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From the Law of Lawyering to the Law of Legal Services

Law has traditionally been a prestigious, self-regulated profession founded upon specialized education and training, with an ethical obligation to serve the interests of clients and the public. Until recently, the practice of law has been the exclusive domain of licensed lawyer partnerships and lawyer-owned professional corporations. Ethics rules barred non-lawyer professionals from having an economic interest in law firms or participating in fee-sharing, which inhibited innovation and use of technology, and contributed to the access-to-justice problem.

Since 2012, following the reforms introduced by the Legal Services Act 2007, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA, the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales) has licensed alternative business structures (ABS), which non-lawyers could own. The results that followed in England and Wales are clear: permitting lawyers to partner with other professionals leads to the innovation of new and better services and improved access, choice, and cost for consumers.

Regulatory reform in the US, led by Utah and Arizona, builds on that evidence to improve access to legal services for ordinary citizens and businesses. Announcing the abolition of Ethical Rule 5.4, allowing ABS, multi-disciplinary practice, non-lawyer ownership, and fee sharing, the Arizona Supreme Court wrote, “In part, the innovation opportunities created by these changes are intended to improve access to justice and to make access to legal documents and legal representation available to more members of the public. A sentiment driving the task force responsible for proposing the rule changes was that lawyers have an ethical obligation to assure that legal services are available to the public and that if the rules stand in the way of making those services available, the rules should change. At the same time, the changes must maintain the professional independence of lawyers and protect the public from unethical and unprofessional conduct.”

Elevate responsibly brings professionals from multiple disciplines together to provide innovative solutions to law departments and law firms.

Multi-Disciplinary Legal Solutions

Many professionals, such as lawyers, engineers, or accountants, are referred to as ‘I-shaped,‘ with deep expertise in one area but little skill, knowledge, or experience beyond that specialist domain. It is no longer controversial to say that deep legal knowledge and technical skills are not enough to meet customers’ needs. The modern legal professional must also equip themselves with a broader set of professional tools and skills. Enter the ‘T-shaped lawyer,’ a term coined by Amani Smathers in 2014. The T-shaped lawyer has deep legal expertise (represented by the vertical bar of the T), but also a solid grounding in some of the other disciplines (represented by the horizontal bar of the T), such as technology, data, business, risk, leadership, interpersonal skills, project management, or design thinking, etc.



The I-Shaped Lawyer vs. The T-Shaped Lawyer

 

Some work traditionally performed by lawyers is shrinking due to empowering the business to self-help, assigning work to contracts professionals, outsourcing to law firms and law companies, or automating work. For some lawyers, this evolution, especially the advance of technology, might be worrying. However, much of the displaced work is routine, low-value work, freeing lawyers to do higher value, more impactful, and interesting work.

Some work performed by lawyers is expanding, opening the door to new, non-traditional responsibilities, roles, and tasks., providing a path to becoming more valued by the business, with a more influential seat at the table. For example:

GC are assuming new responsibilities, becoming more strategic business advisors, and sometimes taking over non-traditional management responsibility for human resources, risk, and government relations.

Expansion creates new roles for lawyers, such as legal operations, project management, innovation, process, technology, and data analytics.

Modern in-house lawyers at all levels are informally taking on more tasks beyond providing legal advice. They actively seek opportunities to partner in all business areas, particularly in data governance, crisis management, government affairs, and enterprise risk management.

In addition to the changing responsibilities, roles, and tasks that will result in in-house lawyers doing more non-legal work, other significant trends are relevant to the skills they will need. For example, lawyers will increasingly:

      • Work more collaboratively with colleagues who are not lawyers to address business challenges over and above providing legal advice;
      • Choose between a vast range of new and different legal service and technology providers and then budget, purchase, manage, and work effectively with them;
      • Use technology, and both apply and provide it for the benefit of business colleagues;
      • Innovate not just for the legal department but also the company as a whole

Traditional legal skills will be necessary but not sufficient for these purposes. In this new normal, lawyers will benefit from non-traditional T-shaped skills and greater diversity in knowledge, experience, and competencies.

Knowledge of the Law has always been the bedrock for lawyers. Whereas lawyers working in law firms tend to specialise, many in-house lawyers benefit from a more general knowledge of a range of legal areas — especially if they aspire to a GC position. Also, in an increasingly global business world, it helps develop an international understanding of the leading legal issues that impact the customer’s business, at least to a level to ‘spot issues.’

Knowledge of Business as customers want business outcomes. While many business problems have a legal dimension, legal issues are generally not the core. Customers want to work with experts who know how the law interplays with the business world, preferably in their specific industry. Financial acumen is essential, especially speaking to business colleagues in the language they understand – numbers. Business knowledge assumes greater importance as lawyers do more non-traditional legal work.

Knowledge of Technology will become increasingly important as business becomes more digital. Lawyers must be able to make informed decisions about what technology to acquire, develop, or leverage. In a world of data breaches and AI, lawyers are now ethically required to understand the benefits and risks of technology – and those who do have something valuable to offer customers.

Knowledge of Self building on integrity and judgment as critical qualities for lawyers, there is increasingly a premium on innovation and collaboration, which leads to the growing importance of other competencies, such as empathy, foresight, adaptability, resilience, creativity, and EQ.

It will come as no surprise that Elevate believes diverse work and life experiences provide legal professionals unique insights and skills applicable to their work.

Diversity, Equitability, and Inclusion

T-shaped lawyers are necessary but not sufficient to solving business of law problems. To do that requires T-shaped teams of legal, business, and technology professionals. We harness the different ideas, perspectives, experiences, and points of view from diverse disciplines to offer expert-led, technology-powered solutions for customers.

We provide follow-the-sun support to customers across multiple time zones in various languages. Our global footprint means colleagues in Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, or India start the day providing services to a customer in Asia. Followed by colleagues in Poland, Switzerland, or the UK, serving the customer in Europe, leading to our US or Canadian colleagues closing the day working with that customer’s Americas operations.

Diversity at Elevate has emerged as a natural outgrowth of our business. We are a ‘kaleidoscope company,’ a multi-disciplinary, multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-gender, multi-ethnic, multi-religion, multi-everything business. A diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture drives innovation and is simply good business. We hold ourselves accountable by publishing our annual Equitability and Inclusion Report.

 

We try hard to make Elevate a place where each of us can bring our whole selves to work. Often, in a work environment, we are primed to show only our strengths. We put forward the best version of ourselves, and we try to avoid displaying our weaknesses. But the role we play at work is only a small part of who we are. When we arrive at our desk, we leave something at the office door – or the kitchen door if we work from home. It’s almost as if we separate into two different personas.

No group is immune to covering some part of their identity at work to try to fit in. 61% of the workforce reports doing so. While covering occurs with greater frequency by groups that have been historically underrepresented, even 45% of straight white men – who have not been the focus of most inclusion efforts – reported covering.

 

 

There is a widespread feeling in business that people check a lot of stuff at the door when they arrive at work. Some of that makes sense of course, (e.g., no pajamas during video conferences!), but there’s a risk of having people feel diminished in some way or unable to contribute fully. This ‘checking at the door’ feeling, while commonplace, is damaging to our morale and maybe even our health. We believe the remedy might lie in answering the question, “How can I bring my whole self to work?”

There are things that a company can do to facilitate that. For example, at Elevate, we have a core value focused on execution; “We Deliver – We are careful about the commitments we make to our customers and each other. We do what we say we will”. We balance this with a focus on who we are as people; “We Care – We listen to our customers’ needs and help them solve their business problems. Our work is a positive influence on our personal lives and the lives of our families”. We encourage flexible schedules to allow for family events or travel, letting people work where they want, when they want, where possible. We enjoy seeing and interacting with each other’s families (and pets!) on video conferences, and we celebrate special moments in fun ways.

Equitability and inclusion are good for business – and good for our people.

Well-Being

Being a legal professional can be very rewarding but also can be stressful. As the world becomes more digital and technology allows us to be connected 24x/7, we must set boundaries to recharge and take care of ourselves. The demands compound if we are a working parent or caring for elderly or sick family. With a culture of inclusion, Elevate tries to consider and accommodate these differences, for example, by encouraging our people to work wherever, whenever suits them best.

Too many lawyers in the legal sector are not thriving. Many struggle with mental health and alcohol use disorders. Many others, while not diagnosed with an illness, still are not entirely well. The result is that many lawyers cannot be their best for their customers, colleagues, communities, and families. At Elevate, we promote well-being through destigmatising and fostering discourse about these issues.

 

Having a poor relationship with a manager makes employees feel miserable at work, and that misery can follow them home, compounding their stress and negatively affecting their overall well-being. Elevate provides training and systems to select and support great managers with the talent to motivate employees and build genuine relationships.

Managers who use face-to-face, phone, and digital communications daily are the most successful in engaging employees. And when employees contact their manager, engaged employees report they can rely on hearing back on a timely basis, certainly within 24 hours. Engaged employees are more likely to say their manager knows what projects they are working on and their workload.

Performance management is often a source of frustration for employees, especially if they do not clearly understand their goals or the expectations of them, which can lead to feeling conflicted about their duties and disconnected from the bigger picture. For these employees, annual reviews and development conversations feel forced and superficial. They can’t think about the year’s goals when they are not sure what tomorrow will bring.

At Elevate, we continually focus on growth and development and regularly gauge employee engagement and morale through recurring, effective 1-on-1 conversations to respond to employee challenges and triumphs in real-time. Elevaters know where they stand at all times through continuous feedback in their Weekly Check-in and 1-on-1s, so come twice per year. Performance Coaching time, there should be no surprises!

15-Five Dashboard

 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to well-being and health. Everyone has a different menu, e.g., quality time with family, regular exercise, healthy nutrition, or vacations. Well-being at Elevate encompasses mental and physical health, including connectedness, belonging, purpose, autonomy, mastery, and meaningful work balanced with a satisfying personal life. Our initiatives include flexible working hours, remote working, reasonable expectations about performance (our business model eschews the billable hour), timely performance feedback, extended paid leave for family or personal illness, greater disability pay, employee resource groups, and paid time for volunteering for corporate social responsibility activities.

Environmental Sustainability

At Elevate, we aspire to be responsible leaders of our business, our people, and the legal sector. Not only for today but also for tomorrow. We believe companies should think beyond shareholders, customers, and employees and assume responsibility for the impact of their operations on the communities in which they operate. This includes doing business in ways that protect the environment. As an integral part of this effort, we monitor and measure our environmental impact, identify and implement actions to mitigate our environmental impact, and operate sustainably – most significantly, to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible.

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