How can law firms and legal departments take advantage of the change Big Data will bring?
I’ve been reflecting on a recent thought leadership round table discussion hosted by Thomson Reuters Legal, titled Big Data and the Evolution of the Legal Ecosystem. The discussion attracted senior in-house legal counsel, operations professionals, technologists and law firm partners from a diverse group of high profile companies.
The round table discussion, part of a global series launched in 2016 by Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services (LMS,) was designed to provoke discussion on compelling topics such as:
- How should in-house teams prepare for changes in enforcement, investigations and litigation?
- How can in-house functions leverage disruptive change to work more collaboratively with counterparts such as finance, risk management and lines of business?
- What is the best way to address the global trend of jurisdictional and local governments becoming more active in data privacy and protection and, if a sustained trend, what should in-house teams do to handle them?
- How are today’s technological advancements changing the way we work and live?
- How are in-house and outside counsel impacted by big data and social media?
- How does the trend to deploy full-time privacy officers and similar roles relate to legal and compliance functions?
- How do general counsel increasingly drive value across the business and the corporate entity overall?
The changing role of legal operations
Our moderator, David Curran, global director of Risk & Compliance at Thomson Reuters, captured an overall theme when he commented, “taking a page from technology partners, innovative legal operations professionals are defining and scoring priorities as well as introducing transparency and accountability into the process.”
Curran’s observation regarding the changing role of legal operations professionals, along with other notable discussions concerning flat fees, reminded me of several conversations I’ve had with our legal department clients about the need to continually evolve. In fact, one participant echoed that sentiment saying, “All lawyers are becoming data lawyers.”
The round table discussion participants suggested following the lead of their technology partners for a clear path forward by collaborating, being proactive and articulating the problem you are attempting to solve. By clearly defining the problem, you can utilize the best tools available to mitigate risk.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve connected with colleagues on insights gleaned from the round table discussion – trends, challenges and opportunities facing tech legal departments around the globe. Five areas emerge as prominent in today’s legal narrative:
- Inherent in Big Data are certain risks that must be identified, sized, prioritized and mitigated. One example is the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its impact on global tech firms’ operating cadence.
- Scope of work has expanded tech firms’ legal departments to include global security, cybersecurity, data privacy, business continuity, ethics; environmental, social and governance (ESG); diversity and inclusion; and centralized project management, to name a few.
- A spike in the adoption and utilization of dashboards, such as for open labor contracts and investigations, as well as in the use of benchmarking data; these in turn impact the expansion of legal department roles to now include data scientists and certified project managers as part of the team.
- Overseeing numerous concurrent operational integrations demands automated solutions that link, anticipate, analyze and report (one example referenced 13 active projects); the task of managing multiple legal process outsourcing (LPO) projects, coupled with packaging matters with outside counsel, is daunting.
Legal departments in technology firms increasingly are playing a pivotal role at the intersection of regulation and commerce as technologies such as Blockchain and artificial intelligence ratchet-up the stakes for prosperity and enterprise risk
The need for collaboration and curiosity
One overarching theme from the round table discussion was that there simply is not enough collaboration, especially early in an engagement. This can commonly occur with the outside counsel relationship.
With vast access to innovative technologies emerging at warp speed, culture, social impact and change management are paramount considerations to effectively deal with the demands of big data. Being flexible, dynamic and staying curious are required behaviors.