LegalTech Careers: Getting into LegalTech & Legal Operations
Updated: Apr 2
A guest post by Henry Venmore-Rowland
LegalTech has come a long way since I joined Luminance in the spring of 2017. Back then we were having to educate the market about AI and contract review, explaining the merits of supervised and unsupervised machine learning, reassuring lawyers that we weren’t coming after their jobs and that in fact companies like ours would kickstart the proliferation of new roles, just as it did in the Industrial and Computing Revolutions.
For subscribers to Law School 2.0 I thought it might be helpful to break down some of the entry level roles to be found in the world of Legal Tech, and within that I also include the growing field of Legal Operations; you’ll see why if you persevere to the end of this article.
Legal Operations Graduate scheme/Training Contracts
As Law School 2.0 you probably know all about these anyway, but in case these have passed you by there are a growing number of law firms that are creating bespoke career paths for graduates who are enthused by the prospect of a role where law and technology are intertwined.
Clifford Chance, for example, has it’s IGNITE training contract where you will qualify as a solicitor but with two of your four rotations sat within the LegalTech Team. On the other hand there are an increasing number of schemes at firms like Allen & Overy, Macfarlanes, Eversheds Sutherland and Addleshaw Goddard that are for those who aren’t looking to qualify but instead are focussed on transformation and tech leadership within the firm. Finally there are firms like Norton Rose Fulbright whose Legal Operations graduates become a part of NRF Transform, a business arm that consults directly with the firm’s clients on innovation and tech implementation. Schemes like Law School 2.0 demonstrate to these firms’ recruiters that you are proven to developing your career in LegalTech. You can read about those on current schemes at NRF and others to discover more about them and what made them good hires for their firm.
Junior Legal Engineer
Legal Engineers are the ones who are using LegalTech tools (either ones developed internally or from a vendor) day to day in order to improve efficiency or deliver new solutions. Different law firms have different emphases for these roles, but for the most part they require some technical expertise. Some firms might require prior experience of using a certain vendor’s software if it’s integral to the role, or they may need particular coding skills, for example HTML or JSON. If you have the aptitude it’s no bad thing to start learning some coding languages. You may not want to become a full software developer but it will at least educate you on the art of the possible, helping you to spot legal or business processes that are ripe for automation. For a free general introduction there’s Harvard’ online course, Computer Science for Lawyers.
Innovation Executive/Solutions Assistant
While the Legal Engineer role tends to focus more on building tools and execution, Innovation or Solutions roles require more soft skills. Your firm may have the most cutting edge tools out there, but that’s no good if the lawyers don’t know how to use them, or don’t even know they exist. Some firms have a central Innovation team that serve all practice groups, others embed an Innovation team member into individual practice groups but at heart the role is the same: being an empathetic individual who can educate and drive adoption of new tools and processes amongst the lawyers, but also represent the lawyers’ needs and concerns back into the main Innovation unit. There is also scope for working with clients at some firms. For these roles, familiarity with the firm’s tech stack is always a plus, as is evidence of project management experience. Can you bring people with you and get things done? Then this sort of role may be a good fit for you.
Of course many LegalTech roles out there are not with law firms but LegalTech vendors. One of the most common roles for a graduate is that of a Business/Sales Development Representative. Other firms may use different names but the role tends to be pretty standard. BDRs are responsible for generating new business opportunities for their organization. They typically work to identify and nurture leads, qualify prospects, help shape solutions that meet customer needs, and support the sales team in closing deals. BDRs are responsible for researching potential customers, making outbound calls, sending emails and attending trade shows. They can also help to create content for marketing and sales materials, help to develop strategies for targeting new customers, and use their knowledge of the industry to build relationships with potential partners. The ultimate goal of a BDR is to enable their organization to acquire new customers through their efforts. For these roles employers like to find evidence of the candidate’s motivation and a competitive spirit, someone who wants to earn good commission and won’t be put off by the prospect of cold calling.
A Customer Success person is responsible for ensuring that customers are satisfied with their purchases and that they are getting the maximum value out of the products and services they have purchased. They work with customers to identify needs, develop strategies to meet those needs, and ensure that customers are getting the most out of their products and services. They may also provide technical support and troubleshooting, as well as work with product teams to develop new features and products. There are entry level roles out there in this disciple as employers will prize empathy over technical expertise, but familiarity with the vendor’s clients, their pain and problems, will make it easier for you to make your case for a Customer Success role
These roles are more rare at graduate level, but you may find them at LegalTech vendors or within those firms that build their solutions to then license out to their client base. The Big Four are increasingly moving in this direction as well. A good Product team member needs to be able to understand exactly the nature of the problem that the end user is trying to solve, gather requirements and take them back to the Tech team for them to build. Then there’s the matter of UI & UX (User Interface and User Experience) – is the solution going to be intuitive for the end user? Will they require a whole change in approach and a load of training before they can start to gain value from the product? If a solution is being built for more than one client, how do you balance the competing interests of one big FTSE 100 type asking for one development change versus twenty smaller firms who are all having the same problem? For these roles (and others) it will be helpful to be familiar with some of the workflow methodologies used by Legal Project Managers or Tech teams such as Prince2, Scrum, Lean Six Sigma et al.
Legal Operations Assistant
Also rare for now (in the UK) but growing all the time is the field of Legal Operations. As with many things, the trend began in Silicon Valley where the GCs at tech companies already had a wealth of product and development talent who could bring digital transformation to a team that was historically viewed as a cost centre. Many of these early Legal Ops roles has a focus towards eDiscovery given the level of litigation in the US, but Legal Operations as a function continues to broaden and reach more territories.
A Legal Operations leader is responsible for overseeing the operations of a legal department or firm. This includes managing the budget, tracking and analyzing data, coordinating legal projects, handling contracts and agreements, and ensuring compliance with legal regulations. They may also be responsible for ensuring the efficient use of technology in the legal department or firm and providing input into strategic decisions. A junior Legal Ops hire therefore will assistant the senior professional in all of these tasks. A legal background isn’t strictly necessarily for this role if you have an operational mindset and an interest in data science.
A Talent Platform
It's because of the proliferation of roles like these that Harrier Search was initially set up, but as an agency that relied on commission we tended to stay away from entry level roles. Now, we have launched a new service for everyone in LegalTech & Legal Ops, and we mean everyone. If you’re involved in the building, selling or use of LegalTech, or want to be, then our platform is for you. HarrierCandidates.com is an anonymised talent platform for the industry that helps candidates find out their worth but also be found by employers with live jobs to fill.
The platform is for active and passive candidates alike, as all who sign up can gain guest access to the platform and use over 30 search criteria to explore the market, and completely free to use. What skills does a Senior Legal Engineer have that a Junior Legal Engineer doesn’t? What’s the difference in salary between BDRs in London, Manchester or New York? How many years in the industry does your average Legal Operations professional have? More transparency in the market about salaries and skills can only be a good thing.
Your own profile will be anonymised, and no employer will ever be able to see their own employees in their own view of the platform. Nor will employers ever see your current salary, only your desired compensation. You self-rate how active or passive (or very passive or closed) you are in your job search which will impact how often an employer is in touch. If an employer does like the look of your profile for one of their roles, they’d click a ‘Request CV’ button. The Harrier team would then be in touch with you to tell you about the employer, the role and their hiring budget, it’s then for you to decide whether or not you’d like your anonymised CV to be shared (we anonymise them in order to facilitate blind hiring to help employers avoid unconscious bias in their talent identification). You’re in complete control of your data. We do also ask candidates to answer some questions around Diversity & Inclusion, but this is just for us to do generalised reporting to our clients, no candidate or employer will ever see this personal data.
We’re also running a prize draw and a referral scheme to encourage you to spread the word to your friends either in LegalTech/Legal Ops already or those who are looking to move into this field. Do please take a look at HarrierCandidates.com – all are welcome!