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Ahead of her session at the In-house Counsel as Business Partner conference on what good looks like for the in-house team, Halebury co-founder and chairwoman Janvi Patel talks to The Lawyer about efficiency and building the law department of tomorrow.
What does the law department of the future look like and what skills will be valued most?
This is a subject I think about a great deal and have actually written a chapter on this topic, in a book titled: ‘Building the Law Department of Tomorrow’.
The unbundling of legal services over the last 10 years has significantly disrupted the market and due to this disruption, the operating and service delivery structure for law departments has and will have to change and evolve. It is important to note that for different law departments and different businesses, that structure will vary considerably.
The skills that will be required and valued will also differ between different law departments and businesses. However, I strongly believe that legal project management is a key skill that will be required for lawyers, not just in private practice, but in in-house teams as well.
What is your one big prediction on the future of legal services?
I could say technology, consolidation, greater innovation, but actually my one big prediction is greater diversity and inclusion. The figures on diversity within the legal profession, especially at the senior end of the market, are still not good enough. Even when you look at the NewLaw market, although it is fantastic to see so much diversity within our legal teams, there are only a handful of female founders and very few who are from minority groups. I would love to see greater diversity and inclusion at all levels and in all areas of the legal services market.
Although we have far to go, I think we are on the right track and we are approaching the issue from many angles. For example, NewLaw models are enabling people to work on flexible basis, which means that many do not have to chose between their family and their career.
This means that the supply of diversity is available. From the buyer side, it is also important to note that many buyers of legal services are demanding greater diversity from their external legal teams. There is no one solution, but together we can make a difference.
What is holding in-housers back from exploring new technologies?
I think there are a two key factors. Firstly, many law departments are still working out what their team spend their time on. This might sound surprising, but many in-house teams are also yet to implement legal e-billing systems which help them analyse and monitor their external team. Without understanding your team’s requirements or your external spend, it is hard to understand which technology would be most useful.
Secondly, “nobody likes change” as the saying goes, and this never holds truer than in the case of many lawyers. To undertake technology changes within a law department, heads of legal and GCs need to help lawyers change their mindset so that they embrace change, but also (as the question above refers to), they should not be worried about technology.
Is the disruption of the legal industry just a ticking time bomb?
I am not sure disruption is a “a ticking time bomb” – that sounds pretty drastic. Although I think the uberisation of the legal profession is already underway, I do not think it is accurate to say that the whole profession is being uberised. Uberisation is just taking place in certain parts of the legal market just as Uber is just one part of the transportation market.
For example, although we at Halebury might be considered to be part of the gig economy, we are not part of the “Uberisation”. We are not an automated platform, but a flexible, bespoke model for both clients and lawyers at the senior end of the market.
What technology do you anticipate will revolutionise the legal industry in the next 5 years?
I think technology that enables commercial and legal teams to allocate projects and then to project manage will really revolutionise the legal industry, as it will ensure better efficiency and collaboration between the various functions and suppliers.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order)
- I love shopping
- I am writing a book
- I have watched West Wing more than a 100 times
If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what do you think you might have done instead?
I always wanted to be a travel writer. However, if I was advising my 21 year old self, I would have told me to work with an NGO within women’s rights or children’s rights – helping those who have the least amount of power within our society.
Janvi Patel is one of the 60+ speakers making up this year’s stellar speaker line-up at In-house Counsel as Business Partner on the 6-7 of November. For more information on the summit, a copy of the agenda, or to enquire about tickets to attend, please contact Kenan Balli on +44(0) 20 7970 4017 or email@example.com
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