In this guide we provide a comprehensive overview of legaltech jobs, salaries, how to network within the legaltech community, how to build skills and experiences, and where and how to find legaltech jobs.
This guide forms part 2 of our 8 part series on careers in legaltech, legal ops and innovation.
We hope you can leverage this guide to find your dream role! 🙏
Good luck! 🤞
Get to know the legaltech community
We used to hate networking. We love it now. What changed? Three things:
- Caring less about what other people think.
- Being genuinely interested in the subject matter and people involved.
- Doing more of it.
Accept that not everyone will like you, nor be interested in you. It’s a fact of life. Once you get past that, networking becomes a lot easier. Also remember, that for most people, networking is awkward and a bit unnatural. You may be just as uncomfortable approaching someone as they might be having you approach them. Talking to strangers is inherently unnatural.
But if you are genuinely interested in the subject matter and people involved, you’ll find it a lot easier to strike up natural and authentic conversations.
You may also find that outside staid legal networking events the people you meet – whether at events or otherwise – will be easier to talk to because they enjoy what they do. A lot of legal networking events don’t seem to have many attendees who genuinely enjoy what they do.
In terms of doing more networking…
Events / conferences / meet-ups
To do more networking, find events and meet-ups that bring together people interested in legaltech, ops and innovation.
You may also get to see live products demos and perhaps be allowed to test drive legaltech products. This is a great way to get to know the thought leaders, products and vendor contacts in this space.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Meetup.com provides up to date listings for all sorts of meet-ups. See here for a global and local list of legaltech meet-ups. Don’t see a meet-up relevant or local to you? Create one!
- Legal Hackers is another fantastic community. It’s a global movement (with local chapters) of lawyers, policymakers, designers, technologists, and academics who explore and develop creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the intersection of law and technology. Through local meet-ups, hackathons, and workshops, Legal Hackers spot issues and opportunities where technology can improve and inform the practice of law and where law, legal practice, and policy can adapt to rapidly changing technology.
- LegalGeek. Don’t be put off by the slightly hip(ster) vibes. LegalGeek is a fantastic event and community. It’s incredibly popular and regularly puts together fantastic events, including their annual conference. Expect a very diverse mix of people, bitesize talks, sometimes contrarian views and lots of product demos and showcases.
- FutureLawyer is a slightly more formal affair, and in recent years has been split into sector specific tracks for private practice and in-house. The event covers a range of speakers, including vendors, thought leaders, and legal professionals.
- Legal Innovators is similar to, and run by the same folk as Future Lawyer.
- ILTA, the International Legal Technology Association is one of the longest standing industry groups and event organisations (run by members) focused on legaltech. Its events are huge, especially the US event, which has been held at Disney World and in Las Vegas.
- Inspire.Legal aspires to be an unconference. They aim to avoid simply rehashing the same tired conversations revolving around the brightest, shiniest new tech widgets in the market—widgets that frequently feel like solutions in search of problems.
- CLOC focuses on in-house legal operations, which inevitably emphasise people, process and technology. It’s a great event for anyone. If you work in private practice, it’s worth a look to understand your clients’ operational drivers (beyond the pure legals) in better detail.
How to build skills & experience
Legaltech training contracts
Wait… this is a thing? Yes. A few UK firms have launched training contracts that either:
1️⃣ combine (a) traditional legal training with (b) training in legaltech, product management, project management, process design and legal operations generally; or
2️⃣ focus exclusively on (b).
For option 1️⃣ , at the programme’s completion you do qualify as a solicitor of England & Wales and enter into a practising legal role.
For option 2️⃣ , at the programme’s completion you don’t qualify as a solicitor, but instead work on internal technology and ops projects at the law firm.
A&O’s Advanced Delivery Graduate Programme
Who is this for?
Per the website, “graduates with strong A-levels and ideally STEM or Economics degrees to be part of a team using the latest tools and software to bring legal expertise to the world in new and surprising ways”.
What you’ll do
The programme mirrors the structure of a training contract and is currently limited to 4 trainees.
Beginning each September, candidates undertake four, six-month rotations in:
- The Markets Innovation Group, one of the firm’s newest practice areas, which develops specific legal solutions for clients using technology, drawing on other aspects of the below teams where appropriate.
- The Project Management Office, A&O’s team focused on supporting delivery of legal work through application of project management frameworks and technologies.
- Legal Tech team, A&O’s team focused on selection through to implementation of emerging technologies into the firm’s legal practices and client facing tech driven services.
- eDiscovery, A&O’s team focused on use of eDiscovery and document review technology to expedite large scale legal reviews.
The trainees are based in Fuse, Allen & Overy’s London located tech innovation space, and are supported and funded in gaining a recognised qualification in project and/or process management and understanding its application through the provision of legal services.
If you’re not fussed, or at least unsure, about becoming a lawyer but interested in working for a large professional services firm and learning business operations, this role might be for you.
Where you’ll end up
Completion of the scheme may lead to a role within one of the above teams.
Do you qualify as a solicitor of England & Wales?
To be eligible for the programme you will need A-levels – minimum AAB. Degree subject – various but ideally STEM or Economics.
How to apply?
The application window for 2021 has now closed – for context, key dates for the application window for the 2021 scheme was 14 December 2020 – 14 January 2021.
The application process comprises several stages:
1. Online application, including a Situational Judgement Test.
2. Assessment day (if online application successful), comprised of two one-on-one interviews. According to the website:
“The first interview will be a case study, focused on the type of work you will be exposed to in this role. You will have time to work through a short brief and prepare a short presentation to deliver to your interviewer. This will be followed by a discussion on the key points from the case study.
The second interview will assess your skills, knowledge and motivation for a career in our Advanced Delivery & Solutions Team. In addition, you will be asked a series of questions based on scenarios you would encounter during the graduate programme”
In terms of the general profile A&O is trying to hire into this programme, per the website this person fits the below description:
“We look for individuals with potential and passion. As well as a fascination with all things technology, we want to hear from open-minded, innovative candidates with a future-focus. These are the skills that will set your application apart and set you up for success. There isn’t one ‘type’ of person we’re looking for: we welcome applications from finalists and graduates who are passionate about commercial law and innovation with a degree background in Economics or a STEM subject.”
Where can I learn more?
See here for the A&O Advanced Delivery Graduate Programme website.
Clifford Chance’s IGNITE Programme
Who is this for?
Per the website, “[y]ou might have studied computer science. Or taught yourself to code in the evenings. Or be developing an app on the side of your law degree. The only thing you must have is an excitement for what the meeting of law and Tech can spark.”
It even has its own trailer:
Clearly a lot of work and investment has gone into the programme. Having worked with some of those involved in its running, we can say this is a solid and well-rounded programme, not a gimmick.
It’s a genuinely innovative attempt to modernise the training contract with substance, and generally address the increasing need for lawyers to be better equipped to understand and apply technology and innovation best practices to their work.
What you’ll do
According to CC, the IGNITE training contract mirrors the structure of a regular training contract: four seats, all six months in duration, around different CC departments.
However, unlike the traditional training contract, the programme has trainees assigned away from fee-earning to gain specific legaltech exposure.
More broadly, there will be a focus on how legaltech and digitisation are revolutionising the legal working environment. This includes working with the firm’s Best Delivery team, which focuses on identifying opportunities to redesign and implement better organisation of people, process and technology that enhance the firm’s client facing products and services.
IGNITE also includes the opportunity for secondments. These include secondments to some of the firm’s largest tech clients to advise on new tech solutions, and also to CC’s Applied Solutions team – the firm’s internal product development arm.
According to current IGNITE trainee, Adam Hunter:
“IGNITE has given me the opportunity to work on industry leading projects with lawyers across our global network and to meet with partners and clients to discuss their legal technology strategy. Alongside my Training Contract, my current IGNITE legal tech projects include designing and developing news solutions for a handful of the Firm’s global clients. Most recently, I seconded to one of the Firm’s largest tech clients, where I was able to advise on new tech solutions to some of the client’s most pressing challenges.
I also frequently work with our Best Delivery team to make our client matters more efficient, as well as provide training to colleagues, test new legal tech and contribute to client pitches. In March 2020, I was delighted to be recognised as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Junior Lawyers in the UK by The Legal Technologist Magazine. In particular, IGNITE has helped me to develop the skills that are being demanded by our clients who are looking for their lawyers to not only have strong technical skills but to be commercial and entrepreneurial.”
Where you’ll end up
Upon qualification, INGITE trainees will have the opportunity to join one of Clifford Chance’s main practice areas:
- Capital markets
- Litigation & dispute resolution
- Real estate
Having built up expertise and network within the firm’s legaltech and ops focused teams, there is likely opportunity to build on those experiences and connections within and outside the firm.
Do you qualify as a solicitor of England & Wales?
Applications are sought from candidates with a STEM background or other interest in tech, such as coding.
How to apply?
Applications for this year’s intake have now closed, but to give you an indication of the process as at the date of this article, it has historically looked like this:
- Applications open: 3 August 2020
- Applications close: 10 December 2020
- Assessment dates: w/c 8 February 2021
- Online application form;
- Two assessment days. The first is the same as the Training Contract assessment day, which includes one interview with a written case study element. The second stage is an IGNITE-specific case study interview.
Want some tips on how to apply? Future IGNITE trainee, Lorraine Chimbga has got it covered:
Where can I learn more?
See here for the Clifford Chance IGNITE recruitment website.
Even more options!
- Norton Rose Fulbright. Has a 2 year legal operations graduate scheme, situated within NRF Transform, NRF’s flagship global change and innovation program. Details available here, including profiles of existing graduates. This graduate programme is open to all degree backgrounds and does not lead to legal qualifications.
- Linklaters. Has a 2 year legal operations graduate scheme, rotating successful applicants around the firm’s four ops related teams: legal project management, innovation, knowledge & learning or pricing . Like NRF’s scheme it is open to any degree background and does not lead to legal qualifications. Details available here.
- Ashurst. Has its own Ashurst Advance Pathway Programme. Successful applicants will be situated within Ashurst’s captive alternative legal services provider, Ashurst Advance, which is located in Glasgow and Brisbane. This scheme is targeted at law graduates, although not necessarily those with a completed LPC. Details available here.
And that’s not all… Slaughter & May announced earlier in 2021 that it is also launching its own legal operations graduate scheme, although as at the time of writing details remain TBC.
Volunteer to use legaltech in what you already do
Get to know your legaltech / innovation / tech team
If you already work in a legal organisation or team, speak to your IT / innovation / legaltech / emerging technology team. Find out what tools they have and what goes where in terms of your practice. Be bold and creative, actively seek their help on how to solve your day-to-day work processes! They will probably enjoy the challenge and the chance to shine.
Become a Microsoft Power User
To whet your appetite, see this short video demonstrating how to move and swap rows in Word (without copy / paste) – this usually blows the minds of most lawyers when we show it to people!
Skill up on Microsoft Excel. It’s really not that scary and super powerful for a lot of typical business tasks, and of course, for analysing data and presenting it. To get you started, Crafty Counsel have you covered with some intro videos on basic to intermediate Excel features for legal use cases – see here.
As obvious as this is, googling “how do I do X in Excel?” leads to many specific and excellent tutorials online.
Why are we flagging the obvious?
Because too often we encounter a total lack of curiosity when it comes to Excel among lawyers. Partly this is because most lawyers say they got into law because they weren’t good at maths. You don’t need to be a maths genius to use Excel.
ExcelJet and ExcelEasy are two great resources we frequently use to look up ‘how tos’ for specific use cases we are trying to achieve in Excel, e.g. how to count the number of occurrences of a specific value in a table, how to count the number of rows that have an entry matching X and Y but not Z, how to lookup data across multiple sheets and combine the two etc.
Be curious, get learning!
All super useful if you are summarising or analysing a table of due diligence data to produce actionable insights in order to advise your client! Or perhaps you are crunching matter data to produce better pricing models?
Yes, for any data nerds there are of course better options for large scale data exercises, including using SQL databases or other database constructs, and / or more powerful visualisation applications, e.g. PowerBi or Tableau. But for most lawyers, getting better at Excel is a start, and may in time lead to an understanding of databases and more advanced visualisation tools.
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Use more legaltech
How can you use more legaltech? Simple wins can be adopting tools like Litera ContractCompanion or Define, which respectively provide automated proofreading for legal specific typos (e.g. capitalised but undefined terms or missing cross-references) and easier comprehension of nested defined terms and clauses.
The best part? Both work inside Microsoft Word where you are most likely already working!
If you have eDiscovery like Nuix or Relativity, or contract analysis tools like Kira, try and get a demo at work. Yes, these tools are aimed at analysing big data, and no you may not do litigation or due diligence (their primary use cases), but can you think creatively about broader uses for your team? Perhaps you might mine your precedent data to draw new insights that might be actionable for internal or client facing value?
Get to know the IT or innovation folk who support these systems and similar. What’s their opinion? What do they think is the best tool in X or Y niche? This is also good to ask if you become interested in a niche and want to find a legaltech job there.
Better to know the best vendor to join before blindly leaping into a role at a vendor.
Volunteer for internal projects
Whether in-house or private practice, a great way for existing legal professionals to gain experience is to volunteer for internal innovation or similar projects.
A lot of legal organisations have technology or innovation committees, or similar permanent functions whose responsibilities may include any one or more of the following activities:
- problem identification
- process mapping
- continuous improvement
- product management
- selection of technology to buy or build
- technology implementation
- change management
Getting to know these teams and volunteering to help them in their activities can provide three benefits to you as a prospective legaltech career curious person:
- Build expertise and skills relevant to legaltech, e.g. problem identification, process mapping, interviewing, designing, buying or building technology and getting it adopted. For one thing, you will better understand legaltech (and tech generally) in the sense that it isn’t simply about building or buying cool stuff – it’s about changing behaviours via a deep understanding of the user and their processes and drivers.
- Widen your network, e.g. by meeting colleagues already involved in such projects, including specialists in legaltech and innovation or operations. By getting to know these individuals you can better understand who they are, what they do, how they do it and why… and whether they enjoy it. They may also have some invaluable views on which areas of legaltech – whether products and / or roles – are better or worse, or more or less suitable for you. Likewise they may have a view on similar teams at other organisations and whether those teams are better or worse than others. Their network might also provide handy connections for you to leverage.
- Taste test your interest in, and suitability for, legaltech roles. If you decide you don’t like the domain or find it dull, you’ve lost nothing.
You might get involved in a variety of ways, e.g.
- providing feedback on problems or opportunities for innovation within your role / team / organisation;
- providing feedback, and possibly testing, different solutions to such problems; or
- helping map processes and contributing to discussions regarding their improvement.
How to get involved with these activities and teams?
It really is that simple. Most teams will encourage and enjoy your support as it’s often tricky to find people to help out with internal innovation activities, especially within law firms where billable hours tend not to reward innovation activity (with a few notable exceptions, e.g. CMS, Reed Smith and Mishcon de Reya) and therefore innovation activities are second class citizens in terms of priority.
Volunteer for (or build your own) innovation secondments
Some law firms have official or sometimes unofficial secondments to innovation teams.
Freshfields has an official programme that allows individuals to apply for a 6 month stint in their innovation team, working full-time on innovation projects including legaltech selection through to implementation, as well as build outs for new technology solutions.
We also know of at least one individual, a senior associate at a large firm, that pitched their leadership team on the idea of creating an innovation role and being the first person to trial it. It was a winning proposition, they completed the secondment and pulled together many different innovation threads among and between different parts of the business and this is now a permanent function of the firm for others to rotate in and out of as part of plans to widen this team over time.
Similarly, in response to trainee interest and a similar pitch, two London trainees at Reed Smith were selected to undertake an innovation seat. The innovation seat allows trainees to split their time between a “traditional legal practice seat” and one of the firm’s innovation projects. Previous projects have included developing automated services for clients, working on a new knowledge analytics platform and helping to develop the firm’s service design methodology. To prepare for the innovation seats, Reed Smith ran a summer programme in collaboration with independent consultancy Janders Dean (now a part of Morae Global). That programme taught trainees skills such as problem identification and solving, design thinking and understanding the impact of legal technology.
Seeing a theme?
Volunteering is an easy way to build experience and network…
Volunteer to help start-ups, scale-ups and others
You’d be surprised how many start-ups and scale-ups encourage or will accept help from interested individuals. And yes, that includes unsolicited help!
Many businesses are always looking for people to test their products and provide feedback to inform product management (i.e. to ensure the product is usable and solves a user’s need) and user testing (i.e. to make sure the product is bug free and easy to use).
Reach out to companies.
Ask them if they would like your help with product testing and feedback. If you are a legal professional, your legal experience and familiarity with the types of problems legaltech products aim to solve can be invaluable.
But don’t forget other avenues. Be creative. Literally.
Offer to create content for a legaltech vendor’s blog. This can be a great way to help them. Blogs (including this one) are always looking for great content (get in touch to contribute to lawtomated).
Contributing to vendor or legaltech specific blogs like this one is also a great way to build a brand for yourself in this domain. This can make you more attractive to employers, demonstrating your expertise and involvement. It provides some social proof you are interested and active in this space vs. casually interested.
And of course, helping out builds reciprocity.
Per Robert Cialdini’s famous book, Influence, humans are hardwired to give back to others the form of a behaviour, gift, or service that they have received first. This is why people try and buy drinks for others, and equally why people actively refuse them, i.e. acceptance makes it very hard to not return the favour in some form or another… If you’ve ever had someone buy a drink for you without you asking, you will know the discomfort of rejecting that advance, and the almost physical struggle to reject that gift. This is also why salespeople, shops and charities give you something free – you feel obliged to return the favour and buy something or make a donation.
But equally, if someone does something genuinely nice and for your benefit, you will feel very positively toward them and actively seek an opportunity to return the favour.
Volunteering to help a start-up, scale-up or blog – and genuinely seek to add value – is not only a great way to gain experience, but may build reciprocity that returns dividends later on, e.g. a referral for a job, a valuable introduction or even a job offer!
Volunteering in this way is also another easy and low risk way to test whether or not you are really interested in the space or casually tempted.
Volunteer to help out on an open source project
If you aren’t familiar with open source, it is a type of computer software in which source code is released – usually but not always for free – under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. It is often developed collaboratively. People work on code improvements or suggest amendments ad hoc as they encounter them. We’ve also written on the idea of open source contracts – see here.
If you have technical skills and can code, contribute to an open source legaltech project, for instance:
- Docassemble, an open source document assembly project (software that automates the creation of documents).
- The Accord Project, an open source project focused on creating mechanisms for smart legal contracts. A smart contract is an enforceable agreement, automatable by computer, although some parts may require human input and control.
- This DocuSign/Docassemble integration open sourced by Radiant Law, an excellent ALSP and consultancy focused on legal ops and innovation.
Most of the internet runs on open source technology, and one of the most popular computer operating systems for back-end internet services is the open source Linux system.
Things to learn
Design thinking, process mapping, product mgmt
Tied to the above, you will very likely start to learn about design thinking, process mapping and product management. These are three super helpful and somewhat overlapping skills relevant to most legaltech roles.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems.
Ok… so what?
It’s extremely useful for tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown. And this is often the case when trying to dig into a particular problem or opportunity for innovation.
It’s often easy to feel something could be improved (or is broken) but much harder to pin down first and foremost the root causes for that feeling, and by extension how to solve for it.
Design thinking provides a framework of exercises and principles that work by understanding the human needs involved, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, by creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and by adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.
The typical design thinking process, as popularised by Stanford University’s famous dschool looks like this:
Understanding these five stages of design thinking will empower anyone to apply the underlying methods in order to solve complex problems that occur around us — in your organisation or elsewhere.
Being able to understand and apply these skills can demonstrate many of the skills that typically feature in legaltech job descriptions for many legaltech related roles, from sales to marketing to product to engagement and so on.
These skills and techniques are increasingly in demand for many innovation related roles, which are principally about finding the right people, processes and problems to solve with the appropriate priorities.
Design thinking provides a way to go from vaguely defined problems, needs and wants to solutions that add value for a set of defined users.
Where can I learn more?
- Stanford dschool’s Design Thinking Bootleg. The Design Thinking Bootleg is a 90 page free pdf summarising the set of tools and methods that the Stanford dschool teach on their famous design thinking courses. Well worth a look. It’s an easy and concise guide to the fundamental methods and exercises used to apply design thinking in solution to problems.
- This is Service Design Doing. Related to design thinking is service design. Service design is focused on planning and organising 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. Service design may function as a way to inform changes to an existing service or create a new service entirely. Increasingly applied in legal as a means for critically and collaboratively interrogating the current and desired state service between providers and consumers of legal services.
- Other great books that provide some excellent and very visual explanations about how to apply various business oriented design thinking skills include Strategizer’s series of books, including: Business Model Generation, Value Proposition Design and Testing Business Models. Each provides a wealth of popular templates such as the Business Model Canvas and the Customer Value Proposition Canvas, which can help design, test and refine business and customer value propositions to ensure problem and persona fit for new or improved products or services.
What is process mapping?
A process map is a planning and management tool. It 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.
Here’s one we made earlier:
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. They 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.
It provides a way to identify areas for improvement, e.g. bottlenecks. These opportunities to improve the process often present as the 7Rs, i.e. opportunities to: rethink, reconfigure, re-sequence, relocate, reduce, reassign, retool the process.
This usually leads to a redesigned process, or desired state process – the target new 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. 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.
Where can I learn more?
- Start with this excellent guide by creatley. It does a nice job of explaining entry level background to process mapping and illustrates how to apply it in real life, including the basis and most common flowchart elements used to map a process.
- For a slightly more in-depth and legal specific guide, see here.
- If you are interested in dipping your toe into lean thinking, another improvement methodology that relies heavily on process mapping then check out This is Lean. It is a breezy but complete primer on lean principles. Lean thinking is an approach to process improvement developed at Toyota in the 1950s to create the Toyota Production System, i.e. the system and principles that guide Toyota’s famously reliable and value driven manufacturing. Lean principles provide a framework for creating an efficient and effective organization. Lean allows managers to discover inefficiencies in their organization and deliver better value to customers. The principles encourage creating better flow in work processes and developing a continuous improvement culture.
- If you enjoy This is Lean, we suggest you dive into the original (and some say best) guide – The Toyota Way. The Toyota Way explains in great detail the Toyota Production System that inspired lean and its offspring (e.g. including the The Lean Start-up).
What is product management?
Product management is the role and function within an organization that is responsible for a product’s overall success.
Product Managers work with groups inside and outside of the company to build and execute a plan to make sure the product best meets its user’s goals, and in turn the financial and strategic goals of the business producing that product.
Defining a product manager is tricky.
Specific responsibilities vary depending on the size of the organization, and sometimes the types of products being produced.
In larger organisations, product managers embed within teams of specialists. Researchers, analysts, and marketers help gather input, while developers and designers manage the day-to-day execution, draw-up designs, test prototypes, and find bugs. These product managers have more help but… they also spend more time aligning theses stakeholders behind a specific vision.
Product managers at smaller organisations usually spend less time getting everyone to agree, and more time doing the hands on work that comes with defining a vision and seeing it through into a customer facing product.
At a high level, there are quite a number of overlaps with project management.
Product management is about:
- Understanding and representing user needs, by first getting to know and empathising with users and collecting diverse data to validate hypothesis and prove or disprove assumptions about wants and needs and existing vs. desired behaviours and values (this is where Design Thinking overlaps, and is a tool in the product manager’s arsenal).
- Monitoring the market and developing competitive analyses.
- Defining a vision for a product.
- Aligning stakeholders around the vision for the product.
- Prioritizing product features and capabilities, and creating and maintaining two-way communication between users and the business regarding the product’s development.
- Creating a shared brain across larger teams to empower independent decision making.
Where can I learn more?
01. To begin with, we recommend you check out Atlassian’s guide here. Atlassian make many fantastic user driven developer focused products, including Trello (which we use to plan lawtomated’s content and activities!), Jira and Confluence. Note this guide also digs into related methodologies common to product management, including Agile, Scrum and Kanban as well as core product management tools such as product roadmaps.
02. Diving deeper, check out Ken Norton’s blog. Ken is a long-time product manager at Google and product management coach. His blog shares many of his insights from doing and teaching product management
03. For an excellent and well-rounded resource collection this collection of the Top 100 Resources for Product Managers is invaluable to anyone interested in, or working in, this role.
That guide, put together by Sachin Rekhi, an experienced product manager, is divided into 6 sections:
- overview, covering product management and the role of product manager in general;
- vision, how to define and communicate vision), strategy (how to ensure successful products happen;
- design, techniques for designing and building great products), execution (how to make it happen);
- growth, how to grow product… it’s no good making cool stuff and hoping people come;
- leadership, how to influence and build buy-in; and
- careers in product management.
Why are these skills useful to legaltech roles?
Legaltech and the roles behind it are not all about coding and software skills.
Far from it.
Legaltech and the roles behind it are about being able to identify the people, process, problems and priorities worth solving and where appropriate knowing enough about technology to be targeted in what you buy, build or re-use.
This is especially so within larger organisations, e.g. for innovation roles.
But it is equally important for vendor side roles where cracking product-market fit can make or break the business. And cracking that goes well beyond clever code. Smart vendors often leverage existing technologies rather than reinvent the wheel from the code up, instead focussing intently on users, their jobs to be done and product fit.
So it is no surprise most legaltech job descriptions increasingly select for experience or skills in these areas, and sometimes specific qualifications.
Should I learn to code?
Generally speaking, probably not
Unless you are really excited by coding, we’d focus on the other skills and activities described here. If you want a more detailed explanation as to why we recommend this course of action, see here.
We say all of this as the lawtomated team includes experienced lawyer / coder hybrids, working with a mix of professional developers and other non-legal professionals, including product, process analysts, project managers and so on.
Those of us that code, rarely code on the job (instead relying on professional developers), albeit that background makes for productive conversations with technologists and vendors, but it isn’t an overwhelming advantage.
But if you are tempted…
We suggest the below resources. For more resources, please get in touch.
Focuses on learning to code in the context of solving the many boring tasks that are core to legal and legal adjacent processes, i.e. many of which legaltech products target. Its focus on learning by doing is always recommended, especially with coding.
You’ll learn more by building something than learning a few basic coding components in the abstract.
See also here for the free online only version.
A free online and self-paced coding bootcamp that takes you from beginner to a reasonably advanced level of software development knowledge.
The course is now pretty huge. It covers the following skills and technologies:
- Responsive Web Design Certification (300 hours)
- Front End Libraries Certification (300 hours)
- Data Visualization Certification (300 hours)
- APIs and Microservices Certification (300 hours)
- Quality Assurance Certification (300 hours)
- Scientific Computing with Python Certification (300 hours)
- Data Analysis with Python Certification (300 hours)
- Information Security Certification (300 hours)
- Machine Learning with Python Certification (300 hours)
- Coding Interview Prep (Thousands of hours of challenges)
Graduates of this free course have landed jobs at big tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Spotify and Microsoft.
For an undergraduate overview of several fundamental computer science principles and how these translate into actual code and, by the end of the course, have you building simple web apps, we recommend CS50.
Best of all, it’s free to take (albeit a certificate of completion is available for a small charge).
CS50 is one of, if not the, best rated online course.
We took this course (in addition to having previously studied software development full-time) and it’s brilliant.
David Malan, the tutor, is phenomenal in his enthusiasm and ability to deconstruct the complex via memorable analogies and worked examples and lively demonstrations.
He’s the CS teacher we wish we had at school! Likewise, his supporting tutors are brilliant.
At the end of CS50 you will:
- Have a broad and robust understanding of computer science and programming.
- Know know to think algorithmically and solve programming problems efficiently.
- Understand concepts like abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development.
- Understand how to develop and present a final programming project to your friends, family or peers.
One of the best things is that the first part of the course teaches the C programming language.
This is a lower level language, i.e. closer to what machines natively understand and less easy to read as a human. It also requires you to better understand how a computer allocates memory to different jobs.
Why is this good?
It forces you to think much more like a computer, and in turn helps aid intuition about lower level functions within a computer such as memory and memory management.
Whether or not you can code, consider building something. Are there any problems you face in your daily life that have a legal or similar emphasis that could be better engineered?
Believe it or not, this is also one of the most recommended (and best) ways to find ideas for start-ups (if you are so minded). For instance, Paul Graham, Ycombinator founder and Silicon Valley investor and sponsor for huge start-ups like AirBnB, recommends you are better off starting with problems not business ideas.
Why not have a go at designing a solution and then… building it?
Why not combine this with the above process mapping, product management and design thinking skills and exercises?
If you can, take it a step further and actually build it!
See below… 👇
How to build things
You can either build something with a more technical co-founder, or do it yourself with the increasing number of no or low code app building solutions.
The growth, power, usability and flexibility of no code tools is another reason we are bearish on the need for lawyers to code.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even working. It could just be mock-ups (also known as a wireframe) of the app and how it is intended to function, which can be done on a whiteboard, pieces of paper or a prototyping tool such as draw.io or balsamiq.
E.g. something like this:
Going through the process of problem identification, process mapping and thinking about the personas of those facing this problem will hep you understand how to apply skills necessary to many legaltech roles. You can also test your prototypes with real users, perhaps even a friendly colleague or two, and iterate your product.
No code app building
For instance check out the below no code app building platforms, many of which offer free trials:
- Bubble, a general purpose no code platform allowing anyone to build production ready web apps. Curious? Get started with their free trial here.
- Bryter, a popular no code workflow automation and app builder aimed at legal. Check out their free trial!
- Autto, another fantastic legal specific no code automation platform that allows you to build automated workflows and small apps. Check out their 1 month free trial!
- Avvoka, a no code document automation platform including other cool features for online negotiation and contract analytics. Check out their 14 day free trial here!
What’s a macro? A macro is a series of commands and instructions that you group together as a single command to accomplish a task automatically in the Microsoft Office application suite.
These are a little clunky to learn at first, but they can be surprisingly powerful.
Most law firms (and many organisations generally) have a litany of macros automating the most boring, repetitive actions within Microsoft Word and Excel.
Chances are that if you work in a legal organisation, you use macros all the time but may not realise which buttons in your Microsoft Word installation are custom to your organisation. If you spot any (i.e. functionality you don’t have on your home edition of Microsoft Word), they are likely macros built by you IT team.
Here’s a simple beginner’s guide to get you started on how they work and how to build and publish them.
Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) offers a free developer account, complete with dummy datasets – see here.
With a developer account you can access the full Microsoft 365 set of applications and tutorials. A good place to start are the Microsoft Power Automate tutorials which allow you to design and build automated workflows for common office based tasks such as document automation, contract approval and dashboarding of basic data about these actions.
In this webinar they demonstrate a legal platform built using Microsoft 365. That workbench includes knowledge management functionality, NDA automation from drafting through to approvals and finally through to signing and filing… Impressive stuff. And absolutely something you could learn to build without knowing a ton of code.
And for a super quick how to, check out this 13 minute tutotiral on how to automate Word documents in 3 simple steps by LOD’s Amanda Fajerman:
Crafty Counsel have collaborated with legaltech aficionados and legal ops gurus to provide a fantastic series of short tutorials demonstrating how to build automated workflows and other productivity hacks using Google Workspace (formerly Gsuite) products such as Google Sheets, Docs and Forms.
Check out the below for some further inspiration on how to build legaltech with stuff you already (likely) use:
For the full series of tutorials, see here.
If you really want to code… automate the boring stuff
For something more adventurous, and for someone who wants to code (or can code a bit) check out Automate the Boring Stuff With Python (see also here for the free online only version). This is a fantastic resource for budding coders.
It’s aimed at anyone who has spent hours renaming files or updating hundreds of spreadsheets or Word documents.
This guide teaches you basic python coding skills, and importantly does so via real world examples of how to automate the most boring bits of most office jobs, including many automations that form the primary selling points of well known legaltech!
Learn how to automate tasks such as:
- search for text in a file or across multiple files;
- create, update, move, and rename files and folders;
- search the Web and download online content;
- update and format data in Excel spreadsheets of any size;
- split, merge, watermark, and encrypt PDFs;
- send reminder emails and text notifications; and
- fill out online forms.
Legaltech masters / university / other courses
In the past 2 – 3 years there has been a growing number of legaltech and legal innovation courses offered by universities and the providers of the GDL and LPC.
- MSc Legaltechnology, The University of Law. £8,5750 (domestic) – £12,360 (international).
- Law and Legaltech LLM, The University of Portsmouth. £9,200 (domestic) – £16,400 (international)
- Legaltech LLM, The University of Swansea. £8,250 (domestic) – £15,850 (international).
There are literally 10s of such courses, including across the USA, EU and beyond.
Rather than list these courses and their basic details, we will try and explain how best to think about and analyse these courses, plus provide our view on their worth. At the end of this section we include references to two directories of such courses.
Do we recommend them?
First, a disclaimer: we’ve not studied these courses. So please read the below in that context and with that understanding.
We’d also say that these courses remain relatively new so it’s a little tricky to determine their success / fail at providing what students need and how this aligns with their wider aims, including career ones.
But to begin with, the question of whether or not we’d recommend them depends on why you are studying the course.
What are you looking to learn? (and why?)
Broadly speaking – and this is a generalisation – the courses tend to divide into courses focused more on:
- the intersection of law and emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain, and the novel legal issues that this creates; or
- legaltech, legal ops and innovation, i.e. how to identify people, process and technology within legal businesses that can be improved and the means with which to improve and deliver high ROI solutions.
If you are, or want to be, a lawyer advising clients at the intersection of law and technology, i.e. providing legal advice and other legal services, courses that fall under the first definition might be for you.
However, if you want to work on legaltech projects or products, whether in-house, in a law firm or vendor side, you might wish to focus on courses that fall under the second definition.
In practice, there are a lot of courses that seem to straddle both definitions. Be mindful of this distinction and think about what you really want to focus on, and where you hope the course leads.
Hands-on better than hands-off
As a general rule, our opinion (and it is only our opinion) is that it is better to get hands-on experience with legaltech and innovation projects vs. studying them and the underlying theory.
Why is that?
Legaltech and adjacent subjects are changing all the time. New vendors spring up and sometimes die within the course of a single year. What was cutting edge 6 months ago may be old news tomorrow. See here for an increasingly busy graveyard of legaltech companies that have been wound up in recent years.
A lot of legaltech roles are very hands-on. They mostly involve a lot of hard graft meeting people, interviewing them, listening, trying to distill exactly what they need from what they want and reading between the lines to draw useful insights that inform decisions about what problems, processes and priorities there are to solve and how best to do so, whether using tech or not.
Most of these skills do not seem to feature in many of the courses we’ve researched.
Some courses do seem to offer this aspect, i.e. graded projects to identify problems worth solving and using industry best practices and similar drawn from other domains (e.g. product management, design thinking or process analysis) to build apps or tech enabled services in solution of such problems. In some cases these exercises are run in conjunction with law firms and vendors to make the challenges and feedback realistic and valuable. These courses look more promising if you favour a hand-on approach and wish to focus on legaltech and legal operations vs. the intersection of law and tech from an academic legal perspective.
Likewise, many courses are taught, at least in part, by practitioners working in legaltech. But again, be careful to enquire and understand who these people are – are they lawyers advising clients about AI or lawyers building AI related legal products and services? Depending on whether you are interested in the legal side or the legaltech side, this could make a massive difference to how useful or interesting these inputs might be.
Finally, if a course offers lectures and projects run by or with legaltech practitioners, it can also be a good networking opportunity to learn more about roles in the space and perhaps find a route into legaltech jobs and similar post-qualification.
Legaltech employment opportunities and references
Like any course taken with a career ambition in mind, be sure to carefully evaluate the course’s stated employment opportunities.
Ask for references to graduates that have completed the course and what they do now.
This is the best way to assess whether the course leads to roles you are interested in, and also to sense check whether or not the course was determinative in that outcome, e.g. was it the course that led to the employment opportunity or was it the candidate’s other background, skills, experiences and connections? If the latter, what were those other determining factors and how could you acquire them?
If you can, try and speak to graduates 1 to 1 and without the course provider listening in.
You will get a much more candid view if you do. We’ve done this in the past regarding courses we’ve taken or researched and it has in many, if not all, cases helped us avoid bad decisions and make better ones.
A general comment on legal education
We’d also say that the very real gaps in legal education that such courses seek to address would be better solved by embedding into traditional legal degrees greater emphasis – perhaps via optional 2nd or final year modules – on the modern aspects of legal practice, including legal innovation, legaltech and legal ops along with useful skills such as project and product management basics and process and design thinking skills.
Making these optional would allow students interested in the academic side (99% of most modern law degrees) to follow that path, yet at the same time allow practically inclined students to diverge and study the more modern aspects of actual legal work.
The jury is out on need
The other reason we’d caution against rushing into legaltech or legal innovation courses is that they aren’t yet, nor seem likely to be, a requirement for most entry level legaltech jobs in the space.
Most job descriptions in the space make no specific reference to such courses, albeit some of the knowledge and skills learnt on such courses may help demonstrate the relevant skills, experience and interest in the sector.
One reason for this is a slow but increasing trend in legaltech to select and hire individuals expert in non-legal domains, e.g. actual product managers, actual data scientists, actual business analysts and so on from areas such as tech, consulting etc.
This is a slight reversal in the more common trend, which involves re-training lawyers in these skills, or simply parachuting lawyers into such roles without any real training or experience despite also setting them unrealistic (and often ill-defined) goals tied to a total lack of incentives…
In other words, larger legal organisations and certainly most vendors these days, increasingly value non-legal expertise as much, if not more, than legal expertise. Adding more legal specific expertise to a legal background might not provide much value vs. such candidates.
You might instead be better off developing non-legal specific skills and experiences if you are approaching legaltech from a legal background.
But as we say, the jury is out on this one. So for now, this is us reading current trends and predicting out where the market will be in 3 – 5 years. We could be wrong, but we might be right.
For this reason, if you are already a lawyer or other legal professional, we’d suggest the other ideas described above, such as working on internal legal innovation projects, creating your own or volunteering to help out with start-ups and scale-ups in the space and so on.
And now for something different
As we were writing this piece, a great looking – and hands-on – course launched called exponential.legal.
This course, which – full disclosure – we haven’t taken, focuses on hands-on exercises and frameworks to identify, qualify, quantify and scale legal expertise using exponential technologies to deliver process transformation and creation of new or enhanced products and services.
According to the website, the course does the following:
“Getting Exponential: The Essentials certificate course is an introductory, maker-style course for legal professionals building a modern practice. Apply leverage to your existing legal expertise by creating legal value once, and delivering it widely.“
The bulk of this course will be consumed on demand, over 8 weeks (4-5 hrs per week), through a combination of recorded video content, written lessons, reference materials and (most importantly) guided activities, where students will:
- learn what it means to scale your expertise;
- work through a framework for de-risking exponential ideas;
- develop a series of assets to be used beyond the course; and
- plot your next steps towards becoming exponential.
The outcome of the course is having successfully taken an idea through the launch lifecycle and have a series of assets to be used beyond the walls of the course.
The course is put together by a diverse set of experts in the legaltech and innovation space:
- Christie Guimond, Innovation & Engagement, White & Case;
- Dennis Kennedy, Director, Center for Law, Technology & Innovation, Michigan State University;
- Marc Lauritsen, President, Capstone Practice Systems; and
- Mike Capucci, Partner, FoundationLab.
Worth a look, particularly for experienced professionals trying to change their organisation.
It isn’t cheap, but cheaper than a typical masters: $499 for non-profits and government professionals, and $1,499 for industry professionals. There is also on spec pricing for organisations.
Where can I find a complete list of legaltech courses?
For a more detailed list of similar courses, including outside the UK (EU, USA and beyond) see:
- here for a simple list by jurisdiction; and
- here for a similar list, albeit with basic course details summarised.
Where to learn more about legaltech?
- This blog, The Time Blawg and Legal Evolution for thought pieces and industry deep dives and analysis;
- The Legal Technologist for magazine style monthly content, mixing guidance, interviews and product specific content; and
- The Legaltech Hub for a comprehensive listing of legaltech vendors, events and other legaltech related resources.
- Podcasts like the excellent Legaltech Arcade by Robert MacAdam, a former HighQ product manager and current VP of product management at BusyLamp.
- Legal Evolution covers the latest topics, trends and tech in the legal industry, including many legaltech, ops and innovation topics and speakers.
- The Legal Ops podcast is about all things legal operations, legal business and legal technology. It’s hosted by legal ops professionals Alex Rosenrauch and Elliot Leibu.
- The Wired Wig, a legal tech podcast for lawyers, law students and business leaders who are interested in how Law interacts with technology.
- How I built this, OK not a legaltech or even legal related, but it is excellent and contains 100s of interviews with successful business founders, telling the warts and all stories of how a lot of grit, good ideas (and bad), some luck and good timing made them and their business successful, often through innovation or an intent focus on a customer need. Stories include Spanx, AirBnB, Dell, Patagonia and many more. For a written guide to the podcasts in the series, we also recommend the accompanying book.
Free legaltech online courses like..
Unlike the main CS50 course, CS50 for Lawyers is designed especially for lawyers (and law students).
Whereas CS50 itself takes a bottom-up approach, emphasising mastery of low-level concepts and implementation details thereof, this course takes a top-down approach, emphasising mastery of high-level concepts and design decisions related thereto.
The course teaches:
- computational thinking
- an introduction to programming languages
- algorithms, data structures
- internet technologies
- cloud computing
- web programming
- database design
- cybersecurity, continued
- challenges at the intersection of Law and Technology
Ultimately, it equips students with a deeper understanding of technology and how it relates to their day-to-day work and that of their clients, and more generally how software is changing the way business is conducted.
Highly recommended for anyone wanting to upskill their technology knowledge but not wanting to go down to the level of coding.
Legaltech twitter is worth checking out. Find accounts to follow – search for #legaltech #lawtech to find conversations and accounts. To get you started, here’s a few accounts (in no particular order) to follow:
- @lawtomated, our account (we are also @lawtomated on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook)
- @artificiallawyer, legaltech news and views (also via www.artificiallawyer.com)
- @bobambrogi, Lawyer and journalist covering legal tech and innovation at http://LawSitesBlog.com and http://AboveTheLaw.com and through the podcast http://LawNext.com
- @nikiblack, legaltech evangelist a MyCase, lawyer, legal technology author and journalist
- @jborstein, advisor to Penn Law Future of Profession initiative, advisor to LegalMation and Legaltech investor
- @prestonjclark, founder of lawinsider
- @heyitsalexsu, lawyer turned salesman and director of business development @evisort
- @bamlegal, founder of bamlegal, legal engineer, lawyer and investor and FT Top 10 legal technologist and European Women of Legaltech Winner 2020
- @legalitinsider, Legal IT, a leading legaltech news source, edited by ex City Solicitor – Caroline Hill @chillmedia
- @legaltechnologist, legaltech magazine providing thought provoking articles on how technology is changing legal practice, edited by @doublemarc
- @TheTimeBlawg, the past, present and future practice of law (reality not hype). Brought to you by @BrianInkster of @inksters
- @nwaisb, CEO of @KiraSystems, Author of “AI for Lawyers“, former @WeilGotshal corporate lawyer, Canadian.
- @akhudek, CTO and co-founder of @KiraSystems
- @denniskennedy, Consulting innovator; Interim Director, Mich St U Cntr for Law, Tech and Innovation; author; speaker; co-host, Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast
- @JoannaMG22, London based journalist and author and frequent contribute to the Law Society Gazette on legaltech topics
- @alexgsmith, Product Lead for RAVN. Ex-Innovation at Reed Smith. Ex-Lexis product
- @clevy_law, legaltech evangelist and in-house lawyer
- @alexhamiltonrad, CEO and co-founder of Radiant Law, curious what happens if lawyers stop being so… lawyerly
- @AndrewArruda, founder of @RossIntel
- @ronfriedmann, Lawyer, analyst, marketer, blogger, ex-Bain, ex-econometrician
- @jackwshepherd, Ex-insolvency lawyer and legal tech @Freshfields, now @iManageRAVN
- @lawheroez, ex-GC & legal ops in tech. Now designs and builds solutions for law firms & law departments @ElevateServices
- @jplink, CEO of Clifford Chance Applied Solutions
- @cguimond11, Co-Founder of #SheBreakstheLaw
- @nicola_shaver, Legaltech & Data Geek, Innovation & Knowledge MD at Paul Hastings and founder of @legalechhub1
- @lauravanwyn, Co-founder of @diligensoftware
- @jaesunum, founder of @sixparsecs and leading thinking on legal and legaltech strategy and data backed insights
- @legal_ev, facts and commentary about a changing legal industry. Great long reads!
As with all such lists, we apologise to anyone we left out!
Please get in touch if you wish to be listed above or we missed out anyone super obvious but absent from the above list!
Fantastic jobs and where to find them
If you heeded the advice above regarding networking, events, meet-ups, getting to know colleagues who may already work in legaltech related teams, and volunteering to help start-ups and so on, you may find your best route into legalech is via your newly developed network.
Don’t be shy.
Sound out if anyone is looking to hire. Even if there isn’t a specific role, ask the question. Arm yourself with an elevator pitch as to why you’d like a role, what value you’d add and so on.
You’d be surprised how many legaltech jobs in this sector (and in general) are never advertised. Don’t miss out.
- LinkedIn increasingly features legaltech related roles. Setting up saved searches within LinkedIn’s jobs section for keywords such as “legaltech”, “legal ops”, “legal operations” and “legal innovation” can be a good way to surface related legaltech jobs as and when they get posted.
- Another great resource, begun as a side project, is Legaltechjobs.com. It’s probably the most comprehensive, easy to use, and up to date set of listings site for legaltech jobs.
- For specialist recruiters we recommend Harrier Search. Founded by Luminance’s first non-technical hire, Henry Venmore-Rowland, Harrier unsurprisingly have an in-depth and first-hand knowledge of the market and are well connected to many legaltech teams across private practice, in-house and vendor side. Henry genuinely cares about the space, the people in it and the roles he fulfils on behalf of his clients and candidates.
Speculatively apply to legaltech jobs
If there is no role, or not the role you’d fit, apply anyway. Make a speculative application.
Better still, reach out to the company and / or the individual advertising the legaltech jobs or with whom you’d like to work.
Craft your elevator pitch about:
- who you are;
- what you’re looking for;
- what you bring to the table;
- why you are interested in their business / what they do; and
- why you are interested in legaltech.
Some companies actively encourage this.
For instance, Eigen Technologies does just that – see here.
We know of several lawyers who did exactly this and applied to legaltech companies little and large and had great success creating a role for themself, often a role the company didn’t know they needed!
Be bold, be brave and be yourself!
The money question: salaries
Legaltech roles vary significantly between private practice (e.g. legal innovation roles), in-house (legal ops roles) and vendor side roles (ranging from sales through to product through to software development etc). Remuneration can also vary significantly based on the individual. So read the below with this in mind!
Show me the money
The below are indicative ranges based on conversations with recruiters and industry leaders about a variety of roles and organisation types:
If you are entering the legaltech space for the first time, especially from a traditional legal background at a large law firm with 2-5 years experience (including training contract), a salary around the mid-range is quite possible at any one of the three types of organisations described above.
If you are a lawyer and have more experience, perhaps 1 – 3 years in a similar role elsewhere, you may be able to aim higher depending on the role and organisation, especially for law firm roles.
For non-legal specific expertise, e.g. product managers, developers and data scientists, higher salaries are quite possible – especially vendor side – given how in demand these skills are outside of legal, and increasingly within legal.
The other variables are the obvious ones such as bonuses, equity / share options and pensions etc. This is where things differ quite a bit depending on organisation type, role and the individual.
Pensions and benefits
Law firms and in-house roles may offer generous pension contributions and other benefits, e.g. subsidised gym memberships, home working equipment allowances, childcare, healthcare and so on.
Equally in-house teams and vendors may offer these types of benefits depending on their size.
In all cases you may secure a role with a variable bonus component, usually based on your individual performance, that of your team and / or the organisation in general.
Law firm roles tend to include bonuses, but not always. Most law firm bonuses for legaltech roles will be in the 5-15% range for innovation roles. For in-house roles, bonus elements vary widely depending on organisation type, size and industry.
Where vendors differ is that they may offer equity if you are a founding member or employee 1 – 5 perhaps, and share options or similar long term incentives if you are a later stage employee (e.g. employee 6-10+).
The latter will usually vest over 4 years, sometimes with the election to decide a % split between those options that vest as cash (valued at the time they vest and based on the then company valuation) or shares.
Depending on the size and growth of the vendor, these can be significant. But they aren’t a guaranteed return necessarily.
For instance, if you have share options that vest as shares, those shares may be affected by future dilutions (meaning they are worth less per share even if the company increases in value) and typically can only be cashed in if the vendor is sold or IPOs, which may never happen or may happen at a much lower price than anticipated. To balance those risks, as noted above, you can often – but not always – elect to have some % vest in cash and some as shares.
Vendor roles aligned to sales or presales will often include a commission element, usually some % of each sale won by the business, and in some cases an additional % for deals closed by you individually or as part of a sales team (e.g. a salesperson and presales person might get an additional % for a deal they close).
Sometimes the % will vary depending on what the organisation wishes to sell most.
Because cloud is cheaper, easier to update and more scalable, a lot of vendors are trying to migrate existing customers to the cloud based versions of their apps (e.g. including the biggest vendors such as Microsoft). As a result, the commissions for closing these types of sales will be higher than alternatives. Likewise kickers for upselling or cross-selling additional products, features or services generates further commission.
In other words, you eat what you kill.
Sometimes there may be further commission for securing renewals or upgrades to existing customers, or moving them across to alternative license models such as monthly recurring subscriptions and so on, again because these will be attractive from a balance sheet perspective. Sometimes this compensation and responsibility sits with customer account / success managers. Their job is to keep customers happy, retain them and ensure their licences get renewed (and ideally upgraded).
Note this usually means your progression and success / fail at the role is tied to sales or similar targets, i.e. a total number and sometimes type of sales to hit each quarter and each year.
If you are, or get, good at selling (or keeping customers happy) you can make significant money all in, e.g. £150,000+ per year including base at some of the larger vendors.
The quid pro quo is that you don’t usually get paid commissions until the end of a quarter, or sometimes the following quarter after the quarter in which you closed the sale.
If your total take home package is heavily dependent on variables like commissions and bonuses it can make things like getting a mortgage or other loan trickier, i.e. because your income may fluctuate up or down significantly.
This is where it really is a choose your own adventure. How much and how quickly you are able to increase your earning potential and seniority within an organisation, whether law firm, in-house or vendor side will depend on luck, timing, your ability and the type of organisation and role.
Unlike a traditional legal role, there will unlikely be guaranteed / semi-guaranteed lockstep salary progressions. At most you may only be guaranteed to receive an inflation equalising, or slightly above inflation, salary uplift each year… which at current inflation rates may only be 0.5-2.5% a year.
Good luck 🍀
We hope this gives you plenty to work with. These are the routes into the sector that we find the more profitable in terms of return on investment for individuals seeking news roles in legaltech.
We hope you can find your dream legaltech job!
If we missed anything, get in touch!
⚡ Don’t forget the rest of the guide ⚡
This article forms part 3 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!