Multidisciplinary knowledge is a key success factor
“Never stop learning” – This is Andrés Jara’s motto and the reason for his successful career. After returning to his home country Chile, the lawyer and MLB alumnus of the Class of 2009 also completed an MBA at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and various certificate programs from York University and Boston University School of Law, before starting his own legal consulting company. Find out how Andrés profited from the program, why the legal industry is subject to changes and what has had a great impact on the concept of his own business.
You graduated with a law degree from the very prestigious Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in 2004 and joined the Master of Law and Business Class of 2009 after you already had a couple of years of work experience as a lawyer. Why did you decide to continue your education at the intersection of law and business?
I believe that a good business lawyer needs to have skills that are often absent in legal education. Moreover, I’ve always provided legal advice to corporations of all sizes and a skill commonly appreciated by executives and in-house counsels is the ability to adapt and understand the core business of each company. Therefore, the tools and knowledge acquired during the MLB are essential to setting yourself apart from your competitors.
We should never stop learning in our profession and programs like the MLB or the MBA I did afterwards provide acceleration in our learning curves.
Why do you think it is so important for young lawyers today to keep educating themselves, especially in the field of business and management?
It is not only important for young lawyers; it is important for lawyers in general. We face a legal environment that is essentially dynamic, hence we need to permanently update our knowledge. The legal profession as well as the legal industry, is changing fast. It used to be an industry where technology, management skills, entrepreneurship and other concepts were not part of our common vocabulary, but this has changed. Lawyers are required to be creative, disruptive, tech-friendly and more.
After graduating from the MLB Program, you returned to Chile and worked as a senior associate in a law firm and then as an in-house lawyer, before starting your own legal consulting company, “Alster Legal”, in July 2015. So far it has received a lot of attention in the media. It’s been called innovative, disruptive and “the Uber of legal services” during a CNN Chile interview. What is the concept of Alster Legal and how did you come up with it?
Certainly the name of my company has an obvious relation with the great time I had in Hamburg (interviewer’s note: the Alster is a river that takes the shape of a lake in the center of the city of Hamburg). Alster Legal started operations in September 2015. I founded Alster Legal because I had the impression that the legal industry needed to change, that traditional law firms have inefficiencies that affect transparency, cost reality and consumer experience. Therefore, we decided to develop a model that looks to mitigate such inefficiencies and generate a much reliable consumer experience.
We were inspired by a global movement lead by companies like Axiom in the US, Xenion Legal in Germany, Hive in Australia, Conduit in Canada, and so on. But also by legal online service providers like 123recht.de, Ucounsel.com, rocketlawyers.com and others.
Combining technology, a variable cost structure, freelance talents, and product design, we have been able to disrupt the Chilean market and hopefully soon the LATAM market. Probably the most difficult part of this endeavor is to change people’s traditional view of how legal services need to be provided and convince them that flexibility does not affect quality, speed and delivery.
The legal community has the reputation of putting a lot of value on presentation, having representative, luxury offices in the best parts of town to reflect the prestige and expertise of the firm. Why did you and your colleagues decide to forego this world that you are very familiar with and go in another direction?
We believe that today's companies don't take a buying decision by taking into consideration how big and luxurious a space is. Moreover, most companies, especially SME, are precisely afraid of how expensive a service will be once they visit lawyers' offices. Management as well as individuals, are increasingly receptive to differentiated value propositions and that’s in line with our vision.
The legal profession is well-known for not being a 9-to-5 kind of job. Nonetheless, many young lawyers strive for a better work-life-balance. How does the Alster Legal concept help with this?
Alster is a platform for lawyers who want to be independent, manage their own time and schedules, and enjoy life. By providing technological support and back office services, our freelance lawyers can be as effective as they use to be in Big Law, but much more empathetic with their clients from a pricing perspective. We like to define Alster Legal as an opportunity generator where people can work and manage their own flexibility. I always like to stress that flexibility is not the same as availability, and the fact that some can manage their own agenda or work from home, does not mean that they are not going to be available for our clients. The latter is certainly valuable for our customers and one of the key elements that has made our model successful.
How has the reaction to Alster Legal been in the legal community?
I believe that law firms have not yet realized the potential our model has. Clients in the traditional corporate world are still learning to understand how the collaborative economy works. However, students and young professionals are interested and the number of CVs we receive each week is an indicator of this. We have had inquiries from all over the world and interest in the LATAM region to replicate the model in other jurisdictions.
It seems you have an unlimited reserve of energy. You have been an associate professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile since 2006. What is your most important message to young lawyers?
After all these years of being a lecturer, I believe that the most important lesson is that multidisciplinary knowledge is a key success factor in our profession. These kind of skills will be needed in the future.
What kind of advice would you give to young professionals who contemplate studying in the Master of Law and Business Program?
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Hamburg is a great city, Bucerius has great professors and the programs are well thought out to give a good basis to explore your limits and interests. Lawyers should take the most difficult courses in management and managers should take the most difficult courses in law, only by doing so they will have tools to continue their paths.
What is your fondest memory of your time in Hamburg and at Bucerius Law School?
Interesting discussions with friends from all over the world, good beer, and running at the Alster Park. I did even come back a few years after I finished the MLB to run the Hamburg Marathon achieving my best record of 3.20 hours.