Clients are asking lawyers to utilise and leverage tech to be more efficient, to add value on every step, to cross-collaborate and partner with them to creatively problem solve, and to innovate with them.
Oscar Casado Oliva Head of legal innovation, digital and data services Telefónica Digital
Can you provide the top 3 highlights of your in-house career and state how they have moulded you as a legal professional?
If I had to choose my main leadership and management achievement I would highlight helping, from a legal and regulatory point of view, the digital transformation of Telefónica and its subsidiary Tuenti. In this last case with a business model based on a social network to a completely different business model that joins a telecommunications service with an internet one through an OTT-based app in the cloud, and in both cases based on innovation and technology as differentiating elements, creating unique and pioneering data and digital global products. We are exporting these to all Telefónica customers around the world by creating a new digital relationship of trust with them based on security, transparency and control over data, placing the privacy at the centre in order to drive digital confidence.
I have always worked in the information technology and telecoms arena in a highly competitive and fast-moving environment where legal framework is less developed, which makes you change the attitude and way of working to face all the challenges of the digital economy, globalisation and disruptive technologies.
In this scenario, legal advice became a strategic element linked to the taking of decisions inside the organisation. That is; creativity, management and planning to provide practical solutions suitable to each project seeking a very clear objective - bringing valuable perspectives and legal security to the table.
I am working at the cutting edge of lots of incredible innovation that also generate legal issues not yet covered by regulation. This is my challenge: Helping my company navigate complicated legal and regulatory issues we face now and in the near future. This involves taking risks to meet business objectives, but this can only be done successfully with a thorough understanding of the risk appetite of the business involved.
As a lawyer I am a kind of strategic consultant. The motto is to focus on opportunity rather than risk, providing services with the company but not to the company and spread your passion for what you do. It's different legal advice.
I have had also an intense participation within the community either work related and outside the work environment that have undoubtedly moulded me as a legal professional. Among them, the following stand out:
- I am the promoter of the Start-Up Europe Leaders Club, an independent group of founders in the field of tech entrepreneurship, acting as role models for European web entrepreneurs and providing guidance to the European Commission on what needs to be done to strengthen the environment for web entrepreneurs to start in Europe and stay in Europe.
- Co-authoring the Manifesto for Entrepreneurship and innovation to power growth in the EU supported by former European Commission vice president Nellie Kroes
- Co-Founding ENATIC (Digital Lawyers Spanish Association)
- Developing and designing educational guides and materials for children and educators about privacy, safety and responsible use of internet and social networks.
What changes have you made to the workings of the legal department during your time in your current role? How has that affected the wider company?
Introducing a “legal lean” methodology for in-house lawyers. That is a “legal by design” way of working glue to product development teams, working alongside product managers, teach leads, UX/UI and app and web developers. [This has seen us] apply an agile legal project management methodology to follow product tracks in parallel allowing in-house lawyers to set clear priorities and goals aligned with the rest of the business areas, while identifying early changes in scope for legal and regulatory reasons.
The technology not only affects our profession but is already introduced in all sectors of the economy where our internal clients are, and we have to be able to understand and accompany them. That is we need to have technology knowledge, be able to work with engineers, product managers and PMOs, have a multidisciplinary language, and a more risk oriented mentality.
The digital economy is constantly evolving. This is why it is crucial to keep up to date with what it is happening in the market and the economy, understand the company strategy, to be able to go a step beyond the Law. It is impossible to provide creative and disruptive legal solutions and to add more value without understanding the environment. This is why it is very important to take advantage of the background as opposed to being stuck in pure theory.
In a culture of build, measure, learn, iterate and improve (which is again related to the lean start-up methodology) in-house lawyers must continuously question our hypotheses and take nothing for granted. We leverage all the learning and experience extracted from projects and daily tasks in order to improve our productivity and efficiency.
Finally, I am also introducing legal design methodology, or design thinking applied to the law in order to create clear, immediately operational and engaging legal documents for our customers by using a common language that includes law, tech and design with a more human-centred and innovative approach, while ensuring the primary the primary function of legal information: legal certainty.
I believe that legal function is now a strategic one. I have passion for business and the MBA made me a better business lawyer, expanding my knowledge and it also help me gain a different perspective. In a rapidly globalising economy, a combination of law and management qualifications is full of potential. In fact in my law department I adopt business metrics, becoming an in-house counsel with business responsibilities in a global company instead of playing a traditional legal role.
After 17 years of professional experience I came to the conclusion that my goals are achieved when the company goals are achieved and that the most important thing is to have fun while working. Otherwise, it is not worth it.
What are the most important transactions and litigations that you have been involved in during the last three years?
I do not have any relevant litigation to highlight, as I am not a litigation lawyer. Regarding corporate transactions I was involved in the merger by absorption of Tuenti Technologies by Telefónica on late 2016.
Do you have anything additional you would like to add?
I am Co-author of various books (latest: “Derecho y Redes Sociales”, Aranzadi, 2013) and many articles in newspapers and magazines.
What are the unique challenges of operating in the Iberian legal market, and how do you stay abreast of these challenges?
It is not just about the Iberian market but the so-called VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, that is changing very fast and these changes are creating new legal challenges. Client’s needs, worries and demands have changed. They are asking us to help manage this change but to do so in a different way. They are looking for other kind of service. Clients are asking lawyers to utilise and leverage tech to be more efficient, to add value on every step, to cross-collaborate and partner with them to creatively problem solve, and to innovate with them.
Today’s technological disruption environment does not require us to work harder, just smarter. If we want to be relevant and to add value to the business, we must think like a business person who happens to be a lawyer. We have to innovate, to work differently. We have to change.
I think innovation is how we deliver our legal services. It is not even just an option it is a necessity for us in my view. We have to innovate how we do things if we want to keep up in our organisations with the pace at which our organizations want to transform.
The focus is changing from what our work is to how we work (and how our clients want us to try new ways of working). In this sense we are already seeing more and more lawyers migrating from the classic role of just giving legal advice and yes-no answers and more and more becoming project managers and business partners. Clients need us to be a part of the team. In other words, clients demand us to change our way of working and culture and that we develop new and different mind-set and skills above and beyond legal expertise and legal advice.
Can you tell us about Telefonica’s 2019 growth objectives? How is the in-house legal team helping achieve this?
The business opportunities will come from the services on connectivity, Big Data, and the new wave of cognitive intelligence, realities over which Telefónica has competitive advantages to other actors. We have now to accelerate and focus on digitization and simplification in order to capture these opportunities.
From a legal perspective, as in-house lawyers we need to be experts not only in our practice but also in our industry and specific business. We do approach problems from an industry and business focal point. Strategic (not just legal) advice is the highest value output of the legal department. It is the kind of advice that directly adds value to the company’s projects and overall strategic goals.
Finally, in order to scale legal in harmony with tech business we need to be agile, pragmatic, flexible and better, faster, smarter to create value along the way.