Agile Legal Product Development for the Modern World

— Juliet Edjere

Coming from a legal background and now working in tech, I've seen firsthand the stark contrast between the traditional waterfall methodology of legal work and the iterative, collaborative world of software development. It's like comparing a dusty law library to a bright, open-plan co-working space.

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Photo by Eden Constantino on Unsplash

For those unfamiliar, the waterfall method in law is like a linear assembly line. You gather requirements at the outset, draft, revise, and then...well, hope it all fits together. It's great for well-defined projects, but in today's fast-paced world, legal needs are often fluid and require constant adaptation.

Agile is a project management approach that emphasizes short, iterative cycles ("sprints") with continuous feedback. This allows teams to adapt to changing needs and deliver working features quickly. Sound familiar? It should! Isn't that exactly what clients crave – a legal solution that evolves alongside their business?

Here's why Agile principles can be a game-changer for legal product development:

  • Early Client Input: No more waiting until the final draft to find out the client hates the whole thing. Agile promotes constant communication, allowing clients to provide feedback throughout the process. This can be as simple as regular check-ins or utilizing collaborative online tools.
  • Embrace Change: Let's face it, legal needs are rarely set in stone. Agile allows you to adjust the product roadmap based on new information or client priorities. Think of it as a legal brief that can breathe and adapt, just like the business it serves.
  • Focus on Value: Agile prioritizes delivering working features that provide immediate value to the client. This could be a first draft of a contract template, or a basic framework for a legal compliance tool. It's about prioritizing what matters most and getting it in the client's hands fast.

Why Agile Makes Sense for Legal Products

Think about it. Legal products, whether it's a contract template or a compliance handbook, are rarely one-size-fits-all. Client needs evolve, regulations change, and new technologies emerge. The waterfall approach, where the final product is a distant mirage after months of drafting and redrafting, can leave clients frustrated and the final product outdated.

Agile offers a more dynamic solution. Here's how it translates to the legal world:

  • Sprints, not marathons: Break down the development process into short, focused sprints (think weeks, not months). Each sprint focuses on a specific deliverable, like a first draft of a key clause or a user interface prototype for the product.
  • Embrace the feedback loop: Regularly get feedback from clients and stakeholders throughout the process. This iterative approach allows you to course-correct quickly and ensure the final product truly meets their needs.
  • Flexibility is key: Agile acknowledges that change is inevitable. New priorities can emerge, and client needs might shift. The beauty of Agile is that the product backlog (a prioritized list of features) can be adjusted to reflect these changes.
  • Collaboration is king: Agile thrives on a close-knit, collaborative team environment. Lawyers, designers, and developers can work together throughout the process, fostering a sense of ownership and shared purpose.

Challenges and Considerations

Of course, transitioning from the familiar waterfall method to Agile isn't without its challenges.

  • Mindset shift: For lawyers accustomed to linear thinking, Agile can be an adjustment. Letting go of the need for complete control at the outset can be daunting.
  • Client buy-in: Not all clients will be familiar with Agile. Clear communication about the process and its benefits is essential.
  • Metrics and ROI: Law firms traditionally track success by billable hours. Demonstrating the value proposition of Agile in terms of efficiency and client satisfaction requires a new approach to metrics.

Making Agile Work for Lawyers

Of course, applying Agile to legal work isn't a simple copy-paste job. Here are some things to consider:

  • Balancing Iteration with Precision: Legal documents require accuracy. Agile doesn't mean sacrificing quality for speed. Break down complex projects into smaller, manageable tasks that allow for thorough review
  • Client Education: Not all clients will be familiar with Agile. Explain the benefits and get them comfortable with the iterative process.
  • Finding the Right Tools: There's a wealth of project management and collaboration software designed for Agile teams. Find tools that work for your team and keep everyone on the same page.

A Final Thought

The legal industry is slowly but surely embracing change. Agile legal product development isn't just about efficiency; it's about creating a more collaborative and client-centric experience.

It's not about abandoning the rigor of the law, but rather finding a way to deliver legal solutions in a faster, more responsive manner.

Imagine legal products that are constantly evolving to meet client needs, that are user-friendly and accessible. This is the future Agile promises. It might require a leap of faith, but for those of us who straddle the legal and tech worlds, it's a leap worth taking.

So, ditch the waterfall and embrace the agility revolution. Your clients (and your sanity) will thank you for it.


I'm Juliet Edjere, a no-code expert focused on design, product development, and building scalable solutions with no coding knowledge.

I document all things product stories, MVP validation, and how designs, data, and market trends connect.

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