Legal Technology Trends of 2023
Jun 12, 2023
The field of legal operations is relatively new and rapidly developing. As a result, there has yet to be an established set of standards, so companies must decide for themselves what best practices and guidelines are for their organization.
Legal departments have traditionally been responsible for ensuring compliance and advising/defending the corporation regarding issues with legal implications. As such, they have been cast as a traditional cost center within the larger corporate context. As the complexity of legal work has grown, so has the requirement for cost management and transparency, necessitating a more methodical approach to managing legal services. Hence, LegalOps has emerged as a distinct - and significantly more strategic - field.
Legal Operations ensure that the legal department's activities align with the organization's strategic objectives. It involves streamlining processes, adopting technological innovations, optimizing resource utilization, and fostering better communication and teamwork between the legal team and other departments.
Although Legal Operations is a relatively new field, there are already industry best practices and frameworks that firms can utilize to establish or improve their legal ops activities. While there are yet to be universally recognized standards or methods, these resources offer valuable guidance and direction. They include:
We can improve efficiency and management of legal operations by adopting legal technology solutions such as entity management automation, contract management systems, e-billing tools, and document automation software. Such tools can automate repetitive tasks, improving data management, and increasing efficiency.
We can implement financial management processes such as budgeting, forecasting, and cost-tracking to manage legal spend, negotiate vendor contracts, and evaluate the return on investment for legal services.
We can identify and eliminate inefficiencies in legal workflows by optimizing matter intake, creating standardized templates, and developing self-service tools for routine legal matters.
Leveraging data and analytics can provide insights into legal operations and inform decision-making processes while tracking performance metrics.
We can develop strategies for selecting and managing external legal service providers, including alternative legal service providers and law firms, to optimize costs and ensure quality service delivery.
Implementing systems and processes to capture and share legal knowledge within the organization - including creating legal playbooks, document repositories, and training programs - can ensure that learning is readily available and that we don’t “reinvent the wheel”.
Finally, applying project management methodologies to legal projects, including defining project scopes, timelines, and resource allocation, can ensure successful outcomes and stakeholder satisfaction.
Finding the "Northstar" of legal ops
The legal industry is complex. Various stakeholders pursue distinct priorities, making it challenging to establish a universal goal. The legal tech landscape is highly fragmented, with numerous software solutions catering to specific individual aspects of legal operations. Additionally, different organizations within the legal industry have varying needs and priorities, which complicates establishing a single objective. Finally, the legal industry operates within a complex regulatory framework, which can impact the scope of potential solutions.
Overarching themes guide legal tech's development despite lacking a North Star. These include enhancing legal research and analysis, automating repetitive tasks, ensuring data security and privacy, and promoting collaboration between legal professionals and technologists. These goals collectively drive the advancement of legal tech solutions. However, priorities may vary depending on stakeholders and the specific context within the legal industry.
Is bespoke legal tech the future?
Customized legal tech (bespoke) is prevalent today. It provides tailor-made software solutions to meet an organization's specific needs and workflows. It can be developed from scratch or through extensive software customization. In contrast, standard legal tech refers to pre-designed software solutions or platforms that cater to everyday legal needs and challenges. These solutions can be purchased or subscribed to by multiple organizations and include contract management systems, e-discovery software, and legal research platforms.
What makes bespoke legal tech desirable?
Standard legal tech solutions may not be customizable to meet specific organizational needs or changing legal parameters. Additionally, they may not fully support complex workflows. Organizations using standard legal tech depend on the vendor for maintenance, updates, and support. Another reason legal professionals are turning to bespoke solutions is that declining product relevance, discontinuation, or unsatisfactory support from the vendor can cause disruptions.
There are several benefits, on the other hand, to using bespoke legal tech solutions:
They can be tailored to meet an organization's specific requirements and processes, resulting in higher customization and seamless integration with existing systems.
Customized solutions can improve efficiency by aligning closely with the organization's workflows, potentially saving time and cost.
Investing in bespoke legal tech can provide a competitive advantage by leveraging technology to create unique capabilities or improve service delivery.
Bottom line: Organizations should consider their requirements, budget, timeline, and workflow complexity when deciding on legal technology. Standard solutions may be sufficient for some, while others might require the customization offered by bespoke solutions. A hybrid approach that integrates standard and customized components is also an option for organizations to get the best of both worlds.
Why do top engineers avoid legal tech?
Top engineers are driven by complex challenges. They look for growth where the market has a typical or standard set of problems that can be addressed through technology. Legal tech is not a preferred domain for engineers due to its ever-changing requirements and constant need for customization. The more bespoke the need, the less attractive it is to engineers. In this sense, engineers tend to place greater focus on sectors like fin-tech or sales-tech.
To bring together the legal and technology industries, legal tech companies must engage with engineers, raise awareness about their field, and demonstrate the potential for innovation within the legal sector. By collaborating with technology professionals, partnering with academic institutions, and promoting cross-disciplinary learning, the legal tech sector can attract top engineers and drive innovation at the intersection of law and technology.
Legal departments are increasingly seen as a strategic function within corporations rather than a traditional cost center. This has led to the creation of the Legal Operations field. However, we lack established standards for legal technology solutions. Legal Ops can be improved by implementing customized technology solutions, further increasing its relevance within the larger corporate strategy. Efforts to bring together the legal and technology industries to attract top engineers and foster innovation are ongoing.
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