Adv. Jackie Donner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Lawflex, a global alternative legal service provider. She is an Oxford graduate and has been a lawyer for 15 years at top firms in London and in Israel.
As I watched my daughter this morning at breakfast fiddling with her Lego castle, I was struck by how this resonates with the legal industry currently.
At the heart of every general counsel forum, one of the main issues is a discussion on how to save costs.
The economic climate is leading CFOs across the board to tighten belts – and the non-fee earning centers of the company – like legal – come first. Legal budgets are being slashed, but the legal work is only growing.
Two ways that costs may be saved in the near future are an increase in efficiency – which may come from Robots and Lego.
The beauty of Lego is that you can use different shaped and colored blocks to build one holistic final product. You can then take it apart again and use the pieces for other building projects you may have.
With the rise of contract workers and legal outsourcing as a mainstream practice company – one of the best ways to manage shrinking budgets for 2023 is by tapping into the Lego economy.
Lego lawyers are lawyers of different expertise and experience, used to build one holistic (if fluid) team. Whereas an unlimited budget would allow for a general counsel to hire an employment lawyer, a securities lawyer, an IP lawyer and a tax lawyer (all full time) as integral parts of the team, the contractor model of freelance lawyers allows for a general counsel to hire the same lawyers (all part time) as integral parts of the team.
General counsels are learning to build teams with 20% of one lawyer’s time, 40% of another lawyer’s time, and 30% of a third. They are quickly able to take this apart – just like a Lego castle – and rebuild it according to their changing needs.
A team structure may have 220%, back down to 80% and then up again to 80%. As opposed to sending work to outside counsel, the general counsel is still able to keep this work under her watch, perhaps with these Lego lawyers even coming into the office.
The reason that this works is because work is changing. More and more well-qualified lawyers world-wide are working independently, following the general market trend towards self-employment. This means that talent is available, and talent has more and more tools available to them via the new law companies, to work in this way.
They are presented with multiple work opportunities, so they too can build their career based on the Lego model – working 20% for a major company, and 50% for a boutique law firm. This translates to more efficiency and a better use of the budget. It also means that by in-sourcing, General Counsels can drastically cut their outside counsel spend.
And while we are on the topic of Lego, another way in which General Counsels are looking to save costs is through re-assigning tasks. More than ever, legal departments will be restructuring to incorporate paralegals and students into the team’s work process – more affordable labor to carry out the many tasks that you do not need to pay a lawyer to do.
What is more is that they are often more efficient, more tech savvy and more motivated than hiring a senior lawyer for the job.
And how are robots connected to the theme? With the explosion of ChatGPT on everyone’s computers and minds, the idea of robot lawyers is closer than ever. The only surprise is that the industry always imagined that the bulk of the low-level work will be done in the future by robots, but that the high-level work will still require the sharp and creative minds of real human lawyers.
Law was set to move in the direction of expertise – where human genius would go towards creative tax planning and structuring, complex transactional work, and high-level IP litigation strategy. The robots would take over bulk work like the e-discovery reviews and the regulatory updates.
ChatGPT changes everything. It is very easy to see how expertise will be replaced by AI (artificial intelligence). Anyone who has been playing around with it, will quickly realize the huge impact this is going to have on legal.
Although there is lots of noise about the dangers of AI (and yes there are), I am far more excited about the efficiency this is going to bring to legal. A trillion-dollar market will become more efficient. It’s still too early to grasp all of the implications of ChatGPT and similar technologies on our industry – but its definitely a taste of what’s to come, in the not so far off future.
I asked ChatGPT how to incorporate a company in Cyprus, and then specified my question to include the company’s purpose being Forex trading, and it gave me an answer far more sophisticated than something I could find on google. There are certainly going to be ethical issues arising, questions about accuracy, insurance, licensing and far more – but this technology is not going anywhere – so all these issues will be addressed, like it or not.
As the proverb says, “necessity is the mother of invention”. As we have seen from past financial crises, new modes of working emerge out of the need to cut costs. Legal departments face a particularly daunting challenge – as just when the regulatory market is more demanding than ever, and as the world of legal compliance becomes more and more complicated, general counsels are being asked to downsize.
I am sure that out of this crisis, more creative ways of tapping into the Lego economy will emerge. I for one am excited to see how things change.