A student team surveyed opportunities for a new operating model in EY legal services

The goal of the project was to observe the potential of new operating models in the legal services sector that has remained the same for a long time
EY Legal -projektitiimi
The project team: Tommy Holmström and Pekka Kärkkäinen (both from EY Law), students Aleksi Ala-Uotila and Hanna Palmu, project academic advisor Mirel Leino-Haltia and Reino Hyvärinen (EY Law)

Aleksi Ala-Uotila and Hanna Palmu, master's degree students at the School of Business, carried out, in cooperation with EY Law Finland, a study project related to the development of legal services that examines alternatives for a new service model. The goal of the customized student business project was to examine the interests and needs of companies in need of legal consulting for new types of operating models, to understand the differences in the needs of different customer groups, and to map out what kind of new operating solutions are already available in the field of legal services in different parts of the world.

The students interviewed lawyers and managers of client companies, analysed the solutions of other legal service providers globally, and formed service path models for different customer groups. The project, which took place in early 2023, was presented to EY experts at the end of the project.

'Aleksi and Hanna brought added value to the client in this assignment and the development of EY Law’s own services, as well as a diverse customer perspective, a quick understanding of the operating environment and competitors as well as their service design vision. The team was proactive and self-directed, so as an advisor it was great and easy to participate in the assignment. EY Law received both ideas that could be implemented immediately and views on future development', says Professor of Practice at the School of Business, Mirel Leino-Haltia, who acted as the project academic advisor.

Support for the development of EY legal services from a student survey

The provision of legal services has not changed significantly for decades. Compared to other functions in companies, legal functions have hardly experimented in the manner of, for example, HR or financial processes with new technologies, processes or operating models that improve productivity. Legal functions are largely provided on the basis of individual assignments and, predominantly, reactively. The traditional legal service model often focuses on purely legal issues. In practice, however, clients' requirements are always related to business operations more extensively, in which case, for example, tax-related or financial matters should be taken into account more clearly in order to ensure that the whole is as functional as possible.

EY Law gained a clearer picture of the project outcomes of what kind of service solutions they should offer to their customer companies. The students brought up meaningful observations, such as a wish for predefined service costs, and a wish for a service provider team assigned to each client. This team would know the client's business well and could thus start to solve the client's new legal issues efficiently and quickly. The project interviews also highlighted the wish of many client companies to receive consultation in several different areas, such as tax and legal services, from the same service provider for which EY would be able to create a solution with its expertise.

EY Finland Partner, Head of Law Reino Hyvärinen explains that the goal of the research was to understand, through interviews with those responsible for the company's legal functions, what matters to them and what needs clients have in different segments and what they want from the actors in the field. Consequently, EY Law is better placed to develop its own strategy, on the one hand, based on clients' needs and, on the other hand, on EY Law's capabilities. 

'We wanted to understand whether client companies would be interested in developing a cooperation model in which legal functions would be provided either as an outsourced or co-sourced service. We also wanted to have a benchmark study of the solutions already in the market so that we could better understand the extent to which EY Law could better meet clients' needs. We hoped that the project team would take an open-minded and proactive approach and boldly challenge the existing legal service model,' Reino Hyvärinen says.

'The fact that the students involved in the project had experience of service modelling and that they were in the final stages of their studies was reflected in an excellent way in the quality of work and their ability to model customer needs and markets in different customer segments. Their final report produced some eye-opening findings that might not have been noticeable from within the sector. The project team found a joint vision on the implementation method and the goal of the project at an early stage, and the students took up the task open-mindedly and independently. We will have great follow-up for the project as Aleksi pursues the work as part of EY Law', Hyvärinen continues. 

'A highly experienced project advisor Mirel Leino-Haltia was able to guide the students in essential matters. The research was not in any way too academic, but even surprised us with its pragmatic and customer-oriented approach. The cooperation was smooth, and the final output was an excellent and easy-to-understand report, which will be utilised in the development of the service model. As a culmination, a presentation event was held for EY staff, which was attended by a large group of experts, also from outside the legal services. The lively discussion that began at the presentation event was the best feedback on an interesting and successful project.'

Projektin loppuesitys EY Law:n henkilöstölle
A final presentation event was held for EY staff. EY Law will have great follow-up for the project as Aleksi pursues the work as part of EY Law team.

Excellent experience in service design and project management

Aleksi, who is studying information and service management as his major, and Hanna, who is majoring business law, say that the project provided them with valuable practical experience in service design and legal consulting, as well as providing important tools for developing their own expertise.

In Aleksi's opinion, such projects bring together working life and studies in a smooth and student-friendly way. Aleksi felt that the project also served as an excellent opportunity to develop cooperation, communication and project management skills in a way that differs from ordinary courses. In addition, working on interviews, benchmarking and analysing observations was an excellent opportunity to utilise in practice the things already learned in the courses.

'We were able to easily combine the project with our other studies, as we were free to plan our schedule. The practical nature of the project and the entity designed based on the real needs of EY increased the motivation to do a good job and challenge oneself in a new way. It was great to be able to produce genuinely valuable information to support further development. We were a well-functioning team with Hanna and Mirel and working with EY representatives went very well.'

Hanna felt that the project was an excellent way to complete the final credits of the degree, and at the same time to get into working life. 

'The opportunity offered by the project to focus on a genuine challenge and find solutions that really have a positive impact on the client's business, both motivated and inspired. Cooperation among the project team members and with EY worked seamlessly, and the project as a whole was very interesting and inspiring.' 

'Thank you to EY and Aalto University for an interesting project. Other students should also participate in tailored business projects,' Hanna and Aleksi state.

EY (Ernst & Young) is an international expert and consultant company focusing on auditing, taxation, business law and corporate restructuring. EY is one of the world's largest networks of expert services. The company has over 300,000 employees in 700 offices in 150 different countries. EY Finland has 22 offices. For the past 21 years, EY Global has been on the Fortune magazine's Best Workplaces list.

Opiskelijoita Kauppakorkeakoululla. Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto / Unto Rautio

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