As an attorney, I have the opportunity to work closely with clients from many different industries. It is interesting to see that companies from seemingly completely different fields of business are actually facing quite similar transformational forces. In order to successfully navigate the current turbulent business landscape, companies need to transform and reshape their strategies, businesses and operational models. I believe that lawyers – both in-house and in private practice – can play an important role in facilitating these changes.
Drivers of Transformation
The challenges currently reshaping the markets, for example, in the fields of energy and banking, include the transfer from product centricity to customer centricity, the need for faster reaction times, increasing complexity, as well as advances in technology and digitalisation. All of these phenomena are actually very familiar to us lawyers in our own daily legal work.
Every lawyer has clients – be they internal customers for in-house lawyers or the clients of us attorneys – whom we seek to serve to the best of our abilities. Lawyers tend to master quick reaction times and continuously encounter very complex situations. We have also learned to live with uncertainty, which is inevitable in legal interpretation questions.
As for digital solutions, here at Castrén & Snellman, for example, we have automated our document production practices and are experimenting AI solutions in our projects. Our document management systems have been digital for almost two decades already!
On the Pulse of Business
Lawyers have the opportunity to be trusted partners and advisors to our colleagues in business positions. This is especially true of in-house lawyers: be it the legal department of a large corporation or the only lawyer in a smaller company, in-house lawyers get to work and interact with all parts of the organisation, from the boardroom to front-line sales and services.
On the other hand, we external counsel get to act in many different industries and have a front row seat to see the ongoing industry convergence. In these interactions, we have a unique opportunity to contribute to and facilitate concrete actions. Ideally, in-house and outside lawyers get to pool their experience in close cooperation for the benefit of the business.
Lawyers as Integrators
According to several studies, professionals who regularly work with various different stakeholders within an organisation can have a strong positive impact by advising and connecting stakeholders to each other, which those stakeholders normally would not do. This is something that we lawyers should always keep in mind and do even more often. The same also applies to external networks: sometimes connecting persons from different firms may lead to new opportunities for all the parties involved.
Dealing with legal matters often – and ideally – occurs before any problems actually arise. Therefore, a lawyer’s duty is to find out what the possible scenarios are that could occur in the future, and prepare the legal side of the business case accordingly. This could include formulating clauses in a contract to cover more or less anticipated scenarios or, for example, preparing a leak plan for an insider project of a listed company.
Due to the nature of legal work, lawyers often are able to ask the ‘painful’ questions. This is an essential part of a lawyer’s toolbox and should be used in a business-minded way.
Pioneering and Piloting
Lawyers can be creative, too. Perhaps not as creative as engineers or colleagues on the commercial side, but sometimes certain new practices or ways of working are adopted in corporate legal departments or law firms before other places. Legal teams are usually quite small compared to business side teams. This makes piloting and pioneering new practices quite easy for us lawyers. In the best case, piloted practices have the potential to be scaled up for the business lines, as well. Even in the worst case, the pilot may reach its end in the legal team based on critical feedback, which we lawyers are often quite eager to provide.
Shaping Future Business
Although the last couple of years have seen many good examples of in-house legal teams and external counsel contributing to the reshaping of businesses to meet evolving market demands, I believe that even more can and should be done. It is clear that the best results require cooperation between in-house and external lawyers. Based on my own empirical evidence, I can say that this can often be fun