An interesting intersection between law firms and corporate legal departments continues to evolve.
Every day, legal professionals explore how to best achieve the unique goals of both groups, which can at times appear to be in direct opposition. Law firms are looking to maintain existing clients (and expand work with them) while constantly being in a business development mode. In-house teams continue to prioritize demonstrating value to key stakeholders in the business with improved efficiency, often including the desire to handle more work internally.
Legal technology plays a key role in “directing traffic” at this intersection, serving the needs of both law firms and corporate legal departments. Tech developers must listen to feedback and find ways to assist legal teams in creating opportunities to solve real-life, day-to-day challenges involved with all aspects of legal work.
Technology solutions should help legal departments achieve measurable results, and the desire to apply tech in this pursuit continues to grow. Tech companies often have a unique perspective to this relationship with professionals who bring previous legal experience to the problem-solving table. Conversely, many corporate law departments employ attorneys who previously worked in private practice.
All of these factors can combine to build better digital relationships between external and internal legal teams. In-house legal departments can deliver more to their business, get more from their technology and extract more value from their external counsel through intelligent adoption and implementation of technology.
Evaluate Legal Technology Abilities
Legal technology can serve as a solution and help to improve processes, communication and efficiency for legal departments of all sizes. By using technology, communication and collaboration improves while enhancing partnerships between not only legal teams but also other working departments within the business.
When evaluating new legal technology, there are six key factors to prioritize when making a decision on what works best to provide solutions:
Ease of use and user interface. Technology should not be so complicated that it becomes a nuisance. If a standard user within a business can’t figure it out with minimal training, they simply won’t use it. This can severely limit, if not cripple, the technology’s ability to transform and improve processes. To successfully achieve adoption of new technology by a department or business-wide, it’s important to understand a team’s experience with technology. Identify early adopters and empower them to help others on the team ease into the technology. Generally, it is important for all stakeholders to be on board with the change—from the top down. This can help to ease fears about making a transition.
Company-wide integration. Select a technology solution that offers a wide range of inter-departmental uses, plentiful integration opportunities and the flexibility to be tailored to the business’s needs. There are endless solutions available to lawyers that are so specific to legal work that they prohibit the ability to be adopted by other departments, limiting the business’s return on investment. Company-wide adoption will help improve the efficiency of processes and make the resulting data more consistent and reliable to assess and evaluate.
Potential return on investment. The ability to calculate how much time a business has saved by using technology will allow for a more accurate calculation of quantifiable ROI from the investment to present to key stakeholders. In turn, calculating the ROI will help justify future investments in technology for the business based on the measurable successes.
Pricing and scalability. Technology solutions have become more readily available at a lower cost of entry for legal departments of all sizes. This is largely due to the flexibility of the cloud and the security of cloud-based solutions. The cloud has made it so technology no longer requires long-term commitments, onsite IT staffs or large financial investments. The cloud allows technology to be updated quickly and regularly, and the ability to change services based on the needs of a company is easier than ever. Additionally, these services continue to provide state-of-the-art security options that ensure data is not only safe but maintains compliance with a multitude of regulatory needs.
Military-grade data security. The news consistently features data breaches and the damage they cause to businesses. A business’s reputation and long-term success depend on keeping confidential data safe, making it essential that any cloud-based technology is protecting the data with military-grade security. Without it, a breach can cost a company millions in lost business and ongoing litigation, not to mention the damage done to reputation.
Artificial intelligence deployment. Another piece of legal technology to keep an eye on is the use of artificial intelligence to help improve efficiency. AI can be deployed and taught to recognize subtleties within documents and classify them, freeing up manpower to handle more important aspects of the legal work. This can all be done without using expensive IT resources and will lead to quick, cost-efficient results.
Deliver More as a Strategic Business Partner
No matter how large or small a legal department is, or what type of business it serves, there are common elements that apply to every lawyer and are critical to success.
To generate success, legal teams must:
Understand business goals and communicate. Legal departments have a larger role than managing legal matters and driving revenue to the business. To understand the business’s goals, there must be easy and open communication and a deep knowledge of how different departments operate and interact, and what their goals and challenges are. Ease of communication is vitally important and can be achieved through collaborative technology tools.
Reduce risk by anticipating legal problems. Legal teams are entrusted with protecting the business partners and their business from risk. In-house teams must be proactive in a concentrated effort to anticipate potential legal issues before they happen. By thinking ahead, and deploying technology in a way that helps protect a business from unnecessary exposure, legal teams can build trust with their business partners and leaders.
Achieve the business objectives. Legal teams must redefine themselves as teammates and partners to each area of the business and avoid becoming perceived as the department of “no.” There is a chance to hinder advancement if the legal team is not open to trying new processes and brainstorming creative solutions.
All of these key pieces to success work together. By understanding business goals and communicating with other departments, legal teams are better able to anticipate upcoming legal issues. To achieve business goals through more creative solutions, legal teams must collaborate with different departments within the business.
Collaboration and communication are extremely important in working toward achieving all three of the key pieces to success. It is vital to develop relationships and have open communications with all departments, not just a select few. Collaboration will help solve business and legal issues that come up, because the more included the other departments feel in the processes, the more likely a legal team will be to mitigate potential risks from the start.
Drive Collaboration With Outside Counsel
The adoption of legal technology in the law firms that corporate legal teams work with is being driven by a demand for transparency and visibility into legal matters. By being involved and actively collaborating with outside counsel, corporate legal teams hope to reduce legal costs. By improving transparency, corporate legal teams are able to strategically determine if work can be brought in house while potentially encouraging competition from law firms to create increased efficiencies.
Cloud-based legal technology platforms are rising to the challenge presented by this demand by bringing internal and external teams together in a secure digital working environment. These platforms offer a great user experience, access to documents and data remotely and with the needed security to offer benefits for litigation matters that have never been available before.
Cloud-based collaboration benefits for litigation include:
• Access and control all documents, knowledge, research and data created by outside counsel during litigation for analysis, reporting and forecasting
• On-demand, real-time updates on litigation matters and status to increase efficiency and manage budgets
• Improve and track access to litigation data, such as pleadings, exhibits, transcripts, productions and more
• Increase efficiency by collaborating on data, research and content and putting them to work
When working with legal teams and other key stakeholders, it is vital to grant access to work within the preferred collaboration platform. By doing this, all teams will have the ability to deliver updates, documents, knowledge and more quickly and efficiently.
The right approach to legal technology will help reduce costs and improve efficiency and collaboration between internal and external teams. Technology works as a support system that allows your legal team to do more and helps to strengthen relationships with teams and clients in an effort to redefine the working intersection between law firms and legal departments.
Luke Kopmeyer is a client success consultant at HighQ. He has over 10 years of legal experience working as a practicing attorney, e-discovery project manager and analytics consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com.