‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.’ John F Kennedy.
With the current focus on generative AI, its benefits and limitations, it is timely to look at how legal technology can assist in-house teams more broadly. With the many options available, from specific legal software tools, use of commonly available software and consideration of bespoke solutions, it can be hard to know where to start. Following these five steps will help set you on the path to success when adopting legal technology as an in-house lawyer:
- identify your ‘pain points’
- assess your technology
- start small
- identify a champion for your project
- bring your team along on the journey.
1. Identify your ‘pain points’
In my experience, you will get the best results if you start from the premise that the purpose of legal technology is to enhance your client service delivery. On this basis, the first step is to look at your existing processes and identify the largest ‘pain points’ – that is, where the most significant challenges, issues and problems for your clients and your team exist.
Mapping a client experience journey and your current processes allows you to identify the ‘pain points’ in your processes. These challenges are your reference point for identifying improvements. Not all of these ‘pain points’ will have a solution based in technology, but assessing them will allow you to identify where technology could provide the greatest benefits. With the myriad of products available, it is easy to be distracted by features and capabilities you may rarely use. Staying focused on what you want to achieve allows you to sift through the benefits and limitations of various options.
2. Assess your technology
Do not assume that the solution requires purchasing new products. Your team will currently have access to a range of technology, including standard office applications and tools, which can often be used to address legal process issues at no or minimal cost. Your IT department can be a great source of information on the capability of your existing software and other low cost simple solutions.
If you have specific legal software, you should look at this carefully. Many in-house teams are not using their current legal software to its full capabilities. Ask your provider to demonstrate the product and how it can be used to its greatest potential. You may discover that there are features available to solve problems with very little effort and resources.
3. Start small
If you are at the beginning of your legal technology journey, it can be useful to identify a small project as a ‘quick win’. The team is likely to obtain important learnings during its first project. If the project is focused on a ‘pain point’ for your service delivery, you will also receive significant benefits, which will assist in building support within the team.
Bear in mind that ‘manual’ solutions can be an important step in improving processes. For example, when I worked in-house, my team was aiming to improve processes around taking client instructions. We started with a Word-based form sent by email. Working with this ‘minimum viable product’ allowed for trial and refinement, testing the questions used and allowing modification of the process based on experience. We then moved to an automated form after our questions and processes were bedded down. Starting small allows the team to see a completed successful project and its benefits, increasing motivation for further progress on larger challenges.
4. Identify a champion
Identify a person or small group who will take the project forward. For teams with specific practice management personnel, legal technology experts or keen tech heads, it may be clear who will be a suitable champion for the project. In other teams, responsibility for the project will be an additional part of a lawyer’s role and that person may not have specific skills in technology. The main factor for success is that the champion is enthusiastic and committed. The champion does not need to be technologically skilled, as long as they are willing to engage with the project and drive it forward. As with any new initiative, if the project is left to the group as a whole it is unlikely to progress.
5. Bring your team along on the journey
The change management journey within the team is as important as the technology itself for your project’s success. Although a person or small group may be responsible for driving the project, it is essential to ensure the whole team is informed about the progress at each stage and involved in considering design alternatives. If the team can trial products or an initial version and provide input, this is ideal. Provide training when introducing new approaches and offer ongoing support to ensure team members receive the help they need. If you are planning a significant software purchase, talk to others who have used the tool. In-house teams are generally very happy to share their knowledge and hearing how others found the experience can be invaluable.
Legal technology has enormous potential to improve the way we work as lawyers. Finding a way through the maze of options and engaging with the right technology can seem overwhelming. Applying these steps will help ensure you find the best approach for your team and its needs.
If you have any questions about adopting technology in-house, please get in touch with our team below.
The information in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this article is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.