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Thomson Reuters

Legal tech’s integration problem—will interoperable systems help?

David Curle

04 Oct 2019

In recent years, an explosion of new legal technology has created challenges for law firms and clients. Participants in the legal market acknowledge that tech will play an important role in streamlining workflows and improving the efficiency and quality of legal work.

At the same time, however, much of the development of legal tech to date has come in the form of point solutions that solve one immediate problem, but unfortunately do not integrate well with other solutions and an organization’s internal workflows.

A key panel, Central Intelligence: Platform Interoperability Across the Legal Profession, at the upcoming Emerging Legal Technology Forum, will examine the need for open, interoperable systems that could possibly better integrate technology into legal workflows. The Forum will be held 10 October in Toronto.

From the perspective of buyers of legal technology—mostly corporate legal departments and law firms—the current fragmentation and lack of standardisation across legal technology creates a number of distinct problems. First, there is the problem of simply evaluating, acquiring, and deploying the right technology to address your organisation’s needs.

Legal tech is notorious for its long sales cycles, and part of that problem stems from the fact that purchasing multiple point solutions requires this cycle to be repeated with every vendor. Indeed, the inefficiencies in that procurement cycle are a headache for both buyer and seller.

From the perspective of buyers of legal technology—mostly corporate legal departments and law firms—the current fragmentation and lack of standardisation across legal technology creates a number of distinct problems.

Second, there is the problem of getting all this software—often provided by different vendors and using different data standards—to work together. Once acquired, many legal tech solutions require extensive customisations in order to be put together in useful ways to support customer workflows. Legal workers rarely use one application in isolation, but rather must move matters through various applications from intake, to applications such as document review or drafting, and on to billing.

This panel will examine some of those underlying problems from the legal tech buyer’s point of view—and will also include an in-depth discussion of some of the solutions that have been proposed, including Reynen Court’s “app store” approach and Thomson Reuters’ workflow-centric platform plans, which have been accelerated by its recent acquisition of HighQ.

In addition, the panel will analyse questions around how the more streamlined approach of an interoperable system can work better in your organization, and what considerations should business executives prioritize when designing a formal strategy for creating an interoperable system? Further, how are concerns around privacy, security, or data governance being addressed throughout the transformation process to the new system?

The Rise of Digital Economics

Disaggregation has long been a part of the modern legal services market, but today the concept of digital transformation adds yet another element to the equation. Indeed, digital competition “shrinks value” in the market, such that “customers win, and companies lose”, while certain products and services grow obsolete, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Co. For proof of this, you can simply look at the dwindling economic fortunes of travel agents, camera makers, and taxi drivers.

What does this digital revolution mean for the legal industry?

Another panel at the Forum will take up the issue of digital economics and how the increasing digital transformation of legal service delivery coupled with the unbundling of legal services is creating new competitive dynamics and pressures within the legal industry.

That panel, Mercury Rising: Understanding Digital Economics, will draw lessons from other industries that are further along than the legal industry when it comes to digital transformation. The panel also will consider which areas within the legal industry are most ripe for digital disruption, what steps incumbents might take to counter (or take advantage) of such disruption, and who may be the potential winners and losers in the coming digital age of the legal industry.

Further, the panel will not only outline the benefits of embracing a digital strategy in legal, but it will examine the many pitfalls that market players may encounter, and why many digital strategies fail despite the best of intentions.

Celebrating innovative law teachers—Teaching Law with Technology Prize 2020 Use of the cloud is on the rise in law firms Legal Geek Conference 2019—key takeaways for in-house lawyers Already a record year for legaltech startup investment The 2008 financial crash spawned a new industry in the City—the ‘regtech’ boom Evaluating integrated legaltech transformation—Legal Geek 2019 Conference A new report: Legaltech Startup Report 2019—A Maturing Market The ‘go-to’ event of the year—Legal Geek Conference 2019 Will legal systems be improved by blockchain? A new report shows growth continues as uncertainty rises—2019 Australia: State of the Legal Market