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Feature Interview: Extracting the Most Value from Legal Tech with Nicole Mason

We’re sitting down with legal professionals to learn more about their roles and responsibilities, uncover useful insights and best practices, and discuss their view on the future of legal and legal technology.

This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Mason, founder and CEO of Omnivantage Business Professionals, a consulting company specializing in legal operations, team building, and leadership development. Nicole leverages six sigma and other operational excellence training and experience to help mid-size and large companies establish the legal operations function within their legal departments. She is also the best selling author of the book, ENHANCE Employee Engagement: Future Proof Company Strategies.

Technology has been identified as an instrumental piece of any efficient legal department, but it wasn't always this way. Why do today's legal departments need to leverage technology?

As an attorney, former general counsel, and legal ops consultant, I see that legal departments are increasingly becoming required to operate like other business units. Now, more than ever, legal departments must justify their resources based on performance and their contribution to the business’ bottom line. Leveraging technology is the most cost effective and reliable way to access metrics that enable legal to operate efficiently and with appropriate transparency.

The biggest benefits of leveraging legal tech are:

1.  Cost effectiveness and efficiency

When I was the General Counsel of a software and services company, I leveraged technology to automate certain processes which immediately streamlined operations and saved time. The right technology investment allows legal departments to do more with less people and for less money. The functionality of these technologies also helps lawyers provide better quality service, faster.

2.  Value perception of the legal department

Again, reflecting on my time as a GC, technology allowed me to collect valuable data that helped me get resources, justify and protect my department from budget cuts, and measure results. As a consultant working with multiple companies, I can confirm that metrics and data are a GC’s strongest ally in showing (proving) legal’s contributions. Technology helps legal translate its often overlooked or underestimated efforts and contributions in a way that the business understands. Legal departments that can do this are more respected and fare better in budget negotiations.

3.  Strategic adviser to the business

Leveraging technology also enables legal departments to collect valuable data that can be used by the business to help achieve its goals. The most valued legal departments are not perceived solely as cost centers, but instead as partners in revenue generation and protection. Legal is uniquely positioned to collect metrics and hard substantiated, objective data that can be used by sales, marketing, and procurement to increase revenue and decrease costs.

Unfortunately, some legal teams implement technology that doesn’t provide efficiencies, cost savings, or solve identified problems. Why does this happen?

This happens far too often! From my experiences, the issue is twofold and involves an unorganized selection process and poor communication and onboarding.

In regards to the selection process…

Legal departments may not be aware of all the available legal tech options they have to choose from. I’ve heard of legal departments choosing a tool simply because someone else they know at another company is using it. As a legal ops consultant, I always tell my clients that there are many factors to consider – a tech solution that works well for one legal department might not necessarily work for another.

Additionally, many legal departments task lawyers with selecting and implementing a technology as a side project, to do in addition to their “day jobs”. Besides not having adequate time to devote to such a project, most lawyers do not have the experience, knowledge, or operational and project management skills to do this successfully. Tech must be properly mapped to processes and user roles of the team, but far too often, this isn’t given enough attention. A consultant like myself can step in during this phase to help legal departments match tech solutions to their needs and budget.

In some cases, companies task IT or procurement with selecting legal technology tools. The legal function is so specialized, these departments (like attorneys) might not understand the scope of legal’s responsibilities, making it hard for them to effectively select a solution that will provide value.

Then, there’s poor communication and onboarding…

When introducing a new legal technology, legal teams must manage resistance to change. If all stakeholders and users are not bought into the tool, or have not at least had the opportunity to provide input in some manner, the tool is often not used as intended and therefore will not produce the intended results and benefits.

The same resistance will occur after implementation if users don’t know that the tool is available or lack other information they need to access the tool. When teams are not adequately informed about how and why to use the tool, the failure is not because the tool is wrong, but rather due to lack of adoption, or improper and inconsistent use. Communications need to extend to in-house attorneys, outside counsel, and business partners in order to deliver ROI, and the communications need to be strategically and effectively delivered.

With that in mind, what are 3 things legal teams can do to avoid these situations and select technology that delivers ROI?

1.  Hire a legal operations consultant

Getting a legal ops consultant on board to jump in to supplement and support the team tops my list as one of the most valuable and effective things legal teams can do – no surprise there! But in all seriousness, a consultant can ensure that the team selects the right technology, map processes to people and tech, and help with any part of the project, including project management or driving certain aspects of the implementation and communications.

2.  Understand the issue you’re trying to solve

Know your budget limitations and what problem you are trying to solve, as well as the cost of not solving the problem or solving it without a technology tool. Then, see demos from and talk with multiple vendors for the type of technology that will solve your problem, comparing features, functionality, and price.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Involve and communicate regularly with all stakeholders, including representative user types, in the selection process. This helps ensure acceptance and usage of new technology. Remember, this is a science and an art that needs to be strategic. Going back to my previous point, this type of communication is something your lawyers, IT, and procurement are not trained in. It’s another reason why having the right people lead the communication efforts when introducing a new legal technology is vital to success.

Is there a particular type of legal technology tool you think every legal department would benefit from?

Since budget and costs are the most common pain-point for legal departments, every legal department would benefit from having at least a robust, yet easy to use, e-Billing solution.

Ideally, the e-Billing solution you choose is combined with a matter management solution like SimpleLegal, which provides the greatest cost-reduction impact with the added benefit of collecting valuable, useful data. These solutions can not only automate a lot of administrative tasks, they make it easy to control outside counsel spend, generate reports that can be used for budgeting, as well as collect and analyze data that can be used to optimize staffing and operations.

What is your top piece of advice to legal departments to help them get the most out of their legal technology investment?

Properly use the technology you invest in. Too often, legal departments only use a small fraction of a technology tool’s functionality, or the tool is used inconsistently or incorrectly. Early involvement and frequent, clear communication, along with buy-in and executive support, go a long way in getting attorneys, departments, and law firms using the tool to maximize its value and benefits.

Drive Greater Efficiencies in Your Legal Department

We’d like to extend a big thank you to Nicole for taking the time to share her strategies around implementing legal technology and optimizing legal operations and the legal department as a whole. Don’t miss out on our next feature interview (and other great legal ops content) by subscribing to our blog!