Technology as a Catalyst for Evolution: 4 Steps to Right-Sizing Legal Ops Solutions

State-of-the-art tech is a game-changing enabler for businesses that wish to differentiate, grow, and succeed. Here’s how departments can be sure they are embracing the features they need – and not overspending on ones they don’t – to elevate efficiency, ignite revenue, and evolve for the future.

No word on exactly what career he grew up to have, but as the iconic Ferris Bueller once said: “Life moves pretty fast.” These days, the speed of business moves faster than ever – seemingly at the speed of light when fused with modern technology.

In the newly released third and final chapter of the Enterprise Legal Reputation (ELR) Report, the multinational study* spotlights the unlimited potential of legal operations to be a transformative agent in driving meaningful business results by positively influencing revenue generation and operational and cost efficiencies with technology.

A “by the book” department dependent on precedents, Legal has, admittedly, never been exactly a trailblazer when it comes to tech: Nearly half of legal professionals (44%) call their department “averse to change.” But businesses that invest in technology surpass others in the best of times and remain a step ahead during times of disruption – and those who adapt to the latest solutions are bound to surpass and replace those who do not.

A need for modernization

To function in a modern and efficient capacity, Legal requires its own systems of record and engagement, just as every other function has. However, the ELR Report revealed that many legal teams lack the automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to advance both machine learning (ML) and human decision-making. In fact, almost half (46%) of legal respondents acknowledge they do not utilize automated systems for managing contracts.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital modernization, of course. But here are four essential steps every department must consider when adopting new tech to right-size its solutions:

1. Look at the big picture.

Whether your business has a technology roadmap in place or not, it is crucial to audit your current offerings. Gauge the functionality of legacy systems and vendors, pinpoint which are outdated, and ask: What do we have that we don’t need? What do we need that we don’t have? 

Another criterion to consider in a post-pandemic landscape where both cultural flexibility and remote work are paramount is: Is a tangible version of this required, or can this be streamlined and moved to the cloud?

2. Choose a single collaborative system.

No single technology can be all things to all people, but platforms that integrate workflows and offer communication skyrocket efficiency – which is highly necessary when nearly two-thirds of enterprise employees (59%) feel legal departments can sometimes be inefficient and 44% believe Legal can improve its effect on deal closures and revenue generation.

Enter enterprise legal management (ELM) to provide workflow clarity, track spend, and reinforce collaboration. Although less than half (48%) of respondents currently utilize e-billing and spend optimization solutions powered by AI, introducing a single source of truth that “speaks the same language” as it captures transactions, matters, and projects will help every function work smarter, not harder.

3. Don’t get distracted by bells and whistles.

Although most departments do want to get up to speed – 46% agree Legal must do better at accepting technological innovation – there is no tech Fairy that can provide the perfect “glass slipper” transformation. So it’s especially important to avoid “shiny object syndrome,” or the tendency to choose flashy features with the promise of an instantaneous tech happily-ever-after.

To prevent shiny object syndrome, compose a features list with two columns: “Must-Have” and “Nice-to-Have.” Keep in mind that overall capability, resources, and fit are critical, as is corporate culture – less than three in 10 ELR respondents (28%) describe themselves as early adopters by nature, and one in four (25%) says they lack the time to learn a new system. Selecting a dedicated team to oversee the rollout and set aside designated training periods can orchestrate a smooth deployment.

4. Focus on what automation can (and cannot) do.

When workloads increase but headcounts do not, the only typical answers used to be longer in-house hours or hiring outside counsel – and either one can be costly, taxing talented teams, budget, or both. Advances in intelligent automation, ML, and natural language processing (NLP) now offer a novel alternative.

While the concept of automation is rife with the stereotype it will replace real employees, this could not be further from the truth. The newest contract lifecycle management (CLM) solutions automate contract review and administer data required to identify revenue recognition and acceleration opportunities, giving attorneys up to 30% of their time back for decidedly human pursuits: delivering in-depth, personal client device; focusing on the innovation and negotiations that impact and protect research and development (R&D), mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and intellectual property; and devising new cultural initiatives that bring meaningful change. And when it comes CLM, return on investment (ROI) is real: sales cycles are reduced by 24% and overall legal spend slashed by 50%.

What lies ahead

Technology takes the vision, insight, and knowledge of a business and shuttles it through the enterprise so that it lands where it will produce the greatest effect. But investing in tech is merely step one: Ensuring it is embraced is the real key to elevating operational and cost efficiency.

By deploying new technology, Legal has the uniquely positive chance to cash in on its influence as a trusted advisor, authority figure, and true business partner. And with right-sized solutions, every department can evolve into a more materially impactful, future-proof function for the ever-transforming worlds of business and law.

Read the ELR Report to learn more about how legal professionals view their relationships with internal clients in comparison to the image enterprise employees have of their legal departments and how Legal can evolve to prove material impact and improve efficiencies across the business.

*The ELR Report is a third-party, multinational study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany intended to showcase relationship dynamics and perceived image between corporate legal teams and enterprise organizations.

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