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Legal and Technology Procurement Conference: top ten takeaways

Earlier this month I attended Practical Law’s inaugural Legal and Technology Procurement Conference. Many of the themes highlighted in my Legal Geek 2018 post were again hot topics of debate and there were engaging sessions on legal procurement strategy, improving operational efficiency and overcoming the challenges of implementing legal tech. Here are my top ten takeaways.

Create the time and space to think

Several speakers highlighted the importance of taking time to think and identify the pain points that you are trying to solve before embarking on a technology procurement exercise. Strategy away days were suggested as one way of creating this space for deep thinking.

People, processes and technology

Knowledge is often locked inside lawyers’ heads and therefore they need to be involved early in the procurement process. In addition to experienced lawyers, business analysts, legal engineers and project managers should also be part of your implementation team.

It is important to review your processes at the same time as implementing new technology, otherwise you run the risk of automating a flawed process. Look at the underlying business process, document it and, where necessary, redesign it.

Identify your key stakeholders

Senior management “buy-in” is vital. Consider who you need to convince (CEO, CFO or CTO) and use data, facts and figures to communicate your message. Getting on the Tech Priority List is crucial, as is ensuring that the users and the recipients of the service can see the benefits of the proposed technology.

A number of panellists highlighted the need to partner effectively with the Procurement function to help improve the legal team’s purchasing decisions. Look at how Procurement works with other corporate functions within your organisation and consider whether Legal can replicate their approach.

Know your data

Before attempting to get senior management onboard you should conduct a fact-finding exercise and really get to grips with your data (three to six months of data should suffice). Your analysis will depend on the type of technology you are considering procuring. For example, it may focus on:

  • The volumes and types of contracts within your organisation.
  • How much your organisation spends on external legal advice and which function spends the most.

Make or buy?

Making use of the technology that your company already owns was a popular topic of discussion, with Sharepoint and Facebook Business both being name-checked. One panellist shared his experience of using Sharepoint as the basis for developing a matter management tool.

However, other speakers were equally keen to point out that bolting on technology from other parts of the business (such as Salesforce or SAP) often doesn’t work well for Legal and specialist legal technology is the way to go.

Law firms are embracing tech innovation

Many law firms now understand that technology can be a competitive advantage but there is a battle about how tech innovation and pricing will interact: will firms focus on improving their profit margins or delivering better value to their clients?

Although firms are investing in technology and using it internally, they are often slow to share it with clients. Conduct a technology audit of your panel firms and invite them to a Tech Forum to allow them to explain how they can use their technology to help you.

Stop thinking Legal is special

Legal has a lot to learn from other corporate functions and needs to change its culture to keep pace with the rest of the business. Look at tech initiatives in different parts of your organisation (such as Finance or HR) and consider whether they could be adapted for Legal.

Driving behavioural change is difficult and the level of change possible will be different in every organisation. Identify “change champions” within Legal and make driving behavioural change a departmental objective.

Work with a trusted advisor

Selecting the right technology vendor is difficult and requires a huge investment in time and money. One panellist started with a list of 25 providers that was gradually whittled down to a longlist of six and finally a shortlist of three. Identify a vendor-neutral advisor who can:

  • Interpret the needs of the legal function.
  • Challenge the lawyers and their requirements (where necessary).
  • Push-back on a provider who is reluctant to share best practice.

Once you have decided what you want the technology to deliver, create a short document (no more than two sides of A4) outlining your requirements. Regularly refer to this Requirements Document throughout the implementation process.

Take a phased approach to technology rollouts

One panel session focused on a contract automation solution that was simultaneously rolled out across 42 countries in three languages. Both panellists agreed this was too complex and they should have taken a less ambitious approach. Another panellist suggested rolling tech out gradually via practice areas. Once you have shown the savings, you can justify expansion across other departments.

Lawyers do not need to know how to code

Law schools need to focus on teaching the practical skills that lawyers will require in the future. Although deep-level technology expertise will not be required (lawyers do not need to know how to code) lawyers will need to be “tech curious” and capable of managing and curating legal data.

As much of the repetitive work that previous generations of junior lawyers had to tackle  will be performed by AI, lawyers will instead be trained using simulations that replicate the on-the-job training that has disappeared.

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