Interview with: Jan Spáčil, Managing partner
Deloitte Legal s.r.o., advokátní kancelář | View firm profile
Jan Spáčil, managing partner of Deloitte Legal, discusses the future of Law. Where are traditional legal services heading? To what extent do start-ups play a key role for this area? What are the difficulties involved in the robotisation of legal services?
The society is experiencing technological advances, in the area of production there is talk of Industry 4.0, do you live in the robotisation period?
Technological progress cannot be avoided. This naturally applies to legal services too. But the impact of technology is only one of the factors that are changing and will change the legal profession and legal services.
What phenomena may be observed in legal services?
Aside from technology, a significant role in the perspective on legal services is played by changes in the attitude and demands of clients, the increasing role of in-house lawyers and the changing structure of corporations and their decision-making processes, in particular with respect to legal services and the related costs. An equally important factor are the options of providing multidisciplinary services and perceiving the advantages of comprehensive multidisciplinary solutions on the part of clients. However, there are many more factors, whether it is the essential change in the opinion of junior lawyers on the attractiveness of a career in a law firm or the understanding of the scope of legal services as such. In addition, all these aspects are interconnected and influence each other, so these are definitely interesting times for the legal profession too.
You use the claim “Experience the future of law, today” in connection with Deloitte Legal. Are you ready for the future and new forms of economy?
We try to be ready and we keep getting ready, which is of course true not just for us but for Deloitte as a whole. We are globally perceived as an innovative and technological company, which certainly helps us lawyers, who are generally a bit more conservative than other advisory professions. The pressure of Deloitte does not let us fall asleep, change and preparation for the future is a constant process and I do not think that we will be able to say at some point that we are ready, and sit with our hands folded.
Do you see a promising future in robotisation?
As I have already indicated, the changes in legal services are significantly more varied than replacing lawyers with robots. This is of course exaggerated, by the way, and I dare say that it will not happen in the following decades, but on the other hand, technology should definitely not be underestimated. We will have to learn to distinguish what are the repetitive tasks that can be replaced with technologies, and what are expert tasks. There are of course many obstacles to robotisation – for example, if technologies can do the repetitive tasks that junior lawyers used to learn to understand the issues and eliminate their completely natural error rate, where will they learn the reliability which is indispensable for our profession?
If we move away from technology for a moment, where do you think traditional legal services are headed?
We are able to compete with established law firms in traditional legal services such as M&A, corporate, labour law etc. While we talk about traditional legal services, the way we offer them to our clients is multidisciplinary as much as possible and touches on related areas, whether it is tax, financial advisory, technology etc. This is, in our opinion, one of the essential trends of the future. When you look at how the head offices of global law firms think about where legal services are headed, they confirm this trend and they try to add other advisory fields to their legal services so that they can offer multidisciplinary solutions.
Are the clients’ requirements increasing in this respect too?
Certainly, they are increasing and changing. By the way, one of the trends of the future is certainly global coverage. Global firms will not want to use dozens of law firm to solve their problems, a different one in each country where they operate, they will look for a single provider. So we meet them halfway and already today we are able to deliver truly global engagements thanks to our 2,500 lawyers in more than 80 countries all over the world.
You mentioned the provision of multidisciplinary service solutions, but are clients interested in them?
Again, yes. Clients want especially a quality solution and increasingly more often they do not care whether it is a legal, financial, tax, strategic or technological matter. Aside from the demand for the aforementioned traditional services, there is therefore more and more demand for a new type of services that include, for example, the technological aspect of implementation of a legal deliverable, or that are even not a legal service in a regulatory sense of the term and they could essentially be provided by someone other than a law firm. And this is precisely the type of service that represents the second basic pillar of our operation. Here I dare say that we are and will be one of the leaders on the market with an essential competitive advantage compared to traditional firms.
Can you give an example of this type of service?
Here we talk, for example, about “business integrity”, where as part of client projects we solve sophisticated forensic projects using data analytics and other technologies, related comprehensive compliance programes, liability risks and their prevention. We could go on with examples in the area of data protection. I intentionally do not use the term personal data protection, because the issue is significantly wider. Or regulation in general. Regulation increases and it is expected to continue to do so. Our comprehensive solutions are based on knowledge of the industry and the client supported by technology tools that help clients efficiently address regulatory requirements.
So the world is changing and young people with it, they want their own start-ups or at least work for them. Are the things we are talking about here sufficiently attractive?
Thank you for this question; if we talk about the future of legal services we have to ask who will be providing them. Again, I think that we are ahead because the attractiveness of working for us and the happiness of our people has been one of our priorities for many years. I have declared repeatedly and openly that if we are able to achieve our ambitious economic goals but the people in the office are dissatisfied, I will see it as a failure. In addition, these two facts cannot work side by side in the long term.
What can a large law firm like yours offer in this respect?
We try to accommodate people as much as possible in terms of flexibility of job content and its potential changes, location of the office within the country, home office, part-time work not just for mothers, and we could go on. Based on the ranking of employer attractiveness for law faculty students, the best law firms that were at the top in terms of attractiveness as little as ten years ago are now at the bottom of the second ten and they keep dropping. Young lawyers do not want to do monotonous work for many years and spend their nights in the office with the vision of uncertain progress to senior positions many years later. I believe that we are able to offer interesting and varied work with the aforementioned flexibility, quick growth based on abilities and not years and especially a very interesting overlap with a variety of other industries, in close cooperation with experts on other areas and in an environment that is in essence very modern and innovative.
There is a lot of talk about start-ups, but is it a relevant topic for lawyers as well?
Of course. Unlike others, however, we are interested in start-ups not just as potential clients but also as business partners who can help us with innovation or inspire us, or even as targets for potential acquisition and inclusion in our service portfolio. One of our Deloitte Legal affiliates is actually close to such an acquisition that will bring technological solutions. We are also lucky that Deloitte has launched a systematic start-up programe which we are a part of.
Start-ups, shared environment, cloud services or automated services… Have you noticed a change in attitude and cooperation with the client?
Take, for example, communication. When I started with legal services twenty years ago, I sent the deliverables to clients by post and by fax. Now we are starting to use technologies that enable us to share with our clients not just the deliverables, but also invoices, relevant surveys and data from the whole world, online. But it is not just communication. Earlier I spoke about joint multidisciplinary solutions where the solution for a client’s problem is a result of cooperation between us lawyers and experts from other fields, so the next level of cooperation with the client is the joint solution created not just for the clients, but by us lawyers together with other specialisations and the clients themselves. This is what I call true cooperation and partnership!