6 questions to help evaluate your legal tech stack
At a certain point in life, we crave simplicity. Deciding what to have for lunch each day is stressful, so we turn to meal prep. We watch shows about cluttered homes becoming beautifully organized — does Marie Kondo ring a bell? We take stock of what’s unnecessary in our lives and remove it, so only the most efficient and necessary things remain.
You should use the same approach when it comes to your legal tech stack. A large number of digital tools doesn’t mean they’re all quality tools. What’s worse — according to Bloomberg Law, more than 70% of legal ops respondents claim they don’t know or aren’t sure about a process to evaluate their legal tech.
If you don’t have a concrete way to evaluate software and whether it saves your team time and supports your bottom line, a framework to evaluate your legal tech stack is a priority. Use these 6 questions to make sure you’re getting the most out of your legal software and helping your team function as a strategic business partner.
1. How does your tool support your business goals?
Legal ops teams have a lot of responsibilities, from analyzing spend data to firm and vendor management, and they need a platform that supports them across those areas and aligns with their core tasks and goals.
Let’s say you want more visibility into your legal spend. You’d like a more granular view to pinpoint what practice areas you’ve spent the most on and what your vendor accruals look like on a week-by-week, month-by-month, or quarter-by-quarter basis.
If you don’t have a modern CRM platform that offers e-Billing and invoicing capabilities, you’re looking at higher costs, less efficiency, and difficult processes. On top of that, you’re unable to collect valuable data for enhanced reporting and analytics, meaning you can’t meet your goal of greater visibility into your legal spend so you can make more informed decisions.
A lack of functionality might not seem like a big deal initially if you’re able to see a high-level view of your activity. But not being able to tap into the details of your finances means you aren’t able to deliver greater business value or unlock your team’s full potential. This is especially true when you stick with your legacy or homegrown tech.
To determine if your tools support your business goals, these are some features to look for:
- Automation to streamline time-consuming manual tasks
- Searchability to quickly find documents
- Reporting to turn your data into strategic insights
- Data tracking to identify trends that inform your decision-making
- Matter management to track the entire lifecycle
- Vendor management to collect and evaluate feedback on vendors
2. Does your tech offer integration options?
Integrations connect your digital tools together through third-party platforms or built-in features. This creates a single source of truth and improves efficiency, automating manual processes like data entry and saving time spent switching between apps and programs.
Without integration capabilities, you’re missing opportunities for optimized time management and more accurate data collection.
For example, SimpleLegal integrates with commonly used applications, including time-tracking software, legal document and IP management solutions, and finance systems.
\Integrations facilitate better internal collaboration. For example, if you synced SimpleLegal with the platform your finance department uses, finance would gain better insight into legal spend. This would make it easier for them to create accurate budgets because they’re aware of what legal invoice charges are coming in down the pipeline and can better predict future spend.
3. How is your sensitive information protected?
Legacy tools are a data privacy nightmare. They don’t provide ongoing security updates after a certain point and are full of outdated patchwork code that’s easily exploitable. Modern legal technology is better, but isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and you need to be critical when choosing your platform.
Learn why holding on to outdated, obsolete legacy tech puts your company at risk for a costly data breach that impacts both your company’s finances and reputation.
Partner with your IT department to review your tools and determine if they have the following data security features:
- Encryption to prevent attackers from gaining unauthorized access to your information
- Vulnerability scanning to assess law firms you partner with for threats
- Data backup so you don’t lose your valuable information in the event of an attack
- Access controls like the ones SimpleLegal has to keep data safe without impacting the ability to collaborate
3. How easy is it to train users on your tech?
The value of the technology in your legal tech stack should significantly outweigh the time and energy spent learning to use it and implementing it into your department’s processes.
Time-to-value (TTV) assesses how long it takes from when you purchase a product or service to when you start deriving value from it. If new users aren’t able to quickly onboard with a legal tech tool — and feel comfortable using it — you aren’t likely to see a strong ROI anytime soon. Only 53% of legal ops users feel properly trained on their tech. That’s not very encouraging.
So, how do you measure TTV? It’s actually pretty simple. Talk to your team members and your law firms. Their ability to use the tools in your legal tech stack is equally important. Ask your legal ops team and your law firms questions about things like the ease of use and features that improve their workflows to gauge what’s working and what’s not.
Let’s say you purchased contract management software you had high hopes for. Unfortunately, it took several months to launch because the technology wasn’t user-friendly. So, instead of the software making a positive impact and delivering immediate ROI, your production is slowed down, increasing frustration among your team. Plus, you’re not getting the most bang for your buck.
5. Is your tech scalable?
If the features of your platform are static and difficult to configure, it’s hard for your team to scale and mature as your company grows.
Your team needs to be able to grow and upskill alongside your evolving business needs, and you can’t do that with older technology that isn’t configurable. Tech that’s not scalable impedes your ability to deliver business value. You want to stay on pace with other departments within your organization. And because manually reviewing invoices can lead to lost value, scalable technology and automation are key.
Additionally, scalable legal tech allows you to scale up or down at any point without the need for supplemental software licenses, making it more cost-efficient.
Ideally, you want to find digital tools that provide configurability to work with you as you grow. Let’s say you experience a sudden uptick in vendor partners. Scalable document automation or document management software would allow you to handle the increase in the volume of documentation involved with billable hours, for example, with no disruption to productivity.
To discover if your tech is scalable, ask yourself these questions:
- Can it adapt to your changing needs or how your team uses it?
- Does it allow you to do more with the same or fewer resources?
- Does it optimize the time it takes to complete tasks?
Unlocking the power of AI in your legal tech helps you scale and improve efficiency because it does the heavy lifting with organizing and analyzing the information in your trove of documents.
6. Is your software saving you or costing you money?
Sticking with your current tool is often seen as a money-saving tactic. But if it’s not meeting your unique needs, it’s costing you in ongoing maintenance and potential productivity – especially if your tech is outdated.
Outdated software solutions will eventually stop performing to the standards they once did or meet the new standards you’ve set for your team. This means continuing to use them puts your organization at risk because outdated technology is often plagued with bugs or just isn’t compatible with outside tech that is updated. Legacy tech also isn’t supported by developers that phase out old tech to prioritize new products.
If you’re unsure if your software is costing or saving you, look at these areas:
- What are you spending each year on maintenance costs for the software?
- How much valuable work time do you lose when the system crashes?
- Are there spend management patterns that indicate there’s an opportunity to save on newer practice management software?
Find out how Instacart saved 10% on their legal spend after switching to SimpleLegal.
Create a legal tech stack that makes your job easier
Evaluating your existing legal tech stack and management tools can feel overwhelming, particularly if your audit finds areas that are lacking. Check out our free guide to switching from legacy legal tech to make the process simpler and save yourself headaches.
SimpleLegal is a foundational tool that checks all the boxes for corporate legal operations teams. Manage your legal spend, matters, vendors, documents, and reporting all in one user-friendly place. Read the truth about SimpleLegal’s brand and products to learn more.