Survive and thrive – using tech to your advantage

By Lisa Kozaris, Graeme Grovum, Liza Greenwood
Digital Transformation Legal Technology Technology & Outsourcing

Transformation of legal services 6 min read

Technological innovation has been a hallmark of the pandemic, accelerating the digitisation of many professions – and legal is no exception. Real progress has been made, largely out of necessity, in improving legal service delivery through technology. These improvements include enhanced collaboration through the use of digital platforms, the widespread adoption of electronic signing, digitisation of court systems (including online hearings), and the implementation of document, matter and contract management systems.

In our recent webinar, Partner Philip Blaxill and our Chief Innovation and Legal Solutions Officer, Lisa Kozaris, spoke to Katrina GowansMichelle Tilley and Salam Saffarini about how in-house teams and law firms are creating value through technology and innovation. In this Insight, we explore some of the common themes raised in the discussion and forum.

Existing tech: the path of least resistance

With uncertain budgets and security and compliance issues involved with onboarding new technology, corporate legal teams are turning to resources that are already in use within their organisations. Most organisations have a Microsoft 365 subscription in place,  which, in addition to well known apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, also comes with a range of workflow management and process automation applications built in.

Corporate legal teams can benefit from having a framework in place to receive requests from business customers. It can provide increased visibility of legal requests across a team, assist with task and matter allocation, as well as provide useful data to demonstrate value back to their organisation. A few use cases for the Microsoft 365 suite include:

  • Forms to capture new legal requests;
  • kanban boards like Planner to track and manage work at every level of the team (a similar app Trello, from Atlassian, is also widely available); and
  • Teams to consolidate matter management in one place, and Power Automate for appropriate manual admin tasks in process workflows.

The Microsoft 365 suite of applications is already well-known to many business customers. Using familiar tools lowers adoption risk and means fewer authentication credentials to manage – everything 'just works' together.

For teams looking to integrate technology better, try:

  • talking to your IT team, or other internal networks, and tapping into your existing talent. Your organisation may already have a community of 'citizen developers', so it's worth starting here;
  • reaching out to corporate counsel communities and other industry organisations with special interest groups – such as for lawyers looking to improve processes; and
  • leveraging your panel firm relationships to help generate ideas, build intel, and develop solutions. Allens has a strong focus on improving legal service delivery, and this extends to helping in-house legal teams service their internal business units.

Matter management and triage tools of choice

For matter management and triage, many legal teams are choosing tools their companies have already invested in, like Microsoft 365, in the approaches mentioned above. It’s an effective way to standardise processes on a familiar platform.

When there is a well-defined use case, some teams opt for industry-specific solutions, including LawVu and Xakia. Other teams have the resources available to build their own matter management solutions on platforms such as Oracle, using a mix of consultants and internal technical expertise.

There is a wealth of resources available from organisations like CLOC and ACC to help you focus your analysis. A step-change approach is beneficial here. If you're just starting the process, look at internal efficiency tools. When these are no longer sufficient, it’s time to evaluate third-party applications. If you ultimately find these don't suit the needs or scale of your organisation, bespoke applications might be your solution.

Enabling easy access to legal knowledge

For many of our clients, offering ready access to knowledge and key legal resources is an ongoing challenge. Streamlining the process for accessing precedents, best practices and other relevant materials should be a priority.

Some clients focus on implementing knowledge management solutions to make it easier for their teams to find the tools they need. Solutions vary from simple legal knowledge banks within SharePoint (for an improved intranet experience) through to tier one document management systems such as iManage or NetDocuments. 

Different systems offer additional benefits, including:

  • reduced storage space;
  • enhanced security and improved regulatory compliance;
  • easier retrieval, backup, and disaster recovery; and
  • better collaboration and increased productivity.

Finding the right solution begins with defining and scoping out your team's knowledge-management objectives and key requirements. Investing in relationships and partnerships across your organisation (including with your IT team) will reveal where these needs align and could mean splitting the cost across multiple teams. Demonstrating the breadth of need across multiple teams will also reinforce your business case for investment.

Investing in your team

Investment in technology only gets you part way through a transformation. It’s just as important to invest in your legal team. When it comes to building their capability, there are a range of options available:

  • Approach existing organisational experts (eg in IT, L&D and Innovation) to run sessions for the legal team on change management and problem solving. Ensure these sessions discuss how your team can apply the learnings.
  • Ask legal panel firms to share their knowledge of the legal tech landscape, run client training on specific solutions in their tech stack, and facilitate workshops to help in-house teams clearly define problems, then identify solutions. Many firms will be happy to build relationships in this way.
  • Ensure tech vendors and suppliers include custom training and support materials in their delivery and implementation, so this responsibility does not fall to you.
  • Join the CLOC member community to build your knowledge of the Legal Operations landscape and to take advantage of the many great templates, guides and other resources, many of which are tailored for in-house legal functions.
  • Use the internet for resources and run your own training to build capabilities as a team. Atlassian has published hundreds of free 'plays' in its playbook with detailed instructions for teams running workshops. These cover everything from icebreakers to retrospectives. Similarly, the free digital collaboration tool Miro provides workshop templates and guides for hosting.

Finally, when scoping and planning the implementation of a new solution, legal team leaders must include budget and resources for change management activities, training, and ongoing support, as these elements are critical to the success of any transformation initiative.

Next steps

If you would like to speak with someone about the issues in this Insight, please contact any of the team listed below.

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