This post isn't just for corporate legal teams, but for any organization thinking they are too small or early to adopt enterprise software.
A lot of conversations in the legal space are around that “sweet spot” when a corporate legal team is a good candidate for leveraging legal technology - eBilling, matter management, contract management, you name it. Working with different legal departments over the last couple years, I’ve learned that there isn’t a perfect answer. There is no magic amount of legal spend that makes you a good candidate - teams with as little as $250,000 in outside legal spend have benefited a great deal from legal operations technology. There isn’t a suggested number of in-house attorneys you need, either - we’ve helped solo GCs and teams of 50+.
If you are part of a small corporate legal team you probably feel like the traditional e-billing solutions out there aren’t for you - that they’re made for big teams. Well, you’re right. Many of our customers have expressed these same concerns; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard complaints about the number of clicks needed just to set up a matter and the lack of legal billing software for small firms.
I’m happy to report that solo GCs and legal heads of even small teams are realizing incredible ROI by leveraging legal technology to solve their problems. Here’s why you should start looking sooner rather than later:
1. Save Time
Managing outside counsel requires time from you or your team. Time is something that small teams have less of than medium or large teams. Let’s say your team is currently getting 10-20 invoices from your law firms each month. Let’s also say that, on average, the time it takes someone to review, adjust, approve and administer each invoice is 1 hour. You’re looking at a couple day’s of work each month. Or, you might be getting far more monthly invoices - we have customers that receive 100s. The time commitment starts to become a burden, and that’s when modern eBilling solutions can step in and streamline the management of all invoices.
2. Higher Adoption
Often times, when software solutions continue to add feature after feature, they end up with a clunky tool that is far from user-friendly. This can make adoption of new software slow and almost always means more time spent training, and frustration from users because they get lost and can’t accomplish even the most basic tasks. Interestingly, I’ve found that, regardless of the size of any legal team, these extra bells and whistles are actually hindering user adoption and turning off prospective clients. At SimpleLegal, if there is an element of the tool that you won’t use, we’ll just turn that feature off, keeping your view clutter-free. That being said, the usability, configurability and support of the product are key.
I’ll break this one into 2 parts:
- Passing on or turning off the unused product features can help to keep your price point lower than that of a larger team (plus, as I mentioned above, it increases user adoption). Like many things in life, those extra features aren’t free. So, skip them and get what you need. If you aren’t able to turn off unnecessary features, it might be time to look elsewhere.
- At least for SaaS based solutions, pricing levels can be advantageous for teams with a small number of users, small amount of outside legal spend, etc. On-premises solutions will likely be pricier. Additionally, in your size, you have a bargaining chip the enterprise legal teams don’t - SaaS companies want you to sign early on and remain loyal customers as you grow. Sales is about making friends, right?
4. Access to Expertise
Let’s face it. When you are an in-house legal department of 2 your cumulative legal experience is slightly less impressive than that of a 20+ person team. Maybe you’ve worked in-house before and have some key takeaways from your previous roles. You definitely have friends in the industry that you can lean on. But, the expertise brought to you by a good legal solution provider can really help build and/or fine tune your process. You are, in a sense, joining a community of legal teams in search for the same help. Solution providers and their customer implementation teams work with 10s, 100s, even 1000s of legal departments of all shapes and sizes. They see processes that work, and those that don’t. They know best practices and are happy to share them with you! They are in a position to help you build out processes that you may not need at your current stage, but will surely need as the organization’s legal needs morph.
Bottom line, you want software that works, will get used, and at a cost you can justify. Time commitment should be minimal and setup shouldn’t be overwhelming or create setbacks. Most importantly, it should be a solution that you’d tell your friends about.