Managing the relationship between legal & technology

Lauren Lee | September 13, 2017 | Articles

Yesterday, we attended the EvolveLaw Tech Savvy In-House Counsel event with a group of legal thought leaders looking to dive deeper into how in-house counsel and legal operations are using technology and partnering with outside counsel for stronger relationships and outcomes. Here’s a quick recap of the event.

The Success of Legal Solutions Hinge on Implementation as Much as the Software Itself

SimpleLegal Head of Customer Experience, Tina Fan, kicked off the event with a talk on technology implementation best practices. Regardless of company size or the type of technology being implemented, Tina highlighted the following requirements for a successful implementation:

  • Take a step back and ask why the technology is being adopted, what it will help achieve, and how it will facilitate better outcomes.
  • Carefully plan for the implementation, accounting for the multiple people, teams, and resources required for success. Careful planning ensures key steps aren’t overlooked and the proper expectations for results and timing are set.
  • Carefully evaluate current processes to enable the design of new, more efficient processes that provide value to the organization. Don’t just keep something in place because it’s always been done a certain way.
  • Focus on change management. Spending time to make sure involved parties understand why a certain technology is being implemented, giving them time to ask questions and provide feedback, will make the change easier. There is no such thing as too much communication.

Panel Discussion on All Things Legal Operations and Technology

Tina’s talk was followed by a panel of legal industry innovators: Stephanie Corey from UpLevel Ops, Dan Ralls from Zap Labs, Joel Benavides from Box, and led by moderator Monica Zent from Foxwordy. Legal technology and operations were definitely a theme throughout the panel discussion.

Legal Operations Isn’t Just for the Big Guys

The legal operations function has traditionally been reserved for legal teams of 50+. Stephanie pointed out that it’s becoming more common for GCs of smaller teams, and even solo GCs, to add a legal operations role today. Or, at the very least, to start thinking about how legal operations will integrate into their department and processes.

A few reasons teams often consider embracing the role of legal operations:

  • Smaller teams need to think about scaling early on, and this often requires a legal operations role, especially as companies increase their reliance on in-house legal to provide strategic insight and control spend.
  • In the next 3-5 years, the legal role will likely become more formalized as work needs to be consolidated. It’s inefficient to spread pieces of work across the department in the long-term.
  • Legal ops, even at smaller companies, helps to free attorney time so they can focus on practicing law.

It’s Not Just about Technology, but How You Use Technology to Measure Success

There was a consensus that technology is helpful, but only when you have a clear understanding of the goals it’s going to help achieve. When you’re spending money on technology and resources, you have to use metrics to measure overall ROI and effectiveness. Legal e-Billing software was highlighted as a baseline system, no matter what your spend is, to understand what you’re spending and where you can make investments in other areas.

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out this quick 20 minute podcast from our CEO, Nathan Wenzel, who discusses best practices for collecting and leveraging technology in the legal department.

Change Management is a Key Pain Point In-House Must Overcome

Culture is a key factor in overcoming the adoption of new technologies – and this isn’t just for new legal technologies, but for technologies that a legal team uses on an everyday basis. A few tips for helping with the transition and ensuring success:

  • Look beyond the culture of the legal department because there are many other departments that will also need to buy into a new technology and processes.
  • Make sure the technology you’re considering is something the legal department really wants. Get your team involved early and include them in conversations as often as possible.
  • Educate lawyers on what’s out there so they can come to you and share their need.

Additional Takeaways

Throughout the evening, there were a few other takeaways related to technology and how it impacts corporate legal teams:

  • Legal departments often “get in their own way” and need to think outside of the box, letting go of the old way of doing things and willing to look at new, alternative solutions.
  • More legal teams are adopting a remote work culture. When there’s a good mix of on-site and remote work (specifically having a good presence when you are remote) improves culture, encourages creativity, and attracts better talent.
  • Be honest with your fears about legal technology. You owe it to your partners, clients, team, and organization, to have an open mind and really find a solution that fits your needs.

Want to join the next EvolveLaw event? Check out their events page and stay on top of evolution taking place in the legal industry!

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