Law new has become a catchall industry term describing a variety of practices that legal firms and in-house departments employ to provide legal services more efficiently and affordably than they have in the past. It includes alternative legal service providers (ALSPs), innovation labs, technology tools and other legal solutions that enhance traditional practice. It also refers to collaborative processes with business and other corporate stakeholders that can deliver significant value and improve legal outcomes.
Collaboration is a necessity because the speed, complexity and magnitude of business challenges are beyond the capacity of any one person, function, enterprise or stakeholder group to master. The rapid and widespread collaboration among pharmaceutical companies in developing and delivering the Covid-19 vaccine is just one example. The legal function can and does play a key role in these broader collaboration initiatives by providing a secure repository of collective experience, knowledge and expertise for use across the enterprise and industry.
But the idea of collaborating on legal matters with other business units and stakeholders is not enough to constitute law new. To qualify, the collaboration must be anchored to and guided by a clear business need that is material, impactful, time-critical, and measurable. It must involve a significant business opportunity or threat, and result in improved legal, risk, regulatory, commercial, governance, compliance, or internal control outcomes. It must be a strategic initiative that is shaped and steered by clear business goals and objectives and supported by legal, technological and process platforms. It must be a multidisciplinary team sport involving legal practitioners, “techies,” project/process managers and allied law firm professionals.
The most effective collaborations in law new are those centered on solving a material business problem with the objective of improving business/customer outcomes and achieving sustainable, meaningful cost savings or revenue gains. These collaborations typically involve a mix of innovative techniques, including technology tools and other tools to streamline work, alternative fee arrangements and a more centralized approach to managing legal matters. They also require the legal function to be flexible and agile, and operate on a more collaborative basis with other parts of the enterprise to drive better-informed risk assessment and decision making. These are the fundamental characteristics of law new. They will produce change that is impactful to legal consumers and society at large. They will resemble the companies that the legal function serves, and their customers and society at large. They will be more holistically diverse — cognitively, demographically and culturally — and feature a more diverse, creative, tech-proficient and empathetic workforce. They will be anchored to and steered by clear business goals and a customer-centric, data-backed delivery model.