Crowd-sourced from 1,700 lawyers and legal operations professionals 6 min read
What’s the most transformative thing you have delivered for your business over the past 12 months? What would you like to achieve over the next 12 months? There’s a clear message from legal and compliance teams about what’s on their minds. There’s both interest and concern regarding the use of AI for legal practice. There’s a thirst more generally to understand the next frontier that could create standout improvements in legal service delivery. There’s a strong focus on better managing and protecting data. And there’s the strongest imperative yet to be efficient and to reduce costs in everyday matter delivery as we move into a more constrained economic environment.
While technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, it is becoming more accessible than ever. In this Insight, we explore what’s front of mind for innovative legal professionals and share some practical examples of how leading legal functions are improving legal service delivery in their organisations.
During the recent webinar: Transforming legal service delivery through technology, we discussed how organisations can become 'future-fit' and embrace technology as an enabler to deliver greater value, reduce risk and improve legal service delivery. The comments and questions received from a sizable cross-sector audience of legal and compliance teams pointed to these clear areas of focus:
- How can we reduce our data security risk?
- How do we get programs underway when budgets are limited?
- I hear a lot about ChatGPT, but what about other tools?
- What can we do with the tools we already own?
- How can we deliver our everyday matters more efficiently?
By far the most pressing concern for corporate legal teams over the past year has been how to better manage their data and data security risks. We expect this focus to continue.
Following the significant cyber incidents of last year and the heightened global cyber-threat environment, protecting and better managing corporate data has become front of mind for organisations. And so, the question has emerged: what is the corporate legal team’s role in this?
Many GCs have recognised the large data footprint created when briefing matters to external firms and other third parties, which often involves sensitive corporate data being sent externally. Of particular concern are disputes and regulatory matters, which often involve significant amounts of corporate data being transferred offsite. Without appropriate visibility of how this data is being managed and protected by third parties, the risks are amplified.
For this reason, a growing number of legal teams have identified, as an immediate priority, establishing a centralised legal data repository to help reduce their data footprints and corresponding data security risks. At its core, this solution acts as a central platform for all third parties to use when acting on dispute and regulatory matters for an organisation, as well as for use by the corporate legal team itself.
As is often the case when introducing an innovative technology or solution, this strategy has resulted in a number of additional benefits for legal teams, including:
- providing a comprehensive record of what has been produced to regulators across inquiries, reviews and investigations and allowing a more consistent approach across key documents;
- reducing duplication of work and cost by providing the ability to 're-use' work product for future matters (eg the review and redaction of critical documents such as board papers); and
- reducing costs associated with the document review and production process, including data-hosting costs.
With a relatively modest investment, legal teams have been able to significantly reduce their data security risk and drive greater efficiency within their organisation.
A second priority for legal functions has been refreshing data retention and deletion programs for their organisation. The best way to avoid or reduce the impact of a data breach is not to have the data in the first place. As such, there is a renewed focus in particular on the deletion part of ‘document retention and deletion’, and several practical steps are being taken to reduce key risk areas (here's how to get your data retention and destruction program up and running).
As we enter an even more cost-conscious environment, it’s helpful to remember that the cumulative effect of many smaller improvements can deliver real value and greater efficiency.
When budgets are tight, in addition to using the technology already within your organisation, the ideal business case will demonstrate ongoing value but low ongoing costs off the back of an initial investment (eg a one-off project cost that delivers ongoing reduction in costs plus other ways the business will save or add value). Quick wins, like those achieved by automating otherwise manual processes within the legal function, are an effective way of proving value. Using resources that your organisation already owns when getting started (these will vary by organisation, but most have Microsoft 365 for example) will support an expanded business case if you are initially successful, and won’t have cost anything if you are not.
Another valuable avenue to explore is tapping into the expertise of your internal IT team or external law firms. Many will be able to share their insights and lessons learnt from:
- similar projects they have implemented;
- the results of their own R&D; and
- insights on a range of vendors and technologies.
Make it a point to broaden your network to include technology, innovation and transformation experts who will be able to support you with your own efficiency projects. Special interest groups, including the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) and Association of Corporate Counsel’s Legal Technology and Innovation Community (LTIC) are also excellent resources.
Progressive legal functions are already using technology, including AI, to drive greater value and reduce costs.
For many progressive in-house legal functions, this is now 'business as usual'. Key areas that benefit from technology enablement include:
- contract review and due diligence
- verification of statements for accuracy before they are made public
- legal research
- document drafting and management, and
- investigations and disputes.
Within corporate legal teams, the areas that are benefiting from greater efficiency, cost reduction and risk reduction due to technology enablement include:
- dispute and investigation matters that leverage central data repositories (as noted above) or eDiscovery platforms
- contract creation, negotiation and management solutions that provide greater visibility into corporate spend, create efficiencies in the contracting process and facilitate better risk management and compliance
- legal document generation, including document automation solutions for legal teams and developing self-service solutions that the business can use to create low-risk legal documents themselves
- knowledge and document management solutions that provide better access to legal knowledge resources and frequently requested legal documents
- matter allocation and management across the legal function, as well as enhanced lawyer capacity management
- other manual or repetitive tasks or processes carried out by the legal function, eg verification of annual reports or responding to subpoenas.
Example technology products:
|eDiscovery, dispute and investigations
|Nuix Discover | Relativity | Reveal Brainspace | Everlaw
|Contract lifecycle management (CLM)
|iCertis | Legal Track | SAP Ariba | ContractPodA | LawVu
|Workflow & document automation
|Microsoft 365 Power Automate | Neota | OutSystems | Contract Express | checkbox
|Transactions matters (including contract review)
|Atticus | Ansarada | Luminance | Kira | RAVN
|Matter allocation, management, capacity
|Lawcadia | LawVu | Microsoft 365 | Smokeball | Plexus | HighQ
The simpler transformations can often be achieved by extending the use of tools an organisation already uses and is familiar with.
Automation tools, including those in the Microsoft 365 platform (MS 365), can automate many of the manual processes undertaken by corporate legal teams, such as matter intake, task allocation and management, as well as data collation and reporting. For example, one leading corporate legal function has delivered a five-fold increase in the accuracy and comprehensiveness of information it collects from its business stakeholders to help meet its regulatory reporting obligations. It has reduced the time it spends manually collecting and managing that same information by 90 hours per week. Many automation solutions integrate with email systems, allowing business users to work within systems they currently use day-to-day, which helps increase the adoption of these automated workflows—more on this below. Other automation opportunities include FAQs and legal guidance automation, employment contract generation, expense and billing management and contract creation and management to name a few.
Implementing changes to improve your internal processes is a valuable undertaking for any legal team. However, without user buy-in from your lawyers and the broader business, that work could be wasted. So, how do you ensure the changes you’ve implemented are used? One way to minimise adoption risk is to minimise the changes you ask your users to make.
Most organisations are now using MS 365 and, in the last few years, business users have become much more proficient within the online work environment than anyone could have predicted. Given the average business user’s comfort level using MS 365, it is a wonderful place to implement a matter management system. Below are some resources and practical steps to help you get started building your own.
- Create a matter initiation form (MS Forms) to capture new legal requests/regulatory notices (matters) from your business users.
- Create a list (MS Lists) to use as your matter register.
- Create a task board (MS Planner) to allocate matter-specific tasks to legal team members, and to track the progress of tasks.
- Create a matter management hub (MS Teams) to access the above applications in a central location and to collaborate within Legal and across the business.
- Create a series of process automations (Power Automate) to:
- automate information transfer from the form to the list
- update the Planner board with new matters as they are created
- pass alerts to the legal team in MS Teams as new events occur.
Components: MS Forms | MS Lists | MS Planner | MS Teams | MS Power Automate