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Legal & Technology: How In-House Lawyers are Embracing Technology
Kezia Pembayun, Country General Counsel, Pt L’oreal Indonesia
On the other hand, historically the word “technology” or innovation had not always gone hand-in-hand with the word “legal”. Early in my career, it was no secret that the legal industry was steeped in tradition and rather conservative. Lawyers were not necessarily popular for being enthusiastic drivers of tech-innovation, preferring instead human expertise. There was so much fear and skepticism in doing things differently, especially when it came to using non-human expertise. I remember when I first moved from private practice to in-house, my marketing colleague was telling me that the only technology proficiency that lawyers might have, was with “Microsoft Word”. I think that was a common perception: that lawyers only knew the basics when it came to technology.
However, during the course of my career, that perception has been slowly changing. In recent years, companies have invested in legal digital solutions and automation to eliminate or minimise manual work, fostering greater efficiency, better and faster processes, whilst maintaining good governance in managing legal risks. The in-house team who used to be quite hesitant to deal with technology, is now adjusting, transforming and benefiting from technology in managing their tasks. This shift could also be prompted by the fact that legal teams are overstretched and under-resourced, not to mention the pressure on legal budgets, so lawyers have started turning to technology to see how it can help.
Adding to that the pandemic, which hit the world in early 2020, has changed everything –changed consumer behaviors, changed the way we do business and of course changed the way we work. The pandemic indeed accelerated needs and how we heavily rely on digitalization. Online shopping, e-commerce, online payment, Zoom calls, Google Hangout, Microsoft Teams calls, and social media live streaming have become part of everyday life.
Like many General Counsels, I also face the challenges of how to provide support and services to the businesses and meet their needs in the most cost-effective, efficient, fast (and cutting-edge) manner with the available resources. So I too turned to technology to find means and tools to help us deliver on these expectations.
Considering that setting, it was not too difficult for me to pitch the idea of investing in digital tools to our CFO as one of simplicity and efficient solutions. The senior executives supported having legal go digital to keep pace with the businesses’ acceleration. However, I am aware that this kind of support may not always be available in different industries. It could be a challenge for legal to convince the senior executives to embrace legal technology to help their organisation.
In leading the Legal team, one of my priorities is to drive the team to focus on embracing simplicity, technology, and innovation. Never afraid to test and learn, especially on finding ways to streamline the process and improve efficiency through technology transformation. For instance, when we experience tasks with long processes, numerous or high volumes of documents, layers of approvals, repetition or routine tasks, this is the opportunity for legal to optimize the use of technology and to make it a user-friendly experience both for legal and business users. Some examples:
• we are implementing a contract management automation solution (platform) to speed up contract review processes and provide access to our standard templates of contracts, tailored/adapted contracts as well as all relevant information pertaining to contracts. This allows the business to initiate the process, have access to their contracts, get notified when the contracts need to be renewed and only brings lawyers into the fold when the contract is new or different. This has released my team to work on much more strategic and higher value-add matters. With e-signature, the internal approval/governance process is automated, increasing efficiency while internal governance is maintained.
It is critical to choose technologies that will help lawyers do their job more effectively and will be user friendly at the same time that benefits can also be enjoyed by the business.
• e-commerce, social media commerce and the expansion of the digital economy (online payment, payment gateways, etc.) have exponentially increased during the pandemic. Consumers are more comfortable in and even embracing this online purchase environment. For lawyers, this can give rise to potential legal issues and some arguably new issues, to name a few – the increased cases of counterfeit products sold online, data privacy, etc. One of the proactive approaches to anti-counterfeit efforts with online products was launched by our Global team using artificial intelligence, which can detect and monitor for infringements online using a data crawling platform. The tool can also produce reports with customized details. This tool helps us strategize in our approach to fighting online intellectual property infringements. In the old days, many companies and law firms would use manual force to do the detection and monitoring by assigning junior staff to perform the task full-time, this may have worked then, but in today’s context this would be very counter-productive.
Introducing technology as an integral part of legal services may not always be easy, resistance sometimes come not only from the lawyers but also from the business as they also need to change the way they operate, learn new things, and adapt. Getting people to adopt any piece of technology that changes the way they do things is essentially change management, therefore it is critical to choose technologies that will help lawyers do their job more effectively and will be user friendly at the same time that benefits can also be enjoyed by the business. Technology will continue to be increasingly important, as what we are doing becoming more automated and digital: like it or not, lawyers must be prepared and ready to embrace what will come next.