Stéphanie Hamon, Head of Legal Operations Consulting, Norton Rose Fulbright
It is very easy to fall for a good sales or marketing line. We have all done it. We have bought something we probably didn’t really need. However, when you are purchasing on behalf of a specific team or organisation, careful consideration is needed before you spend a significant portion of your budget on a legal technology solution. As CIOs will know, mistakes can be costly and you will have to live with them for many years to come.
A General Counsel’s (GC’s) focus is primarily on managing risk. Today, GCs are also being asked to manage their departments like a business, set KPIs, and deliver more value. This requires them to step into new domains, normally inhabited by IT, to deliver and implement sophisticated business delivery programs and legal technology solutions. Herein lies the problem. The legal expert who understands the legal intricacies and what their department needs to deliver and the IT expert whose focus is on security, integration, and data protection, with little to no overlap between the two experts in their day-to-day work.
By working together with legal and IT departments, Legal Operations can bridge the gap and help both sides to find the right solution to streamline operations for in-house legal teams. Legal Operations practitioners, whether as part of the legal function or consultants, have both the expertise and skillset to support GCs and CIOs as you navigate through such a process.
Legal technology alone is never the solution. You first need to take a step back and consider the root and the scope of the problem you are trying to solve. A Legal Operations practitioner will be able to work with you and your team to assess whether the problem you are trying to solve is indeed the problem which requires a remedy. Once agreed, they can map out a possible solution, including detailing any process around the identified problem and considering how this fits into the business ecosystem, as well as the legal department’s strategy and objectives. Buying tech without fully considering the problem could well create more issues instead of solving them. It is critical before embarking on any legal tech project to ensure it will be accretive to delivering your strategy.
Adopting a Legal Operations approach can help. By understanding your company’s strategy and long term goals, Legal Operations professionals or Consultants are able to articulate the requirements and identify which legal technology is required to support the organization’s unique objectives and drive both your legal department and your organization forward. This approach can also help Legal to manage the resulting demand for the delivery of legal services. The rise of Legal Operations illustrates the need for an “intermediary” providing some “translation services.”
The Maturity Roadmap (above) outlines the various components a legal department needs to consider to deliver your company’s strategy. Most legal departments will be at different levels of maturity – excelling in some areas, but perhaps not others. First, you need to identify where your legal department is currently, but more importantly, where you want to get to. An important foundation step is to develop a tailored roadmap to do this.
Once the legal department has (i) scoped and mapped out the underlying problem(s) and (ii) ensured it would add value to the delivery of their strategy, they can then start identifying solutions and consider whether it will maximize the effectiveness of the investment. Getting the basics right enables you to reap the rewards technology-enabled solutions can bring.
Scoping requirements will require a detailed analysis. The insight should be based on hard data – don’t fall prey to the ‘he who shouts loudest’ person in the organization. The whole process can be mapped out in granular detail, highlighting the benefits with each step.
Technology can accelerate the solution. As you can see in the Maturity Roadmap, technology is part of the foundation. Indeed the benefits it can bring are many and include accessing and capturing data in a structured way to provide you with new insights that you can use for reporting to the wider business, as well as efficiency gains and streamlining internal operations.
Some of the failures I have seen stem from a piecemeal approach to technology, which results in budget overspend, and sub-optimal tools which require more effort to encourage adoption. Other failures result from a selection of technology that cannot be integrated internally, let alone with your external legal partners. Finally, there would be much to say about change management and tech adoption by lawyers!
The GC needs to make sure they know where they want to get to. Be wary when navigating the legal tech landscape – it is a crowded space. The recent pandemic may add even more complexities, as some tech providers will come back stronger while others may not survive at all. Once you have your roadmap, do your research on providers and seek advice from your network or a tech-agnostic consultant. CIOs can facilitate discussions with third-party providers to guide the GC in the right direction by providing advice on the policies, standards, and controls legal technology needs to adhere to in order to be on-boarded.