Law firms are like professional sports teams in one critical respect: they pay a premium for top talent. Until now, that premium has gone to new graduates with the best grades and lateral lawyers with the best books of business. Unfortunately, this overly narrow view of talent has been a costly mistake. Instead of focusing on academic pedigree or client numbers alone, firms should be focusing on a specific capability: being trilingual.
While speaking a variety of languages is life enriching, SmartLaw* has clear business reasons for requiring its personnel to speak three specific languages:
A command of the language of law is the one capability for which law firms have always hired. This one is obvious if you actually want to deliver legal services. However, speaking “legal” is not enough. It equips you to create legal services, but it does not help you do so cost-effectively or in a way that actually connects with clients. That’s where the other two languages come into play.
Speaking “client” means the ability to hear what your client is telling you and to interpret those words from the perspective of that client rather than merely from the perspective of that client’s outside counsel. This empathetic knowledge goes way beyond Google Translate (if, in fact, Google Translate could handle it!) to a deep understanding of the needs and aspirations behind the words. This is a language you learn best by being the client or by walking in the client’s shoes for many miles.
Speaking “technology” means more than just operating digitally. It means understanding the array and logic of the digital resources available. It means an openness to rethinking the way you work so that you can take advantage of the rich possibilities of those digital resources. And, above all, it means being willing to create safe-fail experiments that allow you to try new things as you explore novel ways of working. Without this willingness to experiment, you can never improve and you most certainly will not speak technology well.
It should go without saying that this trilingual capacity is not a requirement limited to lawyers. In a SmartLaw firm, all personnel will be trilingual and respected for it. When everyone in the firm has native ability in these three languages, then your firm is ready for the future of legal services.
*This post is excerpted from HighQ’s ebook: SmartLaw: Expert insights for the future of law. Download the whole ebook here.
[Photo Credit: Dog Madic]