REUTERS | Ognen Teofilovski

Notes from The Alternative In-house Technology Summit 2022

Last month I attended my first Alternative In-house Technology Summit. One of the aims of the event is to help GCs and heads of legal operations build the internal business case for technology investment by gathering success stories from their industry peers. Here are some themes that resonated with me.

Making change stick is difficult

Technology continues to get better, faster and cheaper, and organisations, including legal departments, need to embrace it or run the risk of being overtaken by their competitors. However, although legal teams may acknowledge the need for change, they still struggle to find the impetus to change.

There are several reasons for this inaction, including that the human brain does not like uncertainty and instead prefers to follow a well-trodden path rather than take a new direction. Consequently, getting people to change the way that they work is hard. Making small incremental changes is likely to be preferable to undertaking wholesale changes as the brain cannot cope with too much novelty.

For further information, see Practice note, Change management: an introduction.

Don’t try to boil the ocean

Every transformation project needs to have a clear vision for the future. Legal teams should start small, fix the basics first and avoid taking too much on. They are encouraged to take a phased approach, iterate and then move on to the next problem. Areas of focus could include:

  • Structure. Getting the right skills within the team.
  • Processes and technology. Looking to automate processes where possible.
  • Work allocation. Stopping doing low-value work.

For further information, see Practice note, Digital transformation programmes: what the GC needs to know.

Involve the whole team

Bringing your people with you is vital, so get your whole team involved in the change process. Use workshops to identify challenges and opportunities, and to decide on priorities. Also remember to use professionals from other parts of your organisations, such as process experts, to help with your transformation project.

For further information, see Practice note, An introduction to legal design.

Focus on the customer

Really get to know and understand your clients’ needs. Getting the customer journey right is crucial, so learn to look at problems through a customer lens. For example, a legal front door can provide a triage system that enables the legal team to see which part of the business work is coming from. It is vital to ensure that it provides a user-friendly interface, otherwise the business may not use it.

For further information, see Practice notes, Digital transformation and legal tech: the value of user-centricity and Delivering legal services: how to provide customer-centric legal services.

Be more than “just a lawyer”

In-house lawyers must do more than simply deliver legal advice to their businesses. They need to be well-rounded business advisors who spend more time with people than paper. In-house lawyers should build their skills around human engagement, including:

  • Empathy.
  • Listening.
  • Flexibility.
  • Persuasion.
  • Adaptability.
  • Storytelling.

For further information, see Article, The lawyer of the future is O shaped.

Avoid the data trap

Don’t try to capture all the data in your organisation. Instead focus on the quality and structure of the data and how it is displayed (for example, in dashboards). Perhaps concentrate on five key things rather than attempting to tackle a long shopping list of issues.

Talk to your colleagues within the business and find out what data is important to them. Measurement is key to demonstrating value, so start by introducing something that can bolster your business case for further investment (for example, a legal front door).

For further information, see Practice note, Data analytics and business intelligence: an overview.

Contracts are key

Customer contracts are a good place to start because bringing the time to contract down will save your business money. Focus on the key information in your contracts, such as renewal dates and minimum spend. You can then move on to more complex tasks, like contract analysis, perhaps looking at the obligations within your contracts or identifying problematic clauses that often lead to disputes.

For further information, see Article, Project Optimus: an insight into Britvic’s contract transformation journey.

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