A call to arms for the Bionic Lawyer

‘I am you. I am your colleagues. I am what your customers have always dreamed of. I am The Bionic Lawyer…’ And so began an open letter to the legal industry from the Bionic Lawyer Project. That letter, published on 24 September last year, marked the end of the beginning of our project, as a year of energised collaboration paved the way for releasing 16 ‘levers’. Those 16 levers set, we believe, the design principles for the future legal industry.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. What is the Bionic Lawyer Project? In a nutshell, the project has brought together over 500 (wonderful) #bioniclawyercontributors, from across the legal industry and well beyond it, with a purpose. That purpose is to unlock the potential of the legal industry; to establish what we must do and the changes we must make, in order to ensure that we have a thriving legal ecosystem.

This is not an initiative to address the symptoms of dysfunction that we see day to day; instead the project has taken a systemic, root-cause approach to its work. No boundaries have been imposed and our content has been inspired from practical experience, leading business theory, neuroscience, behavioural economics and even the laws of thermodynamics.

Owned by nobody and with an absolute commitment to open-code everything that we produce, the Bionic Lawyer Project is for you.

It is worth saying now that our definition of ‘ lawyer’ is broad. If you are contributing to problem solving in the legal ecosystem, we see you as a lawyer. This broad definition is not used to be provocative, it is used this way to be a statement inclusivity and approach. It is used to avoid labels and to try to unwind a perceived stigma around individuals being described as a ‘non-lawyer’, even when they are essential to the provision of legal services and can even own law businesses.

Now back to those levers. Phase one of the project has established 16 levers. We call them levers, because any institution (corporate legal department, law firm, law company, law college, etc) can pull them – and if you pull them successfully, you create a positive effect.

The levers are presented as a set of statements. Those statements describe the perfect ecosystem within which the Bionic Lawyer operates – combining factors that focus on the human (first), process (second) and technology (third). No individual lever can just be solved. Each one highlights an area where progressive institutions will push the boundaries and with that everybody will continue to move forward.

The positive effect of an institution pulling all 16 levers is mind-blowing. We don’t claim to have the intellect, nor the imagination, to accurately describe the future lawyer; in fact it would be terribly boring if we could. But what we can see is that the levers offer enormous potential to create value for our customers and to engage and enable the current and future generations of professionals. It will render them, bionic.

We have been publishing the individual levers – one each week – since the open letter was released. And if you are interested to see the detail, just search for the ‘bionic lawyer’ on LinkedIn. We cannot do the levers justice here, but we encourage you to engage with them, to challenge them and to help us to continue to make them more and more impactful.

The levers focus on matters such as purpose, work through privilege and bias and into predictive analytics, digital infrastructure, ESG and knowledge. We believe that they present a near complete picture, but we would revel in being proven wrong…

What happens next?

If everything goes to plan, we will find ourselves with all of the levers published early this year – just in time to come back better after the horrible disruption caused by Covid-19. At that point, Phase two of the project will begin, as we take the science in the levers into action – finding the pain points and problem statements that need to be solved as a matter of priority. The #bioniclawyercontributors will continue to use their finely honed collaboration skills to create a wiki resource, practical tool-kits, solutions and change for the industry – using the levers as a force for good.

Equally, given they are open-coded, anybody who wishes to use the levers should feel free to do so.

How can you get involved?

We would recommend that you first have a look at the levers themselves on LinkedIn. If they grab you (for whatever reason), then feel free to contact us directly, and we will welcome you into the project. The project is fully accessible, there are no barriers or hurdles. Our only requirement is that you bring your (ideally positive) energy and unique perspective to the problems that we need to solve.

If you don’t want to get involved – don’t worry – we are going to help you anyway.

Yours faithfully,

The Bionic Lawyer Project co-founders
Rob Booth (general counsel & company secretary at The Crown Estate); Stéphanie Hamon (head of legal operations consulting at Norton Rose Fulbright); Stephen Allen (vice president, Get Sh*t Done at Elevate).