Yulia Barnes

Yulia Barnes

Founder and managing partner at Barnes Law

The role of lawyers is changing, according to the founder of Mayfair-based commercial firm Barnes Law, who explains the importance of understanding business needs for today’s practitioners to deliver impactful results.

The traditional role of the lawyer has undergone significant change in recent years, driven in no small part by the shifting economic climate and ongoing technological advancements.

Amidst continued economic uncertainty, businesses must ensure every penny spent on their company is working as hard as it can to deliver the maximum amount of value – and legal is no exception. Compound this with an increasingly crowded and competitive legal market, and lawyers are under pressure to differentiate themselves as trusted advisers to their client businesses.

Without a deep understanding of a client’s business, lawyers cannot form a full picture and offer the relevant and valuable advice from a legal perspective.

Taking a multi-disciplinary approach

While the traditional skills associated with the legal sector, such as analysis, communication and persuasion, will always be required, increasingly a multi-disciplinary approach across sectors such as business and technology has become necessary, with skill sets not traditionally associated with lawyers gaining increased importance.

If lawyers, and the legal sector as a whole, are to keep up with the shifting dynamics and demands of a competitive market, and continue delivering impactful results for clients, this inter-disciplinary approach is key to developing the skills and strategies needed to align with business needs.

Understanding the business

For in-house lawyers and external law firms alike, it’s key for them to possess a solid understanding of how the business makes money, and fundamentally operates as a company. Lawyers that understand these aspects of the business, from product portfolios to profit margins and other long-term strategies, can better tailor their legal advice and solutions.

Further, lawyers that are able to build this understanding of the dynamics of the business through high-quality client interaction are far better placed to position themselves and their activities as a driving factor for continued success and profit, rather than an additional financial cost to the company. Without this, lawyers place themselves at an immediate disadvantage to their competition when it comes to knowing where best to focus their legal expertise and services, potentially missing opportunities to add additional value for their client’s business.

Building relationships

The legal field is notorious for its high workloads and targets, but the value of building relationships with clients cannot be overstated, even if it often ends up taking a back seat to more pressing matters. Without investing time in getting close to a client, and by extension, the business, through regular communication and active listening, it becomes more difficult to align legal and business objectives.

With the role of the typical lawyer expanding to not only include solid legal advice and strategy, but also bringing value to the business overall, developing this business understanding through positive client relationships is key to increasing the strategic value of legal activities.

Impacts of technology

Continued advances in technology are transforming and disrupting the legal sector, with many lawyers already embracing the potential that technology brings. In addition to automating or streamlining many of the labour- and time-intensive tasks intrinsic to the legal profession - thus freeing lawyers to focus on more valuable work - technology also holds the potential to transform the way lawyers relate to both their clients and the business.

With businesses already making significant investment into technological developments to make their operations more efficient, it’s crucial that lawyers similarly embrace innovation if they are to keep pace.

Final thoughts: breaking down the legal silo

Without embracing the changing needs and demands of the clients they serve, lawyers risk siloing themselves and failing to properly align their work with the needs of the client, offering holistic solutions that integrate legal, technological and business needs.

Gearing this process towards not only the legal services lawyers can provide, but also long-lasting relationships with client businesses allows lawyers to embrace a changing role, taking a proactive rather than reactive approach as they anticipate the evolving needs of the business.


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