Kirsten Maslen at Thomson Reuters on the advent of the new 'D-shaped' lawyer

The last 10 years have seen a shift in how legal services are delivered as the market becomes more data-driven, transparent and fragmented, according to Kirsten Maslen, director of small law and academic at Thomson Reuters.

With the power on the ‘buy’ side, what skills and attributes must a lawyer have to keep clients happy? If clients are unhappy, it’s often not about price. Maslen cites a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters a few years ago, where close to half of 100 general counsel surveyed had changed their legal advisers in the previous year. The main reason? “They felt that the law firms did not understand their business,” she says.


So, what do clients want from lawyers? The dominant model used to be the ‘I-shaped’ lawyer, who had deep expertise in legal practice and legal skills. For this traditional lawyer, skills beyond legal were considered secondary and, from a client point of view, perhaps unnecessary.

Then, in 2014, legal solutions architect Amani Smathers introduced us to the ‘T-shaped lawyer’. “The T-shaped lawyer has all the legal expertise of the I-shaped lawyer, in addition to competencies in technology and business, such as process improvement, data analytics and project management,” says Maslen.

It’s difficult to imagine a modern legal practice that doesn’t, in some form or another, rely on legal tech. So, it’s no surprise that the T-shape is the dominant model of the ideal lawyer in 2019, especially in larger firms. However, as Maslen points out, the market is moving towards strategic partnerships between lawyers and clients. They collaborate more with each other.

In other words, the T-shaped lawyer might just be obsolete.

This article was first published in the October 2019 issue of LPM 'Process apping' click to read the full article

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