop designed to teach lawyers design thinking skills, and better yet, apply them in solution to a problem those skills help them identify and understand.
Training and education may also take the form of being a domain expert, usually in a technology (e.g. AI or blockchain), and helping lawyers understand the tech in enough detail such that they can formulate precise legal advice as to how legal rules or regulations do or do not map to an emerging technology or a particular use case.In some cases you may be training customers (e.g. working at a legaltech vendor) or clients (e.g. getting a law firm’s clients up to speed on how to use a collaborative deal management platform). Unsurprisingly, good communication skills, in particular visual communication will serve you well.
⚡ Don’t forget the rest of the guide ⚡
This article forms part 4 of our 8 part series on careers in legaltech, legal ops and innovation. Please check out the other articles and career profiles for more inspiration and guidance!