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7 Reasons why you should encourage your lawyers to take part in an open source software development project

27 January 2021 |

This is a post dedicated to the HR community in law firms.

It’s quite well known among managers that Alphabet, the group behind Google, allows their workers one day per week to work freely on their own projects. Those projects could be anything, ranging from working on a business idea, a new software prototype to taking a course or engaging in a social activity with other colleagues.

In this post I would like to suggest an idea that law firms could be doing something similar to boost their digital transformation.

An open source project is a software development project that brings together people from different backgrounds to create a new software tool that they find useful and necessary for the society. Incentives to take part in such a thing can be different and not always monetary. Sometimes, participants simply want to show their skills 💪, learn something new or meet new people and make professional connections outside their circle.

HR team should play a key role in driving transformation and digitalising lawyers inside their teams. You should be out there discovering open source projects and building a bridge between the projects and your team of lawyers.

Below, I am going to list some ideas on why your lawyers should be joining an open source project.

Skill up = Learn digital tools and processes

You learn so many things when you connect with people that have different backgrounds: tools, practices and habits of highly independent and motivated people.

You don’t need to be a software developer to take part. Your contribution can be non technical and non-IT related. But you are required to have an open mindset towards the use of digital tools and processes.

For instance, when I joined my first open source project, it required me to get familiarized with Github in order to understand how these multiple team members collaborated to keep a record of contributions. And I found it extremely inspiring. I discovered a new way of drafting that can be applied to any writing project and since then I use it for my own collaborative document creation.

Psychological benefits: align your workers with a good cause

HR should support such initiatives. Quite often, open source project has a social and non-profit dimension. Participants intend to contribute to something that doesn’t work well. Your lawyers can benefit from taking part in such a project and help make the world a better place. They could get different rewards at different levels fulfilling human need of unity, community, belonging, compassion, and many others. It would boost participants’ motivation and increase their creativity while directly contributing to staff’s well being and bringing positive effects on your business.

Place your lawyers outside their comfort zone

Getting outside the comfort zone is an absolute “must” for a successful digital transformation of any team. In a highly volatile and uncertain world, you need to learn being comfortable with uncertainty. It doesn’t feel comfortable when joining a new team with different practices, codes and ways of working, but it becomes highly rewarding once you adapt and start to get it. You turn your growth mindset on, your brain expands and you start to appreciate different perspectives, practices and working cultures.

Due to their nature of work, lawyers tend to work and communicate in a relatively small and limited circle. How can this be changed? How it could be challenged? An open source project would be a great opportunity to mingle with the professionals from other disciplines, contribute to other sectors and have societal impact.

Employer branding: attract new young talent

There are many studies on the millennial and what actually drives them. Like all the others, young law graduates also want to have some meaning in their work. They wish to join a team whose work makes sense. They are the driving force that intend to bring change and transformation to our society. Thus if you want to remain an attractive employer, make sure to give space, time and encouragement to your people to work on their projects.

Companies need to be bold and position themselves strongly on what kind of society they want for our future

We see more and more successful companies that want to have positive impact on this world. This article from Jubel in FR shows that sustainable and circular business are the ones who did better in a covid crisis context. If this could be done with actions rather than words. Take action by choosing the right open source project that could fit with the vision and the values of your company. For example Loyens & Loeff joins open source and nonprofit consortium the Accord Project

Understand the logic of collaboration: the power dynamics of decentralized meritocratic organizations

There are thousands of projects popping up that consider motivation and allocate resources in completely different way than most of current companies. They are offering interesting methods and working practices and see collaboration as an essential part of the culture of any decentralized project. In order to stay competitive in th future, it only makes sense to integrate collaborative mindset in your working processes and company culture.The future could be decentralized.

New ways of working with documents

We are in 2020. Is legislation still being drafted in Word documents?
Documents are more than a thing you read, write and print. We need to be moving towards a method of co-drafting that is more agile, clean and allows to keep track of all contributions! But also a method of co-drafting that allows machines to make sense of them. Open source project development could be a perfect environment to test new ways of drafting legal documents. See as an inspiring example this project of legal code documented in git version

What are the concrete examples of open source projects in Belgium?

This year I have been taking part in Open Justice. The project has a great momentum, gentle vibes very welcoming and open minded contributors, also working on ambitious projects like a document database to make public case law (link in French).


Manuel Pueyo

Content Strategist with a legal background.
I combine several years of experience in online communication with an advanced technical expertise in web development and an in-depth knowledge of UX trends & marketing tools.