Legal engineers play an increasingly important role in law firms and businesses. But what is a legal engineer, do you need one, and how can you become one? Let’s find out.
What is a legal engineer?
A legal engineer is someone that supports legal teams with the design, troubleshooting, and implementation of technology as it relates to legal processes.
Legal engineering combines thinking from legal design, data science, and engineering to transform the delivery of legal services internally and for clients.
Also sometimes known as a legal technologist, a legal engineer has both legal and technological expertise, making them well-equipped to:
- Understand legal problems and processes
- Design tech-based solutions to these problems
- Implement and instruct on these solutions
The concept of a legal engineer was first coined in Richard Susskind’s book The End of Lawyers? where he described the growing need for law firms to hire individuals with both legal and technological knowledge. Susskind believed that a legal engineer could bridge the traditional gap between law and technology for better, more efficient processes.
This understanding has largely shaped what the role of a legal engineer looks like today.
What does a legal engineer do?
Being a legal engineer involves finding creative, tech-driven solutions to legal problems. But it can also include instructing other lawyers on how to use and implement technology successfully.
The role of a legal engineer is a broad one, and responsibilities can vary between businesses. This is especially true when it comes to the responsibilities of in-house legal engineers and those in law firms.
Responsibilities of legal engineers in law firms
Legal engineers within law firms have a wide range of responsibilities. But their main goal is to design, configure and use technology to make advising clients and reviewing legal agreements more efficient.
Following the Covid-19 outbreak, Hogan Lovells’ legal engineers were tasked with implementing technology owned by the firm to review force majeure clauses in contracts. This technology enabled legal engineers to quickly identify clauses across their clients’ contracts that could be triggered by the outbreak. This data could then be cleaned up and passed on to lawyers so they could advise their clients accordingly.
Responsibilities of in-house legal engineers
The role of an in-house legal engineer can also include some of these responsibilities. However, the main difference is that in-house legal engineers also advise customers on how to implement technology within their businesses.
That’s why the role of a legal engineer sits within our customer success function at Juro. Our legal engineers are tasked with providing a seamless onboarding experience for customers using our contract automation software.
Our in-house legal engineers are product experts, enabling them to solve customers’ problems and queries quickly and easily. They also use this expertise to onboard new customers by providing training on new and existing features. Alongside this, our legal engineers:
- Set up contract templates for customers
- Establish contract workflows within the tool
- Create and share enablement resources with customers
- Lead on integration setups
- Share customer feedback with teams internally
- Support sales to deliver product workshops
Benefits of hiring a legal engineer
1. Unique perspectives
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a legal engineer is that they bring a different perspective to problem solving.
Rather than following conventional thinking, legal engineers combine their legal and technological expertise to engineer solutions that lawyers traditionally wouldn’t think of.
2. Reduced admin work
Another benefit of hiring a legal engineer is that they can identify opportunities to streamline inefficient processes and support other teams on building technology to achieve this.
This is especially true in law firms where the technology they work on is used to reduce the admin required for client work. By automating non-billable work for their clients, law firms can dedicate their time to higher-value work.
3. Improved customer experience
Legal engineers play an important role in businesses like Juro where they’re responsible for delivering an excellent onboarding experience for customers. They lead implementations to ensure customers are set up for success when they begin using a legal tech solution like contract management software.
This is something that many legal tech solutions neglect, and it can make the implementation period difficult as a result.
4. Happier legal teams
Having a legal engineer within the team can also improve job satisfaction for other lawyers within the business, and even in other businesses too. By leveraging technology to improve workflows for lean legal teams, a legal engineer can transform the way they work and the type of work they do.
Rather than becoming buried in low-value repetitive tasks, legal teams can focus on the high-level work they were trained for. This is possible because legal engineers have equipped them to do so.
Hiring a legal engineer in-house or within a law firm is also a cost-effective way to manage the company’s workload. Legal engineers find more efficient ways to do tasks which reduces the need for higher headcount. This, in turn, saves companies money on inefficient processes and paying more salaries.
How can you become a legal engineer?
You don’t need a law degree or an engineering qualification to become a legal engineer. But many legal engineers do have a legal background and are already familiar with the processes and challenges involved. This could be because they studied law at university or simply because they’ve worked in the field.
Just as you don’t need years of legal experience to land a role as a legal engineer, you don’t need to know how to write lines of code either. All you need is to be passionate about the application of technology in the legal workspace.
That said, there are a few, important skills that make legal engineers successful. Let’s run through a few of these now.
Legal engineer skills
- Problem-solving. The best legal engineers are inquisitive and curious. They also have the ability to develop creative solutions to complex problems.
- Effective communication. A legal engineer will often be customer-facing and need to collaborate with other departments. To do this effectively, legal engineers need strong communication skills.
- Adaptability. Legal engineers need to be agile and adaptable to keep up with the changing tech landscape. This agility enables them to be forward-thinking and create fresh solutions to legal problems.
- Pragmatism. The best legal engineers are pragmatic and able to evaluate different solutions with ease. This enables them to make practical and well-engineered decisions.
- Resilience. It’s common for legal engineers to be presented with new situations and problems. The best legal engineers are the ones with the resilience to overcome these.
- Detail-oriented. Legal engineers have a keen eye for detail that is particularly important when configuring technology, analyzing data and leading on leading on customer implementations.
- Results-driven. Most legal engineers are driven by outcomes and can prioritize their workload accordingly. This makes them great problem solvers.
Where to find legal engineer jobs
Legal engineer roles are becoming increasingly important for law firms and businesses. In fact, with businesses increasingly looking for new ways to become more efficient with their time and money, legal engineers are a great addition to the team. But what if you’re looking for a legal engineering role? Where should you start?
Well, lots of startups and law firms are on the lookout for a legal engineer, so you can start by looking on their sites for vacancies. Otherwise, the best places to find legal engineering roles include:
What does the future look like for legal engineers?
To gain a better understanding of what the future looks like for legal engineers, we spoke to Henry Warner who is a legal engineer at Juro.
Henry explained that legal engineers are becoming increasingly important as the industry faces new challenges:
“The world is getting much more complicated, the law is getting more complicated. Lawyers need technology and more sophisticated process structures to effectively deal with the challenges that this complexity creates.”
Talking about the role that legal engineers have in the future, Henry says that: “Legal engineers are increasingly needed to design and implement the structures that allow great lawyers to level up and become capable of tackling complex and large scale legal issues in an efficient manner.”
If you're interested in pursuing a career as a legal engineer, check out our careers page.