Lawyers are the levers in designing complex services

Lawyers are crucial in any service design project of sufficient scale and complexity.

Our recent large projects have gone beyond just making digital products into wider areas of service design. We have been creating go-to-market strategies, brokering multi-partner data sharing agreements and drafting licensing documents.

Our commercial research helps us determine pricing plans and MVP data-sets, but in order to unlock action or permission, we often need legal documentation, contracts and agreements in place.

This is where lawyers are instrumental in mitigating any legal debt and keeping the project momentum going.

What is Legal Debt?

Legal debt is the absence of legal assistance on a project. This happens because the lawyers involved in the project are not:

  1. Accountable or incentivised to expedite their tasks.
  2. Aware of the business proposition they are supporting.
  3. Versed in digital services, data or the commercials concerning them.

This debt results in delays to the project, sometimes bringing work to a standstill. If organisations haven’t planned for the proper legal assistance on a project, overcoming legal debt can significantly bite into the project time.

Working with Lawyers

Use lawyers as you would freelancers. Get them in early on a project. They charge by the hour so are set up to understand and act quickly.

Our legal expert, Jamie Smith of Sheridans had this to add:

[blockquote cite=“Jamie Smith” type=”left”]”There is a commonly held view that lawyers are so-called ‘deal-breakers’ and as such we as a firm often find there is a reluctance to engage with legal advisors at an early stage. A good legal advisor should be seen as a natural extension of your commercial team from an early start. They should be helping to bring value to a commercial venture, whether that is through unlocking additional value within the deal itself or helping to protect you against any fallout further down the process.
Like any professional advisors, a good lawyer should completely understand the sector within which you operate and understand the commercial aspects which need to be navigated.  The initial selection is therefore crucial. A good advisor should be able to instantly recognise the problems you might face and be able to give you practical commercial advice rather than a protracted drawn-out contract review. Ignoring this first step can lead to a lawyer becoming a deal blocker rather than one of the levers in helping design the complex service.”[/blockquote]

Get senior partners and stakeholders to understand your work, it’s goals and intended outcomes so that they have a reference to work with. Clear communication is paramount.

The drafting of legal documents may lay with the legal team, but proposition designers need to input at the following stages.

  • Data
    • All software requires data, often from multiple sources. When building for public bodies, private enterprises or NGOs, there will be a variety of data sharing agreements that need to be created.
  • Launch markets
    • Different markets have different rules, regulations and trademark laws. When releasing your product in unknown territory, legal input will help you decide which of markets will likely to be most lucrative.
  • Licensing and innovation
    • To build a sustainable business, products have to earn money, either directly from clients or through affiliate partners. Creating licencing agreements which not only generate revenue but foster innovation require an experienced legal eye.
  • Pricing models
    • There are a number of ways to price a product (such as premium, cost-based or feature based wtc). Which one you choose will largely be dictated by the product and business team, and the market you are in. The prices may inevitably Legal input will be paramount in drafting and structuring these strategies.

It is easy to throw legal documents over the fence at lawyers, but this is counterproductive. The legals have to be approached as a team, just like in agile development, so that everyone is aware of the status, blockers and potential solutions.

We draw on experts like Jamie from our partner network to rapidly respond to project needs. Get in touch to find out more.

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