TMT lawyers forced to innovate in service provision – VdA

With emerging technologies leading to the creation of new industry sectors, lawyers have to change the way they communicate with clients


Technology has penetrated so many industries that law firms are being forced to be more innovative in the way they provide services to clients from sectors that, until now, were not familiar with the world of technology and its potential for business. Indeed, many of these types of clients are not fully aware that they need legal advice on certain issues, says Magda Cocco, partner at Vieira de Almeida in Lisbon. “Nowadays, with so many emerging technologies, we’re being asked to advise companies acting in new fields of activity,” she explains. “We are enlarging and diversifying our client base and providing services for players that are different from the more traditional TMT clients, such as IT, telecoms and media companies.”
Though there are constant technological innovations, it can be some time before such changes lead to instructions for law firms. This is largely because clients in the sector are often unaware of the legal issues affecting their business. As a result, lawyers have to change the way they communicate with such clients in order to effectively get the message across about the legal issues they may be facing.
Fernando Resina da Silva, also a partner at Vieira De Almeida, says that there has been a buzz around emerging technologies for some time, but only in recent years has this translated into new instructions for law firms. “We used to read about it, but only in the last couple of years have we increased our client base because of it,” he says. Resina da Silva adds that clients from a wide range of sectors may have IT people who understand the basics, but until recently, many did not understand how important it was to have legal advice on certain issues. “Often these clients are using sophisticated technology without the technical understanding of how the value chain works, or an appreciation of the legal framework and regulations involved,” says Cocco. “They also need to be shown how they can do better business when using new technology.”
Consequently, due to the “technological invasion” that is taking place in a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, oil & gas, aviation, construction, defence, distribution, energy, financial services, insurance, medical devices, health, tourism and transport, TMT lawyers are having to change the way they provide their services, says Resina da Silva. “We’re having to adapt our language to the client we’re talking to, as well as changing the way we interact, the way we speak and the way we provide our opinion on the technology they’re investing in.”

Using soft skills
TMT lawyers also face the additional challenge of having to gain an understanding of the different sectors by using soft skills and technical skills, says Cocco. “In order to provide valuable advice in the technological field, besides a deep knowledge of the legal and regulatory framework, a lawyer needs to understand the technology and how it will be used and what its impact will be on a specific sector,” she explains. Meanwhile, Resina Da Silva says it is also important to have a good knowledge of the client’s business model and the technology they are developing. “We are obliged to understand enough, otherwise it is impossible to give them advice,” he says. “Learning fast is an ability our lawyers have.” Vieira De Almeida’s strategy for addressing such challenges that are specific to the TMT sector is to use the support of a knowledge management team and also by setting up “task force” teams. Cocco says: “These non-practising lawyers act like dedicated team members and completely understand our needs – every day they help us to maintain the quality of our knowledge in an ever-changing sector,” says Cocco.
Another major trend impacting on the provision of legal services in the TMT area is globalisation, says da Silva. “Due to globalisation, not only must lawyers be mobile in order to advise clients in other worldwide jurisdictions, they must be aware of all the trending worldwide laws and policies to remain at the forefront of any issues,” he adds. According to Cocco, such is the importance of remaining “one step ahead” for this particular kind of client, that TMT lawyers operate very differently from other departments within law firms. She adds: “We don’t have any other team where things change so much and so fast as in the technological field,” she says.

TMT lawyers forced to innovate in service provision – VdA


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