Helena Haapio is a lawyer, contract innovator at Lexpert Ltd, and a pioneer of the proactive approach where contracts...
George Siedel is the Williamson Family Professor of Business Administration and the Thurnau Professor of Business Law at the...
Daniel W. Linna Jr. has a joint appointment at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and McCormick School of Engineering...
What exactly is proactive law and how do lawyers use it? Law Technology Now host Dan Linna talks to Helena Haapio and George Siedel about how proactive law’s principles help lawyers practice both preventive and promotive law. They outline how this future-oriented approach uses legal knowledge to create value, strengthen relationships, and manage risks. To help listeners better understand, Helena and George give real-world examples illustrating its benefits and give strategies for bringing proactive law principles into any law firm or business.
Check out Helena and George’s two co-authored books:
Helena Haapio is a lawyer, a contract innovator at Lexpert Ltd, an Associate Professor of Business Law at the University of Vaasa, and a pioneer of the proactive approach where contracts and the law are seen as enablers rather than obstacles.
George Siedel is the Williamson Family Professor of Business Administration and the Thurnau Professor of Business Law at the University of Michigan.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Headnote.
Law Technology Now
Proactive Law: Improving Your Legal Service Delivery
Daniel Linna: Hello. This is Dan Linna. Welcome to Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. My guests today are Helena Haapio and George Siedel.
Helena is an Associate Professor of Business Law at the University of Vaasa, Finland and a Contract Innovator at Lexpert.
George is a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
Helena and George have written two books together, ‘Proactive Law for Managers: A Hidden Source of Competitive Advantage’ and ‘A Short Guide to Contract Risk’.
Helena and George, welcome to the show.
Helena Haapio: Thank you Dan.
George Siedel: Thank you Dan.
Daniel Linna: Well, before we get started, we want to thank our sponsor Headnote. Headnote helps lawyers get paid faster with their compliant e-payments and account receivables automation platform. To learn how to get paid quicker and more efficiently, visit them at headnote.com. That’s headnote.com.
All right, well, Helena and George, before we kind of jump into the substance of talking about proactive law and other things related to improving legal services, I would like to just share with our listeners a little bit about your background and your current work.
So Helena, you are joining us from Helsinki today this evening, for you, but could you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your work.
Helena Haapio: Yes Dan. My background really is in the corporate world. I used to work as an in-house counsel in a large manufacturing company, which was selling products all over the world, heavy engineering equipment, diesel engines and paper finishing equipment. So I guess I could say that my background is in heavy metal.
I got to work with engineers a lot and always I was part of a team. We were doing things together, mostly making cross-border contracts, and a big part of what I do now is applying what I learned then to business and academia.
So these days I share my time between the University of Vaasa and my own firm, Lexpert, being a lawyer and contract practitioner by day and a researcher, editor, writer by night.
Much of the work that I do is about better communication and helping businesspeople, helping lawyers make better decisions. Simpler contracts that work for — business contracts that are fit for purpose, that’s really my core topic and helping the parties reach their goals and avoid unnecessary problems.
When I went to the academia, I noticed that the voice of the in-house counsel was really missing from how law was taught, at least at that time at law school and even in executive education, so I decided that I get on a mission to change that and that’s how proactive law was born.
Then I had the good fortune of meeting George and finding allies on the other side of the Atlantic.
Daniel Linna: Well, thank you Helena. And George, can you do the same, you are dialing in from I would guess Ann Arbor today, but can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your current work.
George Siedel: Yes, I am dialing in from Ann Arbor. And after graduating from Michigan Law School and Cambridge, where Helena and I both studied graduate law at Cambridge University, I practiced law for a couple of years and then joined the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, where I taught business law, focusing on contracts and enterprise organization.
And after teaching at Ross for a while, I became Associate Dean. I did a lot of executive education teaching and what I discovered is that many of the executives I worked with strongly disliked lawyers and the legal system. They had a lot of complaints about lawyers except they always said well, my lawyer is my most trusted advisor; it’s just lawyers in general I don’t like.
And because of that experience I began to wonder why is it that executives and managers have such a negative viewpoint about lawyers, why do they just view law as a cost center. And I tried to turn their thinking upside down by focusing on how law is a great source of competitive advantage and a great source of value creation. And so that has been the focus of much of my recent work, how can you use law for value creation.
I have got a new book coming out, West Publishing is publishing it, on the linkage between strategy, law and ethics and how it is a key role in value creating.
Daniel Linna: Well, great. Well, I am really excited to jump into the conversation. As you both know, I have been using excerpts from your book on proactive law and some of the classes I have taught on innovation and technology, and I am really excited to share with our listeners a bit more about what is proactive law, and I think it’s left out of the discussion frequently, and when it is discussed, we tend to really just focus on preventing problems, which is a really important piece of this, not nearly enough work in my opinion is done out in the world on that piece of it.
But proactive law, as you describe it Helena and George, is actually — is more than just a preventive dimension, but can you tell us — just tell our listeners, I guess, give them an introduction to what is proactive law.
Helena Haapio: Proactive law was built on preventive law and for me the work of Louis Brown, who is the Father of Preventive Law, has been a great inspiration. He was a law professor, a US practitioner and he wrote already in the 50s about how we can prevent problems in the legal field, and when I found his work, I found my mission and my lawyer in life.
But as I was a corporate lawyer, it could really not be just about lawyers practicing preventive law, we had to shift the focus to the users and the engineers and project managers and work together with them as a team. So mostly with people who do not have legal training. And what we did, we added to the prevention of problems a future-oriented approach to law, where applying legal knowledge, legal skills to be applied early, helping to identify opportunities and prevent problems were equally important, because opportunities, we end people, other people, not just lawyers, they need to know how to take advantage of the opportunities and potential problems, so that those problems can be prevented.
So it’s not just about avoiding disputes and litigation, which is of course important, but we also seek ways to use the law to create value and strengthen relationships and manage risks.
For me as a contract lawyer, it’s really about finding a balance between business and law and business purpose of contracts and the legal purpose of contracts and then balancing precision and ease of use.
There is always this friction there, but we need to find, and we have found ways to do the balancing.
Daniel Linna: George, do you have anything you would like to add to that?
George Siedel: Well, just very quickly, and Helena has emphasized this in the past, there is sort of an analogy to health. Preventive law, developed by Louis Brown, is sort of like getting a vaccination to prevent a disease where the promotive aspect of proactive law focuses more on developing a healthy lifestyle in general, so you don’t have to focus on specific diseases.
And so this — we have discovered in our work that moving beyond preventative law can be very powerful, both on the transactional law front, but also in dealing with litigation, and there are many examples of the powerful effect of thinking more in a promotive sense than in a preventive sense.
Daniel Linna: Well, can you give us some examples of proactive law and ideally both on the promotive dimension and the preventive dimension?
Helena Haapio: The early applications were really in the field of contracting in the Nordics and proactive legal thinking actually can apply to any area of law, where law meets other professions and people who do not have a law degree. Maybe the areas that benefit the most would be transactions and contracts and intellectual property and then Dan, your fields; legal informatics and legal tech, legal design in particular.
There are so many aspects of law where we need to integrate legal requirements into the design of new systems and solutions and services. So these actually demand a future-oriented way of thinking about the law and a user-centered mindset as well, plus the willingness to work with other professions.
George Siedel: Yeah. And Helena has mentioned the transactional front in dealing with contracts, and on that front we both have worked with lean contracting, trying to shrink the size of contracts. Helena is an international expert on contract visualization and the impact of that work extends far beyond just creating a contract.
One of our friends has developed something called a Comic Book Contract; he is a South African lawyer, he was concerned that they had fruit pickers working on farms in South Africa who didn’t understand the contracts they were entering into. Even though he represented the other side, he represented the large farms. So he developed a visual comic book version of their contracts, and not only did it help formation of the contract, but it had tremendous effect in improving efficiency. There was a drop in employment law disputes, the training was reduced significantly; it used to take four hours to train the workers, that was reduced down to 45 minutes. So there were a lot of positive aspects in business.
And beyond the transactional front, even with litigation, proactive law has a lot of potential. On the preventive front, lawyers are very familiar with ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution, but now they are using ADR for deal making.
A recent survey indicated that about half of mediators are now using mediation for deal making. Litigation is also a tremendous source of value creation. When you think of all the information that is gathered through discovery in litigation, through depositions, there is a ton of information about company’s success buried in the discovery documents and depositions that can be very useful.
There is a Notre Dame law professor who has done a lot of work in this area, showing how litigation can — studying the work product from litigation can improve the quality of health care. So it’s both transactional and litigation, where proactively law has had a big impact.
Helena Haapio: Then there is the example of the GDPR in Europe, and in recent times we have had practitioners and researchers look at ways to better communicate privacy and obtain consent. So there is a collection going on of patterns that work and help people get a better idea. It’s not just about visualizing for pictures, it’s visualizing for insight and understanding and that’s where we are now.
The early days we are told were text-based, the contracts and memos and guidance documents, but now we have more options and it’s easier to work with hyperlinks and ways to organize information so that people find the right information at the time they need it.
And the thing we have been working with is the problems or challenges that readers of privacy notices or cookie terms and conditions or contracts, they just don’t want to read, and if they read, they don’t find what they want to find, and if they find it, then they don’t understand what they find and these sorts of challenges really, there are ways to respond to the challenges and with proactive law, merging it with legal design or information design, we have ways now that we can help people get those insights and understanding.
Daniel Linna: Well, I want to ask too, like kind of drill down in this even a little bit more and ask maybe some more concrete examples. Those are great and I like the example of talking about — like actually having some data and saying well, it takes four hours to train someone about managing a contractual relationship and you can get that down to 45 minutes let’s say with applying some of these methods.
I am really interested in if there are other examples that our listeners might like to hear about. Let’s say a general counsel say using some of these approaches, maybe litigation avoided, or even just the value which might be even harder to measure than litigation avoided, the value of someone in the business having a contract that they actually understand and rather than it just being something that they pull out of a file cabinet when there is litigation, that it can kind of be like a roadmap for how to govern the relationship.
Do either of you happen to have any other more concrete examples and better yet if it’s public of this company tried this approach and this is what they found to be the return on investment?
George Siedel: Well, right here in my backyard at the University of Michigan, we have a very large health care system, and historically the health care system used the traditional approach when somebody was accused of malpractice, they circled the wagons and they fought the malpractice claim.
And so a few years ago they decided to completely change their philosophy to more of a proactive approach, which is if we are accused of malpractice and if we decide we have committed malpractice, we are not going to fight it anymore. The way every other health system does still today. We are going to disclose that we made a mistake, we are going to tell the other side, we are going to apologize and we are going to offer a settlement.
So this had two major effects. Number one, it reduced the malpractice liability costs, but second, and to me I think this is even more important, it improved the quality of health care. It gave a transparency to the system. In the past if everybody has to defend a doctor who commits malpractice, people are reluctant to speak up and to suggest improvements.
Now, because of this change, the hospital system has concluded that hospital staff members, like nurses and operating rooms, who always 00:16:12 out to these surgeons, now they are willing to speak up and say hey, there is a way to improve this procedure and make suggestions.
So to me, that’s even more exciting than the reduction in malpractice claims, the opportunity to improve health care through the proactive approach.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, that’s a great example. Helena, I think you were going to jump in with an example as well.
Helena Haapio: Well, we have examples, not with figures right now yet, but we have made comparisons between contracts, the way they are now and then contracts the way they could be visualized, simplified, restructured, and the interviews show that readers or nonreaders, who are nonreaders, they really give better answers quickly. They can memorize the — what the obligations are in the contract and they are happier what they experience with the contract.
So we hope to be able to measure this and show some more results later, but right now we haven’t yet got to the research where we could prove how much savings or how much money this makes for the company. It’s clear that it cuts the time from getting to offer, to getting to billing and monies and negotiation time is cut, but the figures, we need more data to prove them.
Daniel Linna: Okay. Well, it sounds like there is a lot of interesting work going on and much more great work to happen.
George, one of the things I wanted to follow up with is, I know that you are very passionate about thinking — getting lawyers to think about how they can add greater value with their legal knowledge, but the way a lot of these innovation discussions are framed, sometimes lawyers can get feeling a little bit like we are making the lawyer less and less important.
And it doesn’t mean the lawyer is less important when we are empowering end users and consumers and the people who need law, but there — and getting lawyers excited about the additional opportunities to add value as the lawyer. Can you kind of speak to that a little bit more?
George Siedel: Well, that’s been my biggest frustration. I think law practice is so oriented toward risk management and legal risk management is so important, is so critical to the success of a business that it’s hard to get people to move beyond that. There have been several studies recently that have said that actually legal risk is the most important risk facing large companies.
So given that mindset, it’s hard to get people to focus on an entirely new way of thinking. We have got all of these legal resources, why aren’t we using the legal resources to create value.
Let me give you a very simple example of what lawyers aren’t doing. If your company makes products and you have come up with a new product, you have a pretty set procedure for how you deal with product liability risks. Lawyers try to identify all foreseeable uses of the product. They then try to determine if any of those uses carry risks, and then they either redesign or they develop warnings. So that’s a classic product liability process.
But there is a lot of low-hanging fruit with that process, because when the lawyers go through this process of identifying foreseeable uses, what they are really saying is these are all the uses that customers are making of our product for — reasons for which it wasn’t intended. Now, why are they using the product for these uses? Because they don’t have other products that could better serve their needs.
And so what we have here, lawyers without realizing it have done a lot of great consumer research on the needs of customers and if somehow they could bring this great data to their new product development folks, I think people would start to view them, not just as a cost center, but as a value creation center.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. Helena, did you have anything that you wanted to add to that?
Helena Haapio: I would like to look at contracts as the product and we lawyers could make new products of our contracts, knowing that people in the field, if we have a project, contract IT or other services contracts running for a long time, then we first translate the parties’ intentions to the contract, and then the people, delivery people, operational people in the field and the project managers try to translate those obligations into task lists and work breakdown structures and they try to visualize the contract or summarize the obligations and they use various tools for doing so.
But what if we as lawyers would do that at the time when the contract is proposed or developed and crafted. We could use those tools and build them in and make them mutual tools for both parties, so they would agree and there would not be distranslation on both sides of maybe different understandings of what the contract requires at what time.
So timelines and swimlanes and flowcharts and that type of tools, which we have been working on, could be incorporated or embedded in the contracts and help the parties get a mutual understanding faster, and then also stick to what the original intention is when people change from sales to project to delivery management for example.
So summaries, term sheets, these types of new tools or old tools, but we don’t always use, we might want to refresh and take in to use more often.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. And I love those thoughts because we spend a lot of effort right now in law practice and we are spending a lot of effort right now in legal technology thinking about, well, we have these monstrosities of contracts, how do we understand what’s there after the fact and what if we spent more time recognizing the needs and as lawyers integrating some of this from the beginning. There are so many opportunities around that, including with design a lot of the work that you are both doing and thinking about proactive law.
Well, I want to also talk a little bit about how lawyers and businesses can successfully integrate some of these disciplines into their businesses and practices, but before that, before we continue our interview with Helena Haapio and George Siedel, we are going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsor.
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Daniel Linna: And we are back. Thank you for joining us. We are with Helena Haapio, Associate Professor of Business Law at the University of Vaasa, Finland and a Contract Innovator at Lexpert, and George Siedel, Professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and we have been talking about proactive law.
And Helena and George, I want to ask you about, in your books and your work you talk — and you work closely with the IACCM, the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management and you have pointed to some research that shows there is a real disconnect between the contract terms that lawyers spend time negotiating and the terms that their business clients actually care about most.
Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Helena Haapio: Yes. The IACCM, it’s a global association with more than 60,000 members all over the world, and for years they have been doing surveys among their membership asking them what terms are negotiated the most, and year after year guess which terms have been topping the list. It has been limitation of liability and indemnities and only then price — price changes, charges and that sort of thing.
Now obviously when they ask people what should be topping the list and what is really important for the business, then the answer would be completely different. They would say topics such as scope and goals and roles and responsibilities of the parties would have to come to the fore.
And we have asked ourselves, is it really that we as lawyers, are we focusing on the matters that work and are important for our clients internal and external clients and what could we do to focus on the things that matter.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, well, George, do you have anything to add to that. I mean, why is there this disconnect and how do we as lawyers get to a point where we better understand what our clients really need, our business clients.
George Siedel: Well, I think it goes back to this notion that the main purpose of a lawyer is risk management and so there’s a lot of attention paid to risk management clauses, limitation of liability, indemnification, service levels and warranties, et cetera and less attention paid to the actual business side of the contract, the scope and goals, parties’ responsibilities, delivery, acceptance, et cetera.
And the sad thing is that because of this emphasis on risk management, a lot of times these clauses are rarely, if ever, put into effect so a lot of time in negotiation is spent on these clauses that are eventually going to have very little impact and that delays negotiation. It delays the opportunity to start making profits and for the contract to actually create value as a business document as opposed to a legal document.
Helena Haapio: And this is really also the question is interesting for those who work with smart contracts or computable contracts because not often do they ask what the purpose of the contract is and I see really a focus on legal enforcement and then I wonder is it really suing the other party or protection if the other party sues us and allocating risks that wouldn’t be really the main reason for having a contract.
The parties, they don’t want to go to court and I do not want to have complexity. They hardly care really about enforceability or validly as much as they care about the performance they expect. So why do they have contracts and what do we lawyers what do we think of is it really a source of trouble and reputation that we have in the contract or is it rather a way of getting things done.
And for businesspeople, a contract should be a framework for successful business outcomes and it would be about performance management or providing operational guidance and we could do a better job helping them use contracts for those purposes and make contracts fit for purpose.
Daniel Linna: Well, let’s shift to thinking about how we can help lawyers and then businesspeople as well, and so, let’s talk separately about thinking if you’re the general counsel in a company, how might you go about introducing proactive law principles into your company to improve — well to improve legal services delivery but also improve the bottom line for the business.
And then I’d like to after that talk about if you’re in an outside law firm, how you might be thinking about proactive law as a way to add value for your clients. But let’s start first I guess like thinking internally, you’re the general counsel or a lawyer for the company, how might you be successful in adopting proactive law principles.
George Siedel: Well, first of all, I think lawyers currently have a lot of leverage because according to recent surveys, companies are more interested than ever in having lawyers in the C-suite and seeking lawyers’ advice on strategic issues. So that’s a great leap forward.
I think companies realize how valuable the advice through general counsel is. The downside of that is that advice still focuses on risk management, which is the traditional and very valuable role of a lawyer. I think that lawyers should exercise more of a business advice function.
There was a recent American Bar Association study about the skills that law schools should be teaching and that the skills that a business lawyer should have and they focused on traditional business functions like business lawyers should understand finance and accounting and marketing.
And that’s all — I think that’s all very necessary to give sound legal advice, but what’s missing from that ABA report is the need for leadership training, the lead for training and change management, the lead for training in teamwork. Those skills were completely ignored and I think those are all necessary for value creation because it’s necessary for lawyers to work in teams with managers in order to create value.
So I hope that number one, law schools become much more active in offering leadership courses for law students and relating it to the law of course, but given them a leadership perspective, and then number two, firms should be more active in training to change the mindset of their lawyers, not to diminish the important risk management work they do, but to ask also how can we create value from this legal knowledge that we have obtained?
And then in doing so, I think they’ll change the mentality of business leaders. They’ll view the law department as more than a cost center and trying to start to treat it as a value creation center.
Daniel Linna: What would that training look like do you think? If let’s say, you’re inside of a law firm and you recognize the need for this — I mean what would you, where would you suggest that someone in the Professional Development Department begin?
George Siedel: Well, all of the top business schools offer executive education which focus — and leadership is a big focus of a lot of their programs. Of course, they can pick up the business functional skills too like accounting and finance and marketing, but they can definitely obtain leadership training from the business schools.
There are a lot of consultants who teach in these business schools, who would be willing to come into a firm and customize. I think all the schools offer this type of training.
Daniel Linna: So, Helena, you were in a corporate legal department for some time and how did you try implementing some of these principles and what would you say to some of our listeners who are in corporations about thinking about how to take what you and George are talking about and actually get started with it and have some success using proactive law approaches?
Helena Haapio: I would really encourage people to attend IACCM’s workshops or classes online or offline and meet people from the field, meet people from different professions and learn to listen and communicate in ways people who do not have a law degree, how they do business and how they talk and try to adjust our messages, so it works in their language.
I think the best thing that I have learned working with engineers is that they ask you, now, why is this important, why is your clause or why is your law important? So really starting to learn to communicate why things matter and what matters the most and learn to collaborate with other people, and for this, we have together with the IACCM Stefania Passera and myself, we have developed a pattern library.
This is now on contracts, but it’s a contract design pattern library. It’s free, it’s open access, so if you’re interested you can go to the IACCM website or do a Google search on the pattern library and there we have ways how we can present our messages, be a memo or advice in our case it’s now contracts, how we can reorganize, restructure those things and layer the information so that people really see what is important for them and using those patterns and seeing contracts and our communications through the users’ eyes, the business’ eyes, I think that helps because they are not lawyers, so they are not really interested in what we have to say unless we make it clear why it matters for them.
George Siedel: I strongly endorse that. Helena has made a tremendous leap forward in creating that library. If I could just put in a pitch for a free resource also, I’m a longtime member of the American Bar Association Business Law Section and I recently did an article for their publication business law today in called Leadership Competencies for Business Lawyers.
And it’s built on this ABA report and it talks about the competencies, it talks about how lawyers can link strategy, law and ethics, which is the focus of the leadership — required leadership course at Harvard Business School.
So it gets sort of a framework for moving into more of a leadership mode if people just Google “Siedel” and “Business Law Today” that article will pop right up, and it’s not a long Law Review article, it’s more of the practice-oriented article.
Daniel Linna: Well, thank you for suggesting that resource, George. One of the things that is also interesting to me about this research and where I still haven’t seen a lot happen is not just in the corporate business setting but also — and then there’s been a little bit that’s happened around this, but we have a huge access to legal services crisis really around the globe and in the US.
The estimates are about 80% of the impoverished and half of the middle class lack access to legal services, and well, Jeff Carr is a big proponent in the business space. He talks about the best problem is this, the one you never have and trying to get lawyers more to focus on that and I just — so how much are you familiar with other efforts to think about taking what you’ve done with proactive law and your research there and then get more people in the access to legal service’s space to think about how we can focus more on prevention in that space as well?
Helena Haapio: Yes, Dan, the Legal Design Alliance, that was founded last year is one network of lawyers, academics, business practitioners, researchers and practitioners who are doing just that, and it’s not just about information design, it’s about designing better services, better legal services, better solutions and better access to justice.
So I would encourage people to go and look for the Legal Design Alliance web pages and find the resources and tools and there will be more in future and joining is free. It’s a virtual network and a platform for changing thoughts and ideas with like-minded people who believe in preventing and resolving legal problems in new and more innovative ways, human-centered ways.
Daniel Linna: George, I would — I want to follow up and try to tie that question to your prior response as well and one of my observations has been that I agree with you completely about not doing enough to teach about leadership in law school and one of my observations is, is I find it very important for big law practice, for corporate legal practice, but I think also just on the social aspect and it’s of course and I’m here at Northwestern now, I’ve been previously at the University of Michigan at Michigan State.
A lot of people come to law school because they want to make a big difference in the world, they want to have an impact and I think too many students kind of feel like, well, okay, after some time in law school, I’ve learned a lot of law, my head has been filled with law, but I’m not sure how to have an impact in the world.
How to really cause change and to me a lot of the leadership principles you’re talking about or are just even things like project management I think is an area where, to me it’s a really important set of tools to be effective in solving not just problems for business clients, but if you want to have an impact in the world and solve big social problems as well. I mean, would you agree with that — that leadership is important not just in this business setting but in all these areas?
George Siedel: Oh absolutely. One of my research assistants at Michigan met with me a couple years ago, she came into my office, she said just had a interview with a law firm and all they wanted to know was whether I was business savvy, and so I took that message over to our law school dean and met with him and we realized, we needed more courses of the type you described.
Project Management has been a very important course, for example, along with the other business topics, but the other piece of it just to circle back from an example I gave earlier, I agree with you, students are more socially minded and think of that comic book example, where we have this lawyer who represents large South African farmers, rich farmers who has a very strong concern about the workers, who are really on the other side of the contract negotiations.
And so he uses his legal skills to help them understand contracts, developing the graphic contracts, and then in turn that feeds back to the farmers who benefit because it reduces training, it reduces employment disputes. So there’s an example of the lawyer who is very socially conscious and he spent a lot of his own money by the way developing these contracts to help the workers who for the most part did not even know how to read.
And so there are lots of opportunities for law schools to increase the education of socially minded lawyers but also even using traditional legal tools to develop something like the comic book contracts.
Daniel Linna: Well, this is so interesting, I love this topic and I’m so thankful that you’re spending the time to chat with me and with our listeners today. I do want to ask just we’re winding up here but one kind of like a broader question and it’s something that I think both of you have thought about a bit more than maybe most people in the US especially you, Helena, it being based in Finland but we’re seeing really this move into a multidisciplinary approach to delivering legal services and markets like the UK, Australia, Singapore have had fewer barriers than most countries including the US.
And now in the US, we’re seeing states like California, Utah, Arizona moving towards loosening regulations, and of course even without the loosening of these regulations, we’ve been seeing an evolution in the marketplace. We have alternative legal service providers, legal process outsourcing, the big four getting involved in the legal supply chain in different ways.
With the way that the landscape is evolving like this, what do you think we’ll be asking lawyers to be able to do in the future and then how does that relate to the training we ought to be giving them? And then, I guess you’ve all talked a little bit about the training but I think so specifically what kind of new things do you think lawyers ought to be thinking about doing in their practices?
Helena Haapio: I would begin with looking at our work products through the eyes of the user, the client, and I believe in simplification. So I would encourage law schools and law students not just to learn the law but learn how to communicate the law in ways that make sense for the people, who are expected to comply and follow the contracts and laws. So I would really look at ways in which design and simplification can help us.
Daniel Linna: George, what are your thoughts on that?
George Siedel: I agree entirely with Helena. I think it’s going to be more important than ever given the way the train is moving down the tracks with this multidisciplinary approach, more important than ever for lawyers to be able to work with team members from other disciplines, be able to evaluate their advice, be able to communicate with them.
And so that goes back to the importance of their legal education and education broadly defined not just the disciplinary areas like accounting and finance, but also teaching them teamwork, change management, social capital, how to build social capital, et cetera
I was recently talking with a close friend who’s a finance professor at Chicago who also teaches a finance course in the Chicago Law School, is it the Chicago Business School but he teaches in the law school and so he uses the business school approach in law school and he commented about how valuable the students thought the exposure to team-based assignments was, which they don’t — I’m not picking that in Chicago, it’s any leading law school, it’s still very much an individual endeavor. And so developing those team skills that the students appreciated it and I think it’s going to play an important role down the road for them.
Daniel Linna: Well, one of the things I’d like to ask you each about that just as I’m on board with that completely and I think a growing number of deans in law schools and others and practicing lawyers are on board with that, but it still seems like there’s a majority of lawyers who think, well, that’s business school stuff and that leadership, oh, you either have it or you don’t, you’re either a leader, you are not or the management.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me, oh, project management, that’s common sense, and it drives me crazy, but I don’t know, George, you probably have experience try answering those kind of questions.
George Siedel: Well, yeah, it’s a big hurdle unless people actually understand what’s being taught in the courses just to dismiss project management is common sense, it’s sad, really, maybe the way it’s taught by some people it might be, but I think that kind of assessment should be knowledgeable and they should at least try out the courses and see what the experience of the law students is.
So that again going back to the comment of my legal researcher, the law student I hired as a research assistant but people are now interested in lawyers who not only have the traditional legal education but they’re also business savvy.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, Helena, do you see views changing on that, there’s more acceptance of training in these disciplines?
Helena Haapio: I see a growing movement around legal design and contract design and I believe it’s a good thing and it’s very good if we can merge legal tech, legal design, and proactive law.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, I agree if you can put it. I think there are tons of opportunities in this space. It’s discussed not nearly frequently enough, it’s something that I hear people talking about the preventive side, and so, I’m glad you were able to — both of you Helena and George, able to join us today so we could talk about this and share some of this with our listeners and get them excited about thinking about where they can start.
And to that point, I’d like you both to just share how our listeners might be able to reach out to you if they have questions for you. Helena, what is the best way to contact you?
Helena Haapio: Email and then there are resources at the IACCM website as well, so I will be happy to be in touch if you want to.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, and I should have mentioned, Helena, that you’re one of the coordinators for the large Legal Design event in Helsinki, well just tell us briefly I guess about that.
Helena Haapio: This has really been a student-led initiative and I have been a founder of the Legal Design Alliance so we are the platform for people who want to get into the group of like-minded folks and students and volunteers have been putting together legal design summits in Helsinki for three times now.
The last event was last week and it had more than 500 people in the City Hall of Helsinki from more than 30 countries, so it’s really a growing movement, and it shows that if the law school doesn’t do it then the students can do it and will do it, and that’s great.
Daniel Linna: Yeah, yeah a lot of energy and excitement around that. George, if people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way?
George Siedel: Two ways, Dan, by email, but also there’s a new development in education called the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) and I’ve done two of them, one is on negotiation, they’re free. I was shocked by the interest. So far 750,000 people have joined my course including many lawyers.
And then second, I have done a course specifically on the linkage between law strategy and ethics based on the Harvard leadership course. So to get free access to these courses just type Coursera and Siedel and those courses will pop up right away, it just takes a couple seconds to sign on, no financial obligation to take them and I hope that they’ll be beneficial to people who are interested in those topics.
Daniel Linna: Well, that’s great both of you for creating these public resources and sharing your knowledge was such a broad audience, really that’s wonderful, and thank you again, Helena Haapio and George Siedel, for joining us today.
Helena Haapio: Thank you Dan!
George Siedel: Thank you Dan!
Daniel Linna: This has been another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. Please take a minute to subscribe and rate us in Apple podcasts and Google podcasts. You can find me on Twitter @DanLinna. Please follow me, re-tweet links to this episode and join the legal innovation and technology discussion online. And join us next time for another edition of Law Technology Now.
I’m Dan Linna, signing off.
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