If there is a transformation that has occurred as a result of the irruption of technology in the legal professions, it is the different position that clients have taken in respect of their lawyers. Today customers are no longer only “consumers”, instead their status has been upgraded to that of “prosumers”, a term formed with the words "producer" (producer) and "consumer" (consumer), which refers to the empowerment capacity acquired by consumers thanks to technology.
Nowadays in almost all cases, the informational asymmetry that characterized the relationship between a professional and his client has disappeared. The client is rather well informed and can access accurate information about us professionals, our competitors, and even about his own business. Prosumers can as well express their opinions, complain and generate an authentic reputational crisis with a very low investment and without the need to have a wide theoretical knowledge. The prosumer knows that he has rights, and the mechanisms he can use to exercise them are much easier than before, because they are not only legal.
There are also the social networks, blogs, forums and other tools accessible, cheap and very powerful. In addition, the legislator and the judges, European and national ones, have begun to clearly position themselves as more prone to the consumer and the defense of their rights. Almost every week there is a new sentence or ruling that contributes to the accessibility of the legal language, to transparency, to the building of a legal framework that is slowly but firmly becoming more honest and balanced.
In this context, I must confess that I find it a bit surprising the enormous interest that are provoking in the legal sector technologies such as artificial intelligence or the blockchain (which are still in a development phase of immaturity) and on the other hand, the little or non-existing interest that we legal professionals are devoting to other equally innovative issues or technologies that are already technologically tested, available and economically accessible, such as those that I have just mentioned in the previous paragraph.
It is important that we keep in mind that the prosumer is here already, he is our client and he is asking for another type of lawyer. The prosumer wants to understand what he signs, he wants to sign with comfort and speed and access the documentation he signs from any device and wishes logically, to understand the consequences of the obligations he assumes. The prosumer wants to have a good customer experience in all the different stages of his relationship with the service provider or the supplier of any product; that includes obviously all the stages in which his relationship takes on a legal aspect. Therefore, the prosumer must be provided with accessible, understandable, well-designed pre-contractual and contractual information that meets the usability standards that are being offered to all the other aspects of his customer journey.
The question that we as lawyers should honestly answer to ourselves is this: are we clear about our role within the so-called "customer journey"? Have we understood that we are an essential part of the client's experience and that we must do everything in our power to make it an excellent one?
We have at our disposal disciplines such as the Design Thinking (that applies the methodology of designs to strategic planning and the design of new products or services) and Legal Design (the application of the previous discipline to the legal sector) and design tools that are quite simple to use. In all the other experiences that a client has with a company (regardless of whether it is service provision (telecommunications, energy, health, insurance or banking) or sale of products (ecommerce, retail, etc.)), clients find quality or at least companies have the ambition to offer it (think of business brochures, instructions for use, customer service, after-sales service, etc.) and a pleasant treatment.
Yet why shouldn’t the legal experience (pre-contracts and contracts and the processes for its communication and signature) respond to the same standards? Haven’t we received enough evidence that neither clients, nor judges, nor legislators do not accept anymore our way of editing, signing and communicating the legal documents that binds us with the client? Have we lawyers not yet learned that our technical and academic language is not accepted either by one or by others? These new disciplines and technologies offer to us lawyers new exciting professional development opportunities. We can now acquire the new skills that our clients demand, and apply the existing technologies for digital generation and signing of contracts.
In conclusion, regardless of the fact that is good to be interested in the new technologies that are coming and that will most certainly transform not only our professions as we know them today, but also our legal system, we jurists have to assume asap a pressing task: understand the impact that technology has had in what our clients demand from us, and assume that we play a key role in the customer journey. Affordable disciplines and tools that could help us to do so are available at affordable prices and we should invest some time and energy in learning to work with them.
Let us keep a vivid eye on the technology of the (close) future such as AI and blockchain, but please let us start first with taking advantage of what the present is offering us: the disciplines of customer experience, design thinking and legal design, as well as the best technologies to manage contracts. They are all already here, accessible to all, developed theoretically and practically. Their use can impact in a direct and positive way in the degree of satisfaction of our customers and, therefore, in the outcome of our business. What are you waiting for to start learning and using them?
About the Author
María Jesús González-Espejo is Managing Director of Emprendelaw and Co-founder of the Instituto de Innovación Legal
Expert in corporate and professionals’ #branding and a lawyer passionate by #innovation and #legaltech. She has successfully built and position many corporate brands.
Founding partner at the Instituto de Innovación Legal and a managing partner at Emprendelaw a consultancy from which she advises many law firms and lawyers. She devoted the first half of her career to the practice of law, specializing in #IP, #DataProtection and #Contracts’ Drafting. Admitted to the Madrid bar in 1989. She practiced first as a solicitor at Clifford Chance and Gómez-Acebo & Pombo; and later as a corporate counsel in several companies. Author of several books on management of law firms and contributes frequently to professional media. She teaches in several universities and lectures frequently in conferences and workshops. She can work in English, French, Italian, Dutch and Catalan. Member of the board at ELTA, founding member of Madrid #LegalHackers and President of the Latin American Legal Professionals Women Association (AMJI).