We talk with Troutman Pepper’s Andrew Medeiros about the rise of legal engineering in law firms, outlining the key skills required by legal engineers and the importance of problem-solving, tinkering, client orientation, and collaboration to develop innovative and efficient legal solutions.
In today’s rapidly changing legal landscape, law firms are under increasing pressure to digitize their services, expand their service offerings, and provide cost certainty to clients. As a result, leading firms have turned to legal engineers to bridge the gap between legal expertise, software, and service delivery.
Andrew Medeiros, Director of Innovation Solutions at Troutman Pepper, is a leading expert in the field of legal engineering. In a recent conversation with BRYTER CEO Michael Grupp, Andrew shared his insights on the rise of legal engineering in law firms, the ideal skillset of a legal engineer, and what aspiring legal engineers must know to be successful.
Here are three key takeaways from our conversation with Andrew.
1. Not all legal engineers have legal backgrounds
One common misconception about legal engineering is that all legal engineers have formal legal training. However, Andrew noted that many legal engineers come from different fields such as software engineering, data science, or even marketing.
According to Andrew, the most important quality of a legal engineer is their creative problem-solving ability. “I’m looking for people who can solve problems,” he says. “Our attorneys come to us with a challenge and say our client needs to get somewhere, and we need to figure out how we get there. The technology, in my opinion, is actually last in terms of importance. First, it’s solving the problem. Second, it’s providing good service because we’re a customer service organization as a firm, and as an Innovation Solutions Team within a firm.”
While an understanding of relevant legal processes and how they function is imperative, that doesn’t necessarily mean being a trained lawyer. An understanding of law can come from collaboration with subject matter experts, or experience in solving legal problems. On Andrew’s team, only three out of eight are trained attorneys. The rest came from other areas: Helpdesks, marketing tech, doc automation, and some people with no prior legal experience whatsoever.
Core skills of a legal engineer
When asked to outline the must-have skills of a legal engineer, Andrew named four things:
- Customer service
- Technical acumen
- Some legal experience or understanding of legal processes
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2. Legal engineers need to be comfortable with tinkering and problem-solving
In our conversation, Andrew emphasized the importance of tinkering and problem-solving. He suggests that legal engineers must be able to identify problems, develop solutions, and implement them in the most efficient way possible. That means experimenting, becoming comfortable with uncertainty, and being able to work through complex problems.
Andrew suggests this approach for aspiring legal engineers: “Start doing things that are interesting to you, that matter to you. Start learning about the technology that’s involved. Start learning about areas of law that are interesting to you and just start tinkering, start building little things that solve problems that you find interesting.”
Legal engineers must be willing to experiment with different solutions, test them, and refine them repeatedly. They must be able to work collaboratively with other professionals to develop new solutions and approaches. Andrew elaborates on this point, saying, “Of the tech skills, coding is the last. We’re more concerned with ‘Can you read through documentation and figure out how to use a product? Can you break things and figure out how to fix them?’”
3. Legal engineering, like all legal services, is fundamentally client-oriented
Legal engineering, like law itself, is a client-oriented field. Andrew notes that “You’ve got to be reacting to the market and providing good service so that your clients come back to you.”
That means that legal engineers must be able to communicate effectively with clients and other stakeholders. They must be able to explain complex legal concepts in a way that is easy to understand. They must also be able to work collaboratively with other professionals to develop solutions and approaches that meet the needs of their clients and are up to the standards of the firm.
Andrew highlights the importance of designing solutions that cater to the client’s needs, stating, “We need to understand what the client is actually looking to achieve and not just assume that we know what they need. Our clients want something that’s going to work for them.” For instance, if a client is seeking a solution to serve a specific industry, the legal engineer should not only have experience in that area but also be able to customize the solution to the client’s specific needs.
Legal engineering has the potential to improve access to justice, reduce time spent on tedious work, and improve outcomes for law firms and clients alike. To take on the challenge before them, legal engineers need to have creativity, technical acumen, some legal experience or understanding of legal processes, and above all, excellent customer service skills.
As the legal industry continues to evolve and technology continues to advance, legal engineers will be at the forefront of driving innovation and transformation.