My initial 20-year professional and academic career focused on a niche of the legal industry that acts as a professional trustee and fiduciary. We essentially advise families and businesses, helping them manage legal structures to facilitate transactions and protect their wealth and assets. Our industry body is called the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and I am currently Deputy Chairman of the Digital Assets focus group. I found that my skills were in demand in Switzerland, so 15 years ago I decided to leave Jersey and explore the world. In the Swiss Alps and valleys, I could maintain the strong ties to nature that island life had given me.
Ross Belhomme, France
MORE ABOUT ROSS
Why did you decide to do a Master in Legal Tech?
I was one of those children who played around with computers and other technologies until I understood how to make them work for me. As an adult, and through a series of events, frustrations and rude awakenings, it became painfully obvious that I needed to understand technology more deeply in order to advance my career as a lawyer and trustee. I needed to be able to tackle the bull-horns of rapidly emerging new tools to serve and protect my clients, and reinvent our archaic organizational structures and working practices. More importantly, clients themselves were increasingly becoming tech-driven or in some cases, tech-confused. I wanted to ensure I had the most up-to-date knowledge so that I could converse with them fluently and advise them accordingly.
At the same time, I felt a desire to craft some meaningful leadership in my industry. I envisaged my network including more forward-looking, tech-minded individuals. Undertaking a master’s with an international university seemed like a potential pathway to that ambitious but achievable goal.
I went about searching for courses that matched my criteria, but initially nothing materialized that met them. I was deflated, but not defeated. I left this for a few months, concluding that I would later search again if I still felt this was the right path. The next time I looked, the search results immediately presented me with the IE program—a course that covered all of my objectives and wishes.
How has completing the Master benefited you in your professional career?
The modern world is designed to distract us. It is designed to narrow our awareness via entertainment, sensory overload and fear. IE structured the Master so that it was not only a period of learning and acquiring new knowledge, but it was also designed as an experience to open our minds, clear our thoughts and allow our creativity to flow, encouraging us to put ideas into action.
Throughout the program, I was constantly thinking about how I could apply new ideas and take inspiration from the examples of success achieved by others in their respective industries to guide my own goals. The Master therefore gave me the resources to develop a very far reaching and creative vision for my next steps—something that is almost impossible to do when you have not stepped back from the minutiae of day to day working life.
How were the on campus experiences in Madrid, Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley? Which was your favorite one? Why?
They were all magical in their own way—it was an almost alchemical journey through the three stages. In March, the first stage in Madrid brought the opportunity to meet all of my new colleagues—who I now call friends—amid the buzz of the city and never-ending Spanish hospitality. Late nights and early lectures were all part of the initiation, encouraging self-reflection and dissolving any thought of continuing to practice as I once did.
Following a busy online period, the next on-campus phase took place in May, immersing us in the enigmatic world of Silicon Valley and defying all expectations. Learning about this very unique and circular ecosystem can only be achieved by experiencing it first hand, and the central hub of the Stanford campus was the ideal place to do this. A summer of intense paper deadlines followed, pushing even the most adept among us as we organized our fast-emerging thoughts into a structured format via the art of the written prose.
Finally, we were ready for Tel Aviv in September, which was my personal favorite. By this point my next steps for when I returned to the industry were clear in my head, but they still needed a bit of refinement. Some further time spent in person with my colleagues and other inspirational people in a very sacred part of the world allowed me to sharpen my ideas. The organizational skills and hospitality at IDC Herzliya were exceptional. I was grateful to learn about the internal workings that facilitate the development, building and export of technology solutions as well as understanding how the Jewish culture and heritage plays a crucial role in this. In particular, the Jewish chutzpah was something I felt I could integrate into my personal and professional development by pushing fears aside on my path to realizing my visions.
Could you tell us more about your experience participating in the challenges during the Master?
In between the on-campus experiences, participants are asked to undertake a number of challenges. Essentially, this was a way of learning to work in a global team by using technology to deliver an objective. Most importantly, we needed to learn about and be sensitive to the culture and character traits of the new people we were working with, collaborating to quickly deliver a technology solution for large corporations such as Santander Bank and Google.
The experience showed me that soft skills are still crucial to achieving objectives in a human team, something that many people tend to ignore in a world that is largely dominated by academic examinations. These exercises were very challenging but, as with everything, they always came together in the end.
How was the experience of doing the Master in a format that combines both online and on-campus learning?
This combination was crucial for me, as I wanted to maintain my other professional commitments but also spend some time away from the distractions of life to focus my mind on the future. Because of this flexibility, the class was made up of high-achieving people from many different professional areas. It was really beneficial to share experiences with visionary individuals from all over the globe.
How was your experience at IE?
IE is a very forward-thinking institution. We were the first students of the newly created Master in Legal Tech. It was a highly ambitious program, and I can only imagine the extent of the work that went on in the background in order to create and coordinate such a vast academic experience—one that brings together in-demand, top-tier professors and busy senior corporate executives from all over the world. Overall, I am very thankful to IE for their vision, and for allowing me to be part of the first group of individuals to take the journey crafted by the program.
What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at IE Law School?
Without a doubt, it was expanding my network to include my fellow participants and colleagues, IE professors and the other academics we met during the program. Together, they rapidly expanded my awareness. For all of us, I think it was a personal odyssey—of course, we increased our knowledge in new academic areas but more importantly, we learned about ourselves. Interacting with new, inspiring and very diverse people is sometimes an unforgiving experience, but you have to persist. It is no ordinary professional who undertakes such a program.
All of us have grown dramatically since we first met, and we continue to stay close. I truly believe that I have formed lifelong friends as well as many potential business and/or academic partners. A number of us have met up again in various locations all over the world, and having new friends in new and far corners has certainly influenced my thinking about plans for the future. On a course like this, the knowledge you gain is secondary to what you ultimately discover inside.