Digital transformation is becoming a high priority in the business of law for many in-house legal teams. Given that clients already exist in a digital-first world, legal professionals, law firms and in-house legal teams must embrace digital tools to remain competitive in a technologically advanced landscape.
Digitally-driven changes in the environment are prompting legal professionals to decisively adopt LegalTech to add value to client service delivery. With that said, there is no ‘one size fits all’ and the goals and outcome of a digital transformation project will be different depending upon a specific team’s needs, capacity, and existing processes. Indeed, digital transformation thus goes beyond adopting and implementing technological solutions and requires achieving alignment between the people, processes, and technology within a legal department or firm. This alliance can facilitate a holistic transformation that optimises business operations, encourages agile workflows, and fosters a culture of innovation. Consequently, the in-house legal team can more effectively build their digital capabilities to improve operational efficiency and enhance the legal function.
In this article, we present 7 considerations for the in-house legal team to make when choosing LegalTech, to ensure alignment between the people, processes, and technology.
What pain points or challenges is your legal department facing?
The first step involves reflecting upon the type, volume, frequency and value of work, and existing processes in your legal department, with consideration to the goals and objectives of the organisation and legal team. Then, identify whether any functions are impeding progress, and if so, which of the functions are impeding progress the most?
For instance, is there a lack of visibility in financial spending? Is too much time being spent on low value work? Are there no standardised processes for receiving and allocating legal matters? Is the organisation trying to reduce costs?
Identifying the problem can help to create and communicate a business case for purchasing and implementing technology solutions to the organisation, which can secure investment and adoption from the team. Here is where the legal team can determine the scale to which the transformation must occur and evaluate whether the functional benefits of the technology will outweigh the costs.
What features, or functionality could help your legal department to overcome its challenges?
The second step is to evaluate the available LegalTech options with consideration to the type of technology features that can help to alleviate and overcome the challenges you have identified.
For example, do you need spend management capabilities to monitor the department’s budget? Do you need document automation, workflow automation or self-service to save the legal department time and money? Does your legal team need access to data and visual analytics to contribute to the strategic decisions of the organisation?
The key here is prioritising what you need over what you want. It is a good idea to create a summary list of features the technology must have (critical) and should have (nice to have). As a result, your legal team can align its process with a technological solution that can best overcome the challenges whilst providing the most operational utility to the legal function.
Some additional functions include:
How can the technology help your legal department to improve internal client service delivery?
The third step involves evaluating how the technology can benefit your clients. Although technology supports and enhances a legal team’s operations, the main goal is to add value to the client service delivery. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the technology will also improve your clients experience before committing to a specific provider.
Some general benefits to clients include things like faster and personalised service delivery and efficient, data-driven processes. However, additional benefits can include two-way portals that facilitate streamlined collaboration, self-servicing capabilities, and cross-functional matter tracking and management.
Choosing a LegalTech provider that empowers your clients can strengthen client relationships and enhance the overall effectiveness of the transformation.
Ensuring the LegalTech can also be useful for your clients can encourage innovative problem solving and promote agile workflows by facilitating positive, proactive and constructive engagement with the legal function.
Is the technology customisable and adaptable?
The fourth step involves assessing how compatible the technology is with your current processes, and determining to what extent it might need to be adapted. Given that there is ‘no one size fits all’ digital transformation solution, it is important to ensure that the technology can be adapted, customised, and built upon to better suit your department and client needs.
While out-of-the-box solutions can assist with general functions, your legal department may need to customise and adapt the tool depending on the type of work, industry, security requirements and existing processes. It is important to identify compatibility (or incompatibility!) early to avoid wasting time and valuable resources.
To assist with this, it can be helpful to understand the use-cases the legal-team would like technology to assist with. A use-case is a deeper dive into the pain points and functionality identified in points 1 and 2 and is often described as a user story, including what the user does now and what the user will do in the future with the technology. This can provide the extra level of detail and substance for technology provider to be able to respond to and demonstrate how that use-case would be replicated using their technology.
Further, as technology and the corporate environment is constantly changing, it is advantageous if the tool can be continuously adapted to assist with challenges that may emerge over time. This will ensure that the technology continues to provide functional and operational value to the organisation despite potential changes or external developments. So, ask questions during a demonstration about how changes can be managed and how the team could use more functionality if required for future challenges.
What technical or security requirements does your legal department and organisation require?
The fifth step involves evaluating the security options on offer. It is a good idea to engage with your IT team early to understand the security requirements that a new solution will need to meet. For example, is a cloud solution acceptable or must it be on-premises? Are there restrictions on where data can be stored? Will SSO (single sign-on) be required? Additionally, are there minimum standards expected from technology providers? For example, it is a common requirement for vendor’s information security managements systems to be certified to ISO 27001 standards.
It is important that new technology does not put the organisation at risk or undermine existing security protocols.
Also, knowing this information up-front and proactively engaging with your IT function can save a lot of time and reduce the likelihood of mismatching the solution with the security requirements of your organisation.
Is it possible to conduct a pilot or see a proof of concept for your legal department’s unique use cases?
The sixth step involves testing the usability of the service. Every legal team is different with different team and approval structures and ways of working. It can be helpful to have those unique workflows replicated in a proof of concept on the technology solution so that you can more easily appreciate how this will work for you.
For some implementations it may be appropriate to request a sandbox environment where you can have a limited access to the technology to explore and trial. For larger projects, you may decide to explore a pilot where you limit the implementation to a 6-month period.
Legal technology providers can often be quite flexible, so ask questions and consider the options that might be appropriate.
Does the provider offer support services and is it continuous?
The seventh step involves ensuring the technology will be operationally sustainable. Consider the longevity of the service – does the provider offer ongoing support and troubleshooting mechanisms? How is this made available? For example, you may want to check it is available during your hours of operation and the understand the vendor’s approach to managing and providing support.
Depending on the type of software you are purchasing it may be important to enquire about the process for installing software and performance updates including down-time and if there are any additional costs for training, upgrades, or support.
In summary, LegalTech solutions offer great opportunities for in-house legal teams to adapt and thrive in a digital-first environment. That being said, it is important that the legal team considers their specific needs, expectations and objectives to ensure they achieve alignment between the people, existing processes and chosen technology solution. As a result, the LegalTech is more likely to be useful and improve the digital capabilities of the in-house legal team, whilst holistically enhancing operational efficiency.
If you’ve ever wondered what ‘RegTech‘ is and what it means for the in-house legal function, then our whitepaper “The Rise of RegTech” is a great place to start. In this whitepaper, we explore the growth of RegTech in industry and how it can be used by in-house legal teams to enhance specific functioning areas of an organisation’s operations.
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