There has been a clear shift recently in the discussion around legal technology and how it has changed the legal profession.
The question we hear is no longer “why should an in-house team be looking into technology?”. The question is increasingly “where should we start?”.
There’s a lot out there: a lot of platforms, a lot of providers, and a lot of problems to be solved. Even within the suite of solutions a single provider like Plexus offers, from legal automation to contract and matter management software, it can be daunting to navigate.
So how can you make it simple and decide where you and your team should start on the journey?
First: clear your mind
No, don’t run! There’s no new-age meditation needed.
The first thing we see is in-house lawyers still thinking about legal technology with a private practice mindset. This is dangerous and needs to be dropped: an in-house team must approach their needs from an in-house perspective.
When in private practice your firm’s primary output is legal work. Most people in the business are lawyers, so making legal work 5% more efficient directly makes the business 5% more profitable.
In-house lawyers need to think differently. Most Legal teams make up less than 1% of the organisation. Making legal work 5% more efficient might therefore equate to a 0.005% impact on the organisation. While improving legal efficiency is a worthy endeavour, it’s unlikely to get funding over other business projects.
Second: be clear on the (business) problems
The C-suite will never give you budget for something that only helps Legal, but that doesn’t mean legal technology will never get executive buy-in.
Every business has clear, overarching strategic objectives, and legal functions need to position their technology projects as initiatives that will help the business grow.
The first questions you should be asking are:
What drives outcomes for the business?
Where does legal play in helping achieve these outcomes?
What are the improvements legal can make that directly impact these?
Once you have answers to these questions you can begin to narrow your search to technology platforms and providers that not only suit the needs of your function, but the broader business.
Third: Prioritise to do “more with more”, not more with less
It’s easy getting stuck in the “more with less” mentality. Take matter management software for example. Matter Management is great, but only solves problems for legal, which means legal has to pay for it and find places to offset the expense elsewhere (and ultimately do even more with less).
Additionally, we see that most matter management systems actually create MORE work for legal (data entry) and ultimately fail to get properly adopted, making it hard for legal to demonstrate value for the investment, which usually means it’s impossible to drum up investment in the next thing (contract management, automation, etc).
If all you're after at this stage is matter management to organise legal work, there are cheap solutions out there that do this just fine - DazyChain, Xakia, Leap, Legal Tracker, etc. Our experience, however, is that customers come to us with tales of woe about failed Matter Management implementations (and a jaded legal and exec team) and wondering what to do now.
If you’re looking to meaningfully increase the productivity of the Legal team and the business over time, it is our experience that starting with a Contract Management System to digitise contract workflows is the best first step. We often see this approach successfully followed by matter management (for everything else, if needed), followed by automation of the business' most-used contracts.
This tiered approach means you’ll be able to request budget ON TOP of the existing budget, rather than instead of spending elsewhere. You’ll also be set up for success when it comes to securing budget for whatever you do after contract management. You’re not just solving a legal issue (tracking your matters) but an issue the business cares about (reducing time to contract execution).
As well as increasing legal’s popularity, contract management gives you:
- Access to data – A Contract Management System will allow Legal to immediately begin tracking, managing and reporting on contract matters. What gets measured, gets managed and increased transparency will only lead to further productivity gains across the business.
- Reduced Legal workload – business users will be empowered to (safely) manage their own contracts and renewals, saving your team hundreds of hours a year.
- A killer first impression - Improving the business’s appetite for additional legal technology investments (like matter management)
Fourth: Define success
What are the outcomes your business can expect at launch, three months later, six months later, one year later? Legal functions that do not outline clear success indicators for their technology initiatives are doomed to fail.
For what it’s worth, some of our clients who have chosen to digitise their contract workflows via Plexus Gateway’s Contract Management module have reported astounding results:
- Reduced time to approval and execution from 5 days to 37 minutes
- Reduced legal contract review turnaround time by 80%
- Increased Legal team productivity on contracts work by 85%
- Improved Customer Satisfaction by 500%
Over to you –
Ultimately, the best way to select and introduce legal technology into your business is to follow these four steps:
1) Stop thinking like a law firm
2) Understand your business needs
3) Prioritise an improvement in competitive advantage rather than getting more done with less
4) Be sure you’ve defined ‘success’ from the outset.
Plexus offers a range of legal technology services to help take your in-house legal team to new levels of efficiency.
If you are interested in our contract management software, we have more information available about what contract management is, why you need it, and how contract management can help your team get more work done.