Technological competence is the number one skill that legal personnel need to succeed in their evolving role—and to help their organizations succeed. Why? With the pressure to produce better value per dollar—with fewer staff and reduced resources—legal departments must turn to technology to work smarter. To date, though, most legal departments haven’t fully embraced technology. In fact, corporate legal departments surveyed by Gartner for its 2021 State of the Legal Function report stated that the primary weakness exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic was their use of “technology solutions and level of adoption.”
This article explores how technology can help corporate legal departments get better results in less time and with less effort expended. We’ll touch briefly on how technology benefits lawyers before turning to six specific types of tech that can help legal departments work smarter.
Here's what's in:
The impact of legal tech
6 ways corporate legal departments are using technology
- E-billing and spend analysis
- Matter management
- Legal hold
- Contract review
- Document drafting and management
Implementing technology to help your legal department work smarter
Contrary to the way lawyers are depicted on television, a substantial percentage of legal work consists of drudgery in two forms. First, there are repeated tasks such as contract creation, where the same type of task is done over and over, with little room for creativity but much room for error. Second, there are data management or analysis tasks, exemplified by eDiscovery review, where large volumes of data must be sorted, filtered, and searched through to identify relevant snippets of information. Both of these types of work are difficult, tedious, and painstaking when done manually—which a recent Deloitte survey of corporate legal officers found was common: 71 percent of respondents stated that their teams spent a significant amount of time on manual tasks.
Fortunately, technology is well suited to both of these types of work. Legal tech can save lawyers hours—or weeks, in the case of eDiscovery review—by automating and rapidly completing low-value, repetitive, mindless tasks. That can free up lawyers’ time for the high-value, complex, engaging legal work that they were trained to do. Plus, technology doesn’t get tired, or distracted, and it doesn’t make all-too-human mistakes. And by analyzing huge volumes of data—be it about case law, eDiscovery documents, or legal spend—in seconds, technology provides the insights that corporate law departments need to make better decisions for the long-term health of their organizations.
While legal technology is useful all the time, it’s even more useful right now, with the economic pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Zack Hutto, Advisory Director at Gartner, notes that “The pandemic has flattened staffing budgets and increased legal workloads; technology is the most obvious solution for many legal departments.”
Where should you start your technology adoption process? We’ve rounded up six major categories of legal technology that can help your corporate legal department work smarter.
Download the whitepaper to learn how eDiscovery helps you easily sift through huge volumes of data and find all relevant documents for a case in a fast and cost-effective manner.
While the following six solutions have general applications for corporate law departments, your organization might not need all six. Before adopting any technology, you should ask yourself what problem you hope it will solve. To that end, we’ve provided a brief synopsis of the common challenges that legal teams face and how each of these six solutions addresses those challenges.
Challenge: Knowing what you’re spending on legal services—and where that money is going
How cost-effective are the various outside counsel that you rely on for legal services? Which firms are best at managing which types of matters? Where are you spending money, and what value are you getting for that money? If you don’t know the answer to these kinds of questions, you might need to invest in an e-billing or spend analysis platform. Don’t worry, you’ll be in good company: 48 percent of respondents in a Gartner survey indicated that they planned to invest in an e-billing solution in the near future.
Manual time-tracking and spend management—using spreadsheets and other labor-intensive processes—are prone to errors in data entry and miscalculations. These approaches also provide, at best, a lagging indicator of spend, one that is often behind by months. That prevents you from gaining any meaningful insight into your current billing cycle.
Solution: E-billing and spend analysis technology
Spend analysis tools will tell you how much you’re spending for each law firm you use or each matter type you handle, but they can do more than that. With the insights you’ll gain from analyzing your spend—instantly and continuously—you can understand which firms are worth your continued business and you can explain your decisions to the C-suite. You can also get the hard numbers you need to demonstrate that your department is delivering significant value, justifying your budget. With modern spend analysis technology, you’ll not only know what you’re spending, but you’ll also know where, how, and why you’re spending it.
Check out: PracticePanther
Challenge: Keeping track of what matters you have pending
There’s a lot of data to juggle when managing matters, and with manual approaches, it’s easy for details to fall through the cracks. What cases or matters are currently pending? How much is each worth, and which should you be settling? What documents are associated with each matter? What needs to happen next in each case, and who is responsible for ensuring that it does? You can’t improve your delivery of legal services if you don’t know what you’re working on or how well you’re doing. In fact, research has shown that there’s a connection between those corporate legal departments that aren’t leveraging matter management tools and those that lack actionable useful performance metrics.
Solution: Matter management technology
Matter management tools offer similar insights to those you’ll gain from spend analysis but from a wider-angle view. This type of solution keeps all of your matter-related information in one place, so you can monitor the type of work you’re doing, what your individual attorneys are working on, how your matters are moving through their lifecycle, and more—giving you the data you’ll need to do your work more efficiently and effectively.
Check out: Rocket Matter
Challenge: Managing the mountains of data you need for pending litigation matters
If your organization deals with any volume of litigation, you’re probably familiar with the headaches associated with eDiscovery. Each matter could involve gigabytes or even terabytes of potentially relevant electronically stored information or ESI, including documents, emails, text messages, database entries, and much more. You need to be able to collect, process, and cull that dataset to weed out extraneous information—and then you need to be able to review that data, tag it for relevance and privilege, produce it to your opponent, and—if necessary—present it as evidence at trial. That’s next to impossible to manage manually. While many corporate legal teams have already implemented eDiscovery solutions, not all of them have—and not all of them have the right tools. That’s why a recent Gartner survey found that fully a third of respondents from corporate legal departments planned to invest in an eDiscovery solution.
Solution: eDiscovery technology
With modern cloud-based eDiscovery technology, you can rapidly search and filter data to winnow your daunting datasets down to a manageable volume. While eDiscovery platforms offer complex capabilities—including metadata filters, artificial intelligence-based concept searches, and advanced analytics—the best solutions are nonetheless intuitive and easy to use. Plus, with an end-to-end eDiscovery solution, you’ll shorten the time to actionable insights, enabling more accurate—and faster—early case assessment.
Check out: ZyLAB One eDiscovery
Challenge: Preserving the data you’re going to need for eDiscovery
Building on our last point, you can’t even start an eDiscovery process unless you’ve preserved potentially relevant information to use in your litigation matters. Failing to preserve data is a serious—yet shockingly common—unforced error. If you don’t promptly preserve information that may be relevant to a pending or anticipated litigation matter, you can not only lose the data that would help you establish your own case or defense, but you can also subject yourself to spoliation sanctions, including hefty fees or even judgment in favor of your opponent. The concept is simple enough; it’s the execution that can be tricky. How do you notify custodians that their data is on hold? And how can you lock their data in place so that they can’t—either intentionally or inadvertently—modify or delete that data?
Solution: Legal hold technology
The success of your legal holds depends on whether your organization has a well-defined, repeatable, consistent, and—above all else—defensible process for rapidly identifying potential data custodians, notifying them of the legal hold, and monitoring the status of all existing holds over the life of each litigation matter. Powerful automation tools make issuing and managing legal holds quick and effortless—and save you from nightmares about spoliation.
Check out: ZyLAB Legal Hold
Challenge: Drafting contracts quickly, easily, and consistently
If your organization creates or manages a large number of contracts, you already know how difficult it can be to draft new contracts. Where did you last use that one clause? Is this the best version of this section—or did you redo this part last month to reflect a new corporate policy? If you’re trying to keep track of all your contract clauses manually, you’re almost certainly spending way too much time and energy drafting contracts, and you’re getting inconsistent and less-than-optimal results for all your effort.
Solution: Contract review technology
With contract review software, legal teams can keep all of their contracts in one central repository. Sophisticated data-tagging capabilities, up-to-date clause libraries, and natural language processing tools allow lawyers to create new contracts faster and more easily while enhancing consistency across all similar contracts. But don’t just take our word for it; Dan Lange at Deloitte recently observed that “A high-quality repository of contracts is becoming table stakes for legal teams.”
Check out: LawGeex
Challenge: Assembling new documents cost-effectively—and finding the documents you already have
Even if your legal department doesn’t manage a lot of contracts, chances are that you generate a sizable number of documents of various types. Your documents may be memos and letters to stakeholders, transactional documents for mergers and acquisitions, pleadings for court cases, or anything else related to your organization’s business. Whatever those documents are, you need to create and manage them just as quickly, efficiently, and consistently as you manage contracts. More than a third of respondents in a Gartner survey—fully 40 percent—stated that they intended to adopt document management technology in the near term.
Solution: Document drafting and management technology
As was the case for contract review software, document drafting and management tools also provide a central repository for your full library of legal work product. By creating templates and using smart technology to search previous examples and identify your best existing documents and arguments, you can save time on drafting while generating more consistent, correct, compelling documents.
Check out: NetDocuments
Legal work can involve a surprising amount of drudgery—but it doesn’t have to. By using legal technology to automate repeatable, low-value processes and to instantly gather, analyze, and manage data, your corporate law department can work smarter, producing better results for your organization faster than ever before. That frees up your lawyers’ time to think strategically and add value using the legal skills you hired them for in the first place.