This interview was originally published on the Future Law Innovation Programme launched by Singapore Academy of Law. To see the original article, you may click here.
What is a ‘Lawpreneur’?
Wanting to define the term ‘Lawpreneur’ is very lawyer-like, and so understandable.
Do lawyers not all start drafting a contract by defining the major terms? First of all, Lawpreneur is the obvious merging of the terms law and entrepreneur. Attempting to define the term Lawpreneur is like wanting to put a lot of possible configurations into a one-concept mould.
Instead, here’s how I define it: a Lawpreneur is any person who has an appetence for a law and entrepreneurship mindset, be it setting up a law-related business or becoming a so-called intrapreneur in such businesses. The main essence of a Lawpreneur is to go counter-intuitive (and yet pragmatic) to the legal mainstream, that is, by refusing to limit himself/ herself to a narrow path.
How can lawyers get to their ‘essence’? What does that mean?
A distinction needs to be made between the characteristics that a job requires from a person – such as a lawyer – and the essence of you as a person. Sometimes, some of these coincide but sometimes they do not. The more it coincides, the more people tend to love their job, which is great. On the parts that do not coincide, the question becomes – which comes first?
In my opinion, you need to connect to what is your essence as a person outside your job, with family and friends etc., and try to integrate these into your job. It comes down to connect to what is your natural assets, without you having to think of it and putting much effort, and how you can best put these assets into use in the legal sector you are in.
The more there is an alignment between who you are as a person and what the role of a lawyer requires from you, the better it is for you and the profession. It boils back to embracing our true nature for the benefit of self and the collective.
What are some of the challenges the legal community needs to overcome to get there?
I’d be tempted to ask “where is there?”.
It’s actually a key question. If one does not define clearly where one wants to go, the risk is to spend a lot of time, energy and efforts in doing things which will likely not please everybody and it can quickly be daunting. Defining for oneself the destination (where is there?) first seems key.
The legal community is a group that needs to work together but we are at a phase where it – finally – has a chance to redefine itself and where it wants to go. Approaching it from a “need to” perspective, the community would be adapting to an ideal, leaving behind the individual dreams and creative cravings of lawyers.
Being a lawyer is a beautiful profession. Personally, I enjoyed it a lot and it gave me so much, yet I left it because I felt there was not much room to be “different”. Me being different was welcomed to some extent but it still was expected of me to follow the traditional path set by the firm and/or the Bar Association.
We finally reached a point where business, society and technology require a change from the law profession. Now is the best time to individually ask ourselves what do we really want: if there were no limitations and restrictions, how would we envision the legal profession? It is our responsibility to be co-creators of this change by asking ourselves instead of waiting for organisations and/or legislators to tell us what we want to be, taking the risk instead of later complaining how it does not match what we want.
We need to take ownership in the inadequacy created which led to the need to change and in the creation of what we feel the legal profession needs to become.
These needs to be asked on different layers in the following order: individually, as a professional and as part of society. By collecting the individual opinions, clusters of common ideas would emerge and be representative of what most in the profession want, and then it can be adapted to what society needs.
It is true that it is a tremendous task and responsibility. If individually, lawyers run away from voicing out what they want in the future, they might take the risk of missing out this great opportunity to re-create their profession.
What are some of the skills / assets the legal community needs to develop to get there?
The legal profession has mainly been focusing on knowledge up until now: from general legal knowledge to specializations. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making the competition around knowledge less of a key factor. I am not saying lawyers no longer need to have knowledge, but AI will beat any lawyer on pure knowledge any time. Anyone doubting this is partially in denial.
Where AI cannot, yet, replace a lawyer is everything in our profession that lays beyond pure knowledge. Knowledge is the intellectual force. Lawyers are humans. We are more than just a brain: we have our bodies and feelings. When we analyse and set up a strategy, we put those two into use. A software cannot use a handshake or eye contact to induce trust. It cannot sense the right time where silence is worth more than a thousand words.
To some extent, we need to reconnect to the origins of the lawyer’s profession – we advise and counsel our clients in their best interests with the best of all our capabilities. Somewhere along the way, we started to believe it is mainly about the intellectual logic of things while we are humans. Pride, ego, competition, dreams, hope, faith; all these non-intellectual things play a key role in business, society and our legal work.
I truly believe the future of lawyers lies in developing the skill sets in assessing and integrating these non-intellectual elements in our profession. That is where we can have an advantage over AI and that is where AI can complement our daily operations: let AI be of service to lawyers in crunching the data, and let us use it in the best form possible for the client’s best interest.
Carina Rogerio is the Managing Director and Founder of SeeAre. She became Partner and Head of the French Desk in an international law firm in less than 5 years, during which she got certified and accredited as Mediator and Executive Coach. Carina made it part of her professional journey to pass forward, encompass the thirst for lifelong learning and the thrill of challenging the existing for the pursuit of betterment in all that is. She is now an advocate of nourishing a curious mind.