The world of law once again had its main meeting point at the VI Legal Management Forum, which was held last week in Madrid and brought together important representatives from the legal sector to address the unknowns of the future of the profession.

Under the slogan ‘Rethinking the Legal Profession’, the conference dealt with aspects such as new business perspectives, the generational change in law firms and issues related to innovation such as cyber security and technology as applied to law firms.

The first session of this meeting took place on the afternoon of October 9, with a ‘meet and greet’ where it was possible to discuss aspects such as the management of legal projects, cyber security and emotional intelligence in the field of law firms.

The following day, the full session was held in the Auditorio Mutua Madrileña in the capital, and was followed with interest by the more than 500 attendees who filled the premises.

The first presentation, by Heidi K. Gardner, lecturer at the Center of the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, focused on “intelligent collaboration“, understood to be the integration of experts in different fields within the team, in order to provide a much higher quality service adapted to the specific needs of the client. “When the work is multidisciplinary, new perspectives are brought in,” said Gardner, who stressed that this type of synergy also has a direct impact on talent retention and productivity.

Leadership and office management

After Gardner, the audience had the chance to listen to the top managers of four major Spanish law firms: Jorge Badía, Cuatrecasas’ CEO, Fernando Vives, Garrigues’ Executive Chairman, Carlos Rueda, Managing Partner of Gómez-Acebo & Pombo and Salvador Sánchez-Terán, Managing Partner of Uría Menéndez, who, in a round table entitled ‘New Perspectives in the Leadership and Management of law firms’, analysed the challenges they face.

They all spoke of the major challenge they face in implementing advances in technology into their firms’ routines, as well as the need to attract and retain talent, the challenge of internationalising their activity and the attributes of purchasing.

Reinventing the legal profession

Alex Hamilton, CEO of Radiant Law, tried to influence the business model of the law firm, observing the current context and the changes that must be made to improve service to clients. According to Hamilton, the way traditional firms work makes innovation difficult and he considers that we must tend to automate those repetitive and boring processes. This will help lawyers find time to generate added value for clients.

In a similar vein, Canadian legal sector analyst Jordan Furlong later stated that he was committed to adapting to these changes and observing the profound consequences they have when it comes to customising client needs.

The generational shift

In addressing this issue, it was noted that while large firms have already regulated this matter and made the transition, within medium and small firms the problem is with those whose founding partner is older and still active. If they want the firm to continue, they must stop thinking that the firm is theirs and they are the founders, organising the rules of generational succession.

Debate on the future of the law

In the afternoon, there was an interesting debate in which a large number of directors from small and medium-sized offices participated. The technological transformation, the generational change and the fight for equality in the sector were the focus of the partners’ reflections.

The right to reconcile work and private life also had its space, betting on flexibility and ensuring, in the words of Natalia Martos, CEO of Legal Army, that “lawyers have the right to live, not only those with families”.

Innovation also occupied a large part of the debate, emphasising the need to offer global products to clients who are also global and betting on technology.

The differentiation of the service

The final point came from Michele DeStefano, a lecturer at the University of Miami and founder of LawWithoutWalls, who has studied the gaps between what clients really want to receive and what legal professionals offer. To bridge that gap, she focused on innovating and creating truly differentiated services. Clients are asking for more involvement and to be spoken to in simple and friendly language, with “empathy, humility and creativity”. “I don’t think we are near the end of lawyers but near the beginning of a different approach to law,” he concluded.


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