REUTERS | Global Creative Services (no copyright)

Digital disruption and adoption: overcoming challenges for lawyers

Thomson Reuters hosted its second Legal and Technology Procurement Conference last week. Here are some key takeaways from a panel session on how lawyers can overcome the challenges of digital disruption and adoption.

Understand the problem you are trying to solve

Writing a detailed problem statement is a vital first step. You need to focus on the problem that you are trying to solve and think about what the technology would really be used for. For example, if you are interested in cutting down email traffic, consider introducing collaborative tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams. If you want to reduce the number of copies of documents in the team or if version control is an issue, Google Docs may be a solution. Although panellists were broadly positive about these products, they  acknowledged the difficulties of getting panel firms to adopt and use them.

Get the legal team onboard

Embracing new technology often means adapting to new ways of working and therefore lawyers need to demonstrate a willingness to change. One panellist outlined how 250 members of his legal team were outsourced to an alternative legal service provider (ALSP). Although in this instance most of the team made the transition to the ALSP, those implementing change should consider whether they have the right people in their team to manage ongoing disruption from new technology.

There are some simple but effective methods you can employ to encourage your team to embrace change. For example:

  • Think about whether you can reframe the way your team views the change. Sometimes just altering the job titles of certain team members can have a positive impact. One panellist has re-named their paralegals “legal technologists”.
  • Explain what is coming down the track and invest in training the team on the new technology. This may require using external trainers and investigating different training methods, such as podcasts.
  • Remember that introducing technology is not merely a “tech” project but also a change management project. As with all such projects, it takes a good deal of repetition before people become comfortable with a new way of working. After the implementation, find out what is working well and not so well, and ensure the new technology is being used regularly to make it habitual.

Evaluating legal tech

There are now 1500+ legal tech start-ups and, unsurprisingly, lawyers struggle to know where to start when trying to evaluate their options. They are rightly concerned about “backing the wrong horse” and are unsure whether the available technology is good enough. One panellist suggested starting small, being prepared to fail (quickly) and concentrating on demos and limited pilots.

Another recommended using your networks to discuss the different technologies, specifically referencing the Disruptive GC Network. This approach can provide a certain level of confidence when selecting a product if you know that a peer in a similar situation has used and recommended it. Wider networks also enable you to take learnings from other industries.

For further information, see Practice note, Demystifying legal technology.

Use what is already available

Before contemplating investing in any new technology make sure you look at the technology that other business functions (such as Procurement and IT) are already using and, where possible, adopt that tech. Other business functions (for example, HR and Finance) may have already undergone digital transformation projects, so try and learn from their experiences.

One panellist leveraged Sharepoint and used it to build a tool that automated NDAs. The tool was pushed out to the business and saved many lawyer hours and, ultimately, a lot of money for the business.

Build the business case for technology investment

The in-house legal team is often fighting other internal stakeholders for budget. It’s therefore crucial that you spend time building a strong business case for your new technology investment. See Practice note, Building a business case for new technology investment.

Demonstrate a return on the investment

It’s equally important to show a return on your investment. Make sure you use data to demonstrate what has been achieved and talk to the business (particularly Finance or the CEO) in a language that they understand. For example, use visuals (such as pie charts or graphs) to illustrate the data. One panellist remarked that it was important to “choose your metadata wisely”. Pick the data that will be most relevant for the business, not for Legal. For example, information on:

  • Working capital.
  • Cash flows.
  • Time savings.

Don’t be daunted

Finally, embrace the fact that London is currently a world centre of legal technology. Leverage your networks, educate yourself, and apply the decision-making skills you have been developing all your legal career.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share this post on: