In this series of articles, we share some practical insights on starting your Legal Tech journey.
As a head of legal in a multinational company you most likely have spent some time thinking about how your organisation can start and implement efficient processes and digital solutions within your legal department.
The need of being on top of this topic has increased during recent years with the increasing workload and regulatory development. At the same time the legal functions need to be more transparent with how they support the business to justify the need for resources to manage the legal environment in a multinational organisation.
In three articles we will describe how you can start your Legal digitalization journey focussing on requirements we have come across. Our work is based on experience from supporting legal departments in large multinational companies in Europe and beyond and by providing a legal IT-platform for more than 30 years.
The first article deals with the overall need to digitalize the legal department. In the second article we discuss how you start your digitalization journey. The third and last article outlines how you prioritize specific areas of reporting and compliance.
Different objectives for the legal department
Management of the legal department encompasses a wide range of areas such as the below, making the legal tech journey necessary and complex.
- Legal matter management: The legal department is typically responsible for all legal matters such as litigation, investigations, compliance, mergers and acquisitions. These challenges are often complex and diverse and therefore require an efficient process and a good structuring of data to be in control of them.
- Service delivery management: The legal department is often a service provider to other departments and stakeholders within the company. To provide a good service it is essential to define boundaries with other departments and implement effective monitoring and measuring tools.
- Corporate role management: The legal department should be able to demonstrate how it adds value being a non-revenue generator. This could be achieved by implementing tools to collect key data and calculate metrics to present how the legal department add value.
- Stakeholder management: The legal department will communicate with both internal and external stakeholders who need to be provided with different kinds of data, often within tight deadlines.
- C-level management: The head of legal often reports to the chief executive officer to present complex issues and to give an overview of the various matters which affect the group. Therefore, it is vital to collect and follow changes and present them in appropriate overviews.
Daily challenges for the legal department
Some of the challenges that a legal department may face in its daily work include:
- Manual tasks and work overload
Having to spend too much time and effort on tedious and time-consuming tasks prohibits in-house lawyers from spending most of their time on tasks where they can deliver the most value.
- Contract backlog
Every matter often has several contracts, documents, and NDAs that need to be finalized and completed. Since drafting or reviewing these documents requires sending them back and forth, it produces a contract backlog if the process to complete them is not smooth and fast-moving. This in-turn leads to longer turnaround times and lower end-user satisfaction.
- Missed Court Dates
In-house lawyers, to a certain extent, are dependent on external counsels for updates on each matter, and upon receipt, all of this information is recorded in unreliable excel sheets or diaries. Many times, updates can be missed, and there are automated functions that remind lawyers of upcoming court dates.
- Lack of visibility
Without centralized control over all the different processes taking place in the legal department, there is a lack of visibility that leads the in-house lawyer not having the proper overview of all the information needed.
- Exposure to risks
Due to manual processes, in-house lawyers have low visibility in the matters they are handling and are prone to make more mistakes since they are multi-tasking between several tough jobs at the same time. This exposes the company to risks since the in-house lawyer may not focus attention where it is needed the most.
- Keeping track of expenses
Keeping track of legal spending is a difficult and time-consuming task for legal departments. Since all departments have a budget, an easy to understand forecast and an automatic and efficient way to calculate the amounts will result in good projections and control of the total spend.
Why should the legal departments start on a digitalization journey?
With the above-mentioned areas of management and the resulting daily challenges, it is crucial for the legal department to build up processes that are supported by a legal tech platform to meet the challenges. There are no quick fixes in this respect. Instead head of legal needs to invest time in a digitalization journey based on a framework and technical solution that can be developed over time.
In many organisations a partial digitalization has already started, with the implementation and use of specific solutions aimed to solve specific tasks in certain areas. However, in most cases these organisations have not introduced an overall legal tech project to support the legal department in a comprehensive way.
The reasons for this differ among multinational companies, but the main reasons often include the following points.
- It is difficult to create a roadmap for introducing processes and IT solutions for legal. For a in-house lawyer the discussion in social media and the “thought leadership” communicated by advisory firms such as by the Big Four is on a very high level and in many cases more or less general descriptions of the perfect solution where buzz words such as automation, AI, robots and the likes are used without any deeper or practical guidance on what steps a head of legal that would like to start the Legal tech journey should take.
- There are a lot of stakeholders outside legal that already have started and are on the way on this. Tax, Finance, Treasury and other functions have their solutions. At the same time many head of legal has limited experience in creating and manage “digitalization” projects. This makes it difficult for a head of legal to take a step back and start from the beginning in implementing a solution that supports the legal department in an efficient way. Instead, they are stuck in a situation where they focus on pushing their legal issues and processes into already existing solutions, which could end up with the legal department getting sub-optimal solutions that do not support the challenges faced by a modern legal department.
- Lack of time to focus on creating processes and implement IT solutions is a common reason for not starting this journey. In some cases, this is a real concern, but many times the solution is to spend time on the right things. Trying to adapt the legal processes into solutions that only manage one area of concern or into other existing systems with all the discussions and political hurdles that need to be taken, is in many cases more time-consuming than doing it right from the beginning.
- Another argument put forward is that a digitalization project to implement a legal solution is too expensive. Since the legal department already has certain requirements it might already have IT solutions or manual processes to solve them. To spend time and money on creating separate solutions or customizing existing solutions that generally are developed to meet a specific need may be quite expensive and time-consuming. Investing time in a digitalization project will give you a more efficient process and be a cheaper solution that is future-proof.
The above points give you some arguments of why it is important for a Head of legal to start a Legal Tech journey.
Read more: Starting your Legal Tech journey – part 2: Getting started
Read more: Starting your Legal Tech journey – part 3: Reporting and compliance
Read more about how Blika can help you digitalize the legal department.