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Corporate legal teams—nine technology procurement tips

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

A purposeful use of legal technology is often credited by corporate legal departments as being the key to increase efficiency, reduce risk, and overall—be effective. Leveraging legal technology not only helps legal teams work smarter, but also helps to demonstrate value to the wider organisation. However, technology procurement is not always that straightforward. After you spend money and time buying and implementing the software, you now need to ensure everyone is trained-up and on-board with utilising the software.

All the bells and whistles in the world won’t help you encourage technology adoption if your team doesn’t want to or, worse, feel they need to join you on the digital transformation journey. While legal technology can empower corporate legal teams if it’s implemented the right way, many legal teams don’t know where to start the complicated process of procurement. That’s why it’s important to take a strategic approach when you’re considering your next corporate legal technology solution.

Identify the correct legal technology for your in-house team

Don’t waste your effort on solutions to problems you don’t have in your department. These nine steps can help you avoid the trap of buying the ‘next big thing’ and ensure you procure exactly what your department needs.

  1. Pinpoint the problems to be solved

First, figure out what problems you’re trying to solve. Of those problems, which is the most urgent? What offers the biggest opportunity for improvement? In short, what will have the greatest impact on the legal team?

Tools that typically help legal teams address their biggest pain points include legal project management technology, document assembly technology, contract management applications, litigation management systems, and matter intake automation systems. All of these technologies can help lawyers provide better service and eliminate low-value drudgery so they can focus on doing the work that is of the highest value to the business. These tools can also facilitate legal reporting and deeper data analysis.

One sure-fire strategy is to start by focusing on simple problems rather than big, audacious ones. This way, you can show progress and earn some quick wins, which will help you build more momentum and encourage further adoption. If you chase after more advanced, aspirational technology that offers benefits further into the future, you are less likely to achieve the immediate success that leads to lasting change. The key is not to get too ambitious too quickly: lawyers can be averse to change, so the tried-and-true approach is to introduce technology gradually.

  1. Check your current technology

Get in touch with IT to see if there are any existing technologies that could be applied to your needs. Explain the problem that you aim to solve and the type of technology you believe might work well. IT may be aware of solutions being used by other areas of the business that may be adapted to address your needs. Leveraging existing programs is a great, low-cost way to explore different technologies, learn from other departments and further develop your knowledge. If you can leverage the existing system, you can save your budget for a real technology gap.

  1. Look for broad appeal

If no existing technology fits the issue, it is time to look for something new. Though, be mindful of looking at niche technology. That is, will it serve the needs of just one department within legal, or can it help all the lawyers on the team work more efficiently? Getting the entire team on board is critical for avoiding knowledge silos, which can rear their heads when an employee leaves the organisation, taking their know-how with them.

Even more broadly, can other departments in the organisation, such as compliance, use the same technology? If your solution offers benefits to multiple departments, it can be easier to convince management to invest in the technology and bring more employees onboard to use it. By deploying more broadly, you will have a stronger business case for purchasing the solution and spread costs across departments.

Understand the legal technology market

  1. Find a solution that aligns with your requirements

Once you choose the type of solution you think you need, the next step is to compare your department’s requirements with the capabilities of a particular product to ensure that it meets or exceeds your needs. Focus on what your department must have to solve problems versus what another company may have selected. Categorise the requirements into groups, such as ’must have’ and ‘nice to have’, so you can more clearly evaluate your options. Don’t forget critical requirements, including budget, scalability and mobility.

  1. Focus on cloud-based solutions

Why the cloud? Because it is the simplest and least expensive. Additionally, cloud based is the most flexible, transparent, and secure option for corporate legal technology.

Solutions that live in the cloud don’t require lawyers or IT teams to download, support or maintain software. They are always available, easy to deploy quickly, and constantly updated with new features and functionality. They are also scalable, making it easy for corporate legal teams to pivot with agility as their needs evolve—without worrying about server space or infrastructure. That makes the cloud incredibly cost-effective for the capabilities it offers.

Cloud software also offers more flexible tools that allow for better collaboration and transparency. Groups that are using the cloud have greater visibility into their matters. Further, cloud apps are accessible from anywhere, even on your smartphone or tablet, putting access to important information at your fingertips no matter where your work takes you.

Finally, cloud-based platforms are incredibly secure. Most cloud providers deploy multiple layers of security, including physical security at data centres and coding throughout the platform.

  1. Prioritise integration

One key to successful technology adoption is to make sure that the new system is compatible with your existing applications and the tools that your team is already using. Integrating systems makes it easier to share data and collaborate across platforms, avoiding the need for time-consuming rework. It also eases the transition process by presenting the new tool in a familiar context, encouraging adoption. To avoid problems during implementation, check the interoperability of the systems before you lock yourself in to a solution. This way, you will also avoid system redundancies and avoid budget surprises during implementation.

Get buy-in from the business

  1. Calculate your return on investment (ROI)

Before you select and deploy your solution, it is critical to establish a process for measuring the ROI. Will your new solution improve efficiency and result in saved staff time? Will it help you control outside counsel spend? Will it help you improve matter outcomes? Whatever the type of benefit you are likely to experience, it is critical to establish a baseline and a method for calculating the potential savings so you can present your results to leadership and the rest of the legal team.

By quantifying your ROI, not only will you establish that you have made a smart investment, but you will also create a track record that encourages future investment in technology for the legal department.

  1. Work closely with your IT team

You need to get IT on board with your chosen application. Ask IT to work with your chosen vendor to explore integration with your existing systems in more detail, including integration costs. IT will almost certainly want to discuss your security needs with the vendor and ensure that those needs are addressed—and that your data is protected—in your service-level agreement.

  1. Educate stakeholders

Create a list of executive-level stakeholders in your department and organisation who need to be engaged in the process. From IT to finance, you are more likely to secure the necessary budget and resources if you can speak to each decision-maker’s primary concerns.

Then communicate your vision for implementation to everyone on that list. Key components to share include details on the problems the new technology will solve, your expected outcomes, and the projected ROI as well as your plan for measuring it. By getting key executives on board with your plan, they can become cheerleaders for your technology and encourage broader user adoption.

The end product: Successful procurement

All of the hard work is done. You have identified your problem to be solved, studied the market and been given budget to buy your selected solution. Now you have arrived at the final step—procurement! It’s easy to get excited, but don’t get too ahead of yourself. It is important to follow your internal procurement procedures closely. Work with information security, finance and internal procurement teams as they guide you through the final steps of the purchase process. Sometimes it is a long journey from problem to legal technology solution, but if you follow these tips, the effort will pay dividends and be well worth it.

To learn more about how technology can transform your legal department and make your team more efficient, valuable and connected, click here.

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