The pandemic pressured corporate legal departments to control costs and collaborate online to an unprecedented degree as demand for legal services surged. As a result, more general counsel are looking toward technology solutions with additional urgency.
But missteps await legal departments that rush into implementing technology without first taking a thorough look at the bigger picture. Which challenges or opportunities will new technology specifically address? What’s the plan for ensuring a smooth transition within the team? How will you measure—and maximize—the value of your investment?
Marching too quickly into new legal operations software can be costly and counterproductive if your team is left wrestling with tools they don’t actually need while wishing for the ones they do. The path to a successful implementation of legal operations software involves a commitment to continuous improvement, the evaluation of potential solutions and the appointment of a champion or champions to help lead the initiative.
An in-house legal team needs to embrace a culture of innovation to get the most out of legal operations technology. The endorsement of the general counsel and other senior executives sends a message that efficiency is the new expectation.
Next, determine which technology solutions best suit your needs, and prioritize them in a road map. What are the organization’s objectives? What are the specific challenges the legal team is facing in trying to meet those objectives? Answers to those questions help determine the areas where technology can deliver the greatest benefits.
Here are some tips for those long on technology options but short on time to evaluate them.
The clearest mandate within many organizations is cost control, which leads to close scrutiny of how legal work is allocated and resourced. At the same time, the biggest expense for a corporate legal department after internal staff is typically outside counsel, and those costs can be difficult to track.
Both a broader and more detailed look heightens the visibility into operations. Topics to consider include what type of work is being done, internally and externally; who is doing the work; and how much time is spent on it. Also consider how much time was spent on the work last month and last year.
Modern e-billing and matter management solutions technology help legal teams gain granular insight into their legal costs by reviewing dozens of specific factors, such as billing guideline compliance and timekeeper breakdowns. Also, the technology helps in-house counsel objectively compare law firms and identify the firms that provide the best value.
Additionally, the software tools help legal departments move away from hourly rate billing, put law firm panels with more objective standards in place and build trust and credibility with the legal and business departments.
Another common pain point for corporations is the high volume of contracts, such as sales deals, marketing vendor contracts and nondisclosure agreements. Contract life cycle management and e-signature software can improve the process of creating, negotiating and storing contracts.