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“Built by lawyers for lawyers” – why you need a sprinkling of other expertise

White puzzle with a missing piece

“A bunch of lawyers does not a law firm make”. This was pointed out to me once, with a knowing wink, by the CFO of a renowned global law firm.

A lot of LegalTech teams, including our own here at Legatics, proudly point out that we are built by lawyers for lawyers. There are many merits to this, and we’re proud of the fact that our transaction management platform is designed, built and continuously improved by people who have actual experience working as lawyers on real life transactions. This experience comes from within our own team as well as among our users, many of whom provide us with invaluable feedback and suggestions.

However, I sometimes worry that the phrase is a) a little misleading and b) takes away from the amazing work that is done by other highly skilled members of our team.

Why we should shout about our non-lawyers more

It’s true that lawyers understand in great detail their industry and use cases. Which is why it’s a great starting point to have lawyers involved and their involvement continues to be a thread throughout the development of a legal tech product. In most cases it is these lawyers who identified a need for the particular solution, tool or service in the first place.

However, being a lawyer requires an entirely different skill set from being, for example, a product, engineering, customer success, operations or marketing expert. I fully admit this myself as an often inept once-lawyer. There are skills like empathy, strategy, knowing how to navigate personas, processes, customer journeys, financial forecasting etc. that either need to be learned or, quite frankly, left to the experts.

About half of our own team here at Legatics are software engineers – dedicated, highly skilled and intimidatingly clever engineers. Of the non-lawyers, there have been graduates and experienced hands who have joined the team to bring their own sprinkling of outside perspective, fresh ideas and intuitive insights to how we work. Our product and our company wouldn’t exist without any of them, and wouldn’t be what it is today.

Deferring to those with expertise different to your own

I have learned so much in the last two years about the importance of building a diverse and multi-functioning team. And hand-in-hand with that I have also learned so much about why it’s important to recognise the limitations of your own expertise and experience.

A manager once told me, years ago when I was starting out, that the best way to learn is to once a day ask a colleague “Can you show me how to do that?”. This is a pretty useful go-to, especially in a scale-up environment when often it is all hands on deck. However, with a few more years under my belt, I would add that it’s still pretty useful and often for the greater good to sometimes simply ask “Can you do that for me? You’re better at it.” There’s a lot to be said for not trying to do a little bit of everything, and instead allow space for those who know how to do it, and better.

My own version of my CFO friend’s observation might be “A bunch of ex-lawyers does not a LegalTech company make”.

In this not-so-little-anymore world of LegalTech, I personally am very grateful to all the savvy sales people who grow and nurture our pipeline of new and potential customers, the amazing account managers who work to build trust and confidence in our customer relationships, the diverse development teams whose talents and ability to listen, adapt and understand how lawyers work has meant that it’s possible to create very specific legal technology products. They, along with our magic marketing teams who know how to share our work with the world, are all helping to solve every-day challenges and create an exciting new norm.