April 2019 |
Wafik Guirgis, Managing Director, Legal Technology Practice Leader, HBR Consulting
HBR Consulting will present an educational session at CLOC’s 2019 Corporate Legal Operations Institute— “Don’t Gamble Your Future . . . Advance Your Operations Maturity” — in which we will explore strategies to help corporate law departments advance on the CLOC Legal Operations Maturity continuum. This article is the second in a three-part series of blog posts to provide CLOC attendees with context regarding the major strategic areas in which law departments can advance in their maturity.
In this post, I will be focusing on the topic of legal technology — “Technology & Practice Support” — as one of CLOC’s foundational level core competencies.
Becoming More Mature in the Use of Technology
The effective use of technology is a topic that gets a lot of attention these days in legal operations circles and is often a contributing factor when comparing operational effectiveness among similar law departments. For those law departments seeking to improve their technology use, there are several steps that can help your department make incremental progress along the CLOC maturity model.
A key first step is to evaluate your current state with respect to use of legal technology solutions and establish a three- to five-year technology plan. The plan should consider notable gaps you discover in key functional areas, as well as how effective current tools are at achieving their intended use. With respect to specific tools, your department’s core stack of solutions should include matter management, spend management and document management, as well as any other technology platforms that may be crucial to support key disciplines required for your industry (e.g., intellectual property management).
Once you have “checked-the-box” on having implemented the core stack of solutions, it is a good idea to routinely review how these tools are used, the level of adoption and the relevance of their design when compared to your business processes. The following questions can help assess next steps:
- Do the solutions we are using provide strategic value to our legal professionals?
- Are we presenting meaningful analytics to demonstrate the value of the information (data) we are asking our legal staff to enter and track?
- In implementing the core stack of solutions, have we equally and adequately addressed both litigation and transactional sides of the house?
Many corporate law departments discover that their existing technology investments are not providing strategic value and are perceived as “back-office systems.” Often legal professionals are asked to enter matters and update key dates, but little is done to demonstrate the way that information can inform and enrich legal decision making. Finally, a concern we are hearing more often is that the core legal stack tools are more supportive of litigation functions than of transactional work. I will focus on that last issue here. We suggest that the next major step in technology maturity for most corporate law departments should be increasing focus on tools that support transactional management.
Leveraging Technology for Workflow and Transaction Management
Transactional attorneys can benefit from the core stack of tools for features such as tracking advice and counsel, organizing work product, tracking key dates and memorializing iterations of work-in-progress. That stated, two additional sets of tools that are receiving more attention from legal professionals are legal request and workflow tools and contract lifecycle management systems. These tools provide legal professionals with the opportunity to more effectively engage with their business partners — not obviating the need for direct contact or phone calls, but rather supplementing and enriching these other points of contact so that both parties are better informed at request inception.
- Legal request and workflow ("LR&W") tools are gaining momentum in the corporate legal market, as more legal organizations are trying to better manage their increasing demands for legal work, while managing cycle time and regularly updating their business partners on the status of those requests. Eighty-one percent of respondents to HBR’s 2018 Law Department Survey expect their legal needs to continue to grow. The two most commonly cited practice areas in which they expect increases were regulatory and M&A.
LR&W systems are essentially legal request platforms that help legal professionals manage legal work needed by their internal business partners. These tools capture the business partner’s legal request, as well as the prerequisite information and documents necessary to handle the request. The system lays out a clear path towards a deliverable and more meaningfully “starts the clock” on the request.
- Contract lifecycle management ("CLM") systems can also help transactional attorneys work more efficiently and effectively. CLM systems provide a structured way to manage all legal work connected to the creation of a contract. Typical CLM systems can capture necessary data contracts, track key dates, serve as a repository for pre-approved templates and create contracts using those templates, manage the contract approval workflow process, flag negotiated changes, validate all required signatures and monitor contract terms for rights and obligations, for example.
CLM systems can also help ensure that contracting requests are thorough and processes are consistently followed, trigger appropriate escalations, assist in controls enforcement and provide a mechanism for easier execution. Already implemented by 55 percent of corporate law departments, 29 percent of companies plan to implement CLM solutions in the next one to two years, according to the HBR’s 2018 Law Department Survey. CLM systems were the most commonly planned technology implementations of the 19 technology types surveyed.
Along with implementing CLM systems, it is HBR’s experience that many law departments are also simultaneously leading the charge with their companies to establish contract management programs, to ensure standard processes throughout the organization. The combination of a strong, companywide program and a CLM system supporting that program not only streamlines transactional work, but also provide organization-wide consistency and can help manage an organization’s contract-related risk.
LR&W systems can support many types of requests on the transactional side of the department, contracts-related work, searches, advice, drafting policies and procedures, as well as helping to track other facets of transactions such as — finance structures, competition research and clearances, consents and approvals, due diligence, intellectual property and potentially numerous additional areas of legal review.
LR&W systems can also provide visibility into important management information, such as who has been assigned the matter, timing on specific milestones, and the status of various pieces of the deal.
It should be noted that workflow management systems are not limited to transactional work – they can be used for litigation-related work as well.
Technology used to support transactions can help improve the efficiency for every stage of a corporate transaction. The combination of LP&W and CLM systems gives in-house legal professionals what they need to better handle transactional work from inception to completion.
In the final post in HBR’s three-part blog series, my colleagues will explore the use of analytics to measure performance and to guide your department’s decision making.
See You in Vegas for the 2019 CLOC Institute
Register here to attend CLOC 2019 Vegas Institute – and please join our CLOC session:
Don’t Gamble Your Future…Advance Your Operations Maturity
Wednesday, May 15th at 1:30pm
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the authors
Wafik Guirgis, Managing Director, Legal Technology Practice Leader,
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