Establishing the role of a legal engineer in firms could help bridge the gap between lawyers and the IT department, and help lawyers and clients get the best out of technology.
Speaking at the Janders Dean Legal Horizons Conference earlier this week, Stewart Rasmussen, head of client services APAC at HighQ, said employing a legal engineer can help lawyers to see the IT team as more than the people who simply “keep the lights on”.
“The role of the IT department has never been more important,” Mr Rasmussen said.
“The IT department is even more relevant than it ever used to be and [the legal engineer role] is newish.”
A legal engineer, also known as legal knowledge engineer or legal innovator among other titles, has three faces, according to Mr Rasmussen – a lawyer face, a client face and a tech face.
First is their lawyer face.
“They communicate with the partners, they have relationships across the firm and they are attending meetings with the partners,” he said.
“It’s important because the legal engineer’s purpose is to then be able to interpret all of that back to the technical piece of the project.”
Secondly, legal engineers should be placed in front of clients.
“The purpose of a legal engineer is to have them float between the client and the law firm."
“To go and spend time and understand the company, understand their culture, understand how they do business, so that they can then interpret that back to the partnership, interpret it back to the project, interpret that back to the tender.”
Lastly, where the legal engineer is really beneficial is through their technology face.
“Technology is only a piece of the project but it's more and more becoming a pretty important avenue for lawyers to give services out to their clients,” Mr Rasmussen said.
“I’m sure that everybody has lost tenders to firms on something as simple as a piece of technology that one firm offers that the other didn’t.”
Overall, having a legal engineer should help lawyers get the most out of the IT department and the technology available to them to benefit clients, according to Mr Rasmussen.
“So the legal engineer should be involved from the start of that tender process to the end of the tender process. They interpret the lawyer speak and the tech speak and they kind of just float,” he said.
“They’re a floater in your firm and that’s the role that I’m seeing becoming more and more important in firms. If you’re not doing it, I think you should.”
Communication is key
Mr Rasmussen said by opening up the communication lines in relation to technology, lawyers are more likely to embrace change than shy away from it.
“A lot of people sit in dark rooms worried about it, and leadership and management really need to let people know that it’s okay to talk about if they feel threatened, talk about if they feel irrelevant in the firm, ask for help and ask if they can be learning something else,” he said.
“Really, leadership needs to make it be okay to talk about it.”