Avoid the common pitfalls
By making bad legal technology procurement decisions, you can waste significant amounts of your organisation’s time and money, your legal team can appear foolhardy in the eyes of the C-suite and you are likely to generate countless unnecessary hours of administrative work.
Good procurement decisions, on the other hand, adopting the correct legal technologies in the right way can generate enormous time savings for your legal function, cut costs significantly, produce extraordinary insights for reporting to senior decision-makers and can enable critical risks to be spotted before they manifest.
This brief post guides in-house legal teams to avoid common pitfalls so they can make a seamless and beneficial transition into the digital legal world.
As a general rule, the adoption of legal technologies (LawTech) should produce positive responses to questions like the following.
Can the tech cut the time spent by you or your team on low-grade, easily automated tasks by over 50%? Can it provide insights into your business that enable you routinely to avoid major banana skins that would otherwise go unnoticed? Can they transform your working day into something that looks like a lawyer’s day (counselling management teams, thinking about risk items, negotiating deals) not an administrative assistant’s day (formatting documents, fixing file storage, punctuating and spellchecking, simple re-drafting and so on)?
These are the correct tests but, first, we must avoid the landmines. We set out the 13 most common pitfalls here.
#1 Failing to focus on the problem you are trying to solve
Technology must have a purpose and must be properly suited to fulfil that purpose. To avoid tech for tech’s sake, write a list of the seven most time-consuming tasks performed by you and your team. Do it now. Almost certainly three or four of those tasks can be performed by a piece of technology, at scale, for a significantly lower price and significantly more quickly than you or your team can. Then identify a piece of technology that can solve those particular problems and don’t get distracted along the way (easily done, more on which below). Ideally, you will identify a single piece of technology that can solve three or four of those problems in one solution.
#2 Blinded by the overwhelming ecosystem of LawTech providers
The LawTech landscape is becoming overcrowded and includes start-ups, scale-ups and enterprise offerings. Consolidation will surely come, in time, but for now huge numbers of new entrants are trying to get on the bandwagon. It will pay enormously for in-house teams to have a clear understanding of the different types of technology out there and to stay on top of the various providers and solutions. Don’t underestimate the time commitment required here though. If you don’t have time, work with a consultant. If you do choose to master the territory yourself, it’s critical not to be distracted from the specific problems you are trying to solve for your specific organisation.
#3 Procuring outdated technologies with a short shelf life
Technologies move on quickly and are often replaced by newer versions or completely different solutions. For example, old drafting tools that simply fill out missing blanks have been replaced by dynamic, self-updating tools that draw on analysis of existing precedents and learn from their users’ behaviour. Having said that, whilst newer technology from a well-funded start-up can be the right move, beware “cutting-edge” technology that has no buy-in yet from deep-pocketed investors.
#4 Failing to spot useful synergies between different legal technologies
Most leading, enterprise LawTech solutions now come with ready-made integrations allowing them to interface with other technologies “out-of-the-box” (i.e. with no further development, you just switch on the integration and the applications talk to each other). Take time to think through the different solutions you need, identify solutions that (where helpful) can integrate with one another and, over time, you will end up with extremely powerful ecosystems of technologies that work together, hand-in-glove, to perform a large part of your team’s heavy-lifting.
#5 Procuring technologies that do not complement your existing systems
In a similar vein, make sure that the technologies you procure integrate with or, at the very least, complement your organisation’s existing systems. For example, if your organisation uses SharePoint as its document management system, it might make sense to use a contract lifecycle management tool that integrates with SharePoint out-of-the-box.
#6 Ignoring the power of self-service tools
Some of the most powerful LawTech tools enable non-lawyer end-users (your internal clients) to “self-serve” without ever having to bother the legal team. Enabling self-serve technology requires some upfront work by the legal team and/or their consultants to ensure there are pre-approved and properly maintained resources and approval systems in place. Once that initial work has been done, limitless self-serve solutions deployed in modern applications across mobile, desktop and tablet can be an extraordinary time saver for sales teams issuing standard terms of business, procurement teams negotiating third party contracts and the entire business seeking simple answers to frequently asked regulatory questions with a simple Q&A tool.
#7 Not liaising with internal teams who will use the technology
Problems can arise where self-serve tools are procured and developed by legal teams in complete isolation from the internal clients who will use those tools. The result can be that the solution does not suit their needs for some unforeseen reason, is poorly adopted and thereby never solves the problem it was meant to solve. A simple and quick trial test across a small cross-section of internal clients can give you the confirmation you need very quickly and cheaply.
#8 Not training your people how to use the technology
On a similar note, it is critical to invest the time in training your legal team and their end clients to make the most of the technology once deployed. Correctly deployed and with proper training and support, the right legal technologies can provide game-changing time and costs savings, but incorrectly used they will typically waste resources. In every modern organisation’s fight for cost savings and profit growth, all professionals must be able both to do their job and to operate the technology that can leverage their output – this is the future of legal practice as much as any other business function.
#9 Not trialling the technology before committing
Going one step further, you won’t ever really know how well suited a technology is to your organisation and your specific workload until you have trialled it yourself and gone “under the bonnet”. Make sure you and your team have really understood what the technology can and can’t do in detail. A lot of time needs to go into this process because, where two technologies might seem very similar from their website and sales pitches, in practice only one of the two might have a specific function, filter or menu item that is critical to your team’s use case.
#10 Forgetting or misunderstanding security and data protection issues
Most of us are now pretty keyed into the requirements of both the protection of personal data and the general requirements to maintain strict information security and confidentiality protocols. The leading enterprise LawTech providers typically come with all manner of security accreditations and guarantees, which brings significant peace of mind. Earlier stage providers and those headquartered outside Europe may pose genuine or regulatory concerns, which you would do well to investigate thoroughly. Where will your files be stored? Who will have access to your information? Will your files and data be amalgamated with other customer’s information and if so in what way? Will your files and data be used to train the provider’s technology and, if so, is any risk posed? Will subcontractors have access to the data or information and, if so, what controls are placed on them?
#11 Letting the IT or procurement team choose the product
IT teams often want to step in and take over the procurement of legal technologies because they are the locus of technology know-how in many organisations. Legal teams should retain the lead role and the final say in any procurement though. Only the legal team truly understands the job the technology needs to do and are able to judge its results accurately. And only the legal team can understand the quality of the people behind the technology and determine if they are the correct people with the correct experience.
#12 Trying to calibrate, maintain and deploy the technologies yourself
Some legal technologies require a steep learning curve and must be trained or calibrated to solve a specific problem. Some of the larger, enterprise solutions will come with implementation, training and maintenance support; some less expensive solutions may not. Either way, it is normally a good idea to have an expert support the initial implementation and training process to ensure the tools are functioning as you need them to. It is also a good idea to choose technologies that can work out-of-the-box (as well as be calibrated and trained). This way, immediate results can be seen by all users, which reinforces use of the tool, rather than relying on old methods because the shiny new thing doesn’t really work yet and nobody understands how it works in the first place (a recipe for poor take-up and wastefulness).
#13 Procuring technologies that are complicated to use or require multiple applications
To continue that theme, where technologies are hard to use, people just won’t use them. Where multiple sign-ins across different platforms are needed, people will simply not bother. Technology must work effortlessly and immediately to be widely adopted – this goal is best kept front and centre throughout the entire process.
The promise of legal technologies is huge, both now and into the future as a huge army of smart people works to improve and apply technologies to real world challenges. On the other hand, failing to choose the correct technologies, not deploying or calibrating those technologies properly and not involving and training your wider organisation in the process from start to finish, can derail the procurement process and offset all the upside.
We might be able to help…
If you would like any help thinking about the procurement of legal technologies, or implementing the same, please don’t hesitate to call us at Clearlake Law.
We are a new generation of City law firm putting legal technologies at the heart of everything we do, with the promise of delivering faster, better and cheaper premium legal services to our SME and enterprise clients and their internal users and stakeholders.
We can advise on specific technologies for specific problems and we provide access to carefully chosen, enterprise-grade tools with full supervision and support. Contact us now to find out more.