Babar Hayat, Head of Tech and Transformation, Konexo
After years of status quo, legal services are undergoing their own digital revolution. Investment in LegalTech globally has increased a staggering 713% since 2018 and well exceeded the $1 billion mark in 2019.
This rapid growth can be attributed to a number of factors - budget, resource and efficiency challenges faced by in-house legal teams and law firms, policymakers opening up the legal services market to Alternative Business Structures (ABS) as well as a prospering technology talent pool, with world-class institutions and pioneering new solutions to increase operational efficiency.
This is exemplified by the UK government funded research program at the University of Oxford to explore the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support legal services . Furthermore, COVID-19 has forced organizations to rapidly adopt new technologies to continue to operate outside of the traditional office environment.
Legal technologies having an impact
The legal industry generates a huge amount of data across the typical matter lifecycle. Using a combination of people, process and technology, data sets from disparate systems can be tracked, connected and visualized to fundamentally transform how a team or a business operates. It gives you the means to answer questions such as–what type of matters are taking up the most amount of time? Are these being run efficiently? Where is the volume by region, team, division? In turn, this information can be used to identify opportunities for automation and the types of technologies that can augment the way that lawyers work.
One example is the concept of a ‘Legal Front Door’, which is a structured way for business users to request legal services, typically using a portal This allows a legal team to capture all the information needed to successfully complete a request and determine where it should be directed. NDA requests, for example, are repeatable, routine types of work that legal teams can get bombarded with. Using the Legal Front Door ,a business user can service that request via document automation, completing an online questionnaire relevant to the NDA and automatically generating a signature-ready document.
Alternatively, for more complex requests or those that require legal input, the system enables the requests to be sent to the right legal team in the right region with the right skill set to solve it, whether that’s in-house legal teams, law firms or an alternative legal service provider.
It’s a virtuous circle, as the data captured as part of this process can highlight other opportunities for automation or alternative ways of working moving forwards.
Robotic Process Automation in law
Another example of how LegalTech is changing the face of law is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This practices automates manual, rule-based, repetitive business processes by emulating the actions of humans. RPA has been successfully deployed across a range of different use cases, savings hundreds of hours of manual effort in areas such as:
• intake and triage - monitoring incoming work and allocating known work types to appropriate teams, responding to common queries or completing routine compliance checks.
• conflicts and compliance checks - searching against online / offline data sources to ensure you are contracting with entities within your compliance framework
• post completion - ensuring internal and external systems and official registers are updated with contract meta data (such as parties, key dates and terms)
• data reconciliation –monitoring and reconciling data held on internal systems against official registers such as companies house and land registry
Harnessing the power of LegalTech
How is this revolution being perceived in the legal industry? Konexo, developed by Ever sheds Sutherland to provide alternative legal and compliance services, undertook a survey of 100 in-house legal professionals in late 2019.
Almost all (96%) of in-house teams felt that LegalTech would improve their working environment in the future. The potential benefits have been well publicized: adopting an integrated approach to technology will ultimately help to ease workload burdens facing in-house lawyers and allow them to adopt a more strategic role within their organization. Digital transformation will also enable inhouse practitioners to harness Management Information (MI) and data to accuracy levels not currently enjoyed, which ultimately allows for more effective management of operational and legal risk.
However, despite the acceleration of LegalTech, there is substantial caution about adopting a ‘commoditized’ technological solution that replaces the human touch. Furthermore, the explosion of LegalTech has made it difficult to identify the best solution for solving the challenges teams are facing –63% of in-house practitioners believe that, without the relevant consultative expertise, LegalTech is destined to fail.
Sophisticated legal operations teams are focused on leveraging technology to deliver on strategy – defining a LegalTech roadmap which brings together their current capabilities and innovative new solutions to drive efficiency.
So how do you cut through the noise? And make sure you don’t “back the wrong horse” as part of the LegalTech revolution? The first thing is to keep an open mind and remain technology agnostic. The second is to think about business issues above anything else.
The mistake that many people make is going out and looking for a technology solution, without necessarily knowing what the problem or challenge is they’re trying to solve. Fundamentally, it comes back to: what are your business objectives? What are you actually trying to solve? And then building a solution around solving those challenges, not getting in the technology and asking what you can do with it. Often those types of projects fail. You should almost ignore the technology to begin with - it is only ever part of the answer.