Legal technology can help in-house counsel centralize fragmented data, increasing efficiency and productivity, write Lindy Muto and Sam Kidd

Corporate counsel are currently between a rock and a hard place. In the current legal landscape, workload and risk profiling are increasing exponentially for in-house legal teams. Corporate counsel want a change. They cannot continue to be constrained by time, while constantly putting out fires created by other business divisions. Legal teams need technology tools to improve efficiency and gain insights for making better resource allocation.

It is 2019 and yet, technology for most in-house legal teams still equates to emails and spreadsheets. Legal teams are facing increasing pressure to demonstrate the value of their work, however, they are not equipped to show it. Discussions regarding value and workload of legal teams are often anecdotal because in-house legal teams have ad-hoc and inconsistent processes, communication barriers between themselves and the business divisions because of an “us” and “them” mentality, and the lack of a centralized system to record and share their work.

With all the information sitting in emails and spreadsheets, corporate counsel are unable to operate their teams effectively because they do not have data on how their teams are working. Especially because the information is usually scattered among team members’ files and emails. This antiquated method leaves the corporate counsel with no way to quantify the type of work they do, its value and cost, and who is doing it.

Therefore, corporate counsel need to encourage their teams to move away from the chaotic recording system and leverage technologies available in the market to bring their teams into the digital environment, which saves time and reduces mundane tasks that hinder operational efficiency. While this is the time to do it, the legal sector is in a flux with multiple legal technology providers offering various solutions to legal teams.

The corporate counsel need to:

  • Take the time to upskill themselves and adopt legal technology;
  • Place themselves on a level playing field with their counterparts in finance, human resources, and sales and marketing departments, which have access to software tools and data to improve their work, performance and provide reporting metrics to the senior management; and
  • Help their teams make forward-looking decisions to create efficiencies, improve internal relationships, and optimize and align legal and business teams.

To achieve the above, the starting point is collecting data. Data collected with these technology tools will help in determining the direction of the legal department (where change is required), transform the way legal services are delivered, and change the perception of legal teams from stumbling blocks to business partners. The conversation will no longer be anecdotal. You, as the corporate counsel, will now have the tools and the data to provide answers to the questions you are asked regularly such as: What is the legal department doing? What agreements are the legal team working on? Why is the legal team holding up the transaction?

The conversations between your team and your business partners will now be more constructive.

Corporate counsel have everything to gain and nothing to lose by using legal technology. Imagine a world where in-house legal teams capture data that help them transition out of the chaotic cycle of doing and transform the legal department into a true strategic part of the organization. While this sounds amazing, it warrants a word of caution, collecting data for the sake of data does not serve any purpose because it will not resolve your problems. The purpose is to collect structured data, i.e., data that tell a story, help you see trends and get insights into your legal department.

So, where do you start to ensure you collect structured data and effectively use the legal technology available? You need to focus on getting the basics right and create a foundation. You want data that collects information about matter details, contract details, and expense and knowledge management. For this information to be effective, it needs to be stored in a structured central system because the system will produce tangible data that provide the story regarding the operations of the legal team, the legal teams’ capacity and capabilities, its common work types and expense.

By collecting such data, in-house teams will become proactive rather than reactive. In-house teams will be able to: (1) provide insights into how to solve issues before they become a problem, (2) make better decisions on allocating resources (low value/high volume, high value/high volume), (3) determine what should be automated or outsourced, (4) show which individuals or teams need training/support or better project management skills, and (5) align the legal team with the business teams.

Collection of data is the starting point and is very important. However, legal teams are only a part of the entire legal value chain, so data collected cannot be viewed in isolation. Legal departments sit in a unique position, they serve the whole organization and have complete oversight of the business. Therefore, working together with the business teams, communicating and collaborating with external legal, business units and third-party technology providers turns the data collected and stored in one central location into real solutions benefiting all. For instance, legal departments will be able to identify issues and trends before they become a problem.

There are a plethora of legal technology tools currently available, however, these are often focused on solving a specific problem or an individual fix. Current tools focus on automation of agreements, e-billing and the alternative legal supplier’s market, which are predominantly labour issues. Neither of these solves a variety of other pain points in the legal department.

For example, the automation of agreements, although a valuable technology tool, does not tell you:

  • how many agreements are being drafted by the legal department;
  • when those agreements expire or management of those agreements;
  • who within your legal department is drafting those agreements;
  • the types of agreements being drafted by the legal team; and
  • the time it is taking to draft those agreements.

Therefore, in-house legal teams need to take a step back and invest in a legal operating system. A legal operating system is the foundation that connects a variety of technology service providers available in the market. It also brings all information in one place –contracts, matters, expense and enterprise legal knowledge, for instance. Artificial intelligence cannot exist without an operating system that can capture data. Corporate counsel no longer need to cobble such information together – it is readily available in one system that will give corporate counsel the ability to see what is going on, what is happening and how to solve it by using real-time data.

With a legal operating system, corporate counsel will also be able to measure their team’s efficiency and productivity, manage risk and enhance policy compliance.

Legal departments should not just focus on saving money on invoices or automating contracts, but they need to focus on how they can meet the future needs of an organization. Legal teams need to connect various functions and turn data from those functions into effective decisions on resource allocation and business insights that drive business outcomes and efficiency.

Once you have a platform that brings all these together, your legal team will have a single source of truth that captures and analyzes data that actually helps the corporate counsel to make decisions, preempt issues, and change the status quo.

Lindy Muto is the legal operations consultant of LawVu in Melbourne, Australia and Sam Kidd is the CEO of LawVu in Tauranga, New Zealand.

Lindy consults to in-house legal teams and legal technology providers. She can be contacted at lindy@lindymuto.com. LawVu is a modern software platform that is revolutionizing the way corporate legal teams manage legal and engage with their internal stakeholders. The LawVu platform includes features such as matter management, contract management, spend management and knowledge management. Learn more at www.lawvu.com.