Value Creation for Lawyers: a new mindset to adopt?
EDHEC LL.M. in Law & Tax Management students enjoyed a two-day seminar on Value Creation for Lawyers. Antoine-Henry de Frahan, adjunct teacher and consultant for law firms and legal departments on strategy and organisation, focused his presentation on two topics: Legal writing and Legal design. We asked him and post-graduate student, Souhadd K’Haboré about the main highlights of the seminar.
Value creation is at the heart of every business that excels. Law firms or legal departments within companies are no exception to that. Students must be prepared. The Value Creation for Lawyers Seminar focused on “Legal writing: how to write legal advice that create value?” and “Visual Law/Legal design: activating your visual intelligence!”
New ways of communicating legal advice
“Based on the understanding of the concept of value and what it means for lawyers, the seminar explored three practical ways to achieve value creation by understanding and applying risk management on a legal matter, by writing truly valuable legal advice for clients and by using legal design to enhance and facilitate the lawyers’ communication on legal issues,” says Antoine-Henry de Frahan. For the EDHEC lecturer, “mastering the art of writing and providing legal advice are as essential as using legal design, which is adding graphics to a text.” Two critical skills, he feels, lawyers need to excel in the business world.
Antoine-Henry de Frahan explained that the way law students are taught to produce legal writing is purely set for academic purposes but is no longer fit for business communication. Antoine-Henry de Frahan advised students to start with the end! “When a client asks a question, the lawyer will send him back a rather long document with a long analysis of the legal issue before drawing to the conclusion, i.e. the answer expected by the client. The client has to go through pages and pages of legal reasoning to eventually get what he or she wants: the answer! So, it makes a big difference if you begin with the answer, right? The end of your reasoning comes at the beginning of your communication. This is a radical change in structural legal advice but it is very effective”, he explains. “The use of graphics, charts, diagrams… is a tremendous improvement on communication, including on legal matters but most lawyers fail to practice it. Doing so they miss out on an important dimension on communication to their clients”, he adds. A shift that Souhadd K’Haboré finds useful and client-friendly. “Indeed, I feel that clients, when questioning about a legal issue, need an efficient and pragmatic solution, and starting with the solution is a good way to achieve this aim. Of course, lawyers also have the duty to explain and provide the sources of law that brought them to such a solution, and this is why after stating the solution at the beginning, detailing the process will first discharge the lawyer from his duty and secondly, provide the client with all the additional information he or she may need.”
The students were both excited, interested, and puzzled, especially when it comes to the way of writing and of structuring legal advice because the way legal advice is structured is deeply rooted in the industry. But they were convinced of the value of what Antoine-Henry de Frahan brought to them and really enjoyed the idea of doing legal design, a way to trigger their creativity. “I aim to become a business lawyer, meaning my core clients will be corporations and businesses. Today, the legal market is saturated by lawyers providing the same services to clients, says Souhadd K’Haboré. How am I going to stand out from my peers if I do not understand the real need of my clients? This seminar allowed me to understand that lawyers need to step out from their comfort zone - which is what they have been taught at university - and start providing advice that is really needed by their clients instead of legal opinions that are sometimes as unclear and blurred in the client’s mind that in theirs”. And how does she think she will be able to create value to her clients? ”By providing them with a compliant business solution. In other words, lawyers are expected to provide a safe business solution to their client's legal issues. To do so, they first need to manage the legal risk by assessing it, then they should be able to provide a valuable solution. This is how a lawyer creates value in his clients’ minds. Doing so gives him a competitive advantage since lawyers usually lack the knowledge of risk management which is a sought-after asset for business clients.”