The current legal tech landscape: A lean legal team
Following the financial crisis, a new legal landscape has been taking shape. Much like law firms, in-house legal departments are now required to do more with less, closely manage scarce resources and continually prove their value. Teams are being asked to handle more duties in addition to giving higher-level legal input to senior management and across all business functions.
“Legal teams have had to become more strategic and commercially focused. They can’t just be a cost center anymore” MacAdam explains, “In-house teams are now under more and more pressure to keep costs down, but at the same time still manage the risk and also deliver value to the business. And it’s for these reasons we’re seeing law and legal departments become leaner.”
Within the new, leaner legal teams, legal operations and tech roles are on the rise. Legal operations professionals, armed with technology solutions and analytics are helping to enable efficiency, optimize service delivery and give valuable time back to lawyers.
Find your focus: How to decide where to begin
Deployment of technology tools can provide resources document and knowledge management, collaboration, financial management, data analysis and much more. There’s no doubt that technology is powerful, but the wrong solution will result in wasted budget, lost time and frustrated users.
Before you start:
- Evaluate usage and capabilities of current tools
- Determine highest value areas for quick wins
- Identify priorities for your potential technology solutions including usability, flexible customization, and security
For example, at DELL, the legal operations team analyzes data to look for opportunities to close gaps and optimize processes. Then, with a clear, data-driven picture of their technology need, they begin to seek a solution.
Hinz explains, “As corporate legal departments look at the work the legal department is doing, more and more you’re finding work that doesn’t necessarily require a lawyer to do it. That’s where strategy and ops can come in to look at how we can either streamline, globalize or use technology to do things more efficiently.”
Identify the area that will best be served by technology. MacAdam details the four areas that most often need efficiency improvement and how technology can help:
Collaboration with internal and external teams
- Increase consistency and establish a single source of truth
- Collaboration platforms create closer feedback loops
- Develop a legal nerve center bringing together the people, process, documents and data
Automation for documents and workflows
- Speed routine document assembly
- Track regulatory changes and obligations
- Reduce cost of invoice processing
Data metrics and analytics
- Manage legal expenditures and predict legal costs
- Inform and drive decision making and forecasting
Machine learning and AI
- Reduce cost of processing routine tasks like contract review and analysis
- Free lawyers’ time for higher value matters
- Analyze large data sets for improved trend tracking
Overcoming legal tech barriers
Legal departments often face challenges in their pursuit of digital transformation, including resistance to change, budget constraints and integration concerns. Despite these challenges, 50% of legal operations professionals will be primarily focused on legal technology in the next year, according to Consero Corporate Legal Operations Report 2018.
Certainly new technology is on the way, but don’t let it go to waste. Win stakeholder buy-in with new technologies that directly link to the legal team’s goals and objectives. In addition, Hinz recommends seeking technology partners that can complement existing processes without reinventing them entirely.
“You can buy all the tools in the market, but you have to get people to use them,” Hinz cautions, adding “Our biggest challenge is driving adoption and effective use.”
To encourage seamless adoption, DELL offers ongoing self-service training and support for each tool as well as a staff member dedicated to providing personalized technology training to ensure that their users are comfortable with the tool. They also have a data scientist analyzing the information provided by their technology solutions. So, while technology can enable efficiency, investments in people are required to power it.
“Technology is an enabler, not a solution.” MacAdam agrees adding, “You can’t just plug a tool into a business or team and expect it to work straight away.”
MacAdam offers additional tips to ensure successful deployment including:
- Work closely with your IT department to determine how technology will work with existing systems
- Develop a technology roadmap to outline global impact and share the long-term vision to help get your team onboard
- Prioritize cloud solutions, cross-system integration, and user-friendly systems
What does the future of legal technology look like?
So, where does all this technology take us? MacAdam concludes by giving his vision for technology use in legal departments for the near future.
“A tech-driven legal department has a long-term, metrics-driven technology roadmap in place. Legal technology tools are being successfully embedded and, more crucially, widely adopted.”
By 2020 we will have more legal data than ever before. By that time, tech-driven legal teams may be able to leverage AI to automate the analysis and application of that data, using it to detect anomalies as well as predict and manage risk. User-friendly digital platforms will continue to be used to collaborate seamlessly with internal and external legal teams. And technology roles within legal departments will grow to meet demand.
Digital transformation is an ongoing, ever-evolving process. Legal departments that begin to deploy technology now will see fewer growing pains and greater success in the years to come.
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