Episode 10 – The T-Shaped Lawyer: A Realistic Future for Legal Professionals

t SHAPE

The story behind the “T”

The phrase “T-shaped” first appeared in a 1991 editorial in a London newspaper discussing computing jobs. It describes a professional with deep expertise in a single field (represented by the vertical line of the T) and a wide-ranging understanding across various fields that facilitates collaboration (symbolized by the horizontal line of the T).

Intersecting the two lines enables one to work effectively with specialists from various fields, fostering innovation across the entire organization rather than just in a single department. Additionally, the advantages of being a T-shaped professional go beyond improved collaboration and often build adaptability and resilience.

What Does This Mean for Lawyers?

Being a T-shaped lawyer means being a multidisciplinary professional with a vertical focus. On the one hand, they have deep knowledge in a specific field (such as tax law, M&A, banking and finance, etc.); on the other hand, they possess additional qualities or skills, which may include both soft and hard skills (team-building, active listening, solution creation, problem-solving, design thinking, project management, etc.).

According to Peter Connors, the author of “The T-Shaped Lawyer: A New Vision for You and Your Work,” the T-shaped lawyer standard provides a solution for human transformation – something often ignored amidst the whirlwind of digital transformation. It creates a vision for lawyers to develop new skills, acquire new knowledge, and transform their mindset. It means being legal experts with enough knowledge in varied areas to identify problems and understand concepts, leading to better client involvement.

In a theory-driven world, the T-shaped lawyers are the makers. Their focus is on delivery, not just pure knowledge, thanks to the ability to communicate and collaborate across different fields (from social media to data security, from analytics to technology).

Why Become a T-Shaped Lawyer?

There are many reasons to become a T-shaped lawyer: natural inclinations, a passion for problem-solving more than pure knowledge, or simply an empathetic approach to life. However, there are also practical reasons. It is highly likely, especially with the rise of tech and AI, that T-shaped lawyers will be more in demand than vertical professionals in the market.

Being T-shaped means mastering the ability to predict and mitigate risk, harness technology to solve problems, adapt to change, understand things from the client’s perspective, and provide emotional support. All these elements are likely to be as highly valued as knowledge in a specific field.

Conclusion

Do all lawyers need to become T-shaped? Not necessarily. The primary societal and professional demands for specific legal roles can differ. However, the risks of ignoring the horizontal requirements include an inability to innovate and adapt to the times, being “left behind” as an I-shaped professional, and being replaced by technology or lower-cost peers.

The T-shaped concept stresses that it is impossible to know everything about everything. But that’s exactly the point. A T-shaped standard does not require perfection. It calls for understanding how each field works and applying its best practices to legal practice to deliver the best solutions for clients.

And most of the times, that’s exactly what the client wants.

Share: