Roundtable Roundup: Best Practices for implementing technology in the corporate legal department

Posted: 11 March 2020
By: Neota Logic

Neota Logic hosts a quarterly breakfast meetup for General Counsels and Legal Operations professionals to share ideas and best practices in running their legal department optimally. The focus of this roundtable was to discuss the findings from a recent corporate legal technology research report that Neota Logic commissioned. Delegates from organisations such as Barclays, HSBC, GoCardless, CarWow, Consilience, Fidelity, and others were in attendance. The key topics discussed are below:

 

Making the investment case for technology

The outcome of the research report clearly showed there was a need for legal departments to adopt technology. The automation of repetitive, low-value work has become commonplace in-house but taking a step back, how do legal teams make the investment case for new technology internally?

Several of our panellists identified that you need to ensure your overall legal department goals align with the overall objectives of the business. Ensure you engage with the business, listen to their issues and find solutions that meet their needs, as well as your own. It’s especially important to get your CFO and IT teams involved at an early stage.

It’s equally important to demonstrate evidence that adopting technology will contribute to the bottom line. Several delegates stressed the importance of providing data as evidence to back up your case for technology investment. Make the comparison showing what an extra member of staff will bring you compared to the value technology can bring over a short and medium time frame. The key here is repeatable processes; technology won’t just perform a single task and achieve better results. It will continue to do this again and again. That’s where the true value lies. It’s important to stress that if you promise the business a certain return then you will need to deliver so make realistic promises and show the incremental return over time.

When doing this, it’s important to look at the overall picture. There might be a huge time-saving in one area but has little impact in other areas. By undergoing a thorough review, you can ensure you are implementing technology that benefits your whole legal department and company as a whole.

The general consensus from this event was to sell the value to the rest of the business. Work with tech vendors to pilot projects and demonstrate them to your business. That way they can see for themselves the difference it will make over time. Often, the challenge is the belief itself.

One panellist had experience of removing the procurement department from the tech purchasing process. The only way you can do this successfully is to demonstrate that your legal department knows the true value of these services and how to implement the technology successfully. Again, aligning yourself with the CFO will help but also showing that you can apply lean and six sigma processes – prove that you can do this without their involvement.

 

What skills does the modern legal department need?

The research report we commissioned identified that only 33% of those surveyed actually had a legal operations role within their team. This led our delegates to discuss what skills they should look for when hiring and how to upskill existing their existing team.

All our panellists identified the legal ops role was essential for in house legal teams. Without them, implementing new technology will be difficult. The legal ops role will help manage technology implementation projects successfully. Without them, you may need to look at involving external consultants but if your overall objective is reducing spend then this isn’t the way forward.

A common theme was the attitude of new hires. Several of our panellists demonstrated there was a need to hire people that aren’t afraid of change and that will look at existing processes and how they currently serve the business and identify improvements.

With existing members of your team, try to upskill them with project management training, have them sit with the IT team and learn new skills, to help your overall team objectives.

 

What can vendors do to assist you?

The research report showed legal departments wanted technology that connected to their existing technology. Vendors need to be able to demonstrate this to legal departments and be open to exploring new integrations.

Most importantly, vendors need to be able to ‘prove the concept’ either building a pilot solution or hosting a workshop where they can involve the legal department along the journey of process mapping, and building out a use case within the workshop session itself.

 

The legaltech bubble – how do you cut through all the noise?

With so much technology on offer, how can legal departments cut through the noise and choose the right technology?

Our panellists described a ‘fire hydrant’ of legaltech on offer at the moment. There was an expectation that legal departments need to ‘catch up’ due to the perception that everyone else is implementing legaltech. The advice of several delegates was to absorb the knowledge of what’s out there, then stop. Don’t be told what problems you need to solve – spend some time identifying the problem and then look into whether legaltech is the right answer. Be aware of the noise and try to filter it out.

 

How do you go about identifying areas for improvement in your legal department?

In house legal departments should take the time to work out how their business operates in order to identify areas for improvement. When undergoing this process, don’t just look at one function. You should access processes, workflows, content and people. Try to use metrics to measure how tasks are done so you can make a comparison down the line.

One of our panellists suggested starting by looking at how the people in your department operate. Sometimes it’s as easy as thinking about changing attitudes and educating staff about different ways of performing tasks have been traditionally done.

Once you’ve established how your department operates you can identify potential problems, what these problems could mean to the business and begin to look at new ways of doing things.

Several delegates stressed the importance of speaking to your internal clients – ask them what they would like to see and how you can support them better. You don’t want them chasing you so anything you can do to help them with efficiencies is a bonus.

 

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