Each year, the Alternative In-House Technology Summit offers technology leaders in the corporate legal sector an opportunity to network, collaborate and interact with like-minded lawyers. The conference encourages attendees to share their creativity, challenges and expertise. As a first time attendee, I was excited to hear insights from the GCs and in-house legal experts who were presenting, but I ended up learning just as much from the real-world discussions and perspectives of the other attendees.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the event, I want to offer a breakdown of what I learned from my two favorite sessions.

How we’ve made legal tech work in…

Hosted by: Chris Fowler, General Counsel BT Technology & Transformation, BT Jon Doyle, Chief of Staff – Legal, Barclays Paul Peake, Legal Director, StubHub International

Session summary: This session offered insights from three in-house lawyers working in telecommunications, financial services and technology. Each of them discussed the challenges facing their legal teams, their strategies for encouraging digital transformation within their department and how legal tech is changing the way they work.

The session breakdown:

Chris Fowler, General Counsel BT Technology & Transformation, BT

Chris’s role has grown and evolved in the many years that he’s been with telecommunications giant, BT. His work to transform the approach to contractual risk frameworks led to recognition by the Association of Corporate Counsel and the FT Innovative Lawyers awards. Today, he is responsible for legal support to the technology services unit.

Drawing from his years of experience, he advised that one of the best ways to encourage digital transformation is to bring people along on the journey. He added that developing a deeper understanding of change management will help prepare your team for successful adoption of new technologies.

Chris also spoke about the five factors that are shaping the telecom market and subsequently impacting how his team prepares for the future. He identified key tactical and strategic ways to position the business to reduce risk.

The strategy his team has deployed takes an enterprise approach to their systems to offer a seamless user experience. They use technology solutions that address a wide range of legal department needs including spend management, contract management, document management and matter management. But they don’t stop there, each of these solutions are further optimised with process automation, self-service, triage and workflow, while each is also mined for valuable data insights.

In my experience working with HighQ’s corporate legal clients, this holistic approach with an emphasis on user experience is becoming far more common as legal departments streamline their technology and seek solutions that easily integrate together to create a legal hub.

Jon Doyle, Chief of Staff, Barclays

Jon has been with Barclays for more than 10 years. In his time at the investment bank, he’s seen a lot of change. His advice for other corporate legal teams? Embrace it. Make investments in change and new roles, but be careful not to get distracted by the latest thing. Before you buy another shiny new technology toy, be sure you’ve fully committed to the initial investment and received the most value possible from each of your existing solutions.

When you do decide to look for new technology, do the due diligence and work with your vendor. In addition to ensuring you get the best fit for your business, the process will give the vendor more context and arm them with crucial information about how to effectively meet your expectations.

When pursuing change, Jon recommends examining efficiencies, bottlenecks and processes and then focusing on improving what works and fixing what doesn’t. Change should start with people, then move to process improvements and finally focus on technology adoption.

Paul Peake, Legal Director, StubHub

Paul works in the technology industry, which requires an agile legal team. The nature of the business demands that the legal team be able to move quickly to deliver legal services and manage risk.

Legal technology solutions are working to empower more agile teams, but Paul believes that legal technology marketing is still maturing. Despite what some may claim, there is no legal tech Swiss Army knife that will solve every problem. Many GCs and corporate legal teams face the challenge of cutting through the marketing hype to try to discover the true value of a potential technology.

One of the keys to finding the best technology for your team is working with vendors that are responsive and collaborative. Like Jon, Paul recommends working with closely with vendors and emerging legal operations providers to educate them on your unique needs and requirements.

Hosted by: Phillip Norah, Head of Legal & Compliance, UK & Ireland, LafargeHolcim

Session summary: In this interactive session, Phillip Norah offered observations and advice for cutting through the overblown promises of legal tech and really getting down to business.

The session breakdown:

Legal tech for multinational organisations

For multinational organisations, it's important to take a holistic approach to legal tech so that local teams don't operate in silos. While local teams need tools that work for them, it's also important to harmonise all of your legal tech—especially for the purpose of gathering and reviewing data to drive insight.

Get IT’s attention

Legal functions need to be better at communicating their requirements to central IT—otherwise they'll be at the back of the queue. Also, there's a good chance that the organisation already has technology that can help the legal team. So work with IT to explore how to leverage the technology you already have.

Prepare today for tomorrow’s tech

Right now, there is a lot of hype about legal tech, but legal teams need to focus on what can usefully be deployed now, while also preparing for technology that will help them in the future. For example, it may take a little time before teams deploy promising AI and analysis tools, but they should start thinking about their data now and begin structuring it for a future where AI is more common.

Prioritise process

Deployment of legal tech has to begin with process. Too often technology is deployed because it's the "shiny new thing," but there's no point deploying it if the legal team doesn't fully understand the problem it is trying to solve. So it’s also important to involve key stakeholders in the process from across the business, not just the legal function. Collaboratively decide what the ideal state looks like, and then explore what technology can assist.

Work with vendors who work with you

It's critical for legal tech vendors to be collaborative. Rarely will technology offer all the desired benefits straight out the box. Vendors need to work closely with the legal function to make sure the tech fits the team and their processes, rather than the team and processes having to fit the tech.